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Game Master Tips with Matt Mercer – Preparing for the Unexpected!

One of the biggest lessons a new Game Master learns is that even the best-laid plans never survive contact with your players. Here are some tips to keep you from being thrown for a loop by your creative players!

  1. Always remember that your players will surprise you.
  2. Don’t railroad your players. In other words, don’t force them to follow a single path: give them options.
  3. Stay open to new ideas, and roll with even the weirdest of the players’ actions. The first rule in improvisation—and being a Game Master is at least 50% improv—is to say “Yes, and…”
  4. When prepping for a game session, after you outline the main plot, imagine a few scenarios where the PCs will go “off the rails” and make notes for these side quests. That way, you can plan for ways to get them back on the rails once they’ve explored that avenue.
  5. No matter what, take notes on the things you improvise! You never know when players will want to become friends with a throwaway NPC you whipped up on the fly. It’d be embarrassing if you forgot her name and backstory right after creating her, or if her broken arm switched sides between games.
  6. On that topic, keep a list of male, female, and gender-neutral fantasy names on hand for when you have to create an NPC off-the-cuff.
  7. Conversely, you could keep a list of detailed NPCs to throw into any scene.
  8. Finally, you can also keep a list of plot hooks and magical rewards on hand in case you didn’t prep a beginning or an end to this week’s quest!

Of course, these are just the basic tips written out in a handy list format. If you need more detail, check out the video above with Critical Role’s illustrious DM, Matt Mercer. We’ll have more Game Master Tips every Friday, so stay tuned!!

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