What is a GM exactly? A teller of tales. The director of live theater. A guide. And ultimately a writer of wrongs.
Why wrongs? Because rights are boring. Story happens where conflict lives. And conflict is where the action is.
And once the GM has set the stage, it’s about the PCs becoming front and center. How will they react to these situations? What will they do? Though GMs may guide them a little, it’s the players and PCs who make the call.
How though does the GM set the stage and put the guideposts in place to help that story get told? By asking questions. Just like a good journalist, GMs have to ask the classic questions. Who? What? Where? When? Why? And how?
While working on the new One Spot with GM and designer George Fields (Geocentric Designs and HackMaster enthusiast), I was introduced to the world of Dolothar, an old priest with some intriguing secrets who is running a shrine of healing that doubles as a cafeteria for the needy twice a day. Many questions came up during the design of this supplement (still in the works).
As the key NPC at this location, Dolothar needed to be detailed quite a bit. Who exactly is he? What does he look like? Why is he here? What does he want? What does he offer? Who are his enemies? Who are his friends? What does he believe? Who does he worship? These same questions could be asked of ANY non-player character in any setting to get a clearer picture of who they actually are.
As far as the location goes, we asked a different set of questions. Where is it located? What does it look like? When is it open? Is it protected? What services do they provide? Is Dolothar alone? What food do they serve? When do they serve food? What else do they do? When was the building made? Was it theirs originally? What does it look like inside? Where do they put the sick and injured? Where do they fix food? Where do they serve food? Where do they keep medical supplies? Cooking supplies? Where do they get their food from? Medical supplies?
And what about the rest of the people involved? Who helps Dolothar minister to the sick, injured, and hungry? Who comes to any religious services? Regulars who come for a hot meal? Anyone who gets hurt repeatedly and finds their way to the shrine’s doors? Who guards the place at night? Who supports the shrine through donations or time?
By answering these simple questions, you flesh things out, getting details, motivations, and possible plot hooks to explore in a ton of different directions.
What questions do YOU ask as a GM to help flesh out your plots, characters, and places?