7/14/2015

GM Prep Tip: Game Master Standard Operating Procedures

GM Prep Tip: Game Master Standard Operating Procedures
This is another one of those "stupid" or "common sense" things that is in reality not dumb at all and definitely not common, but when implemented, has really saved me a ton of grief:
          GM Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

What is a GMSOP? Simple, it is those sets of rules declarations, player guidance, and GM parameters that are declared to the players before starting play. Invariably players establish their own in-game SOPs and over time the players learn a GM's requirements or how they prefer things, but sometimes the transition is a slightly painful one.

A lot of GMs have their own "house rules" which may be tweaks or may just be certain ways they do things. I can think of quite a few off the top of my head. Now some of these, again, may seem like common sense, but I challenge you to find an experienced GM who hasn't had the players do the following:

  • Take a peek behind the GM screen (or at the GM's notes)
  • Declare a different action after the dice have rolled against them ("Of course I'd do this instead...I always do this instead....")
  • Randomly roll dice and when they get a Nat 20 declare this is their next attack roll.
  • Any number of suspicion rolling activity, like the quick roll-n-scoop.
There are also some things I personally loathe in-game, like the players counting or measuring space on the table to get their spell or movement just right. One of my standing rules is that any maps, terrain, figures, etc. is just a rough approximation of location and distance. I don't care if your measured 39 feet to your target and 41 feet to your fellow party members, that 40' spell affect doesn't necessarily exempt your party......did you measure from the center point of your mini or from your character's outstretched hand...oh wait...I don't care.

If instead of waiting until the difference of one foot becomes an issue and then possibly having a problem with your players, getting this out in the open before the game can help mitigate a lot of potential problems before they occur.

Now of course, I used to run a lot of tournament games and tournaments or convention games can be vastly different than playing with a stable group of friends at a weekly home table. I remember that the "Big Tournaments" used to follow a cycle of game, problem, weeks of pissing & moaning on the game's forums. Screw that noise. One year I just decided to nip that cycle in the bud by using a simple Read & Sign that outlined that tournament's basic rules and grievance procedures. Basically it was just a GMSOP on a much grander scale....

....and it worked because we had no forum drama after the convention.

Is a read & sign overkill for your game? Probably, but you never know...regardless, if there are some fun-breaking things that you'd rather not have to deal with, sometime front-loading a GMSOP is the way to go. 

What do you use, or do you wish to use, as part of your GMSOP?