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Jason Durall

Summoning RuneQuest Gamemasters

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As I am deep within the guts of the RuneQuest Gamemaster Sourcebook and I think it's important to spotlight the voices of the many different gamemasters, their styles, and various bits of advice from veteran Glorantha-philes and RuneQuest gamemasters to those new to the setting and game. 

What I am asking for is this: 

1. A piece of advice presented as a "principle".

2. It should 80 words or less in total, and follow this format: 

Quote

The Stafford Principle: As a gamemaster, it is important to maintain a sense of wonder in the world. It is not possible for any mortal to fully understand the workings of Glorantha, and to do so takes away from the pleasure of the unexpected. A dragonewt won’t do the same thing every time you encounter one. Leave room in your campaign for the unexplained, the mystic and the mythic. No matter how much you learn and experience, there is always more to discover.

These would go into small sidebars or drop-quotes in various places throughout the sourcebook. They don't have to be big picture like Greg's... they can be smaller and highly specific, such as the following:

Quote

The Durall Principle: When a group has non-player characters with them, such as pets, allies, or other characters, put a sticky-note with each of their names visible on the gamemaster screen (or your notes). Every time it's appropriate, review them and see how they'd react to what's going on. Non-player characters should have inner lives and goals of their own. Make sure those are clear to you and manifest in the way they behave. 

I can't offer any payment, but will include your name in the thanks in the credits. I'll discuss with Mob and Jeff if there's anything else we can offer to those whose quotes we end up using. 

You can submit multiple entries, but I'm only going to use principle per gamemaster. 

If curious about what the Gamemaster Sourcebook will cover, here's a list of the chapters (in order): 

  1. Introduction
  2. Glorantha 
  3. Adventurers 
  4. Cults & Gods
  5. Runes & Magic 
  6. The Environment 
  7. Guilds & Associations 
  8. Goods & Services
  9. Time 
  10. Combat (includes personal, skirmish, mass, ship, sieges, etc.) 
  11. Gamemastering (includes all manner of GM advice from soup to nuts, GM tricks & tips, etc.) 
  12. Adventure Design (campaign/adventure/encouter design, etc.) 
  13. Heroquests
  14. Travel 
  15. Encounters 
  16. Treasure & Rewards 
  17. Conversions (more conversion notes from RQ2/3, HeroQuest, other games, etc.) 

Suggestions about any of these topics are highly welcome. The majority may fall into chapters 11-12, but I would love to receive tips/principles about other topics, such as how you deal with downtime, travel, combat, treasure, character creation, encounters, and almost any aspect of gamemastering in the world of Glorantha or using the RuneQuest system (BRP also counts!). 

 Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. 

Thanks! 

 

 

 

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The Generosity Principle: It is better to give than to take away. The corollary is that you should be careful about being over-lenient on rules or generous with treasures, only to take them away later. A cautious start, followed by increasing generosity once you know what you and your group can handle, will keep the players on-side and keen. Anything taken away from the players - either in terms of things that they can do within the rules, or treasures that their characters have - must be handled with care.

Edited by PhilHibbs
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I don't know what to name it (the Stevenson principle? :P) but here's one of mine:

Your players may not know or care about the lore of Glorantha as much as you do. If so, don't try and shove it in their faces, this is a game, not a history lesson. Start small and build upon the world as your players encounter it, not relying on them knowing everything beforehand, and if they're having trouble or not enjoying it tone it down.

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The Harald Motto:  Don't be afraid to create or add to Glorantha.  If you want or need a new myth, a new spell, a new cult, a new clan or city, add it.  It's your game - your personal touches will add to and enrich it for your players.

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22 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

The Harald Motto:  Don't be afraid to create or add to Glorantha.  If you want or need a new myth, a new spell, a new cult, a new clan or city, add it.  It's your game - your personal touches will add to and enrich it for your players.

Isn't that basically YGMV :P? I have a similar one: don't let canon get in the way of a good time. If your players do something that goes against the lore, roll with it, not over it. Change the world so you can play better, don't change your play so you can better fit the world.

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4 minutes ago, Richard S. said:

Isn't that basically YGMV :P?

Yes, partly that, and partly MGF, but I've found a lot of people over the years who seem paralyzed by the idea of taking some small bit and expanding on it and creating something new.  Sort of an "if it doesn't say I can do this, then I'm not sure I'm allowed to do this."

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I’m sure most of our “advice” is quite common, but here are some I follow:

The Fallibility Principle: As a gamemaster never be ashamed to admit you were wrong. Admitting you misread a rule or made a hasty decision that in hindsight was bad is better than wrecking your game.

 

The Naming Principle: Always say the names of your non-player characters, localities, items etc out loud before the gaming session. If you cannot pronounce a name or feel stupid saying it, then change the name. 

 

The Return on Effort Principle: Do not spend excessive time creating a scenario that is a work of art if it will only be played once and you are the only person who will ever see the scenario notes.

 

The Consultation Principle: Before playing, consult with your players to determine the tone of the game they want to play in. Are they interested in a dark campaign with adult themes  or a more whimsical one where comical names and farcical situations are common?

 

 

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The Description Principle: While you shouldn't overdo it, describing your players' surroundings is important for immersing them in the game world.  Saying, "You enter an enormous cavern lit by softly glowing moss that covers the walls" is much more interesting (and helpful!) than simply telling them, "You walk into a cave."

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5 hours ago, jajagappa said:

The Harald Motto:  Don't be afraid to create or add to Glorantha.  If you want or need a new myth, a new spell, a new cult, a new clan or city, add it.  It's your game - your personal touches will add to and enrich it for your players.

The Erwin Corollary: Don't be afraid to let your players create or add to Glorantha. Even small personal touches they provide will take your campaign in interesting and unexpected directions. Answer their questions in a way that rewards their curiosity. Make their inclinations and their interests within the story part of your shared experience. Do not be confounded, be free.

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The Sore Thumb Principle: Create and use wandering merchants, itinerant entertainers etc who are exactly what they appear to be. This is so your ones who are really ogre merchants, foreign spies etc, are not really obvious.

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6 hours ago, jajagappa said:

Yes, partly that, and partly MGF, but I've found a lot of people over the years who seem paralyzed by the idea of taking some small bit and expanding on it and creating something new.  Sort of an "if it doesn't say I can do this, then I'm not sure I'm allowed to do this."

I know I've definitely felt paralyzed to add or change Glorantha, even when I've felt like the idea has merit. In part, this is because the Guide exists (even though I don't own it/haven't read it). There's a mixed bag of "oh cool, so much content!" and "oh jeez, I'll never be able to fit my site-based adventure into it" for me. I reckon advice from non-design GMs encouraging YGMV is good.

As for my contribution...

The Conrad Principle: Read your adventure material more than once. If time allows, multiple readings will let you internalize the NPCs and story. This in turn lets your adventures play more fluidly, without need to pause the action to review a room or NPC's description. I've found about two full readings before the adventure's first session is the right amount. This lets you know the story and the greater context of each scene and site. I usually skim what content I expect to play just before the session, too.

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The Immersion Principle: Ensure, stimulate, and foster a feeling of an immersive heterotopia for your Players—focusing upon thinking and feeling “as their Character” in the moment so that the social frame of their characters remains dissociated from their “real life” selves—and to avoid bleed-in or bleed-out of out-of-character emotions, thoughts, physical states, and relationships.

The Play Space Principle: Acknowledge and nurture your “play space”—the merging of the imaginary world of the setting, game rules, and real-world location defined by the spatial, temporal, and social boundaries—the ritualized actions and agreements of Players that create another form of self-delineated “otherness”—a heterochrony that is adopted temporarily during play. It is your duty as a Gamemaster to oversee the layering of elements: characterizations, locations, and the use of sounds, smells, and color, and combine these elements to best create the mise-en-scene and enhance the Player’s emotional involvement.

The Inclusivity Principle: All genders of the antagonists and protagonists in your games should be portrayed as psychologically complex, vibrant, or sexually transgressive, or ideologically ambiguous, flawed, expressive, and intimately grounded in emotions. Ensure that Players realize that they act in a world that is suffused with social meaning, which both makes their activities meaningful and is itself transformed by them. Remember don’t eschew tragedy and cynicism; not all stories  have happy endings!

Edited by Martin
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Hillman's Journey Principle: The journey IS the destination. Do not be in a rush to get from point A to point B in your campaign. Throw out the idea of random encounters and place encounters along the path to inform, challenge, and build tension for the main quest. These are not distractions; they are literal character building moments that will make their arrival have real gravitas. It will also make your world feel lived in.

this one is for those running a game with one (or more) Lunar characters

Hillman's Lunacy Principle: Let them play Lunar characters. The best thing my first GM did for me is allow me to play a Lunar and let me define what that meant. It was political and it was dangerous and it was filled with ambitions. There were also more than a few tragedies. The point is, playing a Lunar character even among so-called enemies is a rewarding style of play. Something to be encouraged and embraced.

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The ASL Corollary: no retconning. This idea was introduced by the wargame, Advanced Squad Leader, which has very complex rules. Rules mistakes by the participants are nearly inevitable. In order to keep games moving, once the current round has passed, no adjustments to the results of previous rounds are made. If Bob the Ogre actually had 18 total hit points, rather than the 15 you assumed, he doesn't spring up mysteriously and start fighting again. He just stays dead.

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The Finch Dictum: Rulings, not Rules. There are always going to be situations not covered by the rules. There will always be the temptation to consult another book to find a particular rule. Resist it. Instead, examine the abilities and histories of the characters involved, and simply decide what would happen. If no definite answer can be extrapolated, roll some dice to find out what happens. This rule was developed by the guru of the Old-School movement, Matt Finch.

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16 hours ago, Daniel Stevenson said:

The Description Principle: While you shouldn't overdo it, describing your players' surroundings is important for immersing them in the game world.  Saying, "You enter an enormous cavern lit by softly glowing moss that covers the walls" is much more interesting (and helpful!) than simply telling them, "You walk into a cave."

Corollary: There's no such thing as too much information. Too little will produce paralysis in your players, or encourage them to take a wrong direction. More information will give them something to work with. Even if you lay out the villain's entire backstory and plan for world domination, the players still have to do something about it.

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Feint often. Attack once: Give multiple and varied types of leads to the scenario you have in mind. Use the lead(s) that hook the PCs to tailor the scenario and colour the setting to their prejudices and expectations. Their attitude towards the scenario matters more than the solutions that you devised.

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The Stafford Improvisation Rule: one-half of all the material you present to your players will be improvised. Players do all sorts of weird things, and will run after a tangent or red herring like a pack of hounds after a fox. Prepare accordingly by having a bunch of character and minion sheets filled out and ready to use along with a good list of names. Other items, like floor plans and maps, are helpful, but not strictly necessary.

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16 hours ago, Daniel Stevenson said:

The Description Principle: While you shouldn't overdo it, describing your players' surroundings is important for immersing them in the game world.  Saying, "You enter an enormous cavern lit by softly glowing moss that covers the walls" is much more interesting (and helpful!) than simply telling them, "You walk into a cave."

The Sensory Corollary: try to use as many senses as possible in your description.  Not just what they see, but what they hear, what they smell, how it feels.

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The Authenticity Principle (and the Iterative Corollary😞 Never let NPCs do something the players can't do.  The Corollary: if the players are able to do/think of it, so are the NPCs.

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The Everyone Needs to Shine Principle: Do your best to incorporate into the scenario a moment for every PC to feel special and important, particularly by letting that PC do what she does best orby having him/her be the center of attention in a given scene. The best skills of the PCs should give you a hint of what his/her player is expecting to be able to do during a game, so let them do it!  

 

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1 hour ago, styopa said:

The Authenticity Principle (and the Iterative Corollary😞 Never let NPCs do something the players can't do.  The Corollary: if the players are able to do/think of it, so are the NPCs.

OK, my players can't cast spells, so no NPCs can cast spells.  Got it.  Although ... kind of gives the PCs a bit of an advantage, doesn't it?

Also kind of nerfs those NPCs planning to cast a major ritual to wreak destruction and havoc, since the players (and even the PCs) aren't (usually) able to do that.

 

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24 minutes ago, BWP said:

OK, my players can't cast spells, so no NPCs can cast spells.  Got it.  Although ... kind of gives the PCs a bit of an advantage, doesn't it?

Also kind of nerfs those NPCs planning to cast a major ritual to wreak destruction and havoc, since the players (and even the PCs) aren't (usually) able to do that.

 

I think it's meant more as . . .

"The PCs can conceivably do anything the NPCs can. Take over a continent and usher in a new age of darkness and despair? Absolutely, but you have to form an army, raise the capital, fight your enemies, defeat the heroes sent to stop you . . ."

Same for things like becoming a god. Yes, the players should have the option to pursue that goal. No, obtaining that goal does not have to be easy. Yes, the GM needs to know how the PCs might achieve that goal, if that's what they want out of the game.

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