Here is an index of all the GM Advice articles I have published.
- 2 Ways I Fail as a GM
- 5 Characteristics of Terrible GMs
- 5 Terrible Reasons to GM
- 6 Reasons to Give GMing a Go
- 8 Characteristics of Great GMs
- Are You A Successful GM?
- Don’t Panic
- Gygax On…Rules Lawyers
- How Can Players Make the GM’s Game Better (and More Fun)?
- How to Deal with GM Fatigue
- How to Better Know What Your Players Want
- How to Keep the Passion for Design Alive
- How to Use Evernote to Help Run Your Session
- The Best Gaming Book of All Time?
- The Forsaken Demesne and the 30,000-Word Challenge
- The Three Things that Suck Most About GMing
- To Cheat or Not to Cheat–that is the Question
- What I Learnt About GMing from Bob the Builder
- 2 Things I Hate About Module Prep
- 5 Easy Ways to Make Your Combats More Dynamic and Exciting
- 6 Things I Learnt About Adventure Design Watching Bond Films
- 6 Things I Hate About Adventure Presentation
- 10 Awesome Plot Hooks to Start Your Adventure (or Campaign)
- Are We Too Obsessed With Balance?
- How to Design 3-Part Adventures
- How To Design Solo Adventures
- How to Write Awesome Adventure Blurbs
- One Surprising Resource to Help You Design
- The Art of Simple
- Their Superior Play Almost Got My PCs Killed
- To Read Aloud or Not to Read Aloud: that is the Question
- 2% Campaign Prep is Awesome
- 4 Reasons You Should Have a Copy of your PCs’ Character Sheets
- 4 Reasons Your Campaign is Dying
- 4 Signs Your Campaign is Dying
- 5 iOS Apps that Help Me Run My Campaign
- Dealing with House Rules
- Excellent House Rules For Your Campaign
- Gygax On…The Nature and Variety of Challenge
- Gygax On…Tracking Time in the Campaign
- How Should I Prepare For My Sandbox Campaign?
- My Publishing Philosophy & My Campaign
- How I Use Slack to Help Run My Campaign
- How to Deal With Broken Characters
- How to Design a Campaign Primer
- How to End Your Campaign
- How to Get Honest Feedback on Your Campaign
- How to Herd Your Players to Your Game
- How to Start A New Campaign
- How to Use Weather in Your Campaign
- Mine is Conan vs. Cthulhu in a Megadungeon (What’s Yours?)
- Why Your Campaign Needs Structure
- Why You Should Change the Pace of Your Campaign
- Why You Should Track Time in Your Campaign
- Why Your Campaign Needs More Rumours
- Are You Suffering From Option Fatigue?
- Down with Point Buy and Dump Stats
- Sometimes More is Not Better
- The Art of Simple
- The Rise of Point Buy and the Joy of Min/Maxing (a guest post by Stephen Radney-MacFarland)
- The Paradox of Choice
- The Power of Simplicity
- When Everyone is Special, No One is Special
- Why a GM Should KISS as Much as Possible
- 2 Unusual Megadungeon Campaign Setups
- 3 Reasons to Have Wandering Monsters in Your Dungeon
- 3 Things to Avoid When Designing a Dungeon
- 4 Things Modern Dungeons Don’t Seem to Have Enough of Anymore
- 10 Dungeon Design Tips for Beginners
- Dungeon Design: Alternate Dungeons
- Dungeon Design: Designing the Dungeon
- Dungeon Design: Dungeon Dressing
- Dungeon Design: Dungeon Ecology
- Dungeon Design: Dungeon Names
- Dungeon Design: Dungeon Physicality
- Dungeon Design: Megadungeon Design
- Dungeon Design: Megadungeon Maps
- Dungeon Design: The Dungeon’s Purpose
- Dungeon Design: Things to Know About a Dungeon
- Dungeon Design: What Surprising Thing Does a Dungeon Need?
- Is the Moathouse the Perfect Low-Level Dungeon?
- Just How Good is The Forge of Fury?
- My Favourite Dungeon Map
- Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands Design Principles Case Study
- Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands Zoning Case Study
- Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands Backstory Case Study
- Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands Encounter Design Case Study
- The Illusion of Dungeon Detail
- To Read Aloud or Not to Read Aloud: that is the Question
- Why Your Characters Could Explore a Megadungeon
- Why You Dungeons Should Have More Than One Entrance
Many of these dungeon design articles appear in Be Awesome at Dungeon Design which is a free download from d20pfsrd, DriveThruRPG, Paizo and RPGNow.
- The 4 Types of Unfair Encounters
- How to Design Encounters
- How to Enhance Your Combat Encounters
- What is the Wandering Monster Actually Doing?
- Bushcraft, Wild Camping & Encumbrance
- Encumbrance: Into the Wilderness
- The Fallacy of the Adventurer’s Backpack
- What’s in an Adventurer’s EDC?
- What’s In An Adventurer’s Get Home Bag?
- 3 Jolly Handy Things to Keep Behind Your Screen to Make Your Life Easier
- 6 Common GMing Mistakes
- 6 Moral Dilemmas for Your PCs
- 8 Tips for Beginning GMs
- 7 Ways To Dodge The Dreaded TPK
- 7 Ways to Replace a PC Mid Adventure
- Free Game: Dragon and the Thief
- Gygax On…Cleric Spells
- Gygax On…Henchmen & Hirelings
- Gygax On…Saving Characters
- How and Why to Say “No”
- How to Enliven Your PCs’ Overland Travel
- The Real Cause of the 15-Minute Adventuring Day
- Timeless Advice from Keep on the Borderlands
- Why I Love My GM’s Screen
- Three-Tier Design for the Busy GM
- 7 Tips to Help You Prepare Modules Quicker and Better
- 7 Tips to Help You Prep Faster and Easier
- Gygax On…Preparing Modules
- What Are You Really Buying (when you buy a module)?
- Why Preparing for a Game Session is Like Facing the School Bully
- How Do YOU GM Smart?
- How Should I Prepare for My Sandbox Campaign?
- Is Poison Use Evil?
- What Can Raging Swan Press Do For You?
- What’s Your Greatest GMing Challenge?
Treasure, Rewards and Penalties
- Gygax On…Treasure
- Not All Rewards Must Glitter
- Putting the Wonder Back Into Wondrous Items
- The Price for Failure is…
- Why (and How) You Should Design Unique Magic Items
- Why You Should Design Unique Treasure For Your Campaign
Urban Design & Adventures
- 4 Reasons to Add a festival (or Two) to Your Campaign
- 5 Different Places to Hold a Market
- Gygax On…Duties, Excises, Fees, Tariffs, Taxes, Tithes and Tolls
- How to Name the Streets in Your Settlements
- How to Place Settlements in Your Campaign
- How to Design a Settlement for Your Campaign
- Languard: The Design Begins
- My Favourite Unsung Table(s) From the 1st Edition DMG
- What Lies Under the Streets
- What Does an Old-School Villages Need?
- Why is the Village of Hommlet So Awesome?
- Why the Tavern is Important
- Why Urban Adventures Are Different
- Why You Should Add a Barroom Brawl to Your Campaign
19 thoughts on “GM Advice”
My question for GM advice is this: How can one deal with Languages in RPGs. Minus the omniprescent and unrealistic “Common Tongue” or amulets of translation, what are some good strategies for when the party meets NPCs who don’t speak their language. I mean, say your PCs run into an ancient forest and come across a hamlet, which is really the home of a milleniae old cabal of dwarven swamp witches, just as a ridiculuous example. I realise that sign language and such can be great roleplaying oportunities, but this tends to break game pace, and dissolve into players getting “out of game mode”. To be in line with pacing and keep things from going astray, what are some measures that a GM can use, or players, when dealing with NPCs who speak another language.?
Character Design – both player characters and NPC
Random tables for appearance, etc. also background and other special attributes/oddities.
Also for NPCs possessions, both major items and trivial items. Plus what language they speak.
I agree strongly with what Alan Coats said.
I would like to see tables of realistic/low key (the more gonzo the result, the harder it is to work into most campaigns) PC and NPC names, personalities, background elements, etc.
Also, given your talent for writing, I would absolutely love to see something like your take on (again, relatively realistic/low key) adventure seeds, or coherent character background/history generators.
Absolutely. I’d love to create a range of “normal” people a GM could use as part of an urban backdrop. I’ll definitely consider it. It’s certainly something I could include in the 20 Things line.
In regards to your email “what we can do for you”… I think a great product would be a small collection of NPCs… complete with stats and for varying challenge ratings. I play 5e, but I’m sure the Pathfinder people would also find this useful. The kind of thing I am thinking of could be individual villains of different levels (low, medium, high), a small guild of thieves, competing adventuring group, gang of bandits, a blacksmith and his/her workers, a sheriff and deputies, merchants of varying types (especially those who work in a magic shop), etc etc etc. They don’t have to be named (although suggestions welcome). I think something like this, in conjunction with your line of towns and villages you create would be a great 1-2 punch. Just a thought, thanks for your time.
I would love to write a book like this. Given I’m currently slaving away over Languard this might be something I could slip into the line. Thank you for the suggestion!
Alot of the emails i get, and alot of the products i own seem to fall i to 2 catagories…. towns/settlements or dungeons. What i dont see much of is wilderness type items. Hexcrawl/ sandbox type items wilderness items
Related to you email, what we can do for you, I would love to a series focusing on humanoids and their “villages”. I enjoy the monster lairs series very much, but I would be interested to see a detailed version similar to the Village Backdrops focusing on goblins, hobgoblins, etc. Having a map and daily activities could make for interesting locales that a group can stumble upon while exploring.
Thanks for all the great books and resources!
I love, love, love this idea. I don’t have space in the schedule at the moment, but I’ll give some serious thought about how to squeeze this in.
Thank you, Martin!
Strange and Wondrous Gnomish Inventions…?
Perhaps next April, Patrick!
I would like to see printed solo adventures. No GM or gaming group required. Open the adventure book and start reading and rolling dice. Kinda like those “choose your own adventure” books but based on your rolls.
I second this suggestion!
Comments and suggestions about solo adventures are hurling themselves into my inbox with increasing frequency. This is something I am going to consider as it’s an interesting challenge.
I also used to love the choose your own adventure books!
Have you ever, or ever thought to, create DM/GM screens for different systems? I know some of the biggies publish their own, and maybe there are licensing issues I’m not aware of, but I’d buy a D&D BECMI or B/X DM screen from you in a heartbeat. But that may be more difficult a thing to ask for than I realize. I know you focus on Pathfinder and 5e right now — which I love. But right now I’m on a real OSR kick.
I haven’t perused your website much or read many of the PDFs/ lists you’ve put out, largely because I’m a busy DM. Lol
I wanted say that I thoroughly enjoyed and greatly benefited from the guides you put out for the WotC 5th ed modules.
They help by both focusing my attention on key points, helping me organize my thoughts before I read a chapter, or even add elements to early chapters that will pay off in later chapters (I’m thinking of the chip in SKT).
Not only do they save me time, they leverage my time by making my first read of the adventure like my 5th, because I’ve already read your guide.
It’s like the adventure was built, and then you built on top of that, so by the time I start, I’m already at the top of the mountain with so much to riff off of.
That reminds me, did you do one for Tomb of Annihilation?
One thing that would be useful to me (I’m starting a “New World” campaign) is a list of *good* names. I’m using elements from D&D’s Birthright setting, but the names in there are a mess.
I can generate random names, but if I generate 20 and only one is good, then, I only have one name.
So, names of villains, rulers, provinces, landmarks, cultures, ancient wizards, contemporary wizards, female names, would be helpful.
I guess I’ll check the list of links above. Maybe you’ve already done one.
Thanks again for your hard work. I appreciate it.
I have created some names of NPCs and suchlike, A compiled list appears in Be Awesome at NPC Design. Alternatively, you can search for So What’s the Human Called, Anyway? on RPGNow or DriveThruRPG. Each instalment in the line includes hundreds of names sorted by culture.
I hope all that helps!