Category Archives: Advice

Confessions of a terrible GM

Ok, I am probably not that bad, but sometimes I feel that way. I’ve run games that were terribly boring, extremely formulaic, and I made every mistake at least twice. I remember game sessions were I actively tried to piss off my players, there were times I railroaded adventures that hard you could almost smell the smoke from a steam engine. I have been a bad game master many, many times.

In some cases I was bad because of lack of experience, but more often because of fear: the fear of getting the rules wrong, the fear of being boring, the fear of not entertaining my players, the fear of making a fool of myself. In my case fear either leaves me so paralyzed that I can’t even bear the idea to actually run a game, or it leads me to drop all of my good ideas and replace it with formulaic crap. I have asked players for dice rolls just in order to stall time. At times I was terrible.

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Organizing my tabletop RPG library

I have a huge collection of roleplaying games. Aside from a lot of books which are scattered all over my house (we even have a bookshelf with roleplaying games in the bathroom next to the toilet – I am not kidding), I own about 60 gigabytes of PDFs which I have put into folders sorted by publisher and sometimes product line.

So there is a Green Ronin folder with sub folders for the various games I own. Stuff I got via bundle deals are in their respective Bundles’ folders and not sorted into the publisher folders. It just helps me to find stuff easier that way. One major problem I have is that I often can’t remember which publisher has released which games (especially when it comes to smaller, more obscure ones). There’s also the issue with publishers like Free League Publishing which also rely on others like in this case Modiphius on publishing services. So do I put all of Free League’s stuff in the Modiphius folder, or do I put them in a Free League one? In that case I decided to do the latter.

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Over the years I have looked for software which could solve this problem. I’d really love to have a software which shows the PDFs as virtual books on a virtual bookshelf, much like iBooks does it. Aside from that the tool should be able to search for books and have a filter. The more I think about it, iBooks sounds like the perfect tool. Unfortunately I don’t use a Mac, so it’s not a viable option. I have tried Calibre but I find it extremely clunky. The other problem is that a lot of RPG products don’t have ISBN numbers. So any database I’d use have to be filled manually. With 60+ gigabytes of PDFs this will take a looooooong time.

How have you solved this issue? Are you using something along the lines of my a-folder-for-every-publisher method, or do you use a proper database app. I’d love to hear about your ideas on how to organize a huge collection of tabletop RPG PDFs, so please share your thoughts below.

Getting Back Into The Game

Everything is not rainbows and butterflies when it comes to roleplaying games in the house of the Stargazer – far from it. If you’ve followed my blog over the years you know about my struggles with mental health and my constant fears of failure. The fear not to be able to please my players has become so bad that recently I started getting bouts of anxiety when I thought about having to run a game, or when I tried to do any prep. In the end I decided that no game in the world was worth it, and I cancelled the game. Permanently.

This comes directly after I ended a year-long GMing hiatus. I had high hopes that leaving the GM’s mantle to other for a time would help me to relax, to allow me to look at things from a new perspective. So when I decided it was the right time to make my comeback I managed to drive everything down the cliff in just a few weeks.

Inspired by Matt Mercer’s series Critical Role I wanted to give Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition a try – a game which I like a lot. Unfortunately playing 5E is quite different from actually running it. I also made every dumb mistake possible. When introducing new players to a game it makes a lot of sense to keep things simple. A one-shot with pregenerated characters in the setting you intend to use, is a good start. Of course I decided to jump directly into the campaign. Instead of starting with a small group and adding more players over time, I invited seven players to the game which had none experience in D&D. Instead of limiting the character choices to make things easier for all of us, I didn’t want to limit the players’ creativity and ended up with a very exotic adventuring party which didn’t even include a single human. My last mistake was to decide to switch from Matt Mercer’s Tal’Dorei setting to Eberron basically at the last moment. Yes, you got that right, I basically set myself up for failure – even though I wasn’t aware of this at the time. When it finally dawned on me that I bit off more than I could chew, panic set in. I had cancelled campaigns before, but I think it never went to extremely high excitement to total panic and despair in just a few days.

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