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All Rules in Gamemastering

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Preparing for the Game

Source PRPG Core Rulebook pg. 401
Your job as Game Master begins well before the game session does. Your most important duty before a game is, of course, to prepare for that game. This means reading up on the adventure you’ll be running (or perhaps even designing the adventure), preparing any props or handouts you might need to give the PCs, prepping the play area for guests, and so on. In the days leading up to the game, you should resolve any out-of-game issues that your players have—email is a great way to do this, since it creates its own written record you can use to add to your campaign journal (see page 403). This includes helping players level up their characters; answering questions they may have about using noncore rules and supplements for spells, feats, and the like; and providing them with answers to questions they have about the game world.

For example, say one of your PCs is searching for his missing sister, who was abducted years ago by a thieves’ guild. You can drop in clues about this sister in the game, but between games, the PC might want to spend a few days investigating a lead in the local underworld or at the City Hall of Records. Personal quests like these are a great way for a player to build his character’s history and personality, but they can get in the way of gaming when other players are at the table. If you can’t afford to spend one-on-one time with players, handling these side-quests via email is a great way to take care of the situation.

You should also ensure that all of the players can make the game, and if not all of them can, decide if the game should be canceled or not. There are few things more frustrating than realizing that half your group can’t play, especially if some of the players had to drive a long way to reach the game. If a player is absent, decide what happens to his PC. Can someone else play him? Does he gain experience and treasure as usual?

Make sure that accommodations are met. If your game session’s going to last a long time, think about where folks can go for lunch or dinner—if you’re planning on providing food, make sure it’s ready to go before the game begins. Many tables organize responsibilities among the players—if a GM hosts the game at his house, the players might split up the task of providing drinks, snacks, or meals. Try to use common sense here—while it’s tempting to load up with potato chips and soda pop, gaming is no excuse for poor health! Of course, if your home is not the hosting site for the game, that doesn’t let you off the hook. You as GM are the organizing force for the gathering—you’re technically throwing the party, and it’s your responsibility to see that your players have a comfortable, enjoyable place to game, otherwise the game itself will suffer.