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The GM's Guide

In-depth podcast on how to improve your campaign, focusing on the adventure, world and character design. We apply proven and practical game design techniques to the world of running pen and paper campaigns. There's a lot to get into, so let's get started.
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The GM's Guide
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Mar 5, 2017

Part 2 of the great conversation with the creator of Primordia about world-building.

Jan 30, 2017

The brilliant Mark Yohalem, brilliant writer and designer of the cult classic Primordia, drops by for a chat about world building.

Jan 22, 2017

We establish our final adventurer's character arc, then lay out the core process I use to destroy writer's block and build the materials for my campaigns. We even start putting together a soundtrack. 

Dec 26, 2016

Not all characters are easy to work with. Even the best players sometimes pitch spitballs at a GM. Chad's character was a nightmare for the campaign. While the character would be great for a novel, in an RPG it featured an unworkable inner conflict that would be a weak experience to roleplay. Worse, Chad's own joys as a roleplayer ran directly counter to my campaign's setting and theme.

Here's how we made it work.

Dec 20, 2016

Premade Adventures train us to build a campaign first, then figure out how to 'hook' a group of players and drag them into it. Here's how you can build a campaign where your players are truly the main characters. They aren't the random action heroes sucked into the story, they belong here. It's their story. The results can be absolutely extraordinary.

Dec 12, 2016

We return to building a campaign step by step and create the core character and history of the setting's arch-villain, as well as many of the important locations we'll use throughout the campaign. In the process, we break down what makes great tragedies work and why so many inexperienced writers fail when they try to create unhappy endings.

Sep 23, 2016

How do you make something scary to your players, when they know they're the heroes? We develop the core concept of the camapign's key setpiece and build Ravenshadow's creative playlist.

Sep 16, 2016

We start creating the foundation of Ravenshadow's world and design a way to get the most out of our player's characters.

Sep 11, 2016

The beginning of my richest stories was within the ashes of transformers style action.

May 23, 2016

We all have worlds we love. Let's make them feel as real as possible.

May 15, 2016

"Why would anyone play a human fighter?" "Why would anyone ever play anything else?"

May 1, 2016

Dan designs an adventure from scratch live on the podcast.

Apr 8, 2016

Tips and tricks and example villains.

Apr 5, 2016

Three principles go into making a great villain for a heroic campaign.

Mar 24, 2016

Here's a bunch of traps I've made and run for my players. Feel free to introduce them to your own players.

Feb 20, 2016

Traps have a huge history in RPGs and they're a MOUNTAIN of missed opportunity.

Feb 13, 2016

Dan takes apart some of his adventures to show how they work. It's also an example for how Climactic Event Structure and Four Act Adventure Structure work in practice. Feel free to take any of these ideas for your home games.

Feb 6, 2016

When new GM's ask me for advice on how to build a great dungeon, this is the foundation of it all.

Jan 28, 2016

When new GM's ask me how to create great adventures, this is what I go through first. No, it's not the hero's journey.

Jan 21, 2016

We're back! Story Structure is one of my favorite topics and I've spent more time studying it than probably anything else. If there's anything I can give to new GM's to help them set up great adventures, it's this basic Story Event Structure.

Dec 25, 2015

It's The GM's Guide's Christmas gift: The third and final installment of the epic difficulty trilogy!  Today we dig into the secret of weaving in the benefits of high difficulty adventure design into any campaign, while sidestepping the problems that sometimes pop up. We also answer some listener questions. It's good stuff.

Dec 17, 2015

One podcast wasn't enough. Today we dig further into why High Difficulty is the sonic screwdriver of rpg adventure design and how to implement it successfully into a campaign.

Dec 13, 2015

High Difficulty is the sonic screwdriver of RPG design. While not technically necessary, it does SO many things, comes with SO many advantages to make your games extremely difficult that I can barely imagine a running a game without it.

Dec 5, 2015

Don't set your encounter in an empty box. 

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