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RPG Gamemaster Zen Part 1: GM Techniques for Hassle-Free Campaigns

This is the first of several articles I’m writing with tips (some proven, others soon to be play-tested) on running hassle-free tabletop RPG campaigns with rotating players.

Recently I started GM’ing for a group running Space 1889 in the Savage Worlds setting. I had some misses during my first game (my 4 hour adventure got started late, so we ended in the middle of the story), and by the time the next game came around, some of the first session players couldn’t make it, while new players were ready to join.

Having struggling with the woes of rotating players in the past, I gave some thought to managing sessions with rotating players. I also consulted with other GMs on the Savage Worlds forums and reviewed my notes from observing other GM’s techniques at convention games.

What follows is a collection of GM techniques to make four-hour episodic sessions which accommodate rotating players and cater to a variety of gamer play-styles.

These tips form a framework geared to:

  • Accommodate absent players and new players in each session without disrupting a continuing Adventure campaign
  • Allow the GM to start and finish a satisfying self-contained story arc in four hours
  • Allow the session adventure to plug in to a larger campaign story arc
  • Allow for both GM scripted story-lines as well as player sandbox freedom
  • Be flexible enough to handle delayed start times due to new players, advancements, and rules questions
  • Provide in-game tools to manage the clock (so the GM can finish the story on time and be able to fill remaining time if the story finishes early)
  • Provide in-game tools to keep the game moving even when players are in sandbox mode but run out of ideas on what they want to do next

Follow my blog as I post my series of tips on running hassle-free tabletop RPG campaigns with rotating players. I’ll be interested in your comments.

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