One navel gazing post on Friday is the deal, but Nooooooo. Stupid (but really brilliant and incredibly smart) Beedo (of Dreams in the Liche House) and Ckutalik (of Hill Cantons) want to ask questions about GM "Best Practices". Apparently someone works in corporate.
Also: This just happens to be something I know all the hell about.
Three "Best Practices"
1) The most important thing you can do as any kind of game master or designer is to NOT REMOVE PLAYER AGENCY.
Player agency is the single most important factor of a satisfying game.
I should point out that games that have little player agency (Cosmic Encounter for instance) can be quite fun. What they do not support is long term memorable campaigns.
What is player agency? Two things. Does the player have choices? and more importantly do those choices matter?
Walking down the hall and popped by a trap? No player agency if the trap was just checked for by some roll the players had no control over. Minimal player agency if the player could put points into a find traps/perception/spot skill. Great player agency, if all traps are visible, and the players have to make choices on how to bypass the traps. Examples of how to use player agency in play.
Things that remove player agency. Fudging dice rolls. Using a magician's switch. Engaging in palette shifting. (see comments)
2) Remember that the point is to have fun. There are two key critical factors to this.
- A) Fun does not mean that everything goes the party's way - sometimes it means bad things (including TPK's) happen, because things that are not guaranteed, like success, are important. And having the choice you make matter is fun.
- B) Pay attention to what your party is asking, and do not shut them down. Don't say no, explain what that's going to take to do, or who they will have to talk with to find out what to do.
Again for emphasis.
Don't Say No.
Pay Attention to what your players are really asking for.
Give them everything they ask for, and three things they don't.
3) Have some fun with the game. Ham up your NPC's. Speak in funny accents. Remember to not expect your players to treat the NPC's like real people, but have them react like real people and comment on the craziness of the players. Remember that all these comments are for entertainment value, to make everyone laugh, and enjoy the NPC - not be difficult or obtuse for the sake of teaching lessons.Have them provide some post modern commentary on events.
Have the NPC's have wildly differing character traits, like the Kuo-Toa, who are really cool, like frat dudes, who have some non-specific plan for taking over the surface world. When the party attacks, they scream and ask, "BLUBWHHY ARE-GARBLE YOU GUYS SUCH DICKS?!!"
Beedo covered several important logistical things in his post - Describing the most important thing down to the least important, and keeping things vague until they are examined. Track time.
What is important to remember, is that the point is to have fun. If you find yourself ever trying to do anything next other than make it more entertaining, then you're wrong for that. It is important never to forget you are guys hanging out in a room, just because you're a DM, doesn't mean you're the boss of them - just responsible for their enjoyment.