Becoming a storyteller for TTRPGs

I have been thinking about ways to introduce people to tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs). If we want to see a more diverse community of people in the hobby, we need to make it easier for people to join in. This blog seems like a good opportunity to help do that.

TL;DR This is a basic ‘how to’ pack on the A-Z of running a TTRPG, which I intend to cover in a series of blog posts over the coming months. Please suggest additional topics in the comments.

Recently, I ran a session for four people, three of whom had never played a TTRPG before. In addition to the time I spent preparing for the session itself, I spent a lot of time thinking of the best way to explain the different elements of the games to these new players.

I used several tools to help make it easier to get everyone on board. I chatted to the players online and asked them questions before we met; I created a bunch of printouts that they could use while they were creating their characters and during the game itself; I even worked out a few questions to ask them about what worked and what didn’t. In the end, the scenario took two sessions to finish, but everyone had a blast, and at least two of them wanted to keep playing.

We kept chatting after the game, and I got really excited by the idea that one of the players would like to start running games herself – or at least find a TTRPG group where she lived. This in turn got me thinking about the kind of advice I would give someone who wanted to run games for the first time, rather than just playing in them.

Another of the players suggested that I start by listing all the topics that I would want to cover, and use it as a framework. A basic ‘how to’ pack, that would end up as the A-Z of running a TTRPG, if you like. The idea is that I would keep plugging away at this list over a couple of months, and eventually end up with a complete guide. In between, I will keep posting updates about other nerdy subjects that I like (boardgames, crafting, whatever) and work in progress – even some creative writing. (Because I am easily distracted and I like a LOT of things.)

Please note that each of these topics could end up taking several posts. But I may end up posting more than each of these subjects in a month, so I’m not sure how long this is going to take me. I promise to share a lot of tricks, and recommendations for other good resources to use/people to follow, and to keep it fun.

In the meantime, take a look at the list of topics and let me know if there is anything else you think I should cover. Also, this list will probably change a bit over the next few months anyway, as I keep thinking of new and exciting ways to make work for myself.

How to run a tabletop RPG:

  1. What comes first?
  2. Choosing a system
  3. Putting together a group (party dynamics, gaming styles; choosing players)
  4. Finding players for a group
  5. Agreeing on the code of conduct
  6. Admin (so much admin; you will be amazed how much admin; why is there so much admin)
  7. Deciding what kind of GM you want to be
  8. Choosing a story to tell
  9. Character creation
  10. Choosing a setting
  11. Creating a story and a plot outline
  12. Creating memorable NPCs
  13. Choosing monsters
  14. Creating the villain
  15. Adding challenges (traps, puzzles, mind games, and riddles)
  16. Beginning the adventure
  17. Creating atmosphere and setting the mood
  18. Running combat
  19. Running magic
  20. Preparing for your game

Eventually, I would also like to cover a few more advanced topics, like the following:

  1. Drawing your own maps
  2. World-building
  3. Creating your own campaign
  4. How to balance combat
  5. Dealing with players’ unexpected actions
  6. Keeping consistency
  7. Making the game fun
  8. Engaging your players