Writing for the GM

I don't have the reading time for RPGs I once did (or for anything). I'd like to chalk if up to being an adult with a job now, but perhaps the truth is just 'internet'.

Whatever the reason, I want to write better for GMs. Here are the principles I've picked up from reading/ writing (no credits given - I can't even remember which ideas are mine, and which I found, never mind where I found them).

Place Every Statblock

An adventure scene which references 3 creatures or NPCs must contain all of those people, or NPCs, on the same (or next) page. The book should not say 'see that NPC's description on page 87, and find that monster in the Monstrous Manual'. I'm running combat here, not doing a dissertation! I need those stats, stat!

If-Then Statements

A friend considered running my BIND RPG, but noted the complexity, such as how Skills don't tell you how they operate.

Like you have crafts, but it doesn't tell you what the Target Number is to make arrows.

I wanted to make a contemptuous snort at this point, and explain that real GMs make up numbers on the fly, then record or memorize them to keep the world consistent. I then realized why this answer was bad before I said it, and later wrote a stonking-great list of examples of skills being used in the GM's section.

My adventures now follow suite, with a few notes on 'if the PCs do X: then the NPC does Y'. The examples might not get used, but hopefully the 'if-then' statements allow the GM to more easily digest the encounter when reading it initially, and having a simple list (with if-statements in bold, to catch the reader's eye), might be useful for a flustered GM in a pickle.

Don't Make the GM Roll

I've placed this in numerous places in BIND, and I think a lot of RPGs could benefit from this.

PCs roll to defend

rather than the GM rolling to attack. It means the combat goes from a GM rolling twenty attack dice for the goblins, to five players rolling four defence dice. The GM's only job is keeping track of things, and declaring results to the table as someone kills a goblin or gets stabbed by one.

The next scene is written for anywhere in a location

so the GM doesn't have to ask what might happen in the deep forest - there will always be some encounter which can play out anywhere in the deep forest.

Never reference a table during the game

or the GM will have to stop (as Gygax once requested I did, in A,D&D), look up 'treasure type P', and then roll 5 percentile dice to figure out what kind of loot this monster is carrying.

I can see the appeal of assigning a random treasure which fits - different monsters have different items, but a griffin it more likely to use a magical scroll for its nest than a magical ring. So I've programmed in the randomness. BIND's monster statblocks get random treasures assigned, which feeds into the rule of reprinting statblocks rather nicely. If your adventure contains three griffins, then there are three different statblocks, with three different random treasures.

Reference everything

even if it seems obvious. Nobody complains 'this book had too many footnotes, and the index was too long!'. They only complain about the lack of index.

Separate handouts

whenever the players need to see something. Place it in a new pdf, or in separate pages at the back of the book.

E-mail me

If you have any other tips for this list - however small - I'd love to hear them at bindrpg@posteo.uk .