299 Game Master Style

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Here is the 5e text about material components:

Material (M)

Casting some spells requires particular objects, specified in parentheses in the component entry. A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (found in “Equipment”) in place of the components specified for a spell. But if a cost is indicated for a component, a character must have that specific component before he or she can cast the spell.

If a spell states that a material component is consumed by the spell, the caster must provide this component for each casting of the spell. A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell’s material components – or to hold a spellcasting focus – but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

The benefit of having a casting focus over a spell component pouch is that a casting focus can actually have a “+” to it, so you can have a wand or amulet, etc. that gives you a bonus to your casting attack rolls.

I wrote the below post before I listened to the episode so I’m leaving it here. I think that it reflects my current GM’ing style. (Feel free to not mention it :grin:)

These are the preferences that have become dear to my heart. I started with D&D 4e, so that tells you what I liked at the beginning of my short RPG career. ON TO THE EPISODE DEETS!

The characters are the eye of the storm as @Fafhrd calls it, have to agree with him on that, and living in Puerto Rico, definitely know what that is.

Backgrounds are important depending on the adventure: if it’s homebrew, I always use their stories in the game somehow but if it’s a premade adventure I’ll ask questions. Like why do you bother to be here? Why would your character be here and not other places? Basically, at that point, the important thing is not the background per se, but how the PCs interact with the world (i.e. their personalities).

Player narration, even GM narration, happens before the roll, this allows me or the player (if they want to narrate their success/failure) to provide an answer to what happens. I believe the roll should be done when it’s going to change the scene in some way. This is the idea of the failing forward mechanic (at least as I understand it).

Dice rolls in the open, period. Rule of cool is always allowed at my table but only if it’s appropriate (they know to use common sense), although the systems I like to play allow for that kind of stuff.

Really good episode!

GhostGM = Germán Sanders


Good episode, guys! So much to address.

First, I am very much a different GM now, in my 40s, than I was in my childhood—or even 10 years ago! I think I have changed in a manner similar to how Brett has changed. I used to be overly concerned about the “experience” of roleplaying. To accommodate a desired experience, rules often were fudged or ignored or cooked. In other words, the game was a story first, a “game” second.

These days, in contrast, there is no better term for my role than that of Referee. I no longer see myself as owning the game or the narrative experience. The application of this perspective is therefore similar to Sean’s school of GMing: I have a world (however, I allow my players to define components of it that are relevant to their characters), I have determined some things that are happening in that world, and I have players. Sometimes it’s difficult for my players to understand that I don’t at all care what their characters choose to do. There is honestly and truthfully no desired path for them. None. It totally and profoundly doesn’t matter to me.

The previous comments are specific to my ongoing D&D sandbox. When I run Conan 2d20, the “experience” is quite different, but my approach is nonetheless similar. That game encourages the adventures to open in the middle of situations, and… Go! In other words, I do in 2d20 what I do with my D&D, there is a situation, and I drop my PCs into it, but the “situation” is smacked right into the faces of the PCs, and the “adventures” tend to be punchy and episodic.

Brett’s GMing style topic involved rules mechanics as well as tonal and pacing considerations (by the way, my most favorite groups are infinitely patient ones that are happy to open the books and learn how a rule should be applied to a given situation; I don’t enjoy the pressure of always having to keep everybody focused and entertained). It seems that he prefers to defer to a game’s “core mechanic” or simply “GM around a ruling.” I agree, in principle, but, one of the reasons I prefer to run early D&D is because universal mechanics, to me, don’t always apply to every situation. Some rules are better suited for simulating some actions than others. Early D&D is famous for a host of “mini games” designed to simulate a variety of applications. Why? Well, you’re certainly welcome to argue with me over it, but, for me, it’s because rolling a d20 + modifier doesn’t seem relevant to every possible situation.

This also brings up, for me, the starkest issue apparent in this topic: What is the more powerful force defining the game experience? Is it the GM or the rules? In Brett’s case, it appears to be the GM. Brett might “GM around” any situation arising in nearly any game, and he will lean back on his well-defined style from years of practice. It makes me want to experience Brett running Avalon and then Call of Cthulhu, because I wonder if my overriding takeaway would be contrasting experiences between those two very different game systems or a more powerful regard for Brett as GM, for Brett running games, for Brett running any game. This is not meant to be a condemnation of Brett or me or anybody, of course, but, judging from what I’m hearing, I’m guessing that Brett likes a certain game experience at a table and he makes the game—any game, regardless of system—do precisely what he intends from the story tone and pacing he has in mind.

My own practice? I like to think our group approach is fairly collective. I’m the Referee, so, of course, I have final say on a matter, but rarely do I have to be so autocratic. If an unusual, in-game situation arises, I tend to express how I intend to resolve the action, then I ask for feedback. This kind of collective game building—because these conclusions set precedents—have affected our entire system. Moreover, often my players make requests for rules changes to accommodate their emerging character concepts. Just one example: we recently decided to allow one Monk PC to swap out Delicate Tasks and Pick Locks for Cleric Spells and the Turn Undead ability.


A response about D&D 5e spell pouches posted over here:

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