What is the most counterintuitive thing you can do as a gamemaster?
Aks for Permission?
What? As a GM aren't you supposed to be in charge? Maybe if this was still the 80s where the general concept was GM vs Players. But these days the players are asking for more than just cool stats on their character sheet. They want a good story. Well, part of that is creating a few situations that may require some permission. It sounds odd but let me set the scene for you if that is ok?
I'm thinking it was Monte Cook who said that its not a good idea to capture the party because they will all lose their player Agency. And I agree with this. There is nothing worse than having the feeling that your character has been stripped away from you. Be that Death, Mind control or having the party captured. (TPK is the worst by the way). We get really invested in our characters and in our head, we are always running some kind of scenario where we are the actual hero of the story,(and the rest of the party including the Paladin are your sidekicks). So anything that disrupts that destroys the fun. The moment that the players are not having fun the Gamemaster has failed at their job. So how do you do these tricky situations without destroying the fun of the game? You get permission.
One of the things that I have tried is asking the players for permission to capture them. I told the players in advance.
"In this scene, you will all be captured. I'm going to offer you some extra XP for making it a good fight.... don't worry you will get all your stuff back at some point but this will be fun"
Now conventional wisdom would say that the party would not have any fun knowing the outcome of the scene. If that was the case why do we watch the same film more than once? It's not the outcome but the journey that really matters. By telling the players that is what they can expect (and asking for permission) the players are still in control. Not to mention that the players also have more trust in you as a gamemaster. As for the fun. In my experiment with this technique the players really overacted the moments of falling to almost death and being captured.
Enrolling the Players in your plot
This is actually an old technique. Where you take a player aside and let them know they have been mind controlled and asking them to play the part correctly without telling the other players. But if you were to just tell the player across the table "You have been mind controlled" you have a chance of making the player uncomfortable. This makes the player actually a co-gamemaster. What I am suggesting is that you do the same sort of thing in a larger scale. By making the players part of the plot vs having the plot being something that is done to them it ensures the player agency.
What if the players tell the GM no?
If you are going to ask for permission you should really make sure that you stick with their answer even if you do not like it. There is nothing worse than losing the trust of your players. I recommend that if you are going to be setting a scene that requires permission that you have some kind of backup plan just in case. Something that may be more standard sort of plot device.
It works for all kinds of stuff.
- Mind control
- Having something stolen from a player character
- Being captured
- Betrayal in the party
It's amazing what you can get away with if you ask for permission first.
So you want to start an RPG actual play podcast?
Great idea!! Rpg podcasts are really hot right now. just think of the story your party can tell about evil wizards and warrior maidens !!! Podcast and RPGs are a lot of fun to make!! So what are you waiting for? This article will point out some things you can expect from this process. At the bottom of this article, I have a list of tips on being an RPG Podcast producer
Have a great concept for your podcast
Just like running a game of Dungeons and Dragons, A podcast takes a little bit of prep. Some Gamemasters plan out every single detail. Some fly by the seat of their pants. Or if you are like me its a little of both. Podcasting is very similar. I know more than one podcast where every word is scripted like a play or a movie. Others will be recorded chaos. whatever you decide to do you are going to need a great concept.
You are going to hear me say this a few times "Content is King" The stronger your content the more listeners you will keep. (Getting the listeners in a different story) Make sure your idea stands out. having the DM Run another Dungeon Crawl from that module from the 80s will only go so far (That and there may be copyright issues) Have a Unique idea that is all yours.
By the way, the whole "Getting Drunk and playing D&D has been done a lot so if you are going to go that route bring something more to the show than vodka
Hosting your RPG Actual Play Podcast
There are all kinds of hosting companies. You could code your own RSS feed but I found that paying a hosting company who specialises in podcasts works best. I am a fan of Libsyn. They are easy to use hand do a lot with your RSS feed that would take me forever to code myself. Oh and their customer service Rocks (They do not pay me I am just a happy customer)
It takes time to edit the show
Some people think we just hit record then publish. There is a ton of editing to do. I figure that my podcast takes 5 hours production for every hour of published content.(You can reduce that ratio by practice or good planning ) I highly recommend that you set aside some time to work a little bit every week. Personally, I'm up at 5 AM every day before work, doing something for the show.
How long should an RPG Actual Play Podcast Be?
it's easy to have a game session take four to six hours in one session. However, your listener is not going to stay listening to that long. I have already done the research for you. My listeners want between 30 Min to an hour per episode. This means that a single game night we a get anywhere from two to three episodes. (We remove a lot of content)
But do not take my word for it .. .ask your listeners to do a poll on twitter.
You don't need an expensive microphone or software.
I know I know, you need to kit out your game studio like a 7th Level Palidin on a shopping spree. But don't fall for that.
I have been podcasting for a very long time. I know more than one podcaster that is all about the whiz-bang microphone and top end studio software, And yet their show is not any fun. It is better to have great content and crappy equipment than to have spent all the money so your crappy show is a very good sounding pile of shit. We are still trying to make ends meet with the show. However, with patience and a few backers, we are going to slowly add to our equipment but we need to have better content first.
Say it with me "Content is King/Queen"
The first season of Star-Fall was recorded on my phone. Yah that is right my phone. The sound quality is not horrible and its portable. Get your show going then work on upgrading.
Here is some Free/Cheap software to help with the editing
Garageband (OSX comes on every mac)
Audacity (Free and Cross-platform)
Ardour (Cross-Platform Pay what you want)
Pro-tip : Youtube has video lessions on all the software above.
Rpg Podcast is not an overnight success
Unless you have a HUGE budget to advertise before you even publish forget about the concept of being an overnight success. Podcasting is not a sprint. Or a Jog or even a hike. it's more of a long journey where you are not sure where the castle is located. It's about the random encounters along the way and having fun. It's far too common for a podcaster to start up something and notice they only have 10 downloads for their first episode and give up. It takes time. As long as your notice your downloads slowly growing you are doing fine.
Copyright is not your friend unless you are the creator
So by now, you should know that you should not be playing your favourite music in the background when recording a game. There are a few other IP issues you should be aware of before you hit record. Such as much as your rules lawyer player wants to read the spellcasting rules for Shadowrun 4th Edition out loud to prove a point. Unless you want to talk to real lawyers with a real lawsuit DONT!! Edit that out!! The text in the rules are copyrighted and you should avoid it like a first level cleric avoids a Black Dragon.
As an artist, I get Real angry if someone uses my artwork without a pre-arranged contract or permission. This is not better to ask for forgiveness scenario. If you need artwork for your game look up public domain images and try your hand at photoshop or contact an artist to do it for you (Hint Hint)
Putting the famous logo of your favorite game on your website has some serious potential for lawsuits. It implies they are endorsing you when they are not. A company MUST defend their trademark like a dragon guards a hoard. They have no choice but to contact their lawyers to deliver the legal smackdown on you. They are not being evil its just the rules
Public Domain music
RPG Clip Art
Hire an artist
How to get paid for your RPG podcast
How do you like the idea of being paid to be a gamemaster? Being a gamemaster or running a podcast is hard work. Why should we not get paid? There are a few ways to get paid my Favorite is Patreon. This service allows your listeners to subscribe to your show. This has been very good for us as it keeps our show up and running, At the time of writing this we make double what it costs to make the show. The rest go for Pizza and beer for the cast (And computer upgrades)
RPG Podcasting Tips you are not going to find in any book.
have a backup recorder. RPGs are very impromptu if your mic dies for some reason you are never going to be able to have that moment again. Use your phone recorder as a backup recording device.
Get involved with the RPG podcasting community. Other podcasts are NOT your competition they are your allies. A show that does the same kind of show as you have listeners that would love your show. Reach out say Hi.. most are willing to help. That said ... help other podcasters!
Contribute don't Distribute.
If you are on twitter do more than post links to your show .. talk about RPGs as a whole. Get into conversations with other podcasters and RPG lovers about their games. if you must have a formula for this a good ratio is 10 RPG tweets for every one link to your show.
Record 5-10 Episodes before publishing
It's really hard to keep up with the publishing schedule. If you get behind you are going to lose listeners. We did not do this and I'm busting my ass even with an assistant editor (Who ROCKS BY THE WAY )to not fall behind. It's not uncommon to have an entire season ready to go before publishing.
You may have quiet fans
Just the other day I was thinking that nobody cared about my show when someone random at work told me they loved the show. So fans may not reach out to you.
Figure out if you are going to be Clean or Explicit and stick with it. Explicit has a limited range vs Clean. But clean is more work because you have to edit out the cursing or get everyone really good at not cursing in the first place.
The GM should not be the one controlling the recording equipment. This took me a while to get. WOW does it make a big difference to the game as a whole to let someone else control the microphone
. Now I can focus on being a good gamemaster and not a sound tech.
Fun anymore Rule If you re making no money whatsoever. but you are having fun!!! Then keep going. The moment this becomes a job stop. Your listeners can tell.