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Does the GM have to know all the rules ?

Does the GM have to know all the rules of a game system? 


That is right. You don't have to know all the rules. Trust me when I say that your players would rather play with a GM who does not know all the rules than Wait a few months for a GM to memorize every spell, sub game system (Like Shadowrun Deckers). Players are more forgiving than you think when it comes to rules as long as the GM is fair when it comes to rulings.

Here are a few tricks to learning a new game system. 

Get to know the core mechanic by heart. 

Getting to know the core mechanic of a system is very important. As a GM if you can get this one part down everything else is simple. If nothing else knowing the core rules will allow you to make decisions on how a player should resolve casting a spell or how to jump over that Ork that came out of nowhere. Basically, the Core rules fill in the gaps that the combat, Magic & Hacking rule sets do not cover. In most game systems if you know the core rules you already know 70% of the combat system. 

Make notes 

You can't know it all. We are not computers. So take notes. That is what your GM screen is for. Make notes for those complex systems that you always forget. Write down the target numbers needed to make that saving throw vs poison. 

Set expectations 

So just the other day I ran Numenera for the first time. I was very clear with my players that I had not run the game before and that I did not know the rules. Setting the expectations with the players does two things. First, it lets the players know that you are going to make mistakes and they are going to have to be ok with it. Second, it makes it ok in your mind to not be perfect. It's ok to make mistakes 

Make Rulings vs looking everything up. 

The Game must go on. Avoid looking up the rules during the game. So if something new comes up make a ruling based on what makes the most sense vs hunting 20 min for the exact rule (that may or may not exist). when you make a ruling on a rule that you are unsure of it's important to let the players know "I'm making this ruling one time because I want to keep the game going. we can look up the exact rules after the game for the next time this comes up". I have rarely had a player protest this (Rules lawyers are an exception because they always argue the rules) 


What are the rules of being a Gamemaster?

It's one of those questions of "Who makes the rules for the rule makers". 

We game masters have unlimited power. We can make it rain. We can make in train indoors. We can make it rain cats. Or pelt the characters with falling flaming cows from the sky. Not one player can stop us except for leaving the table. The problem is that where the players are fighting vs the mechanics in order to achieve some goal or level up. The game master is playing a MetaGame. A game within a game. The problem is that I have seen very few source books or RPG systems even mention this game. 

Making sure the players have fun 

Yep, the Goal for Gamemasters is really that simple. The players should always be having fun. The mechanics, the plot, the storyline and even the world that was built is secondary to this goal. Far too often Gamemasters see the mechanics, the Plot, and the storyline as the goal of the game but they are really only the tools to achieve the goal. 

So as a Gamemaster how to you archive this goal? 

  1. Having a clear idea that the GM is not the star of the show.
  2. Never "Railroad your player" 
  3. Never look at get game as "GM vs Players" 
  4. Never think "I need to punish my players" 
  5. Always think about what would make a fun plot. 
  6. Find new ways to get feedback from your players 

Using Keynote or Powerpoint in your RPG game


As a gamemaster, we are always looking for ways to improve our game.  One of the things that I have found helpful is running a Keynote presentation on loop behind me during the game. 

Here are a few tips to creating that presentation.

I create sites in categories, Rules, Common knowledge, and feel. 

  • Rules are a quick explanation of some of the rules that the player may encounter during the game. Such as how to roll the dice. 
  • Common knowledge is things the player may not know that the character should. This will help the player avoid those awkward moments like not knowing the name of their employers 
  • Feel is just that. Images that help add to the feel you want to portray in the game 


Never stop the game so the player will watch.

Gone are the days of the slide show of your grandfather's vacation where all he did was take pictures of the same toy train set for 14 days. There is a reason for this it is boring! So don't subject your players to this. Run the slideshow in the background behind you during the game. The players will take a look at the slide show while they are waiting for their turn. 

Keep the Slides short 

The point of these slides is to give tidbits of info not write a book. Consider the maximum bit of info to be the same as a twitter post. Anything more than that and you are going to lose the player to the side show. 

Avoid Music or sound effects 

Sound effects and music are one of those things that sound like a good idea at the time. Trust me it get's really annoying really quick when a slideshow repeats every three minutes.

Did you hear that? Using Audio in RPG sessions.

It was 1997 the players had come over to my house for a game of TORG. (West End Games). I was running a one shot in the MicroCosum of Orrish. A Victorian Horror reality where the monsters were supposed to scare you before they ripped to pieces. I really wanted to impress the players by doing something different. I had recently picked up from the store software that would allow me to edit sound (Yes they were not standard on Packard Bell computers and downloading software was still sci-fi). 

In Torg one of the warnings that reality is changing on you is a storm. (Look up Storm Knights). Once reality changed some of the key things that you depend on such as physics may not work in your favor. (such as your gun no longer being able to fire because it's tech level Was 1983, not 1883.... Go read TORG) 

I had gathered up as many Wav files as I could find. 

  • Owls hooting 
  • Light rain 
  • something scurrying on the floor
  • a wolf howl 
  • Thunder and lighting. 

I had mixed this all together giving a Night soundscape that lasted for about an hour. (by the way, that size of a file back in that day crashed my computer exporting it to WAV. )  The rain would start off soft and slowly build over the first 10 min or so. From there I slowly added some of the other noises like the Wolf and the Owl. I had an audio queue of the owl hooting twice to warn me what was coming up next. this told me that I would have 10 min to start building the suspense. In the story, I had one of the NPCs leave the house to fix the electrical generator for the third time. I let room get really quite then  

KABOOOM!!!!!!  Thunderclap!!! 

Wow was it really loud.

All the players jumped including the player who is always bragging that he himself is fearless. (He actually screamed like a child) Rest of the adventure the players were on their toes. I had changed the mood from a joking bunch of comedians who would fit better in Ghostbusters than the exorcist. Into something more serious to fit the mood of the game. 

Audio Resources for Gamemasters 

As a Gamemaster I am always looking for new ways to get the players in the mood for a game. My current obsession is as it does 98% of the mixing and the sounds for you. It is also free! I was playing with it and freaked out my dog with the Thunder noises. 

If think that an App would work best for you check out There is a cost for this but I am told that its worth it. I have used the free version and I Can see why there is a cost. They have worked very hard on this app. 

Making your own soundscapes 

Start off by going to Freesound and download some sounds for free. I have a ton of these on my hard drive. 

Next check out programs like Garageband or Audacity .  They are both free

Rules for making soundscapes 

  1. Remember that it's about ambient sounds. Opening up an app just to make the sound of a lightsaber is disruptive and will annoy your players. 
  2. The sound clips should not be too repetitive. Make sure that your soundscape is at least 10 min long otherwise it will be like playing the same song over and over again. 
  3. Less is more.. The sounds and music should b
  4. You should always be able to talk over the sounds even if the sounds are of battle. It's better to have no sound than sound you have to shout over (unless that is what you are trying to do... though the neighbors may not like you) 
  5. Be careful of timing. In the example above I had a lot of FLUFF Role playing and interactions planned. So I could interrupt at any moment. If there were to be any action during that time I would have just shut down the sounds. 
  6. If you are recording a podcast be careful many of these sounds are protected by copyright (though free sound project is not a problem) 
  7. If you have to pick between being a GM or a sound tech always pick the GM. I have been in a game where we waited 20 min for the GM to figure out why the sound was coming out of the wrong speaker. 
  8. For the love of THACO never make noises for every action. The sound effects should add to the experience not be one in itself. It's annoying for video games tabletop its even worse. 

So that said ... if you have some cool audio that you would like to share please email me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

What do dice Really think of you?


This one is more silly than anything. I had this idea of what would happen if dice could think and what would they think of us players? This one is about players who stack dice during the game. I have a few ideas of other videos I can do .. so If you like them let me know.