General Tabletop Tips & Advice


#21

Some general advice I’d give to GMs is to 1) know your players, their expectations, strengths, and weaknesses and 2) communicate the general feel and style of game you are looking to run. A RPG group is just like any relationship, communication and constant checkups are key to making it work.

Whenever I plan a game, I inform the players about the general level of input they have into the story (never in those terms of course). My most recent game had the players as inquisitors in a backwater region sent to look into the various rumors and accusations of heresy. I told them that their position meant that they had the freedom of what to investigate when and how and even what to bring to trial or not. The events of the game were then completely driven by how the players prioritized things.

My practice that has had the most significant impact on the quality of my games by far is checking up on players. Between most sessions, especially after heavy plot events, I do my best to ask what my players think of the game so far. I try to gauge their level of interest in the story, ask what they think is happening, what they are planning for the group and their characters, how far they think they have progressed and how much further they have to go, etc. This gives me an indication on what is working and what isn’t. There are times where they tell me what they think the direction of the story is and it is way off, so in the next session or two I give them information to correct them (or maybe throw in a red herring if they are too close). Sometimes they story is halfway done, but the players feel they are only 25% of the way through, that generally means I need to progress their characters more and give them heavier story elements.

Basically, the TL;DR is communicate with your players constantly, outside of the game to ensure everyone is having fun and understands the goal and style of the game.


#22

A short while ago Austin was talking to someone about doing role playing games with his kids, and how he started off just getting going and not rolling 3d6 to get a charisma score and ages balancing the group etc…

Can someone remind me WHICH of the many waypoint media channels this may have been… and if there are any blogs/books/things that have similar advice for fresh GM’s with fresh groups?

Also info that furthers Austins thoughts in this thread with regards to probing the players for info on the world rather than it just coming out from the GM?

Cheers!


#23

I can’t answer for the specific question about tabletop games with kids (although do feel like it might have been from Tips at the Table, which is not a Waypoint-related product). In general, I would say, if you have the money for it, Tips at the Table is a great place to pick up on advice for this, since GM tips come up often and it elaborates on what was outlined above.

With that said, you have to ask to ask – probing players for info comes out of you just doing that with your players.


#24

I would like to sign off on this too, but I do have a few reservations or at least words of caution, here. While feedback is an affirmation that I deeply crave as a GM, as well as being super useful in taking the temperature of my players and course-correcting mid-arc, I don’t want it to feel like a regimented homework assignment I’m giving players to fill out on the regular, or like I’m being pushy for validation. This hump is relatively easy to get over with clear, open lanes of communication and by keeping things informal–keep your finger on the pulse but don’t put on too much pressure.

As another possible issue, much like with beta readers for fiction (though players obviously have much more agency and involvement with the group’s game than beta readers to an author’s work), take their advice with a grain of salt. Players are excellent at identifying what isn’t working, but less good at prescribing fixes–it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees, or be overly invested in one’s own character’s arc, or misdiagnose the structural issue. I say to GMs: trust your players and don’t necessarily assume to know what’s best for them, but do take a step back to consider the space between what they tell you they want and how you can identify and solve the issue causing them to be dissatisfied.


#25

Hi all, I’m glad I found this thread, as I’m sure this question gets asked a lot and I didn’t want to make a new topic:

I’m trying to pull together a group for Baby’s First TTRPG, and I could use some advice. Since I was last involved in a campaign years ago, I was wondering if you could offer advice on new tools, rule systems, etc, that I’m not familiar with. I plan on running it with Roll20, discord, and skype, but as far as actual games I’m lost. I’ve only ever played 3.5, but no longer have access to the materials. It seems like open source rules have exploded since I last looked and I’m a bit overwhelmed.

What do you think is the best open-source (or at least affordable) rule system for lite-medieval setting, story-driven games with mostly first time players? I was looking at Dungeon World, but I’m not quite sure if that’s my best option. Thanks!!


#26

Powered by the Apocalypse games are all the rage now. You have all sorts of genres within that system, but for your request I’d recommend checking out the PbtA rule section of DriveThru!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse.php?filters=44825_0_0_0_0

I hear Dungeon World is very versatile, so you can adjust to it to how you want.

If you’re looking to experiment, Legend of the 5 Rings, a Samurai-fantasy game, just dropped on DriveThru. I hear good things:


#27

Hiya! Here’s a long rambling answer. I think Dungeon World is a good bet. Very flexible, lots of fun. It allows for a much more improvisational, collaborative mode of play. You could completely ignore the long rambling paragraph below this and still have an amazing time but I think it’s at its best when you can use it in this seat-of-your-pants way. It might seem to demand a lot of you creatively, but often this isn’t the case. If you follow your principles, ask lots of questions, use the answers, don’t break the GM rules and trust in the game, it flows like a dream.

Good Dungeon World Resources
I think it’s worth listening to a bit of Friends at the Table or watching a bit of Adam Koebel’s Apocalypse World let’s play for Roll20 on YouTube for an idea of what this seat of your pants play looks like. Adam Koebel ran a game of it at Gencon too. Regardless, Definitely read The 16 Hitpoint Dragon if nothing else for an idea of how the combat should work. (Dungeon World is fantastic but assumes you are already familiar with PbtA and playing fiction focused games. Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts are both much better at explaining core differences from other RPGs if you are interested). If you want a fantasy PbtA experience with a few more systemic gears, Blades in the Dark is a fantastic game with a whole heap of systems tracking the characters of a criminal underworld ticking away like clockwork in the background.

An aside about Story games because I can’t shut up
Something I found very helpful for me as a budding GM were full on story games. They require minimal prep (normally just read the book through once) are very flexible (many are genreless) and normally eschew rules heavy subsystems in favour of just discussing outcomes making them trivial to learn and play. They give you the full RPG experience without all the faff. Some of my favourites are

  • Microscope - where you’ll take turns building out a timeline for a world all your own

  • Dialect - A beautiful and sad game where you build a culture, explore it through its language, then watch both crumble.

  • The Quiet Year - Map out a small village in the year after a devastating apocalypse. Draw cards relating to each season, each with a prompt and a choice to be made for the survival of your people.


#28

Awesome resources, thanks so much!


#29

Hey!

So, I’ve been pitching Apocalypse World to some of my friends, and they seem super interested! But with one caveat… They’re all into RPG video games, so they requested doing a Fallout themed game. I’m very into trying this, seeing as how I’m also very into Fallout, but I’m curious how I can translate some of the mechanics of Apocalypse World into Fallout lore.

The biggest problem is the whole ‘weird’ mechanic, which focuses on the idea of psychic maelstroms and weird mind powers. That kind of stuff doesn’t fit into the Fallout World, but my idea is setting the start of the game in a Vault where Vault-Tec experimented on the psychic abilities of their residents. I feel like it could empower the players by giving them an ability no one else in the world has, as well as a good establishing point for some antagonists in that first session that spawn within the vault. Perhaps there have been divisions in the vault, that there are sects within the structure of the community that break off and retreat to the wasteland together? Perhaps the group is sent out to find these antagonists who have fled?

We’ll also have to probably have some players start outside the vault as well, if they want to be Choppers or Hardholders etc. They need to be acquainted, so my idea is that the Vault the players are living in has opened itself to the outside world for trade, but no exploration, kind of like that Vault in Fallout 4.

I know you aren’t supposed to have much pre-planning done for Apocalypse World, but I like having both free-form gameplay and a big quest the characters can go back to if things get to ‘monster of the week’ like.

I want to encourage creativity with my players, as Apocalypse World demands, so I am setting it in our home city of Atlanta. There’s not much known about the South East Commonwealth in Fallout Lore, so I feel like it leaves a LOT open to play with in terms of letting the players be inventive within this Fallout framing.

How do my ideas sound? Does anyone with experience in Apocalypse World have any advice?

I’d appreciate any feedback.


#31

I don’t think AW would be your best bet. Powered by the Apocalypse games live and die by their genre and AW is a lot more serious. If you’re confident with the hacking by all means have at it but imo you’ll have an easier time either trying to make something new with touches of Fallout playing within AW’s rules or trying a game like Legacy: Life Amongst The Ruins that is more intentionally based on Fallout.


#32

Oh, I’ve heard of this game!

I feel like you can make serious stories work in Fallout, and is AW that serious? I figured that seeing as how there are ‘hot’ stats and what to do when you bang another PC, that the game was leaning more towards Mad Max than The Road.


#33

Was going to go back and edit this but got caught up at work but basically thematically it is a very different game hitting very different notes. Fallout is about a world that has changed while AW is more in the Mad Max and Waterworld camp of the past being a foreign country which we never care to know about. There is the Quarantine playbook which hits on more fallouty ‘What has changed’ notes so is definitely one to look at if you want to try it. I think it’s a distinct difference of tone that runs deep in the game which will take some work (or at least a clever custom move or two) to bridge while still preserving what makes Fallout Fallout and AW AW.

The reason I’m objecting to your plan is that I think what makes AW great is it’s flexibility and focus on player agency. If you’re gonna do this I think you’re better off just laying out the plan to your players and getting them to do the heavy lifting of theming it to their tastes then just go from there with vanilla AW guiding play (which on a reread is already the plan so -1 for my reading comprehension). You don’t need to write missions for them or anything because you will have 200% more stuff to juggle than you could ever reasonably explore in play from their ideas and interactions alone.