We’re back and we’re stealing everything that’s not nailed down. This episode is all about clever things we’ve seen other GMs do and how we’ve incorporated them into our own games. No matter how many pieces of GM advice you read in books or forums, there is rarely any substitute for learning by example.


Although eating the brains of the gifted works too.

Many of these techniques may seem obvious, but they were once new to us, and some may be new to you. We’ve stuck to positive examples and not complaints about bad techniques, no matter how much that goes against the very essence of being British. Anyway, if we got Paul started about game sessions he didn’t like, we’d have a ten-hour episode.


“And this is what I do to GMs who tell their group how they played the scenario wrong.”

We recorded this episode before we went to Indiecon, otherwise half of it would be about techniques we plan to steal from Todd Furler. Todd is a legendary American convention GM who visited the UK for the first time this year. We all played in at least one of his Unknown Armies games and highly recommend them to anyone who spots his name on a sign-up sheet, can pre-book a session at Gen Con or learns the incantations to project their consciousness into Todd’s dreams. As well as being a lot of fun, his games are masterclasses in a variety of GM techniques, including structured scene framing, aggressive pacing, shared narration and coordinating a large group of players.

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Todd sits in front, cheerfully oblivious to our plan to eat his brain.

This episode also sees us launch our Patreon page. We have no plans to charge anything for the podcast. Our use of Patreon is a purely voluntary thing for listeners who would like to help us with our hosting costs. We make nothing out of the podcast or the website, and our costs, while small, add up over time. We have some minor rewards in the form of shout-outs on the show and the promise to follow a more professional release schedule, but our main inducement is to look at you with puppy-dog eyes. I would post a picture of us doing this, but we don’t want to frighten you. Maybe we shouldn’t have used real puppies.

Watching the above video here instead of on the Patreon page means you’ll see Paul gesticulating at buttons that aren’t there. I’m sure you’ll find this as funny as I do. If you want to see it in context, however, you can always visit our Patreon page. Did I mention that we now have a Patreon page? Because we have a Patreon page.

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17 comments on “GM Techniques

  1. I am now a Patreon of your show….Haven’t yet listened to this Episode..so I will comment after that..

  2. Thank you, David! We all really appreciate your generosity!

  3. Anonymous Nov 14, 2014

    I can’t see this show on the iTunes feed….

  4. I’m still investigating this, but I think the problem is at Apple’s end. I can see the episode in our local RSS feed, which is all iTunes should need in order to find us. I’ll carry on poking around, though.

    Thanks for letting us know!

  5. It’s there…I downloaded it yesterday and am listening to it now.

  6. Curiouser and curiouser. It’s not there in my version of the feed, and Paul has spotted that he’s lost the artwork in iTunes. I wonder if either the problem only came up today or if it just hasn’t synchronised around all of Apple’s servers yet.

    It does look like a recent update of a plugin in our WordPress installation dropped a bunch of configuration settings to do with iTunes. I’ve re-entered them all, so if that was related it may be fixed soon.

  7. No Scott…Artwork is definitely there for me…..wonder if it is a UK/U.S. difference thing…or maybe its a Timey Wimey thing… 😉

  8. I’m not sure even a sonic screwdriver can make iTunes work properly.

  9. The Sonic Screwdriver I have can be programmed to do many things…..so I believe I can program it to fix iTunes!

  10. Loved the Shout Out to our longtime good friend Bill Keats!! Yes i9t seems like yesterday when we played in his Champions game….but he did the same thing with the D&D Campaign he ran with us.
    Did you ever meet Fred Jackson? His style of GMing was very literal…you had to watch exactly what you were saying during his games…if you were joking around at the table your character was actually saying those things and so his NPC’s would react to what was being said.

  11. Oh yes, I had a friend (Nameless Horrors artist Jon Wyke) who used to use that GMing technique. As a player it would make you speak in character; to do otherwise just got you deeper in trouble. I’d forgotten that one or I’d have mentioned it in the episode.

  12. I remember Fred well, although I’m not sure I ever played with him as GM. That’s not a bad style to adopt for serious games, if you want to enforce the tone. IIRC, Puppetland has something like that baked into the rules.

  13. Anonymous Nov 14, 2014

    Well, I cannot see the show on the iTunes feed on my phone, but it’s there on my PC and downloading ok……. very weird!

  14. The problems with iTunes should be nothing more than a bad memory now. Our RSS feed had grown large enough that generating it took longer than the timeout period for iTunes’s attempt to read it.

    I’ve set up a cached version of the feed and it’s now updating before iTunes’s attention wanders.

  15. Paul Lawrence Aug 4, 2015

    Hi guys – err yeah, only listened to this recently as I have been dipping in and out of podacst listening, so I am not actually this far behind you…or am I?

    Great podcast, and always interesting to hear what other GM’s have done to make an impression on you.

    Thanks very much to Matt for the shout outs, a couple of clarifications regarding my two con games he mentioned:

    First off, my steampunk Realms Of Cthulhu ‘At The Downright Unusual Mountains Of Madness’ telegram clues – although Matt & Elina did indeed solve all the layers of clues, you can actually ignore them and the scenario still runs. It will probably end in a TPK though. Conversely, if you do solve all of the clues, then you have a very good chance of surviving. Yeah, I know, weak for a Cthulhu GM!

    Secondly, my science fiction Call Of Cthulhu 7th ed game, ‘Breathe…Us In…Slowly’ uses John Ossoway’s ‘Cthulhu Rising’ setting. The actual changes on the character sheets are the skills which are replaced with the voice(s) they can now hear. Here is a quick screengrab, showing one how I did did this. Depicted on the link is the first descent into madness for this character, with their left hand sheet being replaced with the right hand one.



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