The Gamemaster creates the story, keeps the game flowing, adjudicates the rules, and controls all the NPCs and monsters.
The gamemaster takes on a great deal of responsibility, so the role can be daunting. GMing is by no means easy. However, the pride and joy of crafting your own adventure and letting your friends enjoy it is characteristic of TRPGs. GMing is a good role for aspiring novelists, comic artists, or game designers.
GMing is the act of running a game. The GM is responsible for keeping the game moving and all the players having fun.
This section contains advice and critical information for a GM. It's also a good idea to read Important Rules to Remember When Starting to familiarize yourself with basic game rules and the role of the GM.
The GM's RoleEdit
Preparing the ScenarioEdit
The GM must prepare the scenario that will take place during the session. Detailed information about scenarios is available in Scenarios (link). If this is your first time playing SW2.0, you may want to start by playing one of the default scenarios presented in the sourcebook. If you do, the GM should read over the scenario and familiarize himself with its components. However, as you become practiced at running sessions, you should try to craft your own scenarios.
Understanding the World and RulesEdit
If the GM has a firm grasp of the SW2.0 rules, the world of Raxia, and the place where the PCs will be adventuring, the task of running a session becomes much easier.
Understanding the world will also help figure out the movements and reactions of NPCs, and to set the stage and atmosphere for the PCs. You will also gradually learn how to create and run more lifelike NPCs.
The GM can also create his own world with its own properties, characters, and scenarios.
Answering Player QuestionsEdit
Over the course of the session, the players will have many different questions for the GM. These questions can be anything from rules interpretations to details about their surroundings, to the abilities and preferences of NPCs.
As the GM, you should answer these questions to the best of your abilities. If the players don't have any information, they'll find it difficult to decide what their PCs do, and the session will grind to a halt. Or if the session continues but the players don't understand what's going on, they may feel like they didn't have any input into the story's events and won't really feel like they're playing a game. You can explain that you can't answer questions about enemy abilities or story details that you feel would spoil the fun of the game, but endeavor to answer other questions as well as you can.
Painting a PictureEdit
Because TRPGs are played by talking, the action takes place in the players' imaginations. As the GM sets the scene and runs the game, he should also create a strong image in the players' mind of what's really happening in the story. He should strive to communicate the image in his own mind to his players to make sure they can picture the scene and grasp the situation completely. In addition to simply describing, the GM can show pictures and use music to set the mood of the game.
Keeping the Table FocusedEdit
Players will inevitably start talking about things unrelated to the game as a session runs on. A certain amount of this is acceptable if the game is to be fun for everyone.
However, if players chat too much, argue about irrelevant rules, or even read or watch TV while playing, they are not focused on the game at hand, which can spoil the fun for everyone.
The GM should cut off excessive chatter and keep everyone on task so the game can continue smoothly.
Point: What is a GM?Edit
The GM can be described as a guide for the players. A GM must help the players understand the rules, adjudicate the effects of their decisions, and control the NPCs to progress the plot to ensure a successful play session. He must juggle all of these jobs during play, but that can be a uniquely fun aspect of running your own game.
It may seem much more difficult to GM than to play, but you don't have to do it alone. Keep the rulebook with you as you run and feel free to consult it if you feel you need a ruling. Creating your very own story and letting the PCs play their part in it is a kind of enjoyment you can't get as a player. Don't be afraid to stop stressing and leap straight into your role as a GM, and you'll see how much fun it can be. With TPRGs, you don't have to get it right the first time. If you mess up, it'll make the next session that much better.
A 'session' of Sword World 2.0 consists of one instance of a group sitting down and playing through the GM's planned storyline. When you sit down to play a session, you as players agree to play your characters from the start of a scenario to the end under the guidance of the GM.
In this section, the rules and procedures in establishing and running a session are laid out clearly, with recommendations for good starting and stopping points for multiple sessions. Good sessions will be able to start and stop without breaking the suspension of disbelief needed to keep the world fresh in the players' imagination.
However, the GM should read this section carefully before planning the actual session. A good GM should be aware of what not to do as much as what is required, so everyone can enjoy themselves without being alienated.
Preparing a SessionEdit
Players need not be involved in this step, unless they are creating their characters and require GM assistance. The GM should be able to prepare the gaming area and scenario in relative peace, but shouldn't ignore player questions if they need help.
For the most part, characters should be created before the first session of play actually begins, to give the GM an idea to what to plan their sessions for. If this is not possible for one reason or another, the player should be informed as to what kind of session is planned and build their character accordingly. In this case, the GM may require the character to conform to the planned session to some extent.
If the same characters meet over the course of many sessions, this is what is typically called a 'campaign'. This style of play is better for longer scenarios and groups that can meet on more than one occasion. That is not to say that the GM is required to run campaigns; Sword World 2.0 also supports one-shot games (such as those at a convention) as well.
Running a SessionEdit
1. Starting the Session
The GM typically gives each player a time and place to meet for the game. After a brief introduction, the PCs should typically introduce each other, and the GM will begin to describe the current situation as the PCs see things. It is a good idea for the GM to get a little note card from each player quickly describing their character, including skills, stats, items, HP and MP, etc. This information can greatly reduce stress on the GM when running the game.
2. Introducing the Scenario
Once the players have been introduced to each other and the world around them, it is up to the GM to add plot into the game. Simple scenes like "You are at the entrance of the ruins outside of town", "a girl is being chased by thugs through the market", and "you have received an invitation to work for a powerful patron" are all easy to narrate and get players into the game.
The GM should describe the scenario briefly, as it is merely a taste of things to come. You want to speak clearly and communicate the purpose of the scenario, to avoid problems with meandering and dilly-dallying.
3. Advancing the Story
At the end of this chapter, there is an original scenario provided for the GM to run his players through. In this situation, players will should be free to speak and act as they will, with the GM listening carefully and providing ways to advance the scenario.
However, if a player blatantly goes against the spirit of the scenario, the GM should politely but firmly guide and advise the player to follow the scene. Even though each player has some independence as to how their character acts, they shouldn't actively bring the level of excitement down for everyone else.
Some players may feel excitement and tension from working together, and that is fine. On the other hand, a certain enthusiasm may come from working individually, and may be more interesting for everyone playing. In that case, while it is a little more work for the GM to change the contents of the scenario, changes should be made to keep everyone involved and excited for what may happen next.
In either case, if the GM leads the scenario with confidence, players will tend to act in a more dignified manner.
4. Directing the Climax
The climax of a session should be a thrilling scene, keeping everyone involved and energized. For example, a climax of one scenario may be the final battle with a rival group in a dungeon; another would be discovering that abandoned ancient ruins still hold a platoon of security robots, and the party goofball just accidentally set off the alarm. The GM should provide a scene that will be tense and exciting, but not overwhelming, in order to liven up the scenario.
A fine way to provide a sense of tension and desperation is to have a battle that the PCs can just barely win if they work together. Squeaking out a win against a deadly opponent (or opponents) by the skin of your teeth is a great way to ramp up everyone's energy. However, constantly reusing battles like this quickly grow boring, so don't overuse this idea. It helps to throw a mock battle or miniboss at the players as well, to keep them on their toes.
5. Ending the Scenario
When all is said and done with the adventure, it may be time to wrap up any loose ends. Typically, there will be some sort of objective to the scenario itself, and if this goal is met, then the GM may end the session at that point. As the GM, you may also take some time to have an ending and/or epilogue, if this is to be the last session in the story arc.
After the session has ended, the GM should provide experience points to the PCs, which the players require in order to advance the PCs, purchase new equipment, and otherwise maintain the PC.
After everything is finished, it may not be a bad idea for the GM to listen to any requests, suggestions or complaints from the players. Knowing what the players liked, disliked, and want to see more of in a game is very useful knowledge, and a GM should take the players' opinions into consideration and use it to improve their game mastering. This information could easily be used to alter a scenario mid-game, and able GMs can design a game around one idea or another. GMs of ongoing campaigns have a much easier time changing scenarios and details halfway through, and may often have tips for new and upcoming GMs whether they want to run a one-shot or campaign.
The term NPC, or Non-Player Character, describes those characters and monsters controlled by the GM throughout gameplay. From the old adventurer-turned-shopkeep with a family to feed, to the king offering the hand of his daughter in marriage, weak monsters like goblins and wolves, even the stalwart Barbaros boss at the end of the dungeons; all of these are NPCs.
If this were a movie, NPCs fill both background roles and that of the main antagonists, where the PCs are the protagonists. While an NPC should be able to take care of himself, they should not be able to outshine the PCs at their own game. If an NPC accompanies the PCs and overpowers any opposition with little effort, the players will get bored quickly and feel like they've lost control of their characters. The protagonists of the game should always be characters controlled by players, so the NPCs should have strength scaled but not equal to the PCs.
There will be those supporting NPCs who leave a lasting impression on the PCs (and players by association). An NPC that players talk about long after the game is over is typically thought of as a good NPC, as it evoked feeling from the players without overshadowing them.
For those NPCs that with to follow the PCs and assist in combat, that NPC should have a similar sheet to those of the PCs. However, for someone like a father who runs the Adventurer's Shop, there is no need to create combat stats for his young daughter, who should not be expected to see combat.
Another issue that arises is that NPCs often come across as vague blobs of stats. In order to make an NPC feel like another living person, the GM should try to come up with goals, dreams, and personalities for the NPCs players are likely to deal with on a regular basis.
Characterizing an NPCEdit
When a GM is looking to create an NPC, whether it is a planned encounter or something on-the-fly, it helps to have some sort of distinguishing characteristic or personality quirk the players can remember easily. Something such as "a pretty little girl, full of energy, with silver hair bangles" or "the dwarf with a pink ribbon braided into his beard" tend to impress upon players more easily than "a hyperactive young girl" or "a gruff dwarf". People in general tend to remember things out of the ordinary, so they would be more likely to remember an NPC if the GM adds some obscure accessory or personality quirk to that character.
Action Check AdviceEdit
When a PC makes an attempt at an Action, it is up to the GM to interpret the result of the Action Check. If there is no appropriate skill, you may allow them to make a Check using their Adventurer Level and an Ability that you feel fits the Action attempted.
In addition, it is a good idea to refer to Deciding the Target Number, as it will assist in determining the level of challenge appropriate for the attempted Action. A GM is also allowed to use the development of the sessions to freely modify the Action Check and Target Number (for example, if a PC used an Action Check to jury-rig a rope ladder earlier in the session, it might be easier to do it later on. Unless, of course, they are under attack and need to lug a couple of heavy Runefolk as well...)
Action Checks With Hidden Target ValuesEdit
When you (as a GM) roll for an NPC's Action Check, you must show the players the result of the roll to quell any thoughts of impropriety. However, if you do not wish to have a player know if his PC was successful in performing an Action, it is entirely within your right to not allow the player to know the Target Value. In that case, the player should give you the Success Value, and you will inform them as to the consequences of that Action (for good or ill).
Concealed Action ChecksEdit
For the most part, Action Checks are requested by the GM and carried out by the PCs, with results known to all. However, sometimes asking for checks may give away some detail or another, and ruin suspense for everyone. For example, a GM asking for a Danger Sense Check out of the blue may indicate the PC is being followed, or is soon to be in danger.
If you do not wish for the result of a check to be known, it is possible to act on behalf of the PC. If the GM knows the PC's Standard Value, it is easy for the GM to make a concealed Action Check for that PC, and give him the result of that without the PC knowing everything about the situation. To continue the example above, the GM rolls Player A's Danger Sense for him, and succeeds. The GM then lets Player A know that his PC feels like he's being watched, though from where and by whom is still unknown.
In the case of a failed check, there is no need to alert the PCs that anything is out of the ordinary, or even that you made a concealed check for them in the first place.
Not every Action Check needs to be hidden from view. Typical Action Checks that should be concealed are ones that a PC may use passively, such as Danger Sense or Find Trap (note that these actions can be actively used as well). Also, don't overuse concealed checks. Players want to have an active role in the game, and too many hidden checks takes that away, and leaves players feeling like they're watching instead of playing. It is recommended that you use concealed checks only when necessary, to minimize this perceived helplessness from occurring.
Exceptional Action ChecksEdit
There may come times where a player may try to argue for a different use of a skill, or using a different Ability when trying for an Action Check. In cases like these, the GM may choose to override the existing rules. Not to say this should be done lightly, but occasionally narrative and plot can (and should!) take precedence over rules, especially in intense situations.
Here, we have outlined a couple of situations that were a little tricky to handle during playtesting, as well as ways to resolve such situations should they turn up in your game. Please note that strict adherence to the rules is not necessary. It is also recommended that each player be notified about how each situation will be handled, and to make sure everyone is satisfied with the end results.
Monsters as ObstaclesEdit
If you wish to have a monster appear during a session as well as be that session's "boss monster", don't fret. There are ways to change monsters so they can appear as both normal enemies and as serious opponents.
There are simple ways to have a monster appear weaker than the players; numbers often gives the illusion of weakness, as monsters tend to attack in groups numbering that of the PCs (or more). It also helps if the monster really is weak, such as one that is of lower level than the PCs.
When placed into the session as a "boss," a monster should be a level or two higher than the PCs, and should have a Sword Shard or two as well, to give the PCs something to strive for. With a Sword Shard or two, the monster will be strengthened (as below). Whether the monster appears as both mook and boss during the session, or even simultaneously, there should be some difference in how each acts.
Enhancement by means of 'Sword Shards'Edit
If you wish to have a monster appear as a "boss," the best way to do it is through Sword Shards. Often, a boss monster should hold a number of Sword Shards equal to it's Monster Level. If you wish to make the monster easier, reduce the amount of Sword Shards available; on the same note, a monster holding more Shards will be stronger. A living being holding a Sword Shard is enhanced as below:
- +5 Maximum HP for each Sword Shard held
- +1 Maximum MP for each Sword Shard held
Monsters with multiple body parts should have the additional HP and MP allocated evenly between all parts.
Upon defeat, the monsters relinquish any held Sword Shards, which a PC may use to trade in for Gamels or Reputation. For more information, see Sword Shards and Reputation Points.
Monsters' Standard and Success ValuesEdit
To find the standard and success values for any given monster, please check it's data entry. The number listed is added to a roll of 2d, where the number in parentheses is the average check value (no need to roll dice). If you wish to roll for Accuracy, Evasion, even Willpower, that is up to each GM whether to individually control every monster or not. If you do not wish to roll (or to speed the game up), use the value given in parentheses, so that way no rolling is needed. Regardless of which method you choose, it is wise to stick with one method and not waffle back and forth during gameplay.
However, here are a couple of tips that may help a new GM. Large numbers of monsters are tedious to roll everything for time and again, so it will be faster to use the value in parentheses. On the other hand, it is sort of thrilling to leave things up to chance, and may turn a boring battle into a tense one. It may not be a bad idea to have to roll for certain monsters while using the average values for others.
An interesting point to note is that monsters avoid Automatic Failure by using the average values, so sometimes it might be a good thing to roll for a monster when you wouldn't otherwise.
Multiple Body PartsEdit
If a monster possesses multiple body parts, or is comprised of many parts, it will be noted in that monster's Bestiary entry, typically by having multiple columns for HP. A notation (such as "Wing x2" or something similar) means that there are multiple parts with the same statistics (in this case, two wings).
A monster with multiple body parts takes one action with each body part, and makes those actions simultaneously. The order in which each separate body part does not make a difference. When dealing with brawl areas, a monster with multiple body parts is treated as one character (unless otherwise noted in that monster's Bestiary entry).
Each important body part will have its own HP, and loses any abilities upon reaching 0 HP. Continuing the above example, if a wing is reduced to 0 HP, the monster will not be able to fly or attack with that wing. In order to completely defeat a monster with multiple body parts, either all body parts must be reduced to 0 HP, or the Main Body Part (listed in the monster's Bestiary entry, if any) must be reduced to 0 HP.
Bonus Experience Points When Defeating MonstersEdit
At the end of a session, the GM may award additional Experience Points for each monster defeated. A general rule of thumb is awarding Experience Points to each player equal to the Level of the monster x 10.
For example, if four 1st Level monsters and one 3rd Level monster was defeated over the course of the session, each PC would receive a bonus of 70 EXP (([1 x 4] + [3 x 1]) x10).
In addition, it is not a bad idea to award bonus Experience Points if the players managed to negotiate their way out of a combat situation. Not every conflict needs to come to blows, and having a positive reward of Experience Points will foster this in the players' minds.
Ending the SessionEdit
Scenario Results, GoalsEdit
It is up to the GM to determine if the goals of each session was met.
Basically, one of the first things done each session is setting the goal for the session. Players should strive to meet this goal, even if it ends up being met in an unexpected manner. On the other hand, if there are still even minor tasks to be met, the goal should be considered unfulfilled.
Also, it is possible for the current goal of the scenario (as it is understood) can change in the middle of a session.
While the final decision is up to the GM, please try to keep everything fun and exciting for the players as well.
End-Of-Session Experience PointsEdit
As determined by the GM, if the players achieve the goal or goals of the current scenario, each PC receives 1,000 Experience Points. This does not include bonus experience, whether it's from defeating monsters, from Automatic Failures, or just good roleplaying, so be sure to add that extra bit in!
On the other hand, if the GM feels that the scenario's goal/goals were not met, each PC only receives 500 Experience Points. Again, though, this does not include any extra bonuses, so add those in as well.
Sword Shards and Reputation PointsEdit
On occasion, the GM may decide to use various "boss monsters", who use the power of Sword Shards to increase their power. If the PCs manage to kill this boss, the GM should make available the Sword Shards used by the monster. Sword Shards can also be found in treasure chests, and some high-ranking nobility may also offer them as rewards for one quest or another.
A PC may choose to sell the Sword Shards to the local branch of the Adventurer's Store, receiving 200 Gamels per Shard. They may also choose to convert a Shard into Reputation Points, rolling a die for each Shard so converted. The result is added to each current party member's total Reputation.
If the PCs choose to sell some Shards and exchange others for Reputation, that is perfectly fine. It will help if you finish exchanging, say, Shards for Gamels before moving on to Shards for Reputation (or vice versa).
When exchanging Sword Shards, the Adventurer's Store gives a constant rate, while Reputation is variable. Don't be surprised if your PCs choose to end up mysterious millionaires, or wind up well-known and broke.
Estimated Total RemunerationEdit
At the end of an adventure, the PCs should be rewarded by the NPC who comissioned their help. They may also find treasure in chests, and some of the monsters they kill may carry money as well. Below is a chart to determine the average reward for a given quest, though these values are not set in stone. If the GM determines the goals of the scenario aren't met, half the listed value is acceptable compensation.
|Adventurer Level||Mission Reward (G)|
|1 ~ 3||1,000|
|3 ~ 4||2,000|
|4 ~ 5||3,000|
|5 ~ 6||4,000|
Preparing for the Next SessionEdit