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Storyteller advice

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If you had to offer two pieces of advice to a new storyteller, what would they be?

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Curator

Roll with the punches; anticipate or deal with player's out of the box of your planning type actions and learn to do off the cuff gming when they take a 180.

Round out the experience: try to provide some opportunities for roleplay, combat, exploration, etc each session if possible.

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Donor

Have a list of names available from A-Z in male and female. Then when players unexpectedly ask for the name of the pizza delivery guy or the drug dealer, you don't name him Bob everytime. Because if they're asking, they may well be up to something. don't end up with 47 NPCs named "Bob" because you suck at coming up with a name on the fly.

Use them up in order. Then it's easy to remember when they were introduced just based on alphabet if they aren't used for awhile. When did they get that herd member? Dan must have come before George!

#2 Start the session with lunch of dinner. Either cooked or delivery. This ensures everybody shows up on time (or they don't eat!), prevents people wandering off to just go grab something quick, and lets everybody get their out of character socializing done up front. You can also handle some routine type gaming stuff here or giving people handouts (if needed) so they can read while eating without it being an issue it people read at a different pace.

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My rule zero is always to never assume the story will survive initial contact with the players. Your group will find a way to surprise you, so don't be too precious about your writing.

Inclusion is important; make sure the newbie sits near you so they don't get left out. Sometimes they take some gentle prodding or encouragement. That can also go for some quieter players who have a tendency to be overshadowed by the more energetic ones.

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Donor

When making characters, if they have enough dots to declare a specialty, make them also declare an incompetency in that same ability. As people get more specialized, it becomes hard to generalize. Sure they can apply some of their skill from their specialty... but there's probably some area they've really neglected to get really good at the specialty. Or it scares them . or they just feel weird about it for some reason. or dislike it. or think its gross. and the character knows they'e no good at it.

For example, they have an Athletics specialty in Dance. They declare a incompetency in swimming. Maybe the character just never learned fancy strokes. maybe they're actually scared of water. whatever, despite their stats saying they should be awesome, they won't do so well at it. They can still roll all the dice, but ST can adjust difficulty or just give them a hard time about it.

Or maybe the character has a whole lot of Performance and specializes in acting... but can't carry a tune in a bucket.

Or that character with all the Science specializes in Theoretical Physics... but shouldn't be left alone near a chemistry set because he might hurt himself.

Basically declaring them incompetent at something gives both the ST and the player something to play with to give character more depth. It breaks them away from the stats so the character won't be good at stuff just because the stats are so broad that they get to be good by default. Having them define something the character is BAD at (and knows they're bad at) gives you fun opportunities for tasks to be giving to players with not quite as optimized stats because the one with the best stats on paper doesn't know a damn thing about that particular subject.

so it lets characters have very similar stats on paper, different strengths in game.

also means that if you have someone minmaxing, you can occasionally throw the incompetency at them to make things more interesting, particularly for combat minmaxers. So you declared your gunbunny was incompetent shooting using a bench rest. normally not an issue for combat, but if he has to shoot from a bench to get a qualification for something? this can make what should be a routine task they could easily roll through a lot more tense. the character KNOWS they're not as good at this particular application of skill, so should up drama right away.

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A good sense of humor is key. Nothing will kill the buzz of a good game faster than an ST taking himself way to seriously.

With that being said though its also important to know when to reel the party back in. its nto bad to go a little off topic at some points during a game for a good laugh, but ya gotta rememebr not to let one quip turn into a 2 hour debate that wastes game time.

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1) It's about having fun. So don't be affraid to improvise, "winging it", and fudging dice rolls as required, if it will improve the experience. If a player comes up with a good idea or a more interesting speculation about what's really going on, which is better than what you planned, nick it if appropriate.

2) prepare and take notes. Prepare a bunch of different NPC names in advance. Have important NPC stats ready. Have drawings of important places. Make sure to know your setting and have an idea about what goes on in the world at large.

Bonus trick) If you ever need plot hooks, read papers and watch the news. I guarantee you that you can find half a dozen potential plothooks in these places every single day.

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