As we discussed last week, a proper theme can really help guide you in planning a campaign. Today I’d like to talk about using theme to not guide your own campaign but to guide your players.
You see, players are tricky creatures and will subconsciously pick up on the themes you’re putting down. You can use this to both make your game more compelling and to pull the rug out from under them for a surprising upset. How to do this, well, that’s what we’ll be talking about here.
So you’ve decided to GM a roleplaying game. Awesome! You’ve got a system all picked out, your players are excited and you’ve started doing some prep for your campaign. You’re figuring out names for towns and what optional rules to use. You’ve read the rulebook again and are starting to draw up some NPCs and potential plotlines.
But now comes the hard part of creating and running a successful campaign. You somehow have to wrangle and wrestle all of your ideas into a cohesive whole and then herd the cats that are your players in the right direction to actually experience all that content you’ve made for them. And that’s not easy.
But fear not, dear reader. There are tricks to be employed, ruses to use and techniques to master that’ll make this if not easy, at least doable.
For many roleplayers and certainly many characters, treasure is one of the primary reasons for their adventures. Treasure is rarely the end goal (unless the characters are truly shallow) but fine quality loot is a mainstay of an adventurer’s diet.
So how do you make finding ever increasing sums of gold and piles of magic items interesting? Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about!
You know what I really love about Roleplaying games in general and pre-published adventures specifically? Maps! I really like a well-drawn map of a fantastical location. There’s something about a map that makes a place a tangible, real location instead of just some place in the mind of the game-master.
Other pieces of artwork can have the same effect but maps are special to me. You see, a map provides the thing I value most in roleplaying games: Consistency. You can look at a map and compare with the location the PCs are at and know that if you go left, then right at the fountain, you’re going to end up in the room where you fought the bugbears.
However, a lot of people seem to have issues using maps well in their games. Speaking with a friend about this topic, I noticed a few things that almost everyone can easily incorporate into their games to enhance the experience. I’ve also got a few tips and tricks to get you started using maps.
As a GM, you will find that no matter how much you tend to prepare and how well you manage to recollect every rehearsed dialogue and hints for your players to react to, there will be points in your game where you find yourself ill prepared for a situation. Why? Easy.
Because there are players involved in your perfectly crafted world.
(And honestly, over-prepping only leads to headaches and railroading, avoid it!)
Players tend to walk off the carefully placed path you’ve set out for them. They will miss hints and obvious (to yourself, perhaps) elements of your story in order to progress.
In which case, they will start to think outside the box and ‘mill around’, trying to find things to either progress the story, or line their own filthy, near bottomless pockets. (Bag of holding anyone?)
Hence, there will always be moments where you must improvise.