Running the game

Running the game can be intimidating. Here are some tips and tricks for preparing for your sessions and things to think about as you guide your table through their wonderful stories!

Split the party

In most TTRPGs we spend a lot of time with the party around each other, and that can make it hard for them to each develop on their own. Encourage periods of downtime where characters can venture off on their own and seek their own legacy.

One easy way to do this is to structure your game like chapters in a book or episodes in a show-- every minute of every day doesn't necessarily have to be roleplayed out, you can simply tell the players that a few weeks or a few months have passed in between sessions and ask them what they filled it with.

Plan for a half session to a full session or maybe even more of little scenes that happen in between sessions. These can also be a welcome character-driven break while you prepare for the next exciting chapter of the narrative!

Turns outside of action scenarios

Initiative can be useful as a tool outside of action scenarios. In an action scenario, whose turn it is serves to put them in the spotlight and give them control of the scene. There's no reason why that shouldn't be also used in scenes full of roleplaying!

Passing to other players can show that you're engaged in their contribution to the story, and can also help if your table finds itself with a lot of silences where it's not clear who should speak next.

As always, use respect when passing around the narrative in this way. If anyone wants to decline being passed to, they can simply ask to be passed to later.

Preparing for sessions

There are many ways that you can prepare for sessions as a GM, I find I like to ask myself a series of questions to answer in as much or as little detail as I'd like to. This list was inspired by Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master and modified over time, but I highly recommend you check out the original book.

  • What should we talk about before the game begins?
  • Where is each player character physically and emotionally?
  • What happens that draws the players into this session?
  • What juicy scenes might happen?
  • What secrets and clues might be uncovered?
  • What rewards could the player characters learn about or earn?
  • Where might the players go?
  • Who might they run into?
    • Make a list of 10 names with pronouns for characters your players talk to that you didn't plan for!
  • What enemies and obstacles might the party face?
  • What do you want to remember for next time?


Where might the players go? Can be answered with a list of sets that the players can visit, like in a movie or a play.

Something like:

Thundarkkroff, Throne of the Tyrant

A jagged black-rock mountain peak, streets that switchback across rising steps of elevation. Tall, gothic cathedral-like structures that rise up like individual spires made from dark dressed stone. Iron decorations and empty windowframes like twisted black spiderwebs. The wind is unnaturally stagnant, held still by divine favor. The air is choked with iron and fresh smoke. Ash coats fingertips as you brush anything. Deep in the mountain, an ominous thrumming protests your presence.

The goal of the description of the set is to capture evocative phrases that are hard to improvise. You don't need to read them all in succession to your players as soon as they set foot on the set, it's just good to weave in one or two every time you're describing a character's surroundings or actions.


Who might they run into? Can be answered with a description of an NPC.

Something like:

Kinapak, the Red Ringed Rose. She/thou. Level 7 undying assassin, legend that guides the Thorns. Lucatiel of Mirrah.

Simpler even than enemies, most NPCs only need a name, pronouns, a brief description of who they are, and-- if the players are likely to roll agains them --a level. It can also be helpful to write down the name of a character from media that you can hold in your mind's eye to describe and act like the NPC.

NPC Levels

NPCs broadly come in two varieties; those who level up along with the party and those who remain at a static level throughout the game. Generally, characters who level up alongside the heroes are good for long-running characters who grow and evolve with them in the narrative as well. Static characters, on the other hand are an excellent way to show off benchmarks for the levels of power in your game.

To help build these static characters, ask yourself questions as you build the world and stick to your answers. Consider, what level is a guild master? A starfleet commander? A god? You can adjust these if you need to, of course, but the better you are about sticking to your answer, the more rewarding your players will find leveling up.