You have a group, you learned about the game, you chose your character and are looking forward to live adventures and your friends too. But do you know how to master RPG?
Ok. After the excellent Guide on how to play RPG published here at Married, a huge Breeds Guide and a text Simplifying the Game for you to start your adventure with your friends, just one thing is missing: Who will guide players around the world and pose challenges for heroes to defeat? That someone is the master. It is a difficult task, but someone has to do it.
In general, the GM is a more experienced player who knows the system you will play or has a larger collection of books or PDFs about the system. Another thing about the GM is that as long as the player plays a character, you’ll play the rest of the world. The mysterious wizard who gives the scroll with a forgotten map, the corrupt police officer who extorts players, the supercomputer with AI who wants to exterminate the human race? Everyone is you! Get ready to do a lot of different voices and attitudes to make these characters more lively.
Also, think about the scenery and the world they will travel through. It could be a world known from books or movies, like Hogwarts, the Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings, the Hunger Games Arenas or perhaps the world of heroes from Marvel or DC. It can be a ready-made scenario that you get with books, like Forgoten Helms or Tormenta. Or rather: It could be your own world. But, we'll talk about that a little later.
Mastering RPG is an art
Have you still not understood what a master does? So let's take an example:
If you have seen the Dragon Cave animation then you must meet the famous Master of the Magi. That short man who comes, says something enigmatic and left (and it was actually the demon that imprisoned the children in the Kingdom with that unicorn and ... no. Is that a lie) without explaining anything? He's the Master! Its name in the original is Dungeon Master! The name given to the player who leads the story.
Mastering RPG is it! Put the players in the direction of the challenges! Give clues, explain what the mission is and then let adventurers roam the world in search of challenges and treasures. This is your job to place the dangers in the world, tell the story and guide them to the end so that everyone has fun.
Or another simpler example for those who have not seen the drawing (although I recommend everyone to see it), is the following: If the player is the character, the master is the video game! The master is the console or PC that generates the world, acts like the NPCs, controls the monsters and gives the treasures.
But an important warning: The GM does not play AGAINST the players! You are playing WITH THEM! It is not just because you will control the monsters that you will make them kill the players with cruelty refinements. Especially if you want to kill a player you can simply say "lightning / meteor / satellite / plane / piano / anything on your character's head and he died."
The master is, after all, the god of that world. Yes, whatever the master says happened during the game, it happened. It's that simple. If you say it is raining, everyone should seek shelter. If you say that the rider's horse has started to speak, then it is better for the players to listen, it may be important. If you say that in the middle of the ice kingdom an active volcano arose, it is good that they think if it is worth running or going there to get warm.
As Uncle Ben said: "With great powers ..."
Mastering RPG doesn't give you “great powers”, it gives you ALL powers. And with that comes also a great responsibility to lead a fun adventure, maintain order and think of creative things to happen in the game. In summary: the master has A HUGE responsibility. But, not all. The game also depends on its players so that everything works out.
A player who insists on doing the opposite of everything that is happening or disrupting the game must be put on the line in some way. Of course, the main way is to punish the character in some way, for example, loss of XP or loss of treasures. Some more creative punishments can yield good moments in the adventure.
Player: "My character will jump in that lake!"
Teacher: “There is no reason for him to do that! The road goes on and… ”
Player: "But I WANT to jump in the lake!"
Teacher: "Okay, he jumps ... he rolls the dice."
The most basic action in the game would be to put a monster in the lake and make it eat the annoying player or say that the lake is acidic, but this could be seen as the action of a “master dictator” who does not let players explore. So, why not do something more creative? What if when jumping into the lake, the player becomes a frog or a frog man with a horrible appearance and who cannot hold his weapons properly to fight and now can only croak? Or can the lake have a curse? The Ranma ½ anime is an excellent source of ideas for lake curses.
If that doesn't work, then talk to the player privately and explain how his actions are getting in the way and that you need him to change. It may be that the conversation will pay off and the game will get back on track. Of course, if not, it is the master's right to simply invite the player to leave the table or not invite him to play anymore.
If in the online game, the owner of the room can kick the player who is in the way, why would it be different in RPG? Don't let a player compromise everyone's fun, and especially yours. RPG gives you that responsibility, but it is also shared by everyone. So, just because you are going to teach RPG does not mean that you should be made of muggles! If the conversation or punishment didn't work, file the annoying player mercilessly!
Now it's time to play
As Chiquinha said, “to teach a dog, you have to know more than the dog”. And to master RPG you have to know more than the player or, at least, know as much as they do. So, start by choosing a system. You have a multitude of books, manuals, add-ons and guides to buy around or download as a pdf. But, let's start with the basics.
Here, get this pdf of the manual Basics of the Daemon system, a national system created by Marcelo Del Debbio, and will help you to play games in different periods from Medieval Fantasy to games in the current times, vampires, werewolves or futurists. Want something even easier? So, take a Tokyo Defenders Basic Module 3 Edition, by Marcelo Cassaro, or 3D & T, and you will be able to play more fantasy adventures, as if you were an anime character.
These two are the simplest systems I know and you will be able to start playing and be able to teach your players relatively easily. There is, of course, the famous Dungeons & Dragons, but as I did not find any official basic material available for free in Portuguese, I will not post it. In addition, the above two systems will be able to offer campaign ideas in addition to Medieval Fantasy. If you want D&D in English, this one.
And lastly, this guide will not focus on a system, but on the game, so the tips here apply to any system you play on, be it D&D, Daemon, Gurps or Storyteller. You can play RPG without a system too, just with your data to include some randomness in the encounters, but there are RPG campaigns that are excellent and don't even need it.
With your new manual in hand (or on screen) it's time to study. Yes, go read your manual, understand it and then come back here for more tips on how to master RPG.
Are you back?
Okay, I'm guessing that you've finished reading and understand the basics of RPG. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I can try to help you. Let's go ahead: What are you going to teach?
Surely you already have an idea of what your campaign will look like? Will it be a campaign? Or will it be a unique adventure with a beginning, middle and end in one session? Don't have an idea yet? So let's try to help. A quick search and you will find several adventures ready for various systems, including the two I recommended, so you can get one, read and master.
The problem is, nothing prevents players from doing the same. They can research the adventure, read and learn the secrets, the answers to the puzzles and the dangers. Of course, that would end the fun of the game, but in practice, there is nothing to stop them from doing that. So, let's think about an original adventure, or at least, a different solution.
Knowing how to improvise is a good way out. Suppose you took a ready adventure and your player took it and memorized everything that will happen? What is the easiest way out? Change something. If they arrive at a room that, in the original adventure, said it had a trap, put a monster? Or don't set the trap, let him look for the trap and find nothing. Or put the monster AND the trap! When he is going to attack the monster, he will not think about the trap and will have a good surprise when he falls into it.
Now, in case you want to do something new, then we have more work to do. Think of a book, movie, video game or something you like, and we'll adapt it.
Adapting to Survive
- Think of the scenario;
- Think of the important characters;
- And think about the players.
These are the three most important points of an adaptation. Let's use as an example a well-known and relatively simple game to be adapted for a table RPG: Assassin's Creed.
What is the scenario for Assassin's Creed? Well, it is essentially our current world, a little more technological where we have Abstergo as a great antagonist and the society of assassins acting in the shadows. So, let's define the scenario as the real world and, like any good game in the franchise, we have to think about a historic period in which the assassins may have acted. Feudal Japan? The time of the Spanish Inquisition? Brazil Colonia? You rule! Or get one from the game. It's easier!
Let's suppose then that you decided to teach RPG in the period of Colonial Brazil and you want to put your murderers there. So, go study some history to get some real-life inspirations. Or, if you want, it could be inside that crazy story you thought about. Whatever, you'll mess it up the same way!
Okay, so let's assume that your players are people that Abstergo has captured to put on Animus and explore their memories. Or they are assassins using an Animus to find the pieces of Eden before Abstergo. Or is part of the group loose and part stuck? And is one of the missions to rescue those who are trapped in the current era? Anyway, they will enter Animus and relive that period.
Who are the important historical characters of that period? Who can be the villains infiltrated with the Templars and who can be an assassin who mentors the players? Let's think of two more well-known: Dom Pedro II and ... I don't know ... Tiradentes?
Are they separated by almost a hundred years? And does it matter? What if your genetic journey begins in 1750 and goes back to 1868 and picks up several strains of killers? Or if Tiradentes has one of the pieces of Eden, lived for over a hundred years and forged his death, or if he is still alive today waiting for someone he can trust in the piece of Eden? Understood? The story is yours and it can be as you wish.
Define who the characters are that players will encounter during the campaign, what their roles are. Ézio received the help of Nicolau Machiavelli and Leonardo DaVinci. Cassandra met Aristotle. Arno fought alongside Napoleon. They are important characters who had their participation in the journey of the heroes. Who will help your heroes?
If you need to, make a record for them, but they will not fight, for example, I don't think you need to think about a complete record, but think of basic attributes like intelligence and combat ability, roll some dice to not give the impression that they they do everything.
Now, who are your players? Are they assassins or Templars? Or Templars infiltrated the assassins? Or the reverse? Here it is important for you to get a sense of what things are allowed and which are not allowed in the game. In an Assassin's Creed game, players cannot use magic, for example, so it is forbidden. The weapons they will be allowed to use and the resources they may or may not have. It's also cool to think about the mechanics that your source material adapts to. The Leap of Faith or the Hidden Blade. What's the harm in it? Does it kill instantly? Think carefully.
If your players are newbies, it is best to create their files and their motivations and offer them to the players. It is easier to control the game like that. “There is an ax killer, but in the current world he is a writer. He calls Asis. Who wants?"
If they already know RPG, introduce them to the possibilities and limitations and let them choose what they want to be. Here you can have some surprises, especially for those who know the game and the scenario you are going to teach. But, don't panic, think that this player can help you guide the rest of the group through the adventure.
Starting from Zero
Although we thought of an adaptation, creating an adventure out of nothing basically follows the same three steps: Characters, scenery and players.
Is the scenario you decided to create 100% original? So what it is? Is it futuristic, medieval, current, prehistoric, cyberpunk, apocalyptic? What is your scenario? Whatever it is, you will need to build and describe it to the players. From the tavern to the dark alley where they found a body will be created from their head and it will be up to them to describe it to the players so they can visualize the situation and so that it doesn't happen, out of nowhere, in the middle of the session a player saying: “ Mountain? But, weren't we in the car right now? ”
Write down the most important places where players will pass in detail and read to them when they get there, so even you don’t forget important details and if someone gets lost in the middle, you can recap it in more detail. Less important places can be described more quietly.
Who are the characters that the player will encounter? The NPCs? These are important and you will need to keep good records on them because, unlike an adaptation of a movie or game, players will not have a preview of them. Here, you need to be creative and build interesting people.
Who is the king? The gang leader? The old man who will give the players a treasure map? The victim to be rescued? The enemy to be defeated? All of this is important and needs to be well thought out. Think of the iconic villains you know and you'll know how important these characters are. Batman wouldn't be half as funny without the Joker and would probably be dead without Alfred's help. Think about your Jokers and Alfred's and you will have a group of very happy players in your hands.
But, it's not just important NPCs that a game lives on. Some can be just cool or funny and be there just to make a joke or give a message to the players in an interesting way. A group of characters that I created and that I had fun doing was as follows:
My players were questioning the fact that they had to travel from place to place and taking too long to get to the mission site, wanting me to transport them magically. Then, in one session, I made them meet a group of elderly adventurers sitting on the road. They went to talk to the old people and find out why they were there.
Their explanation was that they would travel on a great adventure and save the world, but they were waiting for teleportation scrolls to emerge that would take them straight there. Their reaction was funny, especially the Bard who was angry with the old people. If I ever return with this adventure, I would be delighted to put the old people in front of them again saying that the parchment has finally appeared.
Now, the players. Again, you can make the form for them if they don't know the system, which will make their lives easier, or let them build their own characters according to the proposed scenario. It will not allow a player with a bazooka in a medieval world or a cute little anime girl in the midst of the post-apocalyptic future. Of course, there are exceptions for both cases, but let’s go a little further.
Define, within the rules of the systems that you are going to play what the characters can or cannot do in the game, distribute the points and we go to the mission.
History: the most important part
You built a scenario, characters, your players are ready to start and now: what are you going to do? What is your mission? Again, you can resort to ready-made adventures or create one. So, let's think about the second hypothesis.
Creating missions can be as simple as “Go to the lost dungeon and rescue a treasure” or “An ancestral evil has freed itself from its eternal imprisonment and it is up to the descendants of the original heroes who defeated the evil to face their 15 generals, recover legendary weapons and destroy them. it all at once to save all the multiverses the heroes have gone through in pursuit of their goal ”. He understands? Everything can be as simple or as complex as the GM wants and that the players want to play.
Want an even simpler example? Then get to know the ready adventure "The Orc and the Pie - The Shortest (Although Technically Complete) Adventure in the World", written by Monte Cook, one of the writers of several RPG books, to explain exactly how an adventure works.
The Orc and the Pie - The Shortest (Although Technically Complete) Adventure in the World
Mission: Retrieve the orc pie
Recommended level: 1
Enemy: an orc
Treasure: a pie
Story: A kingdom bakery makes delicious pies and orcs are stealing them
Motivation: Heroes want to eat pie
Conclusion of the adventure: The pie is delicious
That simple! Your adventure can be: get into the dungeon, kill the orc and get the pie (of course, depending on your players they can kill the dungeon, get in the pie and get the orc! But it is a little more difficult for that to happen).
Now that you understand that making an adventure is simple, let's think about what you need. Do you already know what the heroes are going to do? Will it be a one-session adventure or several? So, you have to plan who will be the NPCs that can be fought, who will they talk to, who will give them help and in return for what? All this thinking about that session.
Just like a series, you can have a general idea of what will happen and then “cut” that idea into chapters so that you can master them each session. Each session can be a chapter in your “series” and end right there or have a loophole for continuation in the next one. It is also up to the master to decide if he will give the Experience Points at the end of the session or adventure.
You can create maps of the locations where the characters will pass, as is the case with the map above the goblin adventure, or not. A grid paper helps you draw them by hand or you can use any of the thousands of map generators out there on the internet, especially for online sessions.
D&D usually uses dolls and maps so that everything is more visual for the players, deciding how many squares the characters can move or placing some props, such as stones and crates to be covered, but it is not necessary. I used my data myself and put it on the ground to simulate the battle. In addition, RPG is very much about imagining the situation happening. So, if you like collecting dolls it is a good thing, but they are not necessary.
However, again, improvisation is the key to success. What if your players are not in the mood to save the princess and prefer to go to the arena to fight? Or go fishing? Or go and loot a treasure? How many games don't fill you with side quests while the world is on fire? Maybe your players are looking to do something simpler and there is nothing wrong with that.
Of course it is frustrating to throw away all the planning for an entire session, but the important thing is to have fun, so if they want to go after magical fungi instead of defeating the bloody dragon and rescuing the princess, leave it there for the week next. After all, neither he nor the princess is going to leave the treasure anytime soon, is it?
Of course, sometimes things get off track in such an absurd way that you need to put a brake on and put everything back on track. I mean, the King is not paying the adventurers to go hunting for fungi, but to save his daughter and, as a reminder, he can send some heavily armed soldiers to "persuade" the players to continue on their journey.
Whether against the bloody dragon, against heavily armed soldiers, or against magical fungi (after all, no one has said what their magic is), one of the parts that players will be most eager to play is combat. This is where they are waiting to use their powers, their weapons, devise tactics and earn their experience points.
So let's go into combat. You created your chips, the players know what they can and cannot do, the spells are ready, pistols and machine guns loaded, all set. Then, it's time to roll the initiative dice and align the players in order of attack so that each one announces his action.
The RPG system you chose will solve all the mathematical part of the thing, but here we are going to talk about the fun part and, mainly, common sense and crativity.
If your group is at a low level, there is no reason to put an ultra-powerful monster in their path that will kill them in a few seconds. Except, of course there is a reason, like killing everyone so that they come back as undead or flee somewhere and find someone and the adventure is about that, as in Dragons Dogma or Skyrim. But, if that is not the case, then don't go overboard.
Just like in video games, start slowly, with skeletons, goblins, kobolds or slimes. Gradually increase the challenge, but don't make things too easy either. In a few levels they will dine on their monsters and be bored. So, this is where creativity comes in.
After all, everyone who has played an RPG, be it table or virtual, knows how a skeleton fights or what makes a slime. In this case, surprise the players with something new in these familiar monsters, even if it is not very powerful. Just give it an unexpected power.
For example, what if the skeleton could cast some weak spells or if it exploded when defeated? What if the goblin had acid blood? It is not a very powerful thing, but it will certainly make players scared and think for a while before they go after them. That's what I'm thinking of very well-known monsters. But, what if you just gave the old monster a new face?
Think of a creature that you will have access to in the various monster manuals that are available and everyone knows about it. Thought? Think about how to change it a little. Let's take an example jellyfish. Everyone knows about her petrifying look, and when they see a woman with snake hair, they will surely cover their eyes or take a mirror or something.
Now, what if you take the same game statistics as the jellyfish, without changing any, and describe it as a “six-foot biped bird, very thin, with old feathers that drools something strange in its beak”? None of your players will associate this with the jellyfish. The first thing they will think is "this animal flies" and prepare to attack with a bow or they will pay attention to the drool, which may be the way it uses the power of petrification or be nothing, and until they realize that the animal is a jellyfish with a new skin, you already have three new stone statues.
Regional and cultural differences can also be a way of misleading players about the danger they will face. What is a cassava for you, in another state is called macaxeira or cassava! If you don't know what an Underpants is, you will certainly think a little before accepting if you are offered one.
Now, imagine that a village far from the main realm is having trouble with constant attacks from a monster they call a “beige cricket dog”. Or a kingdom of elves that calls players to kill the Ang Úan (I invented it now), and they do not know what the animal looks like, they only saw shapes and do not know his name in other kingdoms or in other languages.
Do something like this and be amazed by the players' horror face when they find everyone's favorite Rust Monster ahead! Or rather, an entire den of them. The monster is not strong and does not do much damage (1d4 on the bite), but it has a power that is capable of melting iron items and, when the GM says that players will face one of these, it is standard that they keep their weapons from iron, pick up wooden clubs or stones.
So, imagine your warriors going to fight him, with their iron weapons in hand, because they didn't know what it was about and everything would be resolved easily if the locals knew the common name of the monster? You didn't use a superpowered monster, but it did cause the warriors a huge surprise and I'm sure players would prefer to face a dragon rather than one of these.
Have a good data set
No table is complete without a good set of dice to be rolled around the table and create that suspense of whether it will be a critical hit or failure. You can find an excellent data set on NUOBESTY for any RPG system. Of course, today there are virtual dice, but believe me, nothing is cooler than shouting "it fell from the table is 1" when you see that the player threw the dice as if he were in a Vegas casino.
Can I start mastering now?
As important as everything described here is important, remember that nothing can replace experience. Have security in your master's degree. Know the system well so as not to be caught off guard by any player who comes up with an idea that will ruin your entire game. Be ready to improvise and don't be afraid to say 'no' to players. If you said that a certain power or advantage is out of the game then it is out of the game!
With all this in mind, know that you are on your way to becoming a good teacher, but you will only succeed when you have practice. Start with small adventures, create your world and try to make everything as interesting as possible. Read lots of books and see lots of cool things, to keep yourself always with good and new ideas.
So, get together with your friends and let the games begin !! Then tell us in the comments how your game went!