The minstrel’s song: game master’s introduction

Read it on Kindle: part of the collection, The minstrel’s song

Section I: Initial comments.

The game master should know and understand the material in the general player’s section, and in addition the material in the game master’s section.

The game master is the referee and the “everyone else”, the one who designs adventures and governs the pretend world play occurs in.

Section II: Designing play

There are several components which should shape play. A proper mixture and balance of these different elements, like a balanced diet, provides the most enjoyable passage of time.

Role play, personal interaction, acting — this is (especially) when characters talk and do things in a way that shows their personality. This is perhaps the most central part of play; it is at least the one which this genre of game is named after. This lies more with the players than with the game master in that it is something the players do; the game master’s role here is just to encourage and to provide opportunities conducive to good role play. (Ergo, a quest more robust than two riddles, a logic puzzle, three locked doors, and a maze leading to a chest of gold.)

Challenge, problem solving, puzzles — bring situations where players have to think. The key to keep in mind here is that it is not the game master versus the players, but rather the game master providing puzzles that are difficult but not insurmountable — puzzles which will yield to thought and effort. More information is provided in section III, puzzles.

Skill use — situations which bring into play the characters’ skills. Locks for a scout to pick. A wilderness trek for a woodsman’s wilderness survival skills. A maze to map out. Hidden doors to discover. A quest which brings characters into other lands and requires them to use an interpreter. Et cetera.

Word pictures and stories — role playing is, in a sense, a narrative in the second person, and one attribute of good literature is skillful and beautiful use of words. A description of situations which is beautiful and moving is preferable to one which is dull and mechanical.

Divine action and intervention — points where characters come into contact with God. Gifts of the Spirit at work. A dream in which a character is warned that he will be badly needed by far away friends. A moving worship service. An angel’s appearance to give a party a quest.

Exploration and wonder — a sense of penetration and discovery, venturing out into the unknown, and a sense of surprise, is another color on the game master’s palette which is necessary to a good painting.

Rewards — rewards of various sort can be worked in for good and successful playing, and set after significant accomplishments. Good role playing, and puzzle solving, are in a sense their own rewards. Other rewards include experience (the characters becoming better at some skill or skills, or learning new ones), Urvanovestilli devices, friendships and alliances, information, the discovery of wonders…

Faith and morality — Espiriticthus is a world where faith is a part of life and life is a part of faith. Sometimes the motion of God is plainly visible; sometimes it takes more subtle forms, as in the book of Esther, where God is not explicitly mentioned even once. But God moves. Faith, and moral virtue, should be a part of the campaign — the setting in which the adventurers move.

Section III: Puzzles

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out.”

Proverbs 25:2

The following are suggested examples of puzzles:

Riddles: These could be posed by a gatekeeper as a requisite to crossing a bridge etc.; alternately, a door could have a riddle engraved on it, the answer to which would tell where the key may be found, or what button to press, or…

Logic puzzles: See Raymond Smullyan, _The_Lady_or_the_Tiger?;_ a good library, in that section, should have other books with other appropriate puzzles.

Mazes: twisty passages, secret doors…

Cryptogram: On this point, I would issue a strong warning, from personal nbobi experience, that the objective is *not* to protect information, but to es”Ni provide a puzzle which can be solved in a reasonable amount of time. er”nt Ergo, simple and relatively easy: substitution ciphers, something where eeytl the direction is reversed and the vowels are deleted, a creative ntofe rearrangement where “Ninety nine bottles of beer” becomes the contents of the square to the right, a text where the first letter of each word spells out the message, etc. It is very easy to make something which is too hard and frustrating to the players, but care and moderation should make something enjoyable.

Word game: Give a text with one rather bizarre feature — a void to perceive, or an odd pattern — which, when noticed, will be helpful to the party.

Strategy games: Something simple, but different. Examples of such games may be found among mathematical puzzle books in a library.

Spatial/three dimensional puzzles: Sokoban, various disassembly/reassembly puzzles which may be found in shops, Towers of Hanoi… if these can not be acquired, it’s not the end of the world, but they should add something.

Guess the rules: A very simple strategy game, with a (non-optimal) algorithm to play against… but the rules are not initially given, beyond a yes/no answer to the question of, “Is this legal?”

Tesselation puzzles: Fit the pieces in place and/or assemble to make a certain form.

(Explicit) mathematical problems: If there’s a good way to put them in play, math contest problems of the sort that can be found in books are a lot of fun to solve.

Section IV: Urvanovestilli devices, etc.

Urvanovestilli devices may be very useful to players. Devices may include anything which could plausibly be made given a mind like that of Leonardo da Vinci, finely machined gears, levers, springs, etc., and the dexterity of a microsurgeon. (Be creative.) The price of devices should take into account materials cost and amount of skill and labor; in general, they should be rather expensive.

Sample devices include a sewing machine, a Swiss Army Knife, a hang glider, a device which (when pulled along on a leash) leaves an ink trail on a floor to indicate where players have been, a Babbage-style analytical engine, a collapsible ladder, a spring loaded automatic belaying device which (once the springs are pumped up) will shoot up a grappling hook and then automatically pull in slack in a rope (until a certain button is pushed and held, at which it will feed out rope at a slow rate (given over 50 pounds pull — well below the weight of any adventurer) and reset the springs)…

(Unacceptable devices would include a mechanical thinking person, a machine to turn lead into gold, or something else which could not plausibly be made under the technology parameters given.)

The Urvanovestilli also have a knowledge of chemistry which allows the creation of many chemicals — pyrotechnics, glues, acids, chemical (phosphorescent) lights, and drugs being among the more useful to adventurers. (Drugs, if combined with the fruits of Yedidia herbalism, would be rougly on par with what exists in the modern world — for example, medicinal drugs would include antibiotics, antishock drugs, etc., but would not include something to make a third degree burn instantly heal — only the gift of healing can do that). Chemicals in general are expensive. Hormones exist, but are prohibitively expensive, as they can only be gathered in minute amounts each day at butchers’ shops, and require a degree of skill and labor to extract. Much of the more powerful drugs and hormones, as well as being extremely expensive, have side effects or potential to backfire — ergo, anabolic steroids having the same problems as in real life, adrenaline speeding up reflexes, increasing strength greatly, etc., but unpredictably causing either a fight or flight reaction — so a calm and controlled adventurer injected with adrenaline could start running as fast as possible away from all danger.

A dream of light

Espiriticthus: cultures of a fantasy world not touched by evil

The Sign of the Grail

The spectacles