GMing Style

I though I would jot down a couple of my thoughts about GMing, so players ho haven’t played with me have an idea as to how I approach things. I will probably add to this section as things cross my mind.


When I was younger, I was more of a simulationist. That is, I wanted the mechanical elements of the game to model real life as closely as possible. One aspect of this was experience points. I really thought experience should be linked to what characters actually do. So if you do a lot of climbing walls, that was the skill that would improve the most. For a while, I tried to design a system that would accommodate this simulationism, until I got older and wiser and realised that it was not worth the effort, and would overcomplicate the game.

I take a very different view now. Now, I really think of experience as part of the metagame. It is a way of rewarding character behaviour that lends itself to a (IMO) better gaming experience.

One example of this is with respect to wandering monsters and random encounters.

Back in the AD&D days, you got most of your experience from treasure, not from actually defeating opponents. So when you fought a wandering monster, which generally carried little or no treasure, you got almost no experience for it.

That really bugged simulationist me, because I couldn’t see how acquiring gold made you a better fighter or spellcaster. But now I get it. Now I understand that you don’t generally want to reward players for random encounters.

Random dungeon encounters should be something you don’t want to have. They increase in likelihood the longer you futz around in a given area. They are a drain on resources, with little likelihood of gaining treasure. They should be something that PCs want to avoid, because they should have no upside. The PCs must choose between how long to search or rest in a given area, and the increased likelihood of a random encounter.

If you give out a pile of experience points for them, you are rewarding the players for something their characters would probably rather avoid. You are encouraging a type of play you see in video games, where the PC hangs out in a corner for ages on end, killing wandering monsters as they are generated, so he can level up sooner or be a higher level than expected when he fights the boss monster. It is boring, and it screws up the balance for the boss fight.

So as a rule, unless the wandering monsters are part of the keyed dungeon roster, you won’t get experience for them, and you won’t get treasure from them.

The same goes for restocking dungeons. I have never had a problem with my players wanting a 15 minute workday. They always press on like actual adventurers would do, sometimes pressing harder than they should. But I am opening up my table, so I have to consider this for the first time ever.

Be warned: the less progress you make in a day, the more likely it will be that the remaining denizens of the dungeon will get reinforcements. So if you think you are going to have one fight and then take a little nap, expect to start right back at the same place the next day. And expect that you won’t get any experience for fighting reinforcements. This works for both metagaming me and simulationist me: if you fight the same battle a second time, don’t expect to learn as much as you did the first time.

Go back to Sharn Campaign

GMing Style

Eberron - Scarred Elf Campaign Beoric