answering the 13 orthodoxies because I am a highly trained bandwagoneer.

Your players arrive in an abandoned city – the first thing they do is enter a home, asking what’s left of the pantry. What do you say to them?

Shelves are crashed on their sides, cans have been swept onto the ground, salted meat hooks hang empty from the ceiling with scraps just barely clinging on. All in all, it seems someone took as much as they could, and left fast.

Your players want to talk to a city magistrate about an unpopular idea of theirs. In order to catch the magistrate off-guard, they approach early in the morning. What state do they find the magistrate in?

Slumped back on the couch, hand dangling onto the floor, half paying attention to a plate of syrupy yellow lemon on a big dinner plate on their chest. Does not seem to mind this attention, more likely out of lethargy and burnout than of confidence.

During character creation, a player mentions that they want a naturally blue-haired character. Not for any particular reason, you were envisioning your campaign setting without this possibility. How do you respond?

Sure, but everyone thinks you're marked by the devil.

Read the following entry for a “point of interest”, and then refine how you would present it in a game in some way. You might change how you would describe it out loud, edit it in writing, add typographical emphasis (bold, italics, underlining) for a play-by-post game, etc.

Hidden within a secluded forest glade is a ruined shrine of ancient granite, vines of ivy peeking through the cracked stone pillars. The shrine was built by ash dwarves, and like most such shrines, it is guarded by a salamander. Within the shrine is a pool of simmering water. Characters who drink here receive the benefits of the fire shield spell for the rest of the day.

Wow the person who wrote this one just loves to talk huh?

"in a secluded glade is a ruined shrine of granite. vines twist up around the dwarven pillars, and a salamander lazily holds a spear in a pool of water in the middle. who knows what might happen if you drink of it?" 

if it's a glade, you know its in a forest. if its secluded, you know its hidden. if its ruined, you know the stone is ancient and the pillars are cracked. if you see a pool of water in the middle of the forest, you don't know what it does.

Your players enter a dungeon you have prepared, and leave after being spooked by the monsters within. In truth, they are more than powerful enough to overcome the threats of the dungeon, and well-equipped to do so. One of the players asks you, “Do you think we’re ready for this dungeon?” How do you answer?

Do you?

One of your players has a spell, speak with insects. They use it to speak with a spider, at which point another player points out that it shouldn’t work. The first player is obviously disappointed, and looks to you hopefully for you to overrule the other player. You don’t remember the actual details of how the spell works, but your rulebook is handy if you need to look it up. What do you do?

Whoever made this spell was a sorcerer, not an entymologist. They don't know about arthropod taxonomy. Anything with more than four legs is an insect in their book.


I'm not sure if I'm right, but to me my answers seem short and unadorned. I like to think this means I'm a quick, improvisational type who cuts right through the shit, but it's just as likely that I'm just lazy and uncreative. It's more likely than either that I'm both.

(response to 1) “There’s nothing in the pantry.”

There were millions of things to put in that pantry, and while that is not the most boring one, it is very close. not my style, I hope.

(response to 2) “The magistrate – only a petty official who has temporarily taken over this post, by the way – isn’t even tired – he’s an early morning sort of gentleman. Despite the early hour, the dawn’s rays still barely tickling over the hills, he looks well put-together. Not a hair is out of place on his head, and his sharply kept mustache suggests a morning ritual of wax-infused grooming. The man is already making steady headway into a stack of tidy paperwork as you arrive. You’re in luck, however – he seems to be in a good mood, which may make him more amenable to your suggestion than normal.”

I don't know how I feel about this. It seems at once very boring (just some dude doing paperwork with nothing cool about him) but potentially very interesting (some dude who gets up at 5AM and does work with pleasure cannot be normal. Maybe he's keeping up appearances despite engaging in illegal acts). I think as a player I would find this intriguing, and hope it gets followed up on.

(response to 3) “Sure you can have blue hair! I hope you don’t mind if nobody else does though – I didn’t really originally picture that sort of hair, and I’ve got so much else to juggle that I probably won’t add a whole lot of world responsiveness to blue hair. It’ll just be an aesthetic thing to help you better picture your character, not much beyond that.”

I think one only needs that first sentence. It seems to me the default state of character appearance is that it is unique, unremarkable, and useless. However, if this GM usually makes cosmetics more important than that, I can see the importance here. Not what I'd do, but if a GM were doing it, I would likely agree with them. Yes I did change my mind halfway through writing this.

“The point of interest should be more direct, short and to the point. I don’t want to mention other shrines, since they’ll come up when they come up, and players can make the connection about salamanders being normal if they want to. Since it’s for a game, the phrases don’t have to be grammatically correct or complete sentences – they just need to convey information. For a play-by-post game, I also want the keywords to stand out, so I will bold them:”

An ash dwarf shrine. 1 salamander stands guard outside. Simmering pool of fire shield (1 day duration) inside.

Yeah this is good. I think that you can leave imagining up to the players and nothing will go wrong. As is true of all of these, I wouldn't do it this way but I agree with doing it in principle.

 (response to 5) “Who knows? Haha.”

This seems a little mean. The players asked for guidance, the GM laughed. This is the closest I am to any of these to active dislike. I did the same sort of thing in my answer, but I don't think it was quite the same. Maybe I'm a hypocrite. Probably.

response to 6) “I would look it up in the book, and if it’s a regular question, I would add a sticky-note to that page so I could find it faster, to show my players what the rules say. Knowing the rules and when to look them up is important, and I want to lead by example.”

Yeah that's fair. If you can't trust the rules what can you trust? I think this is what I would do if I had extra time, like in a Play By Post or Play By Mail where I don't need an answer right now. 

Imagine, briefly, that the responses in 7 through 12 all came from the same GM, within the same campaign. Are there patterns that emerge about how this GM runs? Would you want the GM to be more consistent and predictable about anything?

This GM is ambitious. This GM wants specifically to be a good GM, rather than abstractly thinking about it through the lens of style. In each answer, it seems the GM wants to get to The Point Of The Matter. The pantry is empty, the magistrate is as normal, the shrine is short and clear, the uncertainty is unanswered, the rules are consulted. I suppose that last one is a little out of the line, as it takes some time, but it still strives to cut away the cruft of the issue with the meaning of "insect" and just consult the oracle and move on with ones day. This GM is probably about the same GM I was a year ago. If I played a game with this GM I would Learn A Thing Or Two.


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