The Outsyder's GM Merit Badges

It seems like posting your GM Merit Badges is catching on. I doubt it will make much difference for me, since I very rarely bring new people into my games... but I guess it's worth exploring and sharing, even if only for the mental exercise.

Combat is more fun when there is something more at stake than just winning or losing. Even if the story is just, "We're a group of traveling mercenaries and we want to make a fortune," that loose framework is what defines the game and makes the combat meaningful. That said, I have to admit that the story is usually secondary to the actual challenges of the game: exploration, combat, traps, etc. Improvisational theater has its place, but it is not in my game room. My GMing style is almost strictly 3rd person, so I rarely ever take on the voice of a character and I don't expect my players to either. "She threatens to burn down the whole village if you don't comply," is a lot more common at my game table than talking in funny voices. Also, see "Tactics."

Combat is fun, so I use a lot of it. We probably spend just as much (if not more) time in combat than in conversation/exploration. I prefer combat encounters to be balanced, but require thought on the part of the player to overcome with ease. I believe that overcoming a tough combat through solid tactics is one of the most rewarding experiences in the game.

I love it when my players make open speculations about what things really are or what they really mean. Sometimes I haven't even thought of a deeper meaning for something, and I just go with the players' assumptions. On the other hand, sometimes I drop more ambiguous clues that could lead them toward their assumption, but the truth is something completely different.

I usually roll dice openly. In my early days of GMing, I wanted everything to be behind the screen, and I fudged dice rolls to get the results I wanted (usually to save a PC from death, but occasionally to generate a critical hit in a fight that was getting stale). The more I play, the less I care about how much control I have over the game. In the end, the numbers will average out, and I'll feel like I have more integrity because I won't be deceiving my players.

I don't make up a lot of house rules, and I rarely ban things for being overpowered. The only time I ever put restrictions on character creation is when I know I have a mixed group of experienced and inexperienced players... best example I can think of is when I told my Rifts players at one point not to pick a race that had natural MDC. If that's the way the rules work, that's the way the rules work. No set of rules is perfect, and I don't have the time, the energy, or the motivation to sit around trying to perfect them myself.

In my games, there are some things that you just can't beat (yet). Be prepared to run. I used to be against this concept as well, but things change. I think my players make more intelligent in-game decisions when they aren't sure that the challenge rating of the creature in front of them is close to their level.
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