Structuring my GM experinces

It’s been awhile since my last post, TinyGork has been put abit on the backburner due to a mix of laziness, personal issues, work, normal life stuff and now i’m also taking over a RPG group that i was a player in.

So i have spent a month or two reading everything i could on which i happened to stumble upon once again because i was looking for an article about abstract dungeons i remember reading a while back. So i found it again and noticed there were other articles and began reading. I found that i could not stop myself from reading more and more and more.

Seems to me that he cuts to the nerve of what i had already learned but couldn’t put into words, i recognised many of the arguments he calls out as irellevant. There are quite alot of things that you somehow get hung up on as a GM especially one who has been doing it for several years, it’s almost like there are just these pitfalls you have to fall into on your GM journey it’s almost inevitable.

I haven’t been a GM for a few years, but the last time i was a GM i felt i had evolved in “my profession” as if i had seen some kind of truth that was hidden beneath the surface of RPG. I had this revelation that for some reason GMing for years can put blinders on you and you can end viewing the players as an opposing team, but in reality there is no contest, there is no reason. As GM you have the ultimate power if that is what you want, but for some reason when your beloved hard worked reappearing npc gets toasted in half a round it is so easy to take it personal. Anyway, my GM view shifted, things happen and things have consequences and i began thinking more about what the npc’s agenda is and remember that it does not matter if npcs and monsters are defeated, because if thats what its all about as a GM you have an endless supply.

But putting my new GM perspective into words was difficult and it feels like AngryGM does just that for me and not just that but also having read through his archives a structure to all these big vague ideas and thoughts is beginning to take shape.

So now i’m trying to teach myself to think in terms of Scenes when i prep instead of drawing up your regular dungeon map i attempted to think about the whole dungeon in terms of scenes. It aint easy and it is going to require more practice and i am propably still mixing it with my old habbits.

But if you are a scatterbrain like me thinking all kinds of ideas, twists and various story branches structure might be what you need. I don’t think i have ever had a check list to my GM prep in the 20some years that i have played, but now i am well on my way to develop one.

Last night was the second session in this new RPG i have taken over.

First session i did an enourmous amount of reading prep on the setting, while there is a system for our setting and a megaton of lore we are actually using a simple free system called Warrior Rogue Mage. But our setting is a gothic dark sci-fi setting which was chosen and set before i took over. So i had a metroplitan space port to research and a wasteland around it, nearby ports along with important factions etc and so forth.

In between first session and second session i began reading AngryGM and my prep for last night was alot of thinking about scenes, but I also tried to use the abstract dungeoneering ideas. While it was not smooth and my use of it needs practice and tweaking it went well. I had 3 types of rooms in my dungeon, 3 sublvl that was identical in layout, so there was 1 center room, 7 hallways each connecting to a room which was connected to a second room via another hallway. 3 types of rooms, center room, tech living quarters and study cells and each type got a list. When the party would enter a type i would roll on the list to see what they discovered.

I put the transitions to next type of room on the list of discoveries as well, but it was hard for us to grasp how a transition should be a discovery when they could in fact just say “we check out 1 hallway each and we check the first 4 from the right” or some such.. so some player autonomy was lost due to my lists and my inexperience with using this system. I implemented a timeunit score along side of it to keep some tension in the game, i am aiming for an exploration feel. Each search costs a timeunit and they have a certain amount pr day and only a certain total amount until they need to call down more supplies from their spaceship to the planetsurface. This was an attempt to put in a cost to their choices in the dungeon. They decide to clear a hallway blockage by hand instead of using explosives it costs more timeunits but is more discreet, choices, gains and prize.

Couple this with a very deadly combat system, it made the party abit insecure in their own decisions and in turn resulted in many many questions to me as a GM. This is also because i need to be better at describing/setting a scene for them, there are a gazillion details i never shed a thought. “Is the alien elevator run on wires or energy field or something else?” … “can we pull that mechanical augment stuck to the beasts head out by force?” .. “was these ashen plains once fertile?” Usually details i have not thought about which i get questions about i make up as we go along, but it tells me that i need to pay more attention to them.

But I also need to ask the players more directly “what do you want to do?” or “what do you want to accomplish?” and remove the burden of thinking “how can i do this” from them and put it on me instead.

I suppose it’s not a bad thing that players are anxious about decisions, I am experiencing the exact opposite of the old cliché of players just rushing headlong into death. My players actually care about not dying.

The timeunits thing seemed to work well, they felt the preassure which created alittle bit of tension, it made decisions feel important. Coupled with the abstract zone search it made the first spelunking rather fast and smooth although we need to look at the autonomy bit, they want to be able to dictate abit more about what and how they search instead of just a zone dice roll.

In hindsight, having one of the players die in the very first round of the very first combat which more or less started the whole session might have put the fear of death in the rest of the party. I’d like to stress that this death was not a result of an overpowered opponent but a player that sort of “stepped infront of a machine gun with arms wide open”. The player was the only one entering the area and was not doing it in stealth, they had scouted the area and knew there was a potential danger. The opponent did not seem friendly, even seemed mindcontrolled or some similar. She was unlucky 3 weapons fired and hit and did average dmg 3d6.. 12 points of dmg to her 9 hp was all it took. When the rest of the party decided to take part in the battle, the opponent was more or less obliterated very fast and with a minimal of cost to life and resources.

But the session was still a good one, i got to try new stuff from AngryGMs archive and implement a new type of loot, Random Data Bank & Xeno Tech fragments. These loots were blanks that i rolled for when discovered they can be used 1 time for an instant bonus and my roll determined the type of bonus (knowledge, craft, combat related, etc) or they could be turned in to their employer to increase their status internally in their organisation or they could sell it at a blackmarket port to increase their status externally.

Rolling on a list when handing them out allowed me to save time prepping, so i didnt have to sit and write X number of cards with various bonus types. These new loots types gives them more choices and each choice costs them another choice. If they use the item to gain an instant bonus they dont get to use it to increase their stature in their organisation or externally with the world around them, this stature is used to determine how easy or difficult it is for them to aquire items like weapons, gear and spaceships and also helps establish how much influence they carry internally in the organisation they work for or externally when dealing with the rest of the universe on their own behalf.

So I will continue my work on how to align my old habbits and experience with AngryGMs right way of being a GM and hopefully attain a better structure to my prep and game. I strongly urge you to read his blog and archive if you are a GM or plan on becomming one, he cuts straight to the core of the matter and deals with the stuff that matters at

Since i enjoy his writing so much and im using it so much i am going to become a patreon as well, I understand that he quit his dayjob and is now trying to live of writing these things. So since i have felt helped by his works it is only fair and proper that i pay the man as well.

Maybe i’ll start a seperate section about my journey with praticing AngryGMing.

Gork ya later!

Leave a Reply