posted Tuesday, June 8th 2010 by
Dungeon Mastering Advice
Television cliche wiki TV Tropes has an ever-expanding collection of common gimmicks and genre conventions that will be familiar to players of tabletop roleplaying games. (Be warned: TV Tropes is rather addictive, so expect to spend several hours clicking links.)
TV Tropes are especially useful for Dungeon Mastering ideas. One such trope is Schrodinger’s Gun, a rule defined as such:
“The state of anything in a Tabletop RPG that has not been observed by the players is undefined until the players’ actions affect it.”
You are free to change any detail that the players haven’t seen yet. An example of this from my home game is when the players were looking for a prophecied hero named the Faith Scion, who I was going to have turn out to be one of the PCs all along. When that player left and another joined the group, I decided that the new player was actually the Faith Scion all along, and that his unusual choice of weapon played an important role in his backstory.
You can also use this rule when the players guess the ending to your mystery ahead of time, or an important NPC is killed unexpectedly. Reveal that the real villain was someone else all along, or that the mage they killed was actually a simulacrum created by the mage as a decoy. Use this carefully, as players don’t like to be robbed of their achievements.
Another rule is called Chandler’s Law, named for a piece of advice by pulp writer Raymond Chandler:
“When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.”
– Chandler’s Law
This rule applies readily to Dungeons & Dragons, and in fact I believe it appears in editions of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. When the game is going slowly, roll for initiative! Combat is engaging and interesting, and gives the opportunity to introduce new information or modify a difficult situation.