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GM Advice

Learn tricks to help make your game easier to run, more entertaining for your players, or both.

Alternatives to Removing Absent PCs star
Three of four players are in their seats, ready to roll dice. The GM reports to the rest of the table that the fourth isn't going to show. What do you do? Here's four more options than canceling the game or just calling their character a late sleeper and damaging your campaign's cohesion.

Borrowing Plot Hooks and Adventures star
There's an excellent and free source for DMs with writer's block: fiction books and video games. A certain non-obviousness is needed to throw your players astray, though. How can you keep the flavor without cuing your players into exactly where the story is going? Read on to find out.

Coping With Dungeon Master Burnout star
Surely every DM has felt game-haltingly bored at some time or other. When this happens it is like a big warning sign to your group saying "this is a chore." How do you manage it? Will it always be like this? Here's some advice on how to bring fun back to your games.

D&D Encounters star
D&D Encounters is an ideal way for new players and new GMs to experience D&D 4.0 in a relaxed, no-fuss, no-muss atmosphere.

Descriptive and Narrative Fight Scenes star
Does “the kobold cleaves into your biceps with the blade of his spear” appeal to you more than “they hit you?” Odds are it's more appetizing for both you and the rest of your group. During long combat hauls, interesting narration can be difficult to maintain. Here's how to keep the spice in.

Dungeon Master Preparation Pitfalls star
You're a dungeon master. The next session is very soon but you're too busy to prepare it. Maybe this is you or maybe you just prep a lot of tabletop role-playing games. Here's a small list of things to keep in mind that will save you time and effort while enhancing your game.

Focused Prep is Practical Prep star
While brainstorming is great for jumpstarting your imagination, creative meandering can detract greatly from your session preparation time. Creativity shouldn't be kept to a strict schedule, either. Here's how to make sure you have what you need prepared with limited segues.

Grains of Sandbox Plot star
Adventure plot and sandbox games might seem contradictory. These two things can actually be reconciled, if you're mindful about it. Generalization, improvisation and more are important when giving your sandbox RPG flavorful plot. Here are some short-and-sweet tips for how to pull that off.

Handling Failure In RPGs star
Handling failure is a way for GMs to ease the sting for a player of a failed roll, or a series of failed rolls.

Handling Player Character Conflict star
Having trouble with your player characters fighting amongst each other? Here are some tips on handling those situations.

Homebrewing Creatures, Abilities and Rules star
The rules don't account for every eventuality. GMs all over add, bend and break rules all the time. Those rules which remain consistent from session to session may come in the form of monsters or new abilities. Here's what you need to do before making your own creatures, abilities or house rules.

Monster Vault Review star
A review of the Monster Vault boxed set, part of the D&D Essentials line: is it different from 4th edition Monster Manuals 1 and 2?

Moving the Story Along star
There's more to being a Dungeon Master than being a rules encyclopedia. Drama, suspense, intrigue – the show must go on! Here's some tips on how to remember what to do when the rules detract from the story itself. Remember: the rules serve the story and not the other way around.

NPC Cohorts and Hired Hands star
Your party lacks a healer and they hit the bar at the next town. Who is available to hire? More importantly, who will decide what they will do in combat? Many concerns arise when the characters adopt a cohort or take on hired help. Here's what you need to know.

Player Characters Becoming Dungeon Masters star
You've been playing for enough time to feel that you'd be more happy behind the DM screen. Whether that's one game or a more than a year's worth varies with the individual. Not sure about what all that change entails? It takes less than you might think.

Populating Your World With Somebodies star
Portraying the rest of the world surrounding the party can seem quite the daunting task. You don't want it to seem dull yet you might not know who the characters will interact with. Instead of crafting each person or assuming people insignificant to the adventure are the same, make “types.”

Productive Tips to Streamline Prep star
Work, school, cleaning and then prepare the game? Something all GMs learn to remain efficient and keep up with their own lives is streamline the prep process. While that means different things from one person to the next, here's four tips when you've got fewer (or shorter) blocks of time to spend.

Reintroducing Creativity Into Your Prep star
Dragons don't all look alike. If they do, or worse yet, if they all look like a string of numbers and a grid outline – you might be suffering from rule-overload. The remedy is not halfway across the world or at the end of an epic quest, however. It's here at the click of a button.

Repurposing Prematurely Ended Campaigns star
You know that campaign you put so much work into but it never got to finish? There's that wonderfully epic battle waiting for the party, but each of the players have all moved or aren't game to play anymore. If you can't reuse it, recycle it into it's own fictional work.

RPG Campaign Software star
Thinking of bringing your RPG campaign into the 21st century? With a laptop and campaign software, you can have everything you need to run your campaign at the table.

Running One-Shot Adventures star
Not quite ready to run your next big campaign yet? Try giving a one-shot adventure a try. We'll talk about how to tailor an adventure to be completed in a single session.

Secret Organizations and Potential Masterminds star
Threading any given object or NPC into a campaign means that it can be destroyed by the party. Never introduce anything in the hopes that it won't be trampled underfoot – no matter how unlikely that is. How then does one create a secret organization within the world the PCs occupy?

Simple Riddle Composition for DMs star
Have you designed the perfect dungeon but lack a puzzling riddle? Do your players love intellectual challenges but you can't just put in a riddle you find on the internet? This guide will show you a quick and simple way of making your own riddles to perplex your players!

Splitting the Party, Tips for GMs star
The time comes in any adventure where the PCs are divided on what to do next. And rather than hash it out between them and come up with a consensus, inevitably they'll decide to do their own things. Here's how to handle it.

Tactfully Running an RPG star
Game mastering has a few tricky points regarding etiquette that differ from many other activities. Some game masters even go to auto-pilot and throw politeness out the window. Don't let that happen to you! Here's some tips on how to stay tactful and run a game at the same time.

Time Management Tips For Busy GMs star
Love GMing, but having trouble finding enough time in the day for everything you need to do? Here are tips that might help those of you who can�t devote 100% of your time to gaming.

Time Travel Rules For RPGs star
Want to run a time travel game? The time travel rules you pick can make or break your game. We'll look at some decisions you'll have to make.

Tips for Call of Cthulhu Campaigns star
Call of Cthulhu lends itself more to horrific one-shots, yet a campaign can be fun, too. Here are some tips on running a great campaign.

Using Traps Effectively star
The use of traps in role playing games is a tradition as old as Dungeons & Dragons. As a GM, you must use traps effectively to avoid frustrating your players. Read this article for tips.

Villains We Love to Hate star
Back-alley grunts stealing purses and lives; crazed scientists engineering their own mockery of life; alleged allies who manipulate those who trust them; people who have given up on life and want everything in the world to end: Four villain archetypes you could be using in your campaign!

Writing Adventures for Variable Levels star
Making adventures for one specific group of adventurers lacks the versatility of making more general ones. What happens when the group doesn't take that path at that level or the game ends prematurely? Through keeping out some details such as level, you can increase the usefulness of your prep.

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Secret Organizations and Potential Masterminds

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