Level up your roleplaying: Tips from RPG game masters

GeekGirlCon 2016 at Washington State Conference Center in Seattle, Washington. October 2016. Photo by James McDaniel.

Every year GeekGirlCon’s gaming team puts together an entire floor of wonder during our convention in downtown Seattle’s core.

But our passion for games doesn’t stop at just a weekend, and for all you tabletop lovers out there, we know the same goes for you.

GeekGirlCon partners with Girl Scouts of Western Washington throughout the year to run monthly events and. Gaming Event Coordinator Andy talked to several GeekGirlScout game masters about how you can level up roleplaying at your regular tabletop game.

Kristine Hassell

Andy’s first protégé, Kristine has run games off and on for as long as they’ve been together. She quickly studied up on Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition so she could GM at the last two GeekGirlScout events. Here are tips from Kristine:

  • Players are curious creatures. Keep a short list of names of NPCs/places for those times if a player wants to know more. That way, you are ready with something locked and loaded if an NPC ends up coming along as a member of the party.
  • Take your time when describing new settings or characters. Players will appreciate little touches that you add that can make something stand out.
  • If a player adds an interesting character touch, take note so you can refer back to it later in the game.

(A game during GeekGirlCon in 2013. Photo by Sayed Alamy)

  • As GMs, we appreciate attentive players so remember to listen to your players. Recently I ran a game for the GeekGirlScouts where my group had a rough time with enchanted suits of armor. After a player was knocked down twice, she asked me if she could examine the armor from her prone position. I asked what she hoped to find and she went on to explain that when you solder something, there might be a visible joint or weak spot. I wanted to award her critical thinking so she discovered weak spots at their ankles and knees. She relayed this information to her companions who adjusted their attacks and triumphed!
  • Lastly, the most important tip I can give is to have fun. RPGs are a great escape so enjoy yourselves!

ET

ET has been a volunteer with Story Games Seattle and Games on Demand, as well as a table host at the last GeekGirlCon and the most recent GeekGirlScouts event. Here are tips from ET:

  • Listen more; talk less. Ask a lot of questions about what your player characters are doing and how they feel. In my opinion, GM’s and MC’s are there to make trouble! I like to let my players run the show as much as possible; they’ll tell you what they’re interested in.
  • Remember to build in breaks and enforce them! It’s really easy to get caught up in playing and forget that you are also people with needs like eating and checking in.
  • Know your own limits and needs. Games are about having fun; if you aren’t having fun, it’s going to be hard for your players to have fun, too. One way you can encourage self awareness in your players by modeling it yourself! This has the added benefit of keeping you safe and comfortable.

(A game during GeekGirlCon in 2013. Photo by Sayed Alamy)

  • Sometimes the best way to have fun is to quit for the day. Sometimes you can’t salvage a situation, and that’s ok. You can try your hardest to make a great game for your players, but in the end it might not work. If you need to abandon ship, that’s ok. Take some time to take care of yourself and your friends! When everyone’s ready, you can talk about why it didn’t work.
  • Be upfront with your players about your expectations and encourage your players to be upfront about theirs. When everybody’s on the same page, it’s easier to resolve problems and conflicts as they arise.
  • HAVE FUN. Seriously. Have fun. Games are about having fun.

Annika

Annika is considered our GeekGirlScout Prime, since she attended our first event having never played an RPG, volunteered at our second event, and was running games herself by our third event. She’s hosted the GeekGirlScouts table at the con the last two years! Here are tips from Annika:

  • Be open. You can never quite be sure what your players will choose to do.
  • Remember that any game is for the enjoyment of everyone. That means that, while being a storyteller of sorts, you should not only make sure your players are having fun but so are you!

Andy

As part of his regular duties as an events coordinator and host, Andy loves making people feel welcome before taking them on awesome adventures! Here are some tips from Andy:

  • Set realistic expectations on play time and stick to them. This goes for everyone. If a solid standard is maintained you’re less likely to deal with the issue of either an overlong or a rushed game session. 
  • Make food arrangements well ahead of time, especially if gaming with younger players. Hunger distracts and healthy food fuels the imagination.
  • I have a cardboard treasure chest I received as part of a gift; I have all my players put their cellphones in there during play. I don’t require my players to silence their phones; it can be important to be reachable. But having them out of sight helps everyone focus.
  • Set a weeknight for your game night. At first it might seem harder to schedule than a weekend, but in the long run there’s usually less competition for time. And there’s nothing like an adventure with friends to break up the grind of the work week!

GeekGirlCon 2014 at Washington State Conference Center in Seattle, Washington, on Sunday, October 12, 2014.

  • I often plan my games around the television season model: regular sessions starting in the autumn and continuing through winter, wrapping things up during spring. I’ll then take a break during the summer to recharge my creative energy. It can even be fun to go further and borrow concepts like the mid-season finale, sweeps week, or the holiday special. Just no ads, please!
  • There’s an old adage that always holds true: No Gaming is better than Bad Gaming. If you’re not having fun, feeling safe, or getting out as much as you’re putting in, take a break and reconsider your circumstances. Never let your gaming be reduced to an just an obligation.
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    Inspired to play? Check out GeekGirlCon’s game night at Wayward Coffeehouse! Join GeekGirlCon staffers, make new friends, play games, and enjoy some delicious organic, fair trade coffee. Hosted, free of charge, every 2nd and 4th Friday of each month.

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Ashli Blow
“Rock On!”

Ashli Blow

Ashli is a news writer and digital producer who loves comic books.

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