Since giving tips on how to run RPGs is all the rage, let me throw in a few things that work for me and seem to have kept the players in my various groups over the years happy. I am not a drag queen, but I am a strong believer in bringing over the top, larger than life, theatrical style to my games. And below are a few tips on how I do that.
As a note, this isn’t designed to be a ‘one, true way’ list. There is no one, true way. Whatever works for you is what works for you. But these five simple rules have made my GMing life easier and more fun for about three decades now.
And what I’ve found is that the style I bring to a game seems to be my draw as a GM. Mechanically, the rules are going to be mostly the same in any game run in any given system. What you, as the GM, bring to the table is style.
1) A Cast of Thousands!
The Player Characters are the focus of the campaign, but not the only movers and shakers. Have a timeline. Understand what’s happening in your game world, on a scale appropriate to their power level. Keep notes on that. Change them when appropriate for what the party does. A dynamic, changing world keeps the players interested and gives you ideas to work with. Also, if the player gives you backstory and in-character connections, use them.
2) Smile, and Smile, and Be a Villain.
Heroes are defined by their foes. Make sure your bad guys are memorable and fun. If it has a name, it should have at least a line or two of motivation. Give them a quirk, a signature and a style. And when you have one that the players love to hate, make her smart enough to slip away a few times. Make the characters and the players *want* to see the villain defeated.
3) Suddenly: Ninjas!
Index cards or a document with ‘back up’ foes and challenges you can pull out any time, anywhere. It sounds simple. And it is. But players love the unexpected. If things are getting boring or mired down in ways that aren’t fun, suddenly having stuff happen increases the fun per second exponentially.
4) More shoulder! Remember, you’re a drag queen!
It isn’t about replicating life. You can’t do that with an RPG and you don’t want to anyway. It’s about being larger than life. Over the top. Amp it up, even if you’re just amping it up a little. (And I prefer a lot.) Don’t have your villains sneak when they can slink, don’t chat when they can declaim, don’t be little ‘e’ evil. Be EVIL. Be menacing. Be comical. Be broad. Because that’s what makes characters and situations memorable.
A woman doesn’t walk into a bar and start shooting. A bombshell blond drops her crimson velvet wrap, letting it spread out at her feet like a pool of blood. She glares murder at the character as the .45s in either hand start spitting out thunder and death.
Don’t make it cartoony (unless you’re playing Cartoon Action Hour) but make it big!
5) It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that scene.
Much like number four, this is about volume and brightness. A sword fight is cool. A sword fight on the glass dance floor of a burning zeppelin about to crash into the ocean is awesome.
A PC dying is a watershed event. A PC dying saving a busload of orphans or better yet, the whole world, is much, much better.
Swashbuckle. Blow shit up. And don’t be afraid to have your player characters blasted off the top of a pyramid by a lightning bolt while fighting the crazed cultists. Players don’t mind characters dying when they die memorably.
All of which boils down to this: Make it big. Make it broad. Don’t croon, belt. Because this is your group’s stage and if you don’t own it, you’re not having as much fun as you all could. So check your wig, straighten your dress, push up your falsies, plaster a big grin on your face and get in there and GM like a man!