Game Master Tips from Wil Wheaton
  • Game Master Tips from Wil Wheaton


    As you probably know by now, Wil Wheaton hosts the new RPG web show, Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana. In it, he runs Green Ronin's Fantasy AGE roleplaying for a group of celebrity friends. What you might not have known is that each week he gives a gamemastering tip, hosted by popular website The Mary Sue. There have been two so far - the first about getting players invested in your world, and the second talks about character arcs.

    The short (under 2 minute) tips are hosted here on The Mary Sue.




    Comments 14 Comments
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      Excellent tips. I think Wil forgot the second part of the "let players make it up" rule, which is, "have a whole bag of SHHHT handy, just in case a player doesn't know how to handle this sort of freedom."

      After seeing the design crew behind Titansgrave, I'm expecting more great tips to come!
    1. Anselyn's Avatar
      Anselyn -
      Very nice.
    1. JamesonCourage's Avatar
      JamesonCourage -
      I will say that as a sandbox GM (as my preference for long-running campaigns, at least), that first video made my GM sensibilities dry heave. No good for my style.

      The second video isn't necessarily bad (again, for my style), since it could be a "pay attention to what interests the players" and "pay attention to consequences of player actions," though, again, it sounds more forced than that in the video.

      Ah, RPGs. The styles you inspire.
    1. Mephistopheles's Avatar
      Mephistopheles -
      Quote Originally Posted by JamesonCourage View Post
      I will say that as a sandbox GM (as my preference for long-running campaigns, at least), that first video made my GM sensibilities dry heave. No good for my style.

      The second video isn't necessarily bad (again, for my style), since it could be a "pay attention to what interests the players" and "pay attention to consequences of player actions," though, again, it sounds more forced than that in the video.

      Ah, RPGs. The styles you inspire.
      I think player input can be useful even in a sandbox game; it doesn't have to be as overt as Wil describes it.

      Players often throw ideas back and forth amongst themselves as they theorise or try to guess what's going on in the game. I'll just let them talk, take notes if I hear something I like, and may even change what I had planned to what they are talking about. Nothing in the game has to be set in stone until the PCs become aware of it or it has some impact on them.
    1. camilaacolide's Avatar
      camilaacolide -
      For some sessions now in my table, when players come up with an idea (for action resolution or setting description) that's clearly better than mine, I blatantly steal them, re-describe the scene using their idea, and award them an inspiration point for that (D&D 5e). This has worked wonders for my game. It doesn't happen so often as to become disruptive, and when it happens, it's usually awesome and the scene becomes more vivid! And as a result, all the players get more engaged and participative since, in many small ways, they are forging the game they want to play better than I could ever do by myself!

      Although I hate the Wheaton's DMing style in TITANSGRAVE, his tips here are golden. I've yet to try something like he describes in the first video, giving complete and deliberate creative control to a player in a very specific situation or description, but it's definitely in my to-do list for the next sessions!
    1. Yaarel -
      Excellent tips from Wil. I will be following his weekly broadcasts.
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      Solid advice, he seems focused on finding ways to get players to feel ownership and engagement in the setting.
    1. JamesonCourage's Avatar
      JamesonCourage -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mephistopheles View Post
      I think player input can be useful even in a sandbox game; it doesn't have to be as overt as Wil describes it.

      Players often throw ideas back and forth amongst themselves as they theorise or try to guess what's going on in the game. I'll just let them talk, take notes if I hear something I like, and may even change what I had planned to what they are talking about. Nothing in the game has to be set in stone until the PCs become aware of it or it has some impact on them.
      Just thought I'd reply with a "good post."
    1. Hand of Evil's Avatar
      Hand of Evil -
      All stuff we have discussed here for years (see the DM advice thread) Enjoyed them, kind of interesting seeing and hearing advice, has a bit more impact.
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      So what's his next tip going to be? Allow players to make their attacks less lethal, after the attack? (Poor Kinagidas...)

      What tip would you like to give Wil?
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      Answer: the next tip is don't use grids.

      I happen to wholeheartedly agree.

      Of course, it's a strange coincidence that my current set of players contains a very low percentage of tacti-gamers. So we're having a great time playing theater-of-the-mind.

      Let's check out Tip #4...
    1. MarkB's Avatar
      MarkB -
      Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
      Answer: the next tip is don't use grids.

      I happen to wholeheartedly agree.

      Of course, it's a strange coincidence that my current set of players contains a very low percentage of tacti-gamers. So we're having a great time playing theater-of-the-mind.

      Let's check out Tip #4...
      A year ago I'd probably have been seething watching that episode - we were nearing the end of a 4e campaign that was heavily minis-reliant, and I'd used grid-based combat in the 3e and Saga Edition games I ran.

      However, in the last adventure I ran, which was my first time running something homebrewed in D&D 5e, I abandoned minis altogether, used minimal whiteboard maps for occasional illustrative purposes, and ran almost all my combats purely descriptively. It worked well, and whilst I might find myself going back to the grid with a different system, I've come to appreciate the advantages of the narrative approach. I don't consider it quite so stark a division as Wil Wheaton presents it, but it's nice to have options.
    1. Jhaelen -
      I don't think you need an actual grid. But a rough representation showing where the PCs are in relation to each other and to the opponents is something I consider a necessity.
    1. JDulle's Avatar
      JDulle -
      Very cool. Always good to find/hear about new resources. Thanks.
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