World building: Erdela

Welcome to my world of Erdela

GMs love to build worlds, creating places and people, their stories and the details and it’s these things that make a game immersive. Erdela is one of mine and I’d like to introduce you to it as I talk about what it takes to build a world.


The TL:DR

  • Why build your own? – unique stories and creative freedom
  • Inspiration – find something that makes you ask questions
  • Make it unique – decide what makes your world different and run with it
  • Borrow then adapt – absorb other people’s ideas then create around them
  • History and Scope – keep it concise, but give players more than a 2D backdrop

Why build you own?

There are dozens of created worlds out there for GMs to pick up and play so I’m not suggesting every game needs a created world and frankly its a lot easier to run in a world you know well, but there are some benefits too. Personally there is nothing I like more than seeing my players interact with and account for the characters, cultures, organisations, political systems and histories I’ve invented.

There are two other reasons I run in my own worlds; first it means I don’t have to learn a lot of external content. Secondly creating my own world allows me complete freedom to move, create or (importantly) destroy places, people and items as the story needs without fear of bumping into something in the cannon that causes confusion or kills tension.

Imagine a game set in Middle Earth where a thousand orcs are moving across the Brown Lands heading north west. The players are on edge, worried about where this horde will strike.

Then suddenly they look at the map and realise the orcs are heading straight towards Lothlorien. Are they worried about this peaceful enclave of elves? Do they fear it might be burnt to ruin, its people slain?

No.

Lothlorien is known (if you’ve read the books and/or seen the films) to be a place of power with enough might to withstand these orcs without any real difficulty. Even if you did go off script or hadn’t known enough about Lothlorien and have it destroyed, your players would likely be shocked out of their immersion into a discussion of what would ‘really’ happen in this scenario.


Inspiration

The beginnings of a new world are always driven by a moment of inspiration, one that leaves you with a sense of wonder, questions and hopefully some answers.

I’m an incredibly visual person, so an image like this makes me ask questions:

Who is the smaller figure? What is that they’ve awoken? Why did they wake it? How will it react? What happens next? If I’m honest I find the music on this clip a little incongruous, but that just starts me down a different track, wondering how to marry those two different tones.

Erdela, the world I’ve run two long term campaigns in, as well as about twenty one shot adventures started with a map.

Maps are frequently an inspiration to me and remind me of puzzles. The second I saw this one I wanted to figure out who lives (and lived) there, what they want, who’s in charge, what they know, where the dark corners are, what lurks there and the answers to a thousand other questions. For the map of Erdela I have to say a huge thanks to Arsheesh who made it (along with several others) and is happy for individuals like myself to make use of them.

I drew on the borders and named the countries first, but as I did this some of the ideas about how different this world would be were starting to ferment and of course, the beauty of it being my own, I made changes along the way.


Make it unique

Unless you’re going to make changes, what is the point? You don’t have to alter everything, but it’s worth understanding where you’re starting and where you want to make your world unique. This can be as clear as the alternate timeline style of game where one change reverberates over history, a twist on an existing setting or the creation of something entirely new.

However you decide to make your world unique, run with the idea, figure out what the results of the changes or new ideas you’re bringing in would be.

Erdela was going to be used to run Dungeons & Dragons 5e games so there are already a bunch of assumptions built in, but there were some of these I wanted to change. These are some of the changes I made for my world:

  • Unique deities and religions
  • The Dwarves have gone missing
  • The Fracture, a force that changed the cosmology and mythology

Borrow then adapt

Don’t be afraid to take in other people’s ideas, in fact the more creative work you can absorb the better you own work is likely to be.

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

Stephen King

In a home game straight up copying something someone else created is okay, but why not try to twist, adapt and make that idea your own?

I took ideas from Terry Pratchett, George R R Martin, R A Salvatore, Ed Greenwood and I’m sure others I’m not aware of in the creation of Erdela, but in each case I’ve adapted the concept, refined it and shaped it to make it my own.


History and Scope

Your world needs to have depth, so you want to create some sense of history and change – nothing is the same forever. It’s important therefore to develop not just what now looks like, but also how it came to be. This shouldn’t just be a two dimensional backdrop, but a vibrant landscape filled with forces and beings who move and shake the world.

The counter to that is that you shouldn’t have too much.

You’re not trying to create an encyclopedia or write a novel, but to create a snapshot of what most people know. You don’t need to fill in all the details, its fine to write ‘here be dragons’ in some corners of the map. It will give you room to grow and develop your story, in fact I’d positively encourage it.

What you write should lay the groundwork for future conflict, plots and schemes and your writing should only come to ‘today’ in the world. While you might have ideas for what happens in the future don’t script it out, make room for your players to shape the world.

In Erdela I focused on creating a series of potted histories and a brief description for each geographical area and nation. I spent more time on Benicia as that was where my game began, but some of the things I deliberately created were:

  • Elves living in floating cities, one of which had fallen
  • Varied political systems and conflicts among the human nations
  • Significant lands that are hidden and unknown

More about Erdela

Erdela is my world but I’d love to share it with you. The documents below feature most of the starting lore for the campaign I’m running. Feel free to view these as examples, set your own game in Erdela, or use these as a jumping off place for your own ideas.

Fair warning – if you’re playing in my current game this document on the Fracture contains information you’re not meant to have!

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Game Review: The Games I played at Expo Part 2

Continuing my run through of the games I played at the expo…

The TL;DR

  • Megacity Oceania – beautiful, simple game but deviously brilliant
  • Dragon’s Breath – Interesting twist on Kerplunk!’s mechanics
  • Namiji – spiritual descendant of Tokaido, but misses that game’s gentle beats with some frustrating mechanics
  • Arkosa – in development engine building game where you try and impress the rescuers enough to escape the hostile planet
  • Silver – Hidden information card game with more to come
  • Sierra West – Game of the Expo, so much going on any to explore, but so cleanly done!

Mega City Oceania

The wise man built his house on the ocean… wait that can’t be right?

This game was a wonderful surprise and hadn’t been on my radar before the con. As architects of a Mega City Oceania you collect contracts, building materials and the platforms to build on during your turns and while it’s not your turn though you build! This turn structure means you’re almost always involved in the action and has you sweating your build hoping to have it complete by the time your turn comes round.

The contracts you’re trying to fulfil make loads of demands, from the building’s height, to the number of pieces, which materials cannot to be used as well as insisting on arches and courtyards on different levels. Once you have all the features on your platform (which also adds requirements) you can stop the game and everyone remains motionless with baited breath as you carefully ferry the precarious structure you’ve built on your platform out to the centre of the table to add it to the city.

The mixture of planning and strategy with dexterity and a delicate touch is wonderful and the results of your efforts look awesome on the table!

My one observation would be that the neoprene mat we played on is a pretty vital part of the game, one we were told wasn’t going to be standard and I think that’s a mistake. Given the need to slide your platforms across the table, without this playmat there were will be a significant number of textured tables on which this game is simply unplayable.

One I hope to purchase, if it comes with the playmat.

Dragon’s Breath

From the keen interest at the Habba stand and the fact they’d sold out on Friday its clear that this was a popular game.

A pile of gems are surrounded by a series of plastic rings in the centre of the board. On a player’s turn they remove a ring with gems spilling out, but before they do, each other player selects a colour of gem to collect this turn. In a great twist on the Kerplunk! mechanic players get to manipulate which gems fall (or try to). Vibrant and colourful, this game will appeal to kids, but has enough depth to appeal to adults as a fun dex game.

Not sure if I’ll pick this one up, but it certainly was a nice twist on this type of game.

Namiji

A gentle fishing trip

Hearing there was a successor to Tokaido coming out, this was a game I was eager to see. Still in prototype, the structure of the game was clean and you could see that it would have a look and feel similar to its predecessor, with the thematic change that in Namiji players go on a fishing trip.

I love the change to the movement mechanics providing real choice and incentive to rush ahead. Arrival at the ‘Inns’ doesn’t automatically place you next in line, but offers you the choice to place yourself where you’d like in the order. Place yourself first and you’ll get the best bonus selection, but place yourself last and you get to move ahead first, perhaps snagging the next spot you need. The shrimp mechanics are also great with a push your luck element as you try to avoid catching the crabs. Overall I like most of what I saw with the game except, somewhat unfortunately given its theme, the fishing mechanics.

The game makes quite a lot of fishing, with your player board dominated by a 4×3 net. You score victory points for filling in horizontal or vertical lines with the same colour or type of fish. There are also 12 spaces around the board given up to fishing as well as 4 or 5 net spaces not to mention the numerous goal and bonus cards that interact with these two options.

The first player to land on a fishing space draws a blind tile from the ocean to be added to their ship’s net and are then required to turn another tile face up. The next time someone fishes they can either take a blind tile or select a previously revealed tile, and then they also flip a tile. On your first fishing action you can add any fish to your net in the top left corner, but from then on you must be able to match colour or fish type to an exposed edge in your net. This means your next blind flip may provide a non-matching fish that you must simply throw back, face up. The net spaces are even more punishing as you reveal the next face down double tile in a pile and simply hope that it matches something you already have, if it doesn’t it’s simply returned to the bottom of the pile. The result is a mechanic that is set up to ensure you have turns that achieve nothing.

What Tokaido did masterfully was allow players to block and hamper each other indirectly and always leave you feeling that your desire to take advantage of other opportunities is what resulted in you missing out. Namiji does that in a bunch of places, but unfortunately the fishing mechanics themselves seem destined to serve up moments of disappointment. In its current form one I’d skip.

Arkosa

Impress the rescuers!

Created by a designer local to me, I had to stop by and try out her new game in development. Light-hearted and fun, this game has a darker side as each player takes control of a bunker on a hostile world, hoping to be the ones picked up by the rescue ship that’s on its way. You can ensure your colony is the one rescued by being popular and treating your colonists well, or burn the resources they need to survive to pander to the egos of the rescuers.

Still undergoing iterative playtesting, this one looks like a well themed euro, blending resource management and engine building. Its theme though makes me want it to have more player interactions, but I’m not sure where they’d fit in.

Silver

Bezier’s usual comic art graces the cards

New from Bezier and apparently part of a series of games due out over the next couple of years this simple card game blends hidden information with a push your luck mechanic as each player try to have the least important villages at the end of the round, with a game played over several rounds.

You begin knowing the identity of two of your five face-down villagers and through play either discard these or exchange them with face-up cards from the discard pile or cards drawn from the deck. Each character card has a different value and an ability that is triggered either when it is discarded or when it is face-up in your village.

As the round progresses you gain more information about your village, but your opponents are doing the same – the trick is to realise when you have a low enough total to call the vote ending the round. If you have the least you score nothing, while opponents score the total on their cards, if you’ve not got the lowest though you score your cards plus a 10 point penalty.

While I greatly enjoyed the game I played and the idea of a range of versions that are interchangeable is appealing, I worry that from a strategic perspective you’re incentivised not to call the vote and I’d want to play a bit more before I committed to buying it.

Sierra West

I only finally got a chance to play this late on Sunday as the demo copy was constantly in use all weekend, but it was worth the wait; this was my game of the con.

Wagons and explorers

Featuring just two, no wait three, errmm sorry four, worker meeples, this game manages to get them to do a lot!

First off you have a worker exploring the mountains, finding new resources (cards) for you to add to your deck and expanding the orchard. While this makes it sound like a deck builder that is only a small part of the game as I only went through my deck once during the demo and I imagine that a longer game wouldn’t see you clear your deck more than 3-4 times.

Next up is your wagon which controls how many apples you can collect from the orchard, the further along you progress the more you can collect, but only if the orchards have been revealed by the explorers.

Finally there are the two I was originally thinking of who control most of the actions you take. They stay on your personal board, except while they’re doing summit actions I guess. These two can be used to activate buildings in your camp or capitalize on opponents actions, then progress on your turn across two distinct tracks made up of the cards you drew at the end of last turn. These cards allow different options depending on how they are arranged and provide the summit actions you can take at the end of your turn… okay let me stop I think I have this confused.

Cards create paths…

There is an amazing amount of choice and decision making in this game, but all of it is handled so well and defined so cleanly. The icons make sense and the actions are clean and staged so that you can manage one action at a time.

Oh and all that stuff I mentioned about orchards and apples? That would have made a wonderful and deeply replayable game, but that’s only in one of four different modules provided in the box. Each module subtly changes the game while maintaining the core mechanics and there are already plans afoot for modules in the future.

The only reason I didn’t leave with a copy of this game is that it wasn’t available.

Game Review: The Games I played at Expo Part 1

I’ll be playing the games that came home with me from the expo a few times more before reviewing them, so if you’d like to hear more about any of the games pictured here please subscribe to the blog.

That said I played a dozen or so games at the expo that I didn’t pick up that I’d love to tell you more about. There’s a lot of them so I’ve split this up into two posts


The TL;DR

  • Snowman Dice – lightweight filler dexterity game
  • The Artemis Project – clean and layered dice rolling engine builder
  • Sanctum – great and simple design with massively intuitive character progression
  • Bosk – the placid forest hides a deeply strategic gem
  • One Key – not enough to tempt as I already own Dixit and Mysterium
  • Pandemic: Rapid Response – Adding real time tension to this classic co-op

Snowman Dice

A simple real time dice chucking game where you rush to roll your dice looking for the right results to let you stack up your snowman. Once that’s done you must attempt to slide the stacked dice to the North Pole to win, but the other players will be throwing (flicking) snowballs at your snowman. Looks like a fun light filler, but chasing flicked dice around the floor might prove a little frustrating.


The Artemis Project

Explore, build and be victorious!

Dice placement games are completely my jam and the Artemis Project has some great twists to add to a game based on this mechanic. Players compete over the resources to keep their arctic research stations working, placing dice to claim resources or their place on an expedition.

It has a great mechanic where players who place early can be cut out of gaining anything, but balancing that they get a rebate for dice that they don’t otherwise get anything for. Alongside this you build an engine recruiting workers to power your buildings and complete expeditions, and then manage the resources you need to keep them alive. The project rushes to completion with a shift in gears half way through the game from engine building to producing victory points.

This one definitely goes on my buy list.


Sanctum

Upcoming from Czech Game Editions, Sanctum is a dice based fantasy adventure. Players collect enemies from a communal adventure board and then choose when to fight them and offered rewards for being brave and pushing their luck. As they defeat enemies they are offered the choice to collect coins, gain experience or to investigate the items they find on their foes.

Money and items are traded in town while experience immediately gains the character improvements. The experience system is intuitive and players can see clearly what future improvements will gain them and are able to plan ahead. I’m very much looking forward to picking up a copy when this one comes out.


Bosk

It all seems so peaceful…

A simple forest, with the autumnal leaves delicately fluttering across the mossy woodland floor. It sounds like a simple story, but in this arena players engage in a ferocious battle for victory. Players plant trees in turns vying for control of the vertical and horizontal lines across the forest.

In the second phase of the game players scatter leaves in the direction the wind is blowing trying to control districts of the woods. I really liked the clean and balanced mechanics where tree placement early in the game becomes vital for the second phase.

The fact that they ran out of stock early on in the show is the only reason I didn’t pick up a copy.


One Key

When Libellud have a new image game I can’t wait to try it. One Key is a coop that sits somewhere between the simplicity of Dixit and the complexity of Mysterium.

A simple and clean game, while they’ve tried to add some theme it’s largely irrelevant to the gameplay. After laying out a bunch of possible keys the team leader pulls three images of different sizes and shapes and in secret assigns each either a green (strong match), yellow (partial match) or red (no match) token. The team choose one of these images and reveal the token. They then use the information gained to guide them as they eliminate several keys each round, but must be very careful as eliminating the one key early will result in an instant loss. As the rounds continue they must eliminate more incorrect keys until they have identified the one key.

As I own Dixit and Mysterium there isn’t really enough here that’s new to justify adding it to my collection, though if I’d had the choice at the time I might have bought this over Mysterium.


Pandemic: Rapid Response

Save the world on a clock!

What could make Pandemic more stressful? A timer and real time dice chucking? Et voilà – that is exactly what Rapid Response adds to the juggernaut that is Pandemic. Not one I’d want to play a lot but definitely adding something new to the Pandemic experience.

Event Report: UKGE 2019

The calm before the storm…

I got home yesterday tired but exhilarated, with new games, new stories and memories of a yet another fantastic event. The team who run the expo really raised their game this year adding a third hall, getting to 25,000 unique visitors and as always getting me to leave wishing there was more time with a huge smile on my face.

The TL;DR

  • Even more great games, loads of city builders and roll and writes
  • Zatu Games get diversity right
  • More space to move and play
  • Great designer networking event
  • Issue resolution was spot on
  • Pitching my game went well and I made some great contacts

Somewhat unsurprising, but there were a lot of new games at the expo and my list of games to try out was longer than usual this year. Games new to the market suddenly widely available, games that were releasing at the event, others that were just for demo and yet more that were still being playtested. Everywhere you looked there were games to try out and buy.

Love the inclusivity

I have to give a shout out to Zatu games here, they were showing off the latest expansions for Fog of Love but also taking a stand on diversity. I want my hobby to be fully inclusive and that means everyone needs to be represented – love that they’re working on this.

Moving on there seemed to be a plethora of city building games among the smaller stands that were in the late stages of development, so I’m expecting to see some of these releasing over the next year. Roll and writes continued to be hot with Imperial Settlers and Lanterns making the transition to this popular format.

I spent all three days in the halls from start to finish and I have to say that apart from early on Saturday I never felt as crowded as I have in prior years. There was almost always room for me to take a seat or get to a game and while the popular games still had queues and sign ups there always seemed to be something available.

Adding the extra hall I’m sure came at a meaningful cost, but with the larger crowds again this year I suspect it would have become unbearable without the extra space so I was really happy with the addition.

Giant Tokyo Highway was a hit

On Friday night I went to a publisher/designer networking event, the only part of the design track I was able to get to given my own schedule this year. While it was almost exclusively designers (something I feel is probably inevitable) it was great to make some contacts and the short talks given by Cartamundi, Alex Yeager and James Wallis were great.

There was one dark moment at the expo this year when a games master decided to include inappropriate content in his game in an effort to shock the players. I’m planning to write a separate blog post to discuss GMing at cons as well as lines and veils, but I will say that the organisers handled the whole thing brilliantly. Their response covered the facts, detailed the comprehensive and appropriate action they had taken and was made public quickly – great job.

On a personal note I took advantage of having so many publishers in one place to give a number of pitches for Werewolves of the Black Forest. To my delight (and frankly surprise) those went incredibly well with some taking a prototype, one in the process of reviewing the rules and another taking the time to play it over the weekend. Fingers crossed that one of these turns into something more, but it was great to get some pitching experience in regardless.

I was also able to meet with loads of other people; publishers for whom my current game doesn’t make sense (but who I would like to work with), random gamers who demoed games with me, the London Players Guild who make videos about games, members of the Board Game Design Lab, new designers, old designers and somewhere in between designers, distributors, event managers and all the volunteers – all of whom made the event such a wonderful experience.

Look our for my next few posts about what I played as well as the games that came home with me. Next year’s expo dates are 29th – 31st May, see you there I hope!

Anticipation: UK Games Expo 2019

I’ve spend a few days now reviewing lists and checking out promotional videos to bring you some of the games I’m excited to get a look at at the expo. I’m listing the stands where you can find these games not the publishers as they’re not all attending.

Sierra West

Board & Dice – Stand 1-506

While the theme isn’t one that particularly appeals to me, the mechanics look very interesting. Card selection, worker manipulation and you get to build a mountain each game. It also looks like the production value is going to be amazing.


Snowman Dice

Brain Games – Stand 1-940

Brain Games have a history with dexterity games involving ice and this looks to be another great game. I expect there will be dice all over the place around their stand, but also a lot of laughing!


Ticket to Ride London

Days of Wonder – Stand 1-1102

Another instalment in the Ticket to Ride family, with the pedigree these are always worth a look. I really enjoyed New York and this 60s flavoured vision of my home town seems to be another quick play version.


The Artemis Project

The Grand Gamers Guild – Stand 2-457

With a dice placement mechanic I was immediately interested as I’m a huge fan of Kingsburg and Alien Frontiers. This looks like the dice placement will be more simplified, but the story elements will be deeper. The artwork looks awesome too.


Century: A New World

Asmodee – Stand 1-652

I loved the first two, both great games in themselves and the fact that you could blend them to create another version of the games. The third and final instalment in this series provides you another game of similar weight to Eastern Wonders, but also lets you play any combination of the three for a wealth of new options.


Sanctum

Czech Game Editions – Stand 2-418

CGE rarely disappoint and there’s some real hype building for this game with comparisons to Adrenaline already being made, but there’s little detail beyond this brief teaser video and some card and mini images.


Terror Below

Renegade Game Studios – Stand 1-514

I’m a fan of the classic 90s sci-fi/horror Tremors and while clearly not a licensed product Terror Below looks to deliver the same sense of panic. What feels like an earthquake shakes the very ground, then an alien worm erupts from beneath you determined to rip apart your truck, or if you’re unlucky your bicycle. The mechanics look really clean and smart with simple ideas resulting in complex strategy and I love the aesthetic. Can’t wait to start collecting eggs and getting chased by worms!


Namiji

Funforge – Stand 1-686

Not a lot of information out there about Namiji, but using similar mechanics to Tokaido, set in the same world, and using the same artist… colour me interested.


World Shapers

Board & Dice – Stand 1-506

Board & Dice’s second game on this list I wanted to know more about this game the second I saw the cover. A drafting and set collection game that plays in about half an hour and in just a couple of rounds. I’m hoping the rules are clean enough that I get the sense of scale I’m expecting from the art and the name.


Venice

Braincrack Games – Stand 1-836

Very little to go on here as there’s nothing on Braincrack’s website and the BGG listing is pretty bare. What there is though suggests an intriguing blend of euro style economic trading, worker development and an undercurrent of sabotage and spreading rumours. The ones I’m hearing suggest it might be seen at the Expo.


Sushi Roll

Coiledspring Games – Stand 1-960

Sushi Go! has been a firm favourite since I first played it – I’ve tried the app, and the party version so it only seems right I follow up with the dice game. The components look lovely and I’m hoping this version requires less dealing of cards – something that’s always left to me!


Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps!

Gale Force Nine – Stand 1-768

It takes something special to get me excited about a combat mini game, but I have to admit the IP on this one does the trick! I love Aliens (and Alien – we won’t talk about any other movies in the series) and I suspect it will be impossible to play a game of this without quoting the film. I’m hoping they avoid creating an alpha player as they put the youngest player in charge in this coop and that there’s a way to take off and nuke the site from orbit. It also has a campaign mode which I’m hoping sees you progress as you struggle to survive, without it becoming just another bug hunt.

GM Advice: Spotlight

Players come to your game to have epic moments, to be the stars of the show. Some GMs and players talk about balancing character powers and capability, but I’d argue getting each player some time in the spotlight is much more important.

The TL;DR

  • You can’t balance, so don’t try
  • Avengers – all awesome, all different, each with moments in the spotlight
  • Offer the spotlight
  • The story is your spotlight

Imbalance is right

A wizard tearing apart the fabric of the universe to throw fireballs, a rogue moving through the shadows to bypass the guards, a fighter who can lop the head off the dragon and a cleric whose faith can raise the dead.

They’re not the same, and don’t need to be. Even if you look at things that have some general similarities like the damage output of a mage throwing a fireball vs a fighter swinging a sword if you did manage to balance these you’d wipe out the difference in the characters.

Players don’t want to play the same character with the same abilities and capabilities as everyone else. They want to play someone who adds to the story in unique ways and has an impact where no one else could.

Avengers take the stage

My favourite example of this is the film Avengers Assemble – spoilers ahead (but come on you’ve had 7 years).

In the climactic scenes you have the Avengers trying to fight off Loki and the Chitauri. Involved in the battle you have two highly trained humans, an ancient god of thunder, a technical genius in a mechanical suit, a man transformed by his incredible anger and a 70 year old super soldier.

Each of them takes the stage for a moment in the spotlight, and those moments give each character screen time that makes them memorable:

  • Captain America – leads the team, bystanders in the bank and ordering the cops
  • Hawkeye – guiding the action and the ‘no look’ shots
  • Iron man – The confrontation with Loki and guiding the missile
  • Thor – Fight with Loki, lightning surges and taking down the leviathans
  • Hulk – puny god, tearing up the leviathans, catching Stark
  • Black Widow – riding the Chitauri, closing the portal

Black widow doesn’t have the Hulk or Thor’s strength and durability, but without her the portal wouldn’t have been closed. Hawkeye couldn’t fly the missile into the portal, but Hulk hardly has the intelligence to see patterns in the Chitauri attacks.

Each of them adds something unique to the story, that none of the others could, and the story is better because of it.

Offer the spotlight

During each session ideally, or at least in each adventure all your players should be offered a chance to step into the spotlight.

This can be a single roll that sees the player solve a problem that has stymied the party, an hour long fight in which they slay the most enemies or an in character negotiation where they bribe, threaten or barter a NPC to help them.

As a GM your job isn’t to drag each character into the spotlight though. Some players prefer to sit back and watch the game, plan to take their character in a different direction or just don’t want to engage with the scene you’ve set up. Don’t worry about that, and don’t force the moment, preparing the stage is your job, stepping into the spotlight is the player’s.

The story is your spotlight

GMing isn’t your chance to show off your amazing acting skills, inspire the players with your amazing rhetoric or read chapters of carefully crafted description. These skills are great to have, but shouldn’t steal the focus from your players.

Use every tool at your disposal to make your game a better experience, but the camera’s focus and the spotlight should be on the heroes, not the set design or the extras.

The spotlight you want comes after the game as players recount the adventures you helped them build, the diabolical villains they defeated and the heroic moments they made happen.