Game Master Tips

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James
You know it is funny I have made it my mission locally to prove that I can overcome the shortfalls of the battle mechanic known as 4e and too prove it is the GMs responsibility to make the game what it is regardless of the rules.


I would add that the players also have a responsibility to the game almost as heavy as the DMs. In fact I would go as far to say that the rule system is not all that important given the right set of players/DM, but it takes effort on both parts. However, rule systems do flavor and sometimes force play into certain corridors.

D20 seemed to usher in a wave of lazy DMing where suddenly the book became law and no-one was willing to bend any rules at all (or make house rules). D20 was based on the system used to run RPG computer games and although I enjoy those very much, I don't want my pencil and paper games to be like them! Bash the monster and grab the treasure - fun on a computer, boring in person.

I've been so spoiled for most of my history of play because I had DMs (like you) who would put the time into making custom stuff and the system was vague enough to allow the kind of creative flexibility that keeps me happy. Don't get me started on how D20 ruined magic. I can't think of any more boring spell than those that add or subtract points - where's the creativity in that?

So now I get to 4E which kept all the stuff I didn't like about D20 and dropped the last remaining bits of what I did like to focus on combat. Combat is the more boring part of the game for me so that sorta killed things right then and there (no pun intended).


James
Roleplaying
Not rule playing
Not roll playing

I couldn't agree with you more.

Jewell
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Just tips on a Bonus XP Forum and Question of the Week I mentioned earlier. I have run this forum since January and here is a list of the "Questions of the Week". Most questions I reward 100 XP. Sometime this makes the difference between almost there and next level. I also find that each player who participates in this better defines their character one question at a time. It has also been a strong motivator for getting the players to use EpicWords.
    What does your character sound like?
    Why did you join the watch?
    What are your characters aspects?
    Tell us of your companions and pets
    Character Pics
    Have your character tell a proverb or saying.
    Campaign Themesong
    Ylaruam Emirates
    Almost there!
    Actor or Actress?
    What is your characters one liner?
    How would you define the piety of your character?
    What's Your Sign?
    What would be your characters theme song?
    Do you have a rival?
    Who were your parents?
    Face your fears.
    What are your characters titles?
    What is your characters dirty little secret?
    What is your characters description?
    Where was your character born?
    Starting XP
    Character Background 100 Questions
    Bonus Experience
    Profile "About Me"
    How Many 4th Edition Entries?

Wiki Bonus XP Section

Forum Question of the Week & Bonus XP

Now for my question to you.

What would you recommend for some questions of the week?

Regards
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James
What would you recommend for some questions of the week?

What would your character kill for?
What would your character sacrifice his/her life for?
Describe your character's first romantic love interest.
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Very nice!
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Getting players to post on EW -- Every GM knows the drill; how do we get our players posting recaps, thoughts, comments, etc..?

I've tried two methods, thus far, with a third being suggested by one of my fellow players/DM.

1st - minor quest xp reward for posting a weekly recap/character post. I did this one first and it had two very distinct results.

1. I did see an increase in posting, but from my sometimes/mostly posters. They tried to post every week, just to get the xp. This lead to posts going up shortly before sessions starting in hopes of getting that extra.

2. The level gap. I didn't think giving out an extra 30-40xp a week would be that big of a difference...except it was. The players posting every week were ending up hundreds of points ahead of players who weren't posting. It was ok, at first, but then, after a character death, and some other issues, it became a mess. I don't like my players being off on level, it can be a mess, and this didn't help.

My second attempt was giving out minor items and extra gold to those who posted. This sort of worked, except the bonus items were mostly ignored and the money just went into a group pool, so it wasn't seen as anything.

The final suggestion is session rewards. If a player posts, he'll get a reward, either an extra action point, or some other alteration that ties into his post or character that's unique for him that week. We'll see if this one helps.

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This next tip is a tech-tip for those who can manage and those DM's who use a laptop/desktop to run games at their table. If you have a secondary monitor lying around and you can swing it, set up a monitor at the end of the table opposite the DM. Connect the monitor to his laptop and he now has a secondary display.

This can be used to show art/images of NPCs, battles, and monsters. It can be used to display the initiative count (if you use the D&D4eCM they included a secondary window that handles live tracking of hp, bloodied values, and conditions) and other useful bits of information.

___

Finally, this is strictly a 4e one, but could be included in some manner to others. This was mentioned by Sly Flourish (have to give credit). If you use music in your combats, have each player pick a theme song for their player. Add the songs to the list and shuffle. If their song comes up during combat, they get an extra action point (think action movies, when the heroe's music starts playing) they can use before the end of their next turn. Sly flourishes' suggestion also included increasing the critical hit range by 1 for attacks made during the action point.


Those are a few I've got right now.
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Very nice!

Ktulu
Getting players to post on EW -- Every GM knows the drill; how do we get our players posting recaps, thoughts, comments, etc..?

I've tried two methods, thus far, with a third being suggested by one of my fellow players/DM.

1st - minor quest xp reward for posting a weekly recap/character post. I did this one first and it had two very distinct results.

1. I did see an increase in posting, but from my sometimes/mostly posters. They tried to post every week, just to get the xp. This lead to posts going up shortly before sessions starting in hopes of getting that extra.

2. The level gap. I didn't think giving out an extra 30-40xp a week would be that big of a difference...except it was. The players posting every week were ending up hundreds of points ahead of players who weren't posting. It was ok, at first, but then, after a character death, and some other issues, it became a mess. I don't like my players being off on level, it can be a mess, and this didn't help.

My second attempt was giving out minor items and extra gold to those who posted. This sort of worked, except the bonus items were mostly ignored and the money just went into a group pool, so it wasn't seen as anything.

The final suggestion is session rewards. If a player posts, he'll get a reward, either an extra action point, or some other alteration that ties into his post or character that's unique for him that week. We'll see if this one helps.

____

This next tip is a tech-tip for those who can manage and those DM's who use a laptop/desktop to run games at their table. If you have a secondary monitor lying around and you can swing it, set up a monitor at the end of the table opposite the DM. Connect the monitor to his laptop and he now has a secondary display.

This can be used to show art/images of NPCs, battles, and monsters. It can be used to display the initiative count (if you use the D&D4eCM they included a secondary window that handles live tracking of hp, bloodied values, and conditions) and other useful bits of information.

___

Finally, this is strictly a 4e one, but could be included in some manner to others. This was mentioned by Sly Flourish (have to give credit). If you use music in your combats, have each player pick a theme song for their player. Add the songs to the list and shuffle. If their song comes up during combat, they get an extra action point (think action movies, when the heroe's music starts playing) they can use before the end of their next turn. Sly flourishes' suggestion also included increasing the critical hit range by 1 for attacks made during the action point.


Those are a few I've got right now.

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Ktulu
Getting players to post on EW -- Every GM knows the drill; how do we get our players posting recaps, thoughts, comments, etc..?

I've tried two methods, thus far, with a third being suggested by one of my fellow players/DM.

1st - minor quest xp reward for posting a weekly recap/character post. I did this one first and it had two very distinct results.

I award 25 per level (lowest level character in the group). Max 2 posting per week.

1. I did see an increase in posting, but from my sometimes/mostly posters. They tried to post every week, just to get the xp. This lead to posts going up shortly before sessions starting in hopes of getting that extra.

I agree the same posters every week.

2. The level gap. I didn't think giving out an extra 30-40xp a week would be that big of a difference...except it was. The players posting every week were ending up hundreds of points ahead of players who weren't posting. It was ok, at first, but then, after a character death, and some other issues, it became a mess. I don't like my players being off on level, it can be a mess, and this didn't help.

I accept it and promote it! Darwin and survival of the strongest, a little harse but hey, my game, my rules.

My second attempt was giving out minor items and extra gold to those who posted. This sort of worked, except the bonus items were mostly ignored and the money just went into a group pool, so it wasn't seen as anything.

The final suggestion is session rewards. If a player posts, he'll get a reward, either an extra action point, or some other alteration that ties into his post or character that's unique for him that week. We'll see if this one helps.

Some other things I do:
* Must join EpicWords to play in my game, this is the only mechanism I use for XP tracking.
* I have a variety of XP Awards each week.
* Attendance XP is 50 per level (lowest character level) which helps balance the online posting. The reason I scale both the journal xp and the attendance xp per level is so that it is still relevant as they are currently level 16 and 17.
* Major Quest XP between 500-1000.
* Question of the Week in the forums usually 100 per question.
* I post xp for each major place or city they have been.
* I post xp for each encounter separately.
* missi players get xp for their characters encounters if they are not present. However they do not get the attendance xp which is currently at 800 per session. So naturally anyone who does not miss is ahead of the players who have missed a few.
* if there is an Epic moment in the game I declare that if that player posts there will be bonus XP.
* There are certain things I relegate to the EpicWords weekly journals, side quests that split party members off, item creation rituals, one on one research, etc. These types of things that everyone else has to wait for the single player to finish or leave the room with the GM.
* Using the Private Journal I have held complete side quests with one or more players and awarded completion XP at the end. Or they come back to the group with an important piece of information to share with the rest of e group.

You are welcome to check out this wiki and "lift" anything that you deem useful. You will note that I have created one child wiki for each type of xp I award (attendance, bonus, encounter, quest, starting, etc). I use these as templates with the same pic and text for each type of xp award. I hit edit on the child wiki, select all, copy and them paste the xp award in the comments of the journal or in reply on the forum. This is how I know that I am current on my xp award in the question of the week forum. Because mine is the last response in any thread. and of course I award the xp on the xp page.

Just a couple of copper for my thoughts I hope they help someone else.

Regards


____

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