December 30, 2019

Tips On Party Awareness

Today’s #GMAdvice centers around best practices for keeping the party aware of their surroundings & context.

While it is ultimately the party’s responsibility to pay attention, the GM is responsible for setting the table in all situations with the appropriate level of information to give the party the opportunity to make decisions accordingly. And those steps are the focus of today’s post.

Regardless of the level of detail you provide the players, there are three main factors GMs should keep in mind to ensure the players have what they need:

  1. Setting
  2. Context
  3. Level of Danger/Concern

Giving your players a clear picture on where they are situated – albeit a possibly incomplete one! – is a critical starting point for any plot beat or sequence. It’s the anchor that binds the players to the world they’re in and keeps them grounded throughout the proceedings.

Context, such as any extraneous details, the implications of those details in conjunction with the setting, as well as how those details relate to any of the characters, is also a critical component to continue to establish (& re-establish) with your players. Context is the bedrock of character decision making and it’s the GM’s job to ensure the players have the appropriate level of access to their character’s context at all times.

And lastly, to the extent the characters should be privy given what they see/know about the situation, the GM needs to be honest with the players on the level of danger of the situation. If the players are in a Romeo and Juliet story, and they’re at a Montague masquerade party and the characters are all Capulet, the GM would need to ensure the players understand that that situation is seriously dangerous.

Further, the GM in some ways is juggling these three components in real time as the players navigate throughout the story. The GM should remain cognizant of where the players are at in their appropriate levels of understanding of each of these three components to ensure the players can act/decide effectively and fairly!