While we are working on the new architecture we thought we would have some off topic blogs around the topic of game mastering and running campaigns.
Running campaigns can be one of the most difficult things to do and yet one of the most rewarding, so it can be difficult to juggle all the players fun and happiness while keeping the story on track while also adhering to the rules and other constraints.
When we run our campaigns (as yes we play as well as develop this system) we always like to make sure we keep everyone involved and also make sure that there is always some wiggle room on rules as written vs having fun. We have had some crazy adventures in multiple game systems, and although the settings and the characters are often different the techniques you can employ as a game master can often be the same.
Keeping the players engaged
It is important to make sure your players always feel engaged, be it a little skill check to see if they are handling their drink well enough in the bar, or having an NPC stand apart from the crowd and approach them and talk about the area and its problems. Doing simple things like this makes the players often feel more like they belong in the world and that things are more alive and the world keeps turning without them.
One other problem that a lot of games masters face is when group members want to split up for a period, and it is one of those things where some GMs relish the opportunity to split up the group and allow the players to follow their personal goals for a period rather than the groups, however other GMs do not like this happening as it can derail the story and mean that players often miss out on crucial conversations. Regardless of the pros and cons if your players want to do this then it is up to you to handle it as best as you can, and we often have this happen. Be it our barbarian leaving our snooping around a city at night for clues as to where a bad guy may be staying to go get drunk and gamble away his winnings, or the paladin wanting to go to the church and offer help to people within there while the rest of the group go about restocking and relaxing for a while.
We cope with the splitting up via what we call Timelines, so if the group needs to split up we can allow them to create a timeline which isolates their conversations within that timeline, so you can let the group split up and continue to retain control over both time lines within that story, then join them back together when the group join back up.
Fudging the numbers
Some times the players will be outclassed and will be putting themselves into dangerous situations, if we were to look at it purely from the rules it means certain death, however death is often no fun. So in instances like this feel free to cut the players some slack and cook the books. As a GM you have all the information on the creatures the players are facing and in some instances you may need to dial down the difficulty temporarily.
Some times your players may want to die however make sure that the players are able to get out of difficult situations while having fun if needed. Although it may make you feel good wiping all your players in a fight to the death with a dragon, if it doesn’t make them feel good then it has not been a good campaign.