February 17, 2010

The Incomplete Screen

I love my GM screen. I can hide all sorts of things from the players; my rolls, the adventure with its maps, my notes, monster hp levels. Keeping the players guessing is something I always like to do. My GM screen also holds all types of useful charts, a couple of my favorites being the one which assigns target numbers based on the character’s levels and the difficulty of the situation (for those impromptu rolls), and the one that lists options during a round and whether they are standard, movement or minor actions (opening a door is a minor action).

And that is one of the main reasons to have a screen; to provide the GM with the information he tends to forget during play. However, there is something missing from every GM screen ever created.

What about the non-charts? What about the art of being a GM? I know when I am in the middle of running a game I get caught up in the charts, what the monsters are doing and die rolling. All too often I forget the other stuff, like saying “yes” instead of forcing the players onto a railroad. After a game I kick myself wishing I had done something differently.

For this reason I have taken to paper-clipping some GMing tips onto the inside of my GM screen. I cover up something I know I don’t need to look at during the night, such as the experience point chart for when the players level up; the players are sure to keep up on that so I do not have to. Some tips include…
“Say Yes”
“Use voices for the NPCs”
“Be descriptive-Smell, Sound, Sight, Touch”

Reminding yourself how to better GM is just as important as reminding yourself of what target number to use; sometimes more important. Putting these reminders where you are sure to look at them can only help and a GM screen is a perfect place. After all, the GM screen is there to make us a better GM.

What tips would you put on your GM screen if you could?
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