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Game Mastery

Game Mastery

By Game Mastery
A world builder, a magician, a baker, and a moderator, plus guests and conversation for everyone of every level. Whether you play Dungeons & Dragons or any other rpg, we talk about issues that cross genres and systems. If you're new to game mastering, come in and get some valuable insight on how to run your games and manage players. If you're an old and grizzled veteran of many campaigns, get some inspiration and maybe a pointer or two that are new to you. If you're a player, come on in! Learn a little about what it takes for your GMs to give you the adventures you enjoy!
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Episode 23: World Building and Storytelling - Interview

Game Mastery

Episode 27: Pro Tips - Creating NPCs
Get ideas on how to make better NPCs in your games.
June 4, 2021
Episode 26: Lessons - Player Stories
Andrew, Tracy, and Steve(n) take a break from the usual and talk about player stories.  What makes a session fun for the attendees, and what can a GM do to make the campaign enjoyable. Tracy would rather entertain than be right. Andrew wants balance. Steve(n) hates meta-gaming to the point of making decisions that put other PCs in peril. How do these things work to give players an experience they'll remember?
May 26, 2021
Episode 25.5: Edition Wars - Session Zero - #%*! Cones
If you never had to try and make cones fit to graph paper without the benefit of a template, nor had to deal with the way cone effects used to be handled back in the day, you may not understand Mark's woes. Steve(n) understands, even if Tracy and Andrew go on a cone-knowledge-mocking-spree. And then? REVELATION! Finally! How to envision cone area of effect becomes clear! HUZZAH! References: Cone: Cone on graph paper: courtesy of
May 22, 2021
Episode 25: Edition Wars - Session Zero
Dungeons & Dragons. What are the differences between versions? Is newer better? What's it like to play a character from AD&D to 5e? The GMs are going to find out! Welcome to Session Zero! In this episode, we talk the evolution of the world's most popular rpg, and what some differences are between versions during its 46 year history. Each of our hosts will take the others (and a guest) through 4 sessions, where we'll play the same characters through the 4 major iterations of Dungeons & Dragons. Then we'll report in with our thoughts and experiences with each version. And in the end, it's a battle royale where we'll decide if 5e really is the greatest D&D of all time, if newer really is better, and if 4th Edition really deserves the shade thrown its way. Plus, we get to wrestle THAC0 (to hit armor class zero) from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons years, and see if the complexity of 3rd Edition is a good or bad thing. Plus, Andrew gives us an aside into patents and copyrights, the fashion industry, Disney, and why that can stifle creativity. Yes, seriously. References: Chainmail: Planscape: Kludgey: Steamboat Willy and the law:
May 22, 2021
Episode 24: Tanked - How to ruin a campaign
What not to do when you want players to have a good time. If you're a GM who wants to keep your players interested, or a player who wants to make life easier for your group, come on down and take notes! References: How to ruin a campaign? ;)
May 12, 2021
Episode 23: World Building and Storytelling - Interview
This week we called in some cavalry. Autumn and Jesper from Am Writing Fantasy join us to talk about world building and storytelling! This isn't just for our listeners who GM, but also for those that write. We talk about how to structure your campaign settings, so your players don't feel like you're beating them in the face with The Silmarillion. We talk about characters, development, histories and how elements of great storytelling can help you be a better GM. Autumn and Jesper are fantasy authors who have a podcast and supporting YouTube channel, they have free resources on their site(s), and the offer in-depth instructional programs for authors and world builders. They even have a free course on self-publishing! We also talk about tools for writing and tracking your projects. References:
May 3, 2021
Episode 22: Magic and History - Off the rails like a bat out of Hell
We take a sidestep into the history of magic in Dungeons & Dragons *and* the history of magic itself (both historically and philosophically). We talk about possible ways to change the flavor of magic in your campaigns, to better represent the kind of magic you want to see in your games. We touch on hermetic traditions, chaos magic, zodiacs, how our ancestors used magic, when it fell out of favor in Rome, how it was used for good, how it was used for evil, and much, much more. References: Vancean/Vancian magic Sanderson's First Law of Magic Chinese Zodiac The Once and Future King The Mists of Avalon More about Cold Reading Astral (tabletop remote gaming)
April 18, 2021
Episode 21: Building a Dungeon - First Steps
Andrew and Mark help Steve(n) actually map out the story and format of a dungeon encounter for his campaign. Using techniques covered in previous episodes, a well-thought-out and meaningful dungeon encounter is created on the fly. The methods used in this episode can help an struggling GM visualize and create a dungeon that fits into their games. Although used for a homebrew world, these tips and ideas can be used for any setting, from Dungeons and Dragons to Call of Cthulu to Traveller. References: Nicholas Montegriffo Dave Chalker
April 9, 2021
Episode 20: About Dungeons
We talk about the basics of what a dungeon is, why dungeons are, and how you can use them to create story hooks, diversions, or random encounters. You can even use dungeons to limit your players so they can explore their characters in specific ways. Find out the technique Andrew uses to keep track of where he is in a dungeon. It's a mapping idea that would've saved lots of is LOTS of time and grief trying to figure out where we are, where we were, and how we get to where we need to be. Sometimes exploring is its own reward, and dungeons are great tools to keep players interested in the adventure. Think of dungeon encounters as team building exercises.  We mention some iconic dungeon adventures that are some of the best from D&D's long history: - White Plume Mountain - Pharoah - Tomb of Horrors And on episode 21 we take what we talk about here and walk through the process of creating a dungeon encounter for your own adventures. (See the last third of episode 18 for the 'apple spell' reference.) bJpqtbrcPJHEL5uq0PTz
March 30, 2021
Episode 19: Interview - The Serial Killer Campaign
We interview an in-game serial killer and the GM who let this character loose on his world. We've touched on uncomfortable situations at the gaming table before, and we were not prepared for where this conversation took us. We each had preconceptions about what kind of game this must be, what kind of person would want to run this kind of character, and what the Hell a GM thinks when they allow this kind of thread into their game. If you're interested in what it takes to go off the rails and handle years-long subterfuge and scheming in a game group, come inside, check your assumptions at the door, and say hello to Lord Lucious, Serial Killer.
March 25, 2021
Episode 18: GM Discussion - Gaming outside the home
We welcome Tracy back to talk about running games outside of your home, with an eye to the end of Pandemic Time! We had an idea for the episode, and it turned out a little different than we intended. RPG resources! Local libraries, D&D Beyond! There are interesting options for running games for kids and new players available. If you've been interested in running a game, and/or have some newbies you'd like to get into the hobby, check out the links below. Learn about D&D from the source: Learn about how your local library can help you with a place to play once we can get together in person again:
March 14, 2021
Episode 17: GM Report and Review - Newbie GM
Steve(n) recently ran his first bona fide adventure for his childhood friends. They tested the OVA rpg system from Clay Gardner at Wise Turtle, and it was more fun than a bucket of caffeinated otaku.  But! How did he think it went, really? What criticisms, pitfalls, and re-dos will be revealed this episode? Did the grid system Mark suggested work? Did the 3-Act play structure Andrew talked about come in handy? Next stop on the Steve learns train? He's going to run the same adventure for some listeners. And we'll get some feedback from n00bs and experienced gamers on a future episode!  Want to hear what the Roleplay Geeks thought about OVA and Steve(n)'s lessons on Colorado's geology? Check it out: Intro to OVA and character creation:  OVA review and Steve(n)'s first GM'ing review:
February 28, 2021
Episode 16: GM Discussion - Does system matter?
We welcome GM and boardgame guru Jay to this week's episode. We talk about different game systems, whether or not you can get the same experience from the same story in different rulesets, what kind of system you should think about when taking small groups, large groups, and/or inexperienced groups on adventures, and we end on some board game recommendations from our guest. We hit on Shadowrun, OVA, D&D 4e, 5e, Pathfinder, Dread, Call of Cthulu... we mention a lot.  And, thanks to a heads-up from our listener Charlotte, we found out not all our platforms are translating our hyperlinks so you can get more information in our descriptions. Because they brought this to our attention, we'll start listing the full urls to important info. Thanks, Charlotte!  The board game recommendations from this episode, as reviewed by Steve(n)'s favorite source for board game info, Board Game Geek:  Three Kingdoms Redux:  Pandemic Legacy, Season 1:
February 19, 2021
Episode 15: GM Pro Tips - Bag of Hooks - 2 of 2
We conclude our time with Craig today, and we discuss ways to move your players to a destination through false choices and interesting plot hooks.
January 25, 2021
Episode 14: GM Pro Tips - Bag of Hooks - 1 of 2
This episode is a two-parter! We welcome American living in Australia, Craig (or Kregg to those Aussies and their sweet rounded vowels), as we talk about techniques and plot threads to keep your players interested in your story, and their characters. Craig, who contributes to the First Roll In podcast, takes us through an example scene. He shows us how mundane situations can inspire curiosity and interest. There was so much great discussion on how to handle players' interest, we split it into 2 episodes. P.S.: We're going to come back to this idea of a Bag of Hooks, and try to build out some outlines for GMs in future episodes. (A Bag of Hooks is a collection of ideas for 'hooking' your players into your world. These hooks can be integral to the plot, something cool and interesting that piques their interests, or something seemingly random that brings them further into the game.)
January 20, 2021
Episode 13: Building a Campaign - 2 of 2
Using the 5x5 system and 3-act play as a guide, Steve(n) goes off the rails after Building a Campaign part 1. He changes everything up on the established narrative for his new GM story idea. Instead of going with 5e, he'll use OVA (the Open Versatile Anime rpg) for a story that takes place in a near-future Colorado with shades of the old West, quantum mechanics, Lovecraft, and good ol' post-apocalyptic mayhem. Steve(n) is reviewing character creation and game mechanics for OVA with the Roleplay Geeks, and using what he learned to take some fans of Game Mastery on a little adventure in the coming weeks. Come join us as Andrew and Mark help him think small, try to figure out a big bad, and learn to not give the milk away for free.
January 10, 2021
Episode 12: GM Discussion - Uncomfortable Situations
Jen and Tracy join us on this episode for a serious talk about everything from sexism and unsavory content, to unnecessary directions in the narrative, to gaming while grrl.. Plus, we spell out some best practices for making sure your games are considerate to all participants. Be forewarned, we talk about adult themes and possibly disturbing content for some listeners.
January 2, 2021
Episode 11: Building a Campaign - 1 of 2
How should Steve(n) work out how he failed at GM'ing his own campaign when he tried before? What advice do Andrew and Mark have for him, and what mistakes did Steve(n) make when he tried to GM? The GMs talk about guideposts, leading your players, and learning to adapt. If you have tips for Steve(n) on how you construct your campaigns, let the GMs know at
December 26, 2020
Episode 10: Fantasy Grounds and Christmahanukwanzaakah
We follow-up on last week's Fantasy Grounds episode with some info on costs, and what you need to know if you're gifting it to the aspiring GM in your life. We also give some recommendations for last-minute gift ideas for your table-top nerds (including miniatures and terrain). Plus, hear what we think about Blokus, Carcasonne, Kingdomino, 7 Wonders, Werewolf, Mysterium, and more, as we diverge a little to celebrate gift-giving for the holidays!
December 14, 2020
Episode 9: GM report - Fantasy Grounds
This week we welcome Chris, who is using Fantasy Grounds to run 5e.  Chris already knew Fantasy Grounds as a player, and dedicated a lot of prep to learning enough to run his sessions with confidence.  We touch on this in the beginning, move on to handling situations when your players might be trolling, and wrap up with more talk of what makes Fantasy Grounds a great tool for virtual gaming. Side note: Never be afraid to ask people who know more than you do for help!
December 7, 2020
Episode 8: Flashback - AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide
Steve(n) reads from the AD&D DM's guide, talks a little Gygax, and thanks his parents for letting him be a nerd.
December 1, 2020
Episode 7: GM Pro Tips - Drama at the Table
Threats to a good time need to be addressed before they get out of hand. How do you get players to work together? How do you prevent one person from railroading the game? Returning guest Tracy helps us lay our plans for understanding and managing conflict in our gaming groups (and IRL). While you are the arbiter of ultimate reality in your world, you also need to be bold, honest, fair, and observant. You are the herder of cats, and sometimes you need to have tough conversations.
November 23, 2020
Episode 6: Building an Adventure
From the 3-Act Structure to the concept of the 5-Room Encounter, we talk about processes to create and manage building upon encounters to create adventures. We cover it all!  Join us for this next step in our quest to have Steve(n) create and run his own adventure using the knowledge Andrew, Mark, and guests like Tracy have taught him.
November 17, 2020
Episode 5: Building an Encounter
Step 1 on the path to our upcoming real-time campaign creation episodes. Andrew and Mark talk about the mechanics of successful encounters, how to make sure participants enjoy themselves, and what pieces you can add to these basic parts of your adventure to keep players coming back for more. And Steve(n) gets to make a Battlestar Galactica reference he's happy he managed to squeeze in.
November 9, 2020
Episode 4: GM Prep - 101
This episode is, conceptually, where I'm starting in my journey to GM. The tips and ideas Andrew and Mark bring out in this conversation will help me in my own process, from insight on using published content to thinking about my own ideas critically. If you're a new GM or want to do better, check out this episode. 
November 2, 2020
Episode 3: Player Types
What starts as a discussion on player types takes a turn into why people play games... and what that tells us about the motivations of our players and their characters. Learn some stoic tips on keeping calm, and our guest Tracy adds valuable insight on being a good human.
October 26, 2020
Episode 2: Traps + Puzzles = Truzzles!
Traps and puzzles! How to use them. When to use them. Should you use them? Andrew and Mark debate the final points of what makes both, and Steve wonders if they're needed in the first place...
October 26, 2020
Episode 1: Role vs Roll
How often do you get caught up trying to decide if your players are rolling too many dice or getting trapped in too much banter? Mark and Andrew discuss the pitfalls of relying on one particular type of gameplay over the other, and Steve wonders why natural twenties are given the power they are in impossible situations.
October 26, 2020
Episode 0: Introductions
Hello World! This is just a short explanation of who we are and what we plan to cover on this podcast.  If you're into Game Mastering, whether you're new or seasoning, you're going to find content here to help you become better at what you do. We're building a community of people who love running games, want to share their experiences, and who enjoy what role playing games are all about. So, hello there! We're very glad you stopped by to listen! (This intro used to live in Roll vs Role, but we took it out to make Episode 0, so new listeners can get right to the meat of the content.)
October 14, 2020