Game Mastering is a daunting, but very important job. Without the Game Master, no game would be possible. GMs are the ultimate law of the game, they are the window into Remnant for their player, set the conflict, play every villain, and every friend. It is a huge undertaking, but ultimately rewarding.
The most important thing to remember about Game Mastering in general, is that everyone is there to have fun, GMs and Players alike. If the game is fun, and has people asking “when is the next game?”, then the Game Master has succeeded. Even though the GM sets obstacles in the path of their players, the GM is never their enemy.
Cooperatively telling a story is one of the major hooks to playing a tabletop role-playing game. It is the GM’s responsibility to present the story, and the player’s responsibility to drive it forward. The story can be anything from as simple as extermination of Grimm to a complex political game involving the council, backroom deals and mysterious benefactors. GMs should have a story in mind when first building a team of players, and also be prepared for players to take an entirely different path than expected.
Adventure Hooks Edit
Adventure hooks are means to draw players into a story, hint at danger and subsequent reward. Some adventure hooks ask a question, some are rumors, some are designated missions.
- A Blue Dust mine has exploded for no apparent reason.
- A huge surge of Grimm have been recorded on the walls of Vale.
- The Vytal festival is a month away.
- Junior's Club is rumored to be selling arms to the White Fang.
- A teacher at Beacon is missing.
- An Atlesian airship has crashed in the desert and no one is on board.
- Elder Grimm have all but disappeared.
- A string of robberies have been taking all the Dust from local stores, and leaving all the money.
- A submarine with markings of the White Fang washes up on shore, its hull torn asunder.
- Someone is selling an exotic form of dust that is being used as a very dangerous recreational drug.
- A White Fang hideout is rumored to be somewhere in the south east.
Crafting Skill Checks Edit
A single obstacle can be overcome in any number of ways. How a character attempts to bypass it determines the Skill Check used. For example, a team of Characters is presented with a locked door. Breaking down the door is a STR+END check, picking the lock is an AGI+PER check and trying to break the lock or hinges is a STR+DIS, while trying to shoot them would be an AGI+DIS. When a task can reasonably be accomplished by more than two attributes, it is a judgment call on the GM to decide which two attributes contribute the most to the given skill.
Skill Thresholds Edit
GMs apply the logic of the world and quantify it as tiers of difficulty for players to roll against. Thresholds come in increments of 5, and the threshold for a given check does not need to be declared to a player ahead of time if all the information is not available to them.
At its most basic level, difficulty thresholds on skill checks can be determined with a simple “15+5 per complexity” system. In essence this means that taking the most basic concept of the skill and associate it with a difficulty of 15. For every level that character’s attempt to modify that skill, add 5 to the given check.
For example, a character who wants to hide from an unaware enemy is a 15 Stealth Check. If that enemy is on active watch or the character wants to move while sneaking, the check is 20 for one modifier, or 25 for both.
In cases where multiple modifiers do not adequately describe the task at hand, a simple “easy-medium-hard,” scale will suffice. Without RoC, 15 is easy, 20 is medium, and 25 is hard. 30 is the gate between abilities that can be achieved through normal human endeavor, and hiding when actively being watched, lifting a vehicle to its side with bare hands, or leaping over a 30ft chasm.
15: Simple Training and skill not required to succeed.
20: Average Difficult for the unskilled, but expected for professionals.
25: Challenging Even with a great deal of skill, success is not guaranteed.
30: Amazing Can be accomplished with a lifetime of training, natural talent, and luck.
35: Superhuman No matter how much a normal human tries, Superhuman checks are impossible.
40: Legendary Stories are told, songs are sung, and heroes are made with Legendary checks.
Non-Binary Skill Checks Edit
Some checks can be determined with a simple formula. This is most common on checks associated with distance like Acrobatics or Dust checks. Ultimately, this method works best for any check with a gradient of outcomes, rather than a binary pass-fail.
- Acrobatics checks equal a distance in feet to the die roll.
- Falling Resistance require rolling 1/2 the distance fell to avoid damage.
- Heat or Chill aspects of Red and White phials respectively, heat or cool an object but a number of degrees equal to the die roll times 10.
Defining Common Skill Checks Edit
STR+AGI: Acrobatics - Movement that primarily involves jumping and controlled decent.
STR+END: Lift - Moving and manipulating heavy objects.
STR+PER: Grapple - Wrestling with enemies and knowing when and where to apply force.
STR+WIL: Intimidate - Influencing someone through a show of force.
STR+DIS: Sunder - Targeted strikes against the weak spots of an object.
AGI+END: Athletics - moving carefully over long periods.
AGI+PER: Reflex - Noticing a threat and avoiding it in time.
AGI+WIL: Sleight of Hand - Making someone look away while acting out of sight.
AGI+DIS: Stealth - Moving quickly while maintaining control over unnecessary movements and sounds.
END+PER: Resistance - Understanding a hazard and positioning to minimize damage.
END+WIL: Performance - Attempting to influence someone over a long period of physical activity.
END+DIS: Fortitude - Maintaining control of the body and mind when being poisoned.
PER+WIL: Influence - Attempting to manipulate others with words, whether they be true or false.
PER+DIS: Detection - Awareness of surroundings and ability to pick up on subtle hints.
WIL+DIS: Wealth - The amount of Lien carried on hand to purchase or bribe.
Some checks can be attempted again on failure, some however cannot until a change that would allow a retry. Most physical checks, like Acrobatics, can be retried on failure, but something like Detection checks cannot be retried, at least not until a change occurs, such as new terrain, additional sets of eyes, or even simply waiting.
Crafting Semblance Checks Edit
Semblances present a unique challenge to GMs, given that their variety is truly infinite. Many Semblances will be player created, and encompass a wide array of possible abilities that fall within its sphere of influence.
Crafting a Semblance roll follows the same “15, +5 per level of complexity” as any other skill check. Some complexities are simple increases such as increased range or multiple selected targets but more exotic complexities are more common and more numerous, but can follow a similar path. Take, for example, Telekinesis.
A character wants to telekinetically take a stone from one place and gently move it to another location relatively close by. This is about as pure as the Semblance can become so it is associated with a level of 15.
If the character wanted to instead throw the stone at speed, it would be an additional level of complexity, bringing the total to 20. If the character wanted to throw the stone a great distance, it would be 25, or if the stone were a boulder of significant weight, the check could increase to 30. Any of these modifiers add 5, and do not need to be added in any order.
GMs have the ultimate power. Some will have very hard Semblances, some will have very easy semblances. One GM determines the ability to levitate with Telekinesis is a 20, another thinks it merits a 25. Neither is wrong, but the key is consistency.
Characters who want to use the Semblance to directly attack an enemy, the threshold is always at least equal to the enemy’s defense.
15: Move simple objects short distances 20: Violently throw light object 25: Levitate 30: Construct extremely complex object by moving dozens of pieces simultaneously 35: Fly at great speed 40: Move massive object, actively resisting, such as stopping a runaway train.
Flavor Text and Functionally Identical Edit
Two important rules of thumb for any GM are the concepts of “Flavor Text” and “Functionally Identical”. Specifically during character creation, these concepts can allow players to craft their play to their desires without affecting the game. Flavor text is any descriptors that are there to simply add flare to an action or a character, and should always be free. Describing in detail how the sheath of the sword folds out into a shield or the character possessing a fully function prosthetic arm do not significantly influence play, and are excellent examples of Flavor Text. A character who wants to wield a high rate of fire minigun and have it reflected in the mechanics may choose to make a weapon functionally identical by having additional weapon multiple times instead of building an entirely new weapon modification.
To use an example this system has already implemented the concept, is the functionality of Stun Rounds (see Dust). The Flavor Text of Stun Rounds are that the target is paralyzed and cannot move on its own, however the functional description of the effect is Frozen, identical to Freeze Crystals, rather than generating an entirely new status effect of “Paralyzed”. The flavor text of these two Dust forms is wildly different, but are functionally identical. The two concepts are very similar, but are both designed to give players much higher agency over their characters without increasing the workload on the GM.