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Problems And Solutions

The following is a list that began as a serious game aid, but, well, as we all know how gamers can be . . . ahhh, you know. Enjoy it. And, um, use it, but just don't take us seriously on all our advice . . .

1: Dice

1-1) Consider a dice to always be ‘cocked’ or ‘fudged’ unless it is perfectly flat. This way there are no arguments or gray areas about what is ‘off’ and what is ‘fair’.

1-2) A player’s dice rolling method, be it ‘on my book to be legal’, ‘red dice first in a percentile’ or anything else, remains consistent with the guidelines he set down last time, continuing until he declares them otherwise—before a roll to which the new guidelines are to be applied.

1-3) All rolls have to be visible on the game table. This goes for Game Masters and Character creation as well. The only exception is a GM’s secretive rolls such as Searching Checks, though these can be inspected by the Players if they wish to destroy the suspense of the story. And, in the case of Searching Checks in particular, if someone questions the roll and wishes to see it, he cannot benefit from whatever may be hidden there when it actually is found (probably by those industrious Players who are spending more time considering where to look rather than complaining).

1-4) When someone rolls out of turn the roll is void. It is better to agree upon this or at least mention it before the game begins, and to reiterate it once in a while.

2: Protocol

2-1) A good, working style to follow for Order Of Play is mapping first, then prepared narratives, and then Player actions.

2-2) Establish a regular game day and time. This way everyone knows when to show up and where. No games should be played outside this establishment unless agreed upon by everyone. This way, if someone doesn’t show up, the others cannot be held accountable for any Character losses, fair or foul.

2-3) Players who don’t show up to an agreed time and place for the game have their Characters run as NPCs. Who rolls for them shouldn’t be a problem, as dice will do what dice will do after all. What should be the important point is that they receive a share of Experience and treasure on a ratio agreed upon in advance, such as a half-share (if they are daring to have a date or otherwise get a life) or a full share (if they are doing something excusable like catching a theatrical showing of Hawk the Slayer).

2-4) The first game session of a group or Campaign involves everybody rolling up their Characters. When, during the game, someone's Character dies, the game continues while that Player rolls up a new Character, working with the GM when he is not busy (i.e. waiting for the party to make a decision). This way the unfortunate Player does not sit around bored while he waits for an appropriate Introduction Encounter, nor do the surviving party members have to stop their continuing game and wait, either. The Introduction Encounters (in NDG adventures) are particularly helpful here, for they settle all arguments about when and where new Player Characters can be introduced into the game. This raises the stakes of survival, equates fair play for everybody, and also gives everybody something to do whether they are alive, dead, or GM.

2-5) Disallow cell phones, pagers and other such devices in the gameroom. If someone has a legitimate need for having a phone nearby, such as a sick friend, military status, etc. turn the ringer to ‘vibrate’. In the future, tell others to take care of business before coming to the game—if someone can tell an employer, their parents or girlfriend that they cannot be contacted at a ball game or that they didn’t answer because they were watching their favorite TV show or simply ‘fell asleep’, they sure as hell can ignore the phone for a group of people who drove from all over Hell to come together for a common team effort.

3: Slowness

3-1) If the party is obsessively searching in every desk drawer, sconce and toilet, either restrict them to single Searching Rolls for an entire area (each boxed description), or just ignore them and respond only to non-search related comments by the (other) Players.

3-2) Paranoid Players who waste time drawing up needless battle plans for every campsite, marketplace visit and inn room can be encouraged to calm down by simply making those plans worthless—use the maps and plans yourself, by way of sending enemies chosen by their virtue of being able to avoid all the things the party sets out. Indeed, the more reality-details they come up with, use those against them, until they're encouraged to simply go back to taking a chance as established by the dice and rules, indeed, to have fun and not be so competitive.

3-3) If a Player and the GM hit the 'mapping language barrier', perhaps the GM can hold up prepared flashcards showing the room’s dimensions and doors.

4: Silliness

4-1) Do not award bonus Experience Points for ‘role-playing’! Offer other incentives—the kind that don’t encourage more rule-playing, but rather encourage Players to think about things besides numbers.

4-2) Award a real-life prize to the greatest hero of the party, like a holy grail at the end of the adventure. It could be a cup filled with quarters contributed by all the players, like ante in poker. This will give them something to strive for.

4-3) Reduce Health permanently until the Player performs, for the delight of all at the table, something as silly to the game group as his Character's actions were in the adventure, such as singing or standing on his head. Don’t force anything that would require an illegal action, however. Of course, the silly one is likely to refuse to do these things, and so that’s when you refuse to give him any Experience Points, healing or spells, until he pays his penance to the god of humor, or simply realizes what how he's dragged down the game for others and decides to mature, let it go, and play the shared fantasy that everyone else is striving to create.

5: Boredom

5-1) Describe the results of rolls with simple combinations of easily memorable words. For example, the results of Searching Checks can be described with combinations of "Your efforts . . ." "Your search . . ." with "yield" "discover" with "nothing" "dirty hands", etc. Find your own favorite phrases that come easily to your mind, and rework them time and time again.

5-2) When the party is taking forever to make some critical decision, such as solving a puzzle, planning an assault or dividing treasure (or even deciding what color underwear to put on), start rolling senselessly behind the screen. Not for any particular reason, other than that pressure tends to make the Players move. And, even if this does move the party into trouble, well, that may not be wholly fair, but it wasn't all that fair to sit there debating for hours while you as GM got to count the ceiling tiles, either.

6: Defeat

6-1) When you make an error in judgment that results in something tragic happening to your Character, do not throw dice, question the GM’s authority or any other such cowardly act—simply take it like a man. In this case, a good, very audible Homer-like "Doh!" can help the pain immensely.

6-2) Despite the expectations of Players, a GM does not know everything—he knows what is important to the story he has to tell. When Players ask for details he has not prepared, he can make them up on the fly if he feels like it, but he does not have to. The GM can always steer an adventure back in the way he intended it to go simply by saying "Its of no importance" to any needless requests. Players should expect that.

6-3) If your Players question your fairness as a GM, they can see your GM’s notes to verify your veracity, but if what you said is true according to what is written, then they must suffer a pre-agreed increase to the unfortunate result, such as double-damage.

7: Cheating

7-1) The Game Master might want to keep a copy of each Player’s Character sheet so scores and treasures don’t mysteriously swell like the wounds they don’t receive to gain them.

7-2) Characters can indeed be made away from the game, so long as the rolls are made in front of the GM, and then the Player can take days to apply those rolls and decide the non-dice statistics. The GM should keep a copy of those rolls, however, so the Player cannot claim they were otherwise.

7-3) Not necessarily cheating, at least not all the time, but Players should leave their Character sheet in the GM’s possession after the game. This way they cannot take it home and ‘lose it’ only to ‘remember’ exactly what they had . . .

7-4) If any Player disputes their GM's interpretation of the Game Reality, the essay provided earlier on this page entitled 'Arguing Reality' may come in handy.

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