Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Game Masters’ Roundtable of Doom

The Game Masters’ Roundtable of Doom is a meeting of the minds of tabletop RPG bloggers and GMs. Every GM has his or her favorite system, but in these articles we endeavor to transcend a particular system or game and discuss topics that are relevant to GMs and players of all roleplaying games.

If you are a blogger, and you’d like to participate in the Game Master’s Roundtable of Doom, send an email to Lex Starwalker at and supply the URL of your blog.

This month’s topic comes to us courtesy of Scott Robinson, who asks, “How has your gaming and/or GMing changed over time?

A bit of history.  Me and gaming.  In the beginning was the Red Box.  When I first played Dungeons and Dragons back in the 1980s I didn’t really know much about it.  At all.  We had a student teacher in our class for a couple of weeks and our class teacher picked out 4 of us to play D&D one lunchtime.  I was picked because I’d read The Hobbit and was reading “Choose Your Own Adventure” books at the time.  This was just before the first of the Jackson/Livingston “Fighting Fantasy” books hit the shelves.

I remember the first games I ran. At best I was an OK GM. Tried too hard for alt-history with Vampire and never actually fleshed the world out properly.  Ran Al Qadim pretry much out of the box and enjoyed that (well, I enjoyed it.  I had a player throw an extreme tantrum when a Genie turned his elf into a halfling). It was alright.  Kept coming back to it week on week but never really spent as much time prepping as I should’ve done so sessions could get a bit bogged down looking up the abilities of a specific creature.

After University, nearly 20 years passed before I sat behind the screen again – or on either side of the screen.  Or rather, not behind the screen.  It’s a barrier.  It gets in the way of the story.  If you need to keep things concealed from the players, fair enough, but find another way.

In the beginning I thought I was confident enough to grab the books, the dice, some players, and roll with it.  Just wing the game with the bare minimum of prep.  I wasn’t, so my games were a shade chaotic and disorganised.  The intervening years have seen me raising 5 kids, so gaming time dropped away completely.  But in the last couple of years I’ve started running games again for my wife and eldest kids.  Family time is not conducive to game planning time.

I’m not sure my GM’ing style has changed dramatically – but the games played have.  Compare and contrast the entries for a creature in the 13th Age Bestiary versus the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual.  One will tell you, in a nutshell, everything you need to know about how a creature works and what it can do.  One will make vague references to other books and need you to make sheets of notes to cover each encounter and even then you’ll miss something important that could make the difference between character survival and a TPK.  GMs these days? Don’t know they’re born.

Turns out that my GM’ing style matches the games I want to play almost perfectly (either that or I’m subconsciously selecting games that fit this style).  The way the Backgrounds and Icon Relationship rolls can flavour pretty much any monster out of the bestiary…  Encounters, adventures, the games practically write themselves!

Now.  Go forth and read the wisdom from the rest of the round table…

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