Friday, April 12, 2013
Resources for a New Game Master
by Tobie Abad
When a person decides to take the step forward and try being a storyteller, the very act itself can be a daunting experience. Now, there are a LOT of websites, blogs, ezines and guides on how to be a great game master. Many would recommend sites such as The Gnome Stew, Roleplaying Tips, and other sites. I don't plan to give another long list of such sites.
Instead, I want to list here some web-available resources that new game masters might find useful in enhancing their games, or making prep work easier to do. Feel free to use them and share them with others who embrace the challenge of being a Game Master as well!
There's no denying the importance of easy access to name generator sites when you're running a game and pressed for a good name to use. There are loads of choices out there that you can use. My site of choice is Samuel Stoddad's Fantasy Name Generator (http://www.rinkworks.com/namegen/) which has nice drop down options to narrow the kind of name you might want to use.
Another good site is Fake Name Generator (http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/gen-male-us-us.php), which works best for games set in a modern setting. This generator allows you to set parameters (gender, country, etc) to generate not just a name, but a full set of details which might prove useful to throw out in a game. Admittedly it is kind of disturbing how much detail this generates.
Interesting Facts and Oddities
It can always be fun to find inspiration and ideas from apocrypha, odd news articles and similar stories. One of the fun sites to check is DamnedInteresting.com (http://www.damninteresting.com/) which has information about weird things, creatures, and even spy-related events.
Another good one is Listverse which can have nice interesting options to look for (here's one example: http://listverse.com/2008/07/23/10-more-unsolved-mysteries-of-the-world/#3). Don't overlook the joys of what Wikipedia can offer, given the right key words and search terms.
The Arcana Wiki (http://arcana.wikidot.com/) not only provides cool information, but actually tries to translate them in ways that work with certain game systems. I'd love to contribute to this site as well, but I doubt if I can still grasp easily the way to approach a wiki.
For Google Plus people, there is Suppressed Transmissions (https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/108381378671514337441) a community that shares a lot of such oddities, as well as recommends topics, movies and the like that can be great jumping points for stories.
Add Some Mood to Your Games
Not everyone is used to approaching games with mood in mind. If you ever consider to go in that direction, here are some easy to use web-based resources that you can utilize to add some mood and atmosphere to your games.
Ambient Mixer (http://www.ambient-mixer.com/) is an online utility that you can use to enhance your game sessions with great background noises and thematic mood-setting tunes. I love how easy it is to use, and how you can even control the individual sound samples to bring up or down the volume levels and frequency to adjust it to your preference.
Many composers allow music from their work to be streamed from their websites. I highly recommend Stephen McKeon's site (http://stephenmckeon.com/) which has streaming music he has made for shows such as Black Mirror, Primeval and other shows and movies. They make for wonderful mood without forcing you to juggle so many music options.
Youtube.com of course offers a LOT of other options with the right search. I've found rotary phone ringing sounds, crashing glass, and other sound effects there which I could activate to enhance any scene.
Books Worth Reading
Finally, I cannot end this article without mentioning the following resources.
Gary Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery (http://www.amazon.com/Role-Playing-Mastery-Gary-Gygax/dp/0399512934) covers a lot of the basics, and while many of the tips within might not be that applicable for more narrativist games, having that glimpse into the mind of the creator of Dungeons and Dragons can be an invaluable resource.
John Wick's Play Dirty (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/85816/Play-Dirty) is the second book I will highly recommend. I've said it before and I will say it again, the book offers very eye-opening ideas. My encounter with the book was one of realizing I was not alone in giving the players the love-hate relationship I've always cultivated with them. While some might seem unthinkable for certain readers, there is powerful creative insight offered in the book which I promise you will make you rethink certain views on gaming.
Finally, Phil Veccionne's Never Unprepared (http://www.enginepublishing.com/never-unprepared-the-complete-game-masters-guide-to-session-prep) is a fantastic read. It reminds Game Masters of the importance of confidence and the difference between being prepared, and writing way too much.
While I know many other gamers would cite other books by other authors, I felt these three books offered insight in a way that was very accessible without expecting the reader to do far too much mental calisthenics.
So there you have it!
Maybe some day, when I finally release my own book, others will enjoy its content and maybe even recommend it to their friends for reading. One can hope, right?