All posts by Zachary

Zachary Houghton runs RPG Blog 2 (www.rpgblog2.com), and is also co-host of the RPG Circus Podcast (www.rpgcircus.com). He lives in Indiana with his understanding wife and three children.

You Don’t Always Need A Home Run

Hi there!  This is Zachary Houghton from RPG Blog 2, stepping in for my buddy Michael and his pals at Stargazer’s World.  This seems to be a week for GM advice, so I figure I’d throw another piece out there.

When I was in Little League Baseball, the coach always used to tell us, “Don’t go out there and try to hit a home run every time.  Just worry about making contact with the ball”.  Although it turned out I wasn’t very good at either approach, the lesson stuck, and even has some applications in gaming.

I think at times, as Game Masters, we don’t take the long view enough.  We want every NPC to be over-the-top, every revelation to be an absolute stunner.  If a moment fails to bring about the Big Reveal, we feel bummed.

Look, players are going to miss things, and we aren’t always going to communicate as clearly as we could have.  Clues get missed, NPCs fall flat, and revelations are greeted with yawns.  We try for the epic, but it doesn’t always happen.

Try instead to make the epic an extension of what you’re doing.  If you’re putting in the ground work, and you’re plugging away every week, the legacy and meaning of the game itself will give that extra meaning to scenes.  You can reveal the most despicable, horrid villain in your first session, but what’s the meaning for players?  Wait 15 sessions, until he’s foiled the PC’s plans 3 times, killed their brother, and set their kingdom to the torch.  By then, there’s depth, there’s a history, and that’s what you need to make those moments hit home.

The best “WOW” moments at the table aren’t forced; they can’t be.  Run a solid, dependable, reliable campaign, listening to what people want, stay the course, and those moments will happen organically.

Now, of course, there are times when you’ve done all the legwork, and moments still go sour.  Every campaign has them.  When it happens (and it will), you pick up the pieces, and move on with the progression of things.

If there’s one thing I could tell people about Game Mastery, it’s that you aren’t alone in these problems.  Game Masters, good Game Masters, still struggle with them all the time.  Now that it sounds like I’m about to sell a self-help book for depressed GMs, I think I’ll leave off.

Stargazer’s World: Many Happy Returns!

I asked Michael Wolf if he’d mind if I could have the privilege of officially congratulating him on the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of Stargazer’s World.  It’s a difficult achievement for any tabletop gaming blog or site, but it’s even more difficult for it to stay fresh, entertaining, and useful along the way.  Stargazer’s World has not only done all that, but has become exponentially better over time.

Michael has a rare blend of enthusiasm, creativity, professionalism, and the drive to continuously improve his site.  That’s why today, Stargazer’s World has become a must-read gaming blog, and is recognized by his peers and readers as such.

What else can you say about the crew at Stargazer’s World?  Michael has assembled a talented crew of contributing bloggers, which keeps the site diverse and entertaining.  It’s one of the reasons why the site does such a good job at covering a variety of games both small and large press, a generalist preference in gaming that is sadly lacking in many sites, in my opinion.

The funny thing for me is how Michael communicates in English (a second language for him!) better than many of us do in what is our native tongue.  I sometimes joke with him his English is better than that of most of the inhabitants of my state!  In any case, projects like Gears and Warrior, Rogue, and Mage showcase his talent, and hint that even bigger and better things are just around the corner.

So here’s to Michael and the rest of the gang at Stargazer’s World.  May your days of blogging be ever more fruitful, and keep up the great work!  Congrats again from a fan who can’t wait to see what’s next.

-Zachary Houghton, RPG Blog 2
www.rpgblog2.com