GTM #205 - Tricks of the Game Trade - Tip #12
by Jon Leitheusser

~ Enriching Your Game ~

One of the great things about roleplaying games is that they’re able to incorporate ideas from all sorts of sources. In one of our early columns, we discussed tapping into inspiration from books, movies, and other forms of media and introducing them to your games, not just because it was easy to do, but because it makes the game more familiar and appealing to your players.

Another way of making your game more interesting and complex is to borrow concepts from other roleplaying games and make them a part of your world. One of the biggest challenges for any GM is making their game world more real to the players. Or, to put it another way, to make it seem like the world lives and changes over time even if the player characters (PCs) don’t interact with certain aspects of it all the time. Non-player characters should have needs and desires all their own, to drive them to steal, kill, or get involved in intrigues that occur in the backdrop. Maybe the heroes will discover those plots (or they won’t), but having some ideas about how the world around the PCs is progressing and changing will make it feel more like a living, breathing setting.

A great way to do this is to create — or steal — organizations that have clearly stated goals, aims, and agents to carry out their plans. The Adventurer’s Guide for Pathfinder is an excellent resource for those sorts of groups. It contains 18 different organizations that can act as patrons or adversaries for player characters. Each group receives enough attention that you should easily be able to drop one, some, or all of them into your game to help (or hinder) the heroes.

Using groups like those introduced in the sourcebook gives the PCs allies to interact with and it makes it easier for you, as GM, to encourage them to take on missions. In addition, because the groups each have clearly-defined goals, they serve as excellent sources of adventure hooks on their own. After all, the group must exist for some reason and it makes sense to send powerful (or disposable) assets like the PCs to achieve their goals.

The other great thing about introducing allies into your campaign, especially if you’re using them in a Pathfinder game, is that the organizations have archetypes, prestige classes, feats, equipment, weapons, magic items, spells, and followers or monsters the heroes have access to, quest for, utilize, or face in combat. Options like that are always great for making the players feel crucial and have purpose.

~ Finding Your Niche ~

So, let’s talk about your character’s place in the grand scheme - their niche in the campaign. Perhaps you want your rogue to become an assassin (and you’re playing in a game in which that’s appropriate), so talk to your GM about it, and if they’re receptive, they might introduce the Red Mantis Assassins to the campaign so you can be trained by them. Maybe your cavalier, paladin, or fighter yearns to become a knight, thus proposing the Eagle Knights makes that possible. Sourcebooks like the Adventurer’s Guide include a lot of new options to let you explore roleplaying opportunities by affiliating yourself with organizations and improving your character with feats, spells, and other skill sets.

Another book coming out this month has even more options, in a totally different vein. The Legacy of the First World book from the Pathfinder Player Companion line expands on information first presented in The First World: Realm of the Fey. Legacy of the First World focuses on the natural world, fey-touched characters, and new powers and classes that draw power from the land and fauna. It includes more of the ever-popular archetypes, along with additional feats, magic items, spells, and other character options related to the fey and nature.

Finding an interesting character to play in your campaign is one of the best ways to ensure you’ll have fun when you’re at the game table. Every decision you make about the character’s background as well as the traits, class, archetype, feats, and so on, combine to give you the character you want. When playing a game with a lot of options, take advantage of that to come up with something truly original and exciting!

~ A Note to Game Masters ~

Tricks of the Game Trade is all about helping GMs and players get the most out of roleplaying games; from getting one started, to making the game more interesting for you and your fellow players. Well, this column has some stiff competition from the fine folks at Kobold Press —namely, the Kobold Guide to Gamemastering. This in another in a long line of excellent resources from Kobold — which includes titles like the Kobold Guide to Plots and Campaigns, Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding, Kobold Guide to Combat, and the Kobold Guide to Game Design, among others. As you can tell from their titles, Kobold has provided a wellspring of great information for GMs to tap into to make their campaigns easier to run and more engaging.

The Kobold Guide to Gamemastering concentrates on running games, with tips from some of the best and brightest game designers and Game Masters in the industry. If you’re looking to up your game (pun intended), give this book a serious look. It will help you deal with challenges that all GMs face, including everything from how to handle difficult players to practical advice on improvising and narrating more effectively. All of that information should make you a better GM and entertainer for your friends, which is something that everyone at the game table will appreciate.

~ Take It To the Tabletop ~

Putting time and effort into making your game (as the GM) or your character (as a player) more unique can be a challenging and meticulous exercise, especially if you’re new to roleplaying games. It’s hard to know where to start or decide on what you want your game or character to be.

With books like the ones discussed above, those endeavors become much easier. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you can just go out and buy one that works perfectly well with only a little work and motivation. Take advantage of the knowledge literally at your fingertips... it’s a huge time saver!

Jon Leitheusser is a writer, editor, and game developer. He published the Dork Tower comic book, was the HeroClix game designer for years, was a content designer for Champions Online and Neverwinter, was the Mutants & Masterminds game developer for Green Ronin from 2008 to 2016, and freelances for a number of different companies. He cut his gaming teeth on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and still games twice a week with his friends online or in person.