• Welcome to the new COTI server. We've moved the Citizens to a new server. Please let us know in the COTI Website issue forum if you find any problems.

GM tricks


Every GM has his own little bag of tricks to make the game more interesting. I think (ouch! :D ) that we should all dump our bags into a big pile to share via this form.

I’ll go first with this little trick I call recap.
Now, I’m not complaining about the combat system (I’m saving that for another post) but some times the only excitement you get is watching the dice roll. What I like to do, is at certain points of combat I stop and go into full story mode and tell everyone what has happened so far.

Example: Grav-bike chase.

In game

Player character Jake Logan is on a grav bike sitting in traffic. I say, “Role a spot check.” He gets an eighteen, I’d set the DC for fifteen. “Okay, you know those two thugs that you pissed off at the casino? Well now they are coming up behind you on G-bikes waving revolvers. Roll initiative.”
“Okay, that’s good enough to beet thug 1 but not thug 2. What’s your AC?”
“Seventeen with my flak jacket.”
Rolling attacks. “One point off, hit and whiff.” Rolling damage. 1d10 rolls a 3. “Three stamina points. Your armor took the rest. Your turn.”
“I gun it.”
“Roll your Pilot G-bike.” DC20 for sudden burst of speed in crowded traffic.
“Uh oh! Roll a reflex save.” DC... see how he rolls.
“Whoa ho! a natural twenty I’m saved.”
“Okay, here’s what’s happened so far.”

“Jake was on his way back to the ship with his pockets bulging from a visit to the local casinos when he sees two unhappy punks in his rear view mirror. Apparently they didn’t like getting cleaned out at poker. Now they are coming at him on G-bikes brandishing revolvers. The first one gets three shots off before Jake can react. One bullet zips past Jake's jaw, close enough that he felt a breeze, and smashed into his side view mirror. The next bullet pegs him squarely in the back and the third one kills the tail light of the car next to him, setting off the car alarm that is heard by everyone in a five block radius.
Jake knows he’ll have a welt from the bullet but his Flak jacket protected him from anything worse.
Wasting no more time Jake guns the throttle and blasts through the crowded traffic lanes as more bullets pepper the space he recently occupied, and most the cars around it.
In his blast to safety Jake over estimated his piloting skills and side swiped another grav vehicle, sending a shower of sparks behind him and sending his bike spinning wildly out of control. However thanks to his amazing reflexes he was able to control his spin into a series of evasive maneuvers, expertly guiding his bike through a matrix of grav cars in three overlapping six way intersections.”

Now tell me that wasn’t edge of your seat.
See, by pulling it all together and adding some colorful description and creative liberties, I’m able to take a kind of drab dice rolling session and turn it into a none stop, heart racing action thrill ride.
Well, there’s one of my best tricks. I look forward to hearing about yours.
In the past, I use to co-share reffing the same campaign with two other GMs. We had a common mileiu and common groundrules, but different styles for coming up with, and running, adventures. This also meant that GMs would rotate to Player regularly, and vice versa. It also meant that new ideas were constantly being injected into the game environment.

But the best part was when one of us would take up an apparently finished storyline by another GM, and drive it into a sequel.

Another trick I've used was to run two campaigns simultaneously, with a 30+ year gap inbetween. I used the "early" campaign to create history and story hooks for the other, and the "late" campaign to guide how events would likely occur in the former to get to the latter stage. Needless to say, it's tricky, but very satisfying.

For example, I once ran an "early" adventure based on the movie "City of Industry" with an NPC managing to disappear with a huge load of Cr. Finding out what happened to the money became the hook for the players in the "late" campaign (insurance companies still had an open "finders fee" contract on it).
I am used to improvise the adventures on the fly, having only prepared NPCs (and creatures) stats, plus know the basic plot and maybe have one or two rough maps vaguely annotated.

The thing is, that I have a player who is always trying to anticipate the opponents moves and actions, and thus makes hypothesis of all sorts and then tries to see if they are actually true. That's great ! The player in fact creates most of the adventure by himself, but never realizes it. It works pretty well, because things run smoothly, and players are usually happy to see how clever they were (i.e.: they guessed "so well" what was at hand; even if there was really nothing at hands... hehehe).
I am used to improvise the adventures on the fly, having only prepared NPCs (and creatures) stats, plus know the basic plot and maybe have one or two rough maps vaguely annotated.
Yea, I do that a lot to. I've gotten pretty proficient at pulling a good story out of thin air. I call it my BS factor. ;)

I like to do that, too. I got a very mixed group of players. One is more the planner/plotter kinda guy. The two others are silent players, they are happy if they can do a task they've been assigned. So I start a game knowing where I want to go, having some ideas, a plot, maybe (maybe) a worked out antagonist (the big guy behind the puppets) and a number of stereotype/archetype nscs. That's why I am happy for the 76 gunmen book to have. Sometimes my players do things that just go too fast for my preperations for a game day, so I have to make up combattants from scratch. Now I got the stats for fighters, that's all I need. The rest is play out and skills assigned as needed.