The Game Master Foundation
Where good GMs become legendary.


I know its been over two weeks since Episode Zero Aired, and I apologize for the wait. But I promise that I will do my best to get these episodes out on time each week. And with that here is episode one of The GMF Podcast. In it I discuss where to begin as a new GM.

The GMF Podcast Episode 1

Next Episode will be available on Sunday May 11, 2008.


As I said earlier we’ve been hard at work here at the GMF to bring you new content and part of that new content is our new podcast. And here I bring you Episode Zero, our quick introduction to the podcasting realms. You can subscribe to it via the RSS feed found at the bottom of the sidebar or by simply searching your favorite podcatcher. The official first episode will be out soon. So stay tuned. Until then keep playing, and keep having fun.

GMF Podcast Episode Zero


We here at the GMF are busy behind the scenes working on new content to help you become the best Game Master you can possibly be. Stay tuned for updates that will be coming soon, and we think that you will really enjoy it.


Earlier this month the man who many accredit to creating the entire RPG industry Gary Gygax was found dead in his home on Tuesday morning. Gary was man who inspired all of us in the gaming industry whether we are creators or merely players. As a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author him penned more novels than can be listed here and as a co-creator of modern Pen and Paper RPGs his legacy will live on for many years beyond his day. And we all hold near and dear the memories he gave us through his games and novels.

Gary Gygax

Rock on Gary! We’ll keep your flame burning every time we pick up our dice.


It happens to all of us sooner or later. You have a great group and the story is really unfolding now, you sit down to start planning your next session and the ideas stop coming. You feel a sense of dread about having to plan out another session already when it seems you just finished planning the last one. You begin to resent your players for making it so far and being so good that you have to spend so much time preparing that you feel like you have no time for anything else. You are ready to just throw all your books and notes in the garbage and never play or GM again. Welcome to burnout.

We all reach this point sooner or later, and if you GM long enough you will reach it time and time again. Writer’s block (as thats all that it really is) is a common thing that all writers have at some point. The difference is that professional writers don’t have time for writer’s block because they have deadlines and if they don’t get their writing done then they don’t get paid. Of course few things are great to get rid of writer’s block then a deadline, thus the popularity ofNaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy. These two projects impose deadlines on amateur writers and therefore help them get out those ideas that would otherwise spin around in their heads.

I have found that when I get stuck on planning an adventure for the next week its often helpful to put it aside and begin working on a whole new campaign, this often gets the creative juices flowing and will even give me some great ideas for my adventure that I would not have thought of originally. The truth is simple…you have to get your butt in the chair and just do it. Sure this weeks adventure may not be the best you’ve done, it may not be as good as last weeks, but it has to be done or you will never get the chance to write a better adventure the following week.


Ever find yourself staring blankly over the GM screen at your players while wearing a dumbfounded look your face? All of a sudden your players have destroyed the story arc that you spent weeks perfecting simply because they accidentally stumbled upon the epic quest item that the king sent them to retrieve, or perhaps in their first encounter with the BBEG (Big Bad Evil Genius) they got lucky and rolled an endless line of critical hits that made your Level 10 Death Knight crumble like a piece of toilet tissue in the rain. No matter how well you plan and lay things out eventually your players will surprise you with something so far out of left field that you will think it came from the right. Just remember that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Now I don’t want you to think of your players as your enemies, but in a way you have to think of them as your competitors. Its your job as Game Master to provide them with enough challenge to keep things interesting yet easy enough as to not upset them and make the game seem like a player hunt. Its a fine line we game masters walk with this. (I will discuss later techniques to help you with these situations.)

So how does one prevent this from happening? The short answer is that you can’t. But have hope for there is another way. Alas too many GMs learn far too late the Art of Winging it. Now despite the title of the article winging it does not mean making everything up on site. It requires a good amount of time before hand to be prepared for a catastrophic event such as one I mentioned above. I suggest you take at least a day of your prep time and dedicate it entirely to contingency plans. This means developing other story arcs or an unexpected twist to your story arc. Create another BBEG who your original BBEG was working for. You don’t have to flesh them out completely at this point, just enough information that you can throw them into the storyline with minimum effort. There’s nothing that makes a group of players drop their jaws like giving them an enemy who is bigger and badder than the first one they barely defeated.


Wizards has produced two funny little flash movies as a preview for 4th edition. One is an interview with a beholder. The other is with a gnome (who looks very strange) and a tiefling.

The Videos can be found after the jump.


Like many of you I have seen these Tact-tiles in the gaming stores and I’ve seen a few people playing with them and I’ve even read all the reviews of how great they are and how they changed peoples games for the better. But unlike all of these people I don’t have that much cash to be spending on my gaming hobby. I have for more important things that I need that $50 for. So I decided i would make my own. I’ve read how people used laminated graph paper or built entire table tops with the grid lines burned into wood or scored into plexi-glass, but these are either not sturdy enough or not portable enough for my needs. What I needed was the portability and the sturdiness of the Tact tiles without the cost. And here i will tell you how I made my own and how you can make yours for a fraction of the cost with nothing more than a sharpie, Exacto knife, some time.

What I’ve come up with here will not be quite as durable as the official Tact-tiles, but will be significantly cheaper and so far have held up to reasonable wear and tear.

What you will need:

  • Exacto Knife
  • Ruler
  • Pencil or Pen
  • Foam Board
  • Self-adhesive laminate

Step 1: Mark one side of the foam board with a 1 inch square grid. This will be permanent once you place the laminate over it so try to keep it straight and clean.


Step 2: Adhere the Laminate to the foam board, taking care not to overlap the laminate on itself otherwise you will have an uneven battle mat.

Step 3: Using a dry erase marker layout a interlocking pattern on your grid that you like. I used a 9 inch by 11 inch with corresponding notches for mine, but use what ever you like. I was able to get 6 tiles per piece of foam board.

Step 4: Using your Exacto knife cut along your pattern, making sure to wipe the lines before you cut or the marker may stain the foam board.

Tact tiles 02

Step 5: Once all the peices are cut dry fit them to each other in all possible combinations. Trim edges as you go to make sure the tiles fit snugly together yet are easy to fit and remove.

Step 6: Enjoy.

A standard size foam board will result in 6 full sized tiles. And a roll of clear self-adhesive laminate will cover at least 5 foam boards. So for less than $20 you can have 30 tactical tiles of your own. And the dry erase markers have worked fine for me, I’ve yet to have any problem with staining of the laminate.

I spent roughly $10 on this project and got 16 good tiles and few odd sizes that I cut in different shapes to try out fits and patterns. So until you can afford the real Tact-Tiles, or until they start to produce them again, give this a try I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

tact tiles 03

PS: I also was able to keep some of the left over foam board and cut them into 3 inch wide strips of varying lengths to make long straight runs between two different tiles.


Normally we here at the Game Master Foundation would not automatically post an idea that we have not already discussed among ourselves on our forums, but this is one of those great little projects that makes planning so easy I just had to share it with our readers. It is called The $4 Gamemaster Kit and was developed by the writer of Strange Vistas blog found here on WordPress. And I have to say that it is an ingenious idea. After all how many times have you been out of your house without your GM Notebook and had a great idea come to you only to not be able to remember what it was once you got home? This happens to me far more often than I like to admit. And for that reason I will be going to my local office supply store today and picking up the items to create one of these for myself today.

Now I just need to be able to make a copy of The GMF Notebook that will fit in my pocket as well and I’ll be set.


Well now you’ve done it. You friends said that they want to play a role-playing game and you foolishly volunteered yourself to be the Game Master. What were you thinking? You were thinking that the Game master has the most fun weren’t you? Well your right. Being a Game Master means that you get to have days and weeks of fun instead of just a few hours like your friends. You have almost complete control over the entire game. You create the settings and the people the players interact with. You get to come up with sneaky conniving ways to make them lean back in their seats and do their best Keanu impressions. (Whoa!) And best of all, they will never see it coming.

Being a Game Master means being a jack-of-all-trades. Its part rules lawyer, part referee, and part story teller. All of these parts are important and can be learned with time. No one expects you to know all of the rules to the game the first time you sit down to play, or to even know which dice is needed for every single type of roll, but they do expect a story. A great story can make people forget all the rules and draw them into your game faster than a pig to slop. But even great story telling takes practice and time. Your first time up to the screen will not be your best and you may not even feel comfortable until you’ve been there many times. I still get nervous every time I sit behind the screen and I’ve been doing this for years.

By now your probably wondering where do you begin? The answer is simple, begin with your game. What game are you going to play? It probably has a Game master section or book with it. Start there and read what they have to tell you. This is often a great place to start for basic information as to the setting and even advice on how to run your first game. So games will even give you an adventure that you can run for your group as a “practice” session. (Your players don’t have to know its practice.) This will often give you a good idea of how a game should be laid out and ran. And can even give you a good starting point for your next session.

Same basic advice that I will give you for your first session is know what your group expects. Ask the players what they want to do: How much fighting do they want to do? Do they want to solve puzzles? Do they want to interact with lots of interesting NPCs (Non-player characters)? What kind of action would they like to see? Take this information and decide what will work for you. Remember when your writing out an adventure most times you will get an hour of play out of a page (or less) of notes, sometimes a page will give you less time depending upon your notes. And learn how to wing your way through situations. I suggest reading The GMF Notebook (D&D centric but can be converted to any game with a little work) and The art of winging it articles found in the sidebar. Both of these articles were written by our members and contain some great information for a first time Game Master.

I wish you luck in your en devours as a GM and encourage you to stick with it despite how frustrating things can seem at times. and always have a backup plan because inevitably the players will do something that you did not think of ahead of time and you will have to be prepared for it.