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Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 1: Gamemastery Basics

Narrative Collaboration

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 32
The relationship between you, your players, and the story is what makes roleplaying games successful and memorable. If all the players at the table contribute ideas, the game holds more surprises for everyone—including you!

While some players like to sit back and let the Game Master control everything, most players want their contributions to shape the campaign’s story. This is central to the concept of player agency—making players feel like the choices they make really matter, and that the world is a living place they can change through their decisions. In some games, the players can step beyond the traditional divide between GM and players to directly influence how the story progresses. Below are three methods you can use to balance the narrative control of your game.

Idea Farm

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 32
Coming up with ideas for a campaign can sometimes feel overwhelming. This is where your players come in handy! You can solicit direct feedback from them and implement their ideas into the game. This style of narrative control preserve your authority over the game while giving players the chance to incorporate elements into the game you know they want to see. It doesn’t venture beyond the traditional structure of a fantasy roleplaying game.

Plan for a few checkpoints throughout the campaign where you touch base with your players to get their ideas. The most crucial comes at the start of the game. It’s best to take this step before you even set to work on crafting the world or plot, so that player input can define what’s important in the game world. Later, checkpoints can coincide with major story milestones. For example, if the players set off across the sea, you might ask where they want their voyage to end and what sites, if any, they’d like to explore along the way.

Creative Collaboration

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 32
You might have players develop the stories of some of the regions or NPCs, while your contributions serve as the glue that makes it all work together. This breaks somewhat with traditional RPG structures, in that you might not be the expert on all areas of the setting and plot.

Your collaboration will depend on the interests of you and the other players. Maybe one draws a city map, another makes the stats and personality for an NPC, another controls some monsters in combat, and a fourth doesn’t want to do anything beyond playing their character. There’s a trade-off here, because while you’ll be off-loading some of your work, you’ll also need to ensure consistency across these multiple sources of ideas. It can really help to keep a log of which player is in charge of each part of your setting. If you expect one of a player’s specialties to appear in an upcoming session, let them know ahead of time so they can prepare or discuss their ideas in advance with you.

Decentralized Storytelling

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 32
So what if you want to go all the way and completely break down the walls between the GM and other players? What if you want to preside over a game in which anyone can speak for any of the NPCs, and when someone tries to determine what’s down the next hallway, it’s just as likely to come from another player as from you? Now we’re talking about decentralized storytelling, the least traditional approach we’ll cover here.

In this approach, one of your biggest jobs is asking questions or giving prompts. “When you open the door, what’s beyond?” “How does the king react to Lem’s taunt?” You can direct your questions to individual players, leave them open to all, and put forth your own suggestions.

This approach works best when players are comfortable with one another and willing to both take responsibility in building the story and accept that some of their ideas will go unused. It’s well suited for shorter campaigns, or ones in which players take turns in the GM’s seat.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 32
The largest risk of putting narrative control in multiple people’s hands is losing a cohesive story. When multiple people have conflicting ideas about the tone of the game or particulars of the setting, you can end up with something that doesn’t satisfy anyone. One of your tasks as GM is to recap events to clarify and reinforce the shared narrative.

Shared narrative control also complicates planning ahead. The group might need to improvise an encounter, take a break while you (and maybe other players) prep to go in a new direction, or even revise their plans. It helps to limit yourself to creatures that you can quickly find stats for in a Bestiary volume or in the NPC Gallery of this book to avoid spending hours of work on creatures you won’t use.

Also, don’t lose sight of your own enjoyment! You shouldn’t sacrifice how much fun you have for others.

Story Points

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 32
If you prefer, you can give players a number of Story Points at the start of each session (typically 2 or 3). They can cash these in to determine what happens next in the story. Having a currency like this means you can keep your steady hand on the tiller while allowing other players to interject when it’s important to them. For most groups, a Story Point should allow the player to suggest a plot twist that can be resolved quickly, or to establish a relevant fact or NPC attitude. It can’t determine the outcome of an entire scene or vastly alter the reality of the setting.