Finding a Focus

Growing as a GM is a difficult thing to do. Running TTRPG’s is a multifaceted skill set that has no immediate path to perfection, and that can be fairly frustrating. Even as an experienced GM I find myself wishing that study could help improve the way I run my games, but while consuming advice & discourse of other GM’s is helpful ultimately the only way to truly develop your skills is to run more games. I find this advice frustrating and non actionable.

What I’ve found helps me grow as a GM (and the advice I give to anyone looking to up their game) is to have an improvement plan. Create actionable items you wish you were better at. A list of criticism if you will. Or even just a list of random things to think about. Each campaign you start: Pick an overarching thing you want to focus on. Each session you play think of a minor thing you want to focus on. Pursue those things to the fault and suffering of everything else.

In my current games I’ve had a large focus on “Actions have consequences”. Players actions should never end with a return to status quo. If there is no consequence for them failing to pick a lock then there is no reason to waste time rolling dice. They succeed, or the lock is impossible to pick. If every character in the party is able to line up and take an attempt at kicking down a door, then I feel I’m doing something wrong. Either let it succeed, or make it count.

In my current game my players are learning that things have consequences. Good ones, and bad ones. At the start of the game they annoyed a vampire. The vampire burned down the entire village the characters were staying at in an attempt to kill them. The characters fled into the night with an orange glow. In another game a player attempted to circumvent some ancient arcane device: he got cursed with an evil sentient sword that became bound to him. Characters confront a gang of pickpockets? Guess what, they now lead that gang and have a bunch of followers. Very handy in a pinch, but it also means they have to pay them, it guides their future actions. They have power and influence, but they also have responsibilities.

That handles major game goals, but I also like to have minor session goals: Focus more on describing what things smell like. Focus more on providing more detailed information without the need of dice rolls. Focus on not using dice rolls at all for a session.

The key is to find the things you feel you are weak, or find the things you want to be better and make them your sole priority for a while. Once you get used to certain things, they become common place. Your game may feel a bit weird at first, but overtime the things you force yourself to use as a focus will become second nature and blend into your normal skills beautifully.






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