Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 39: Leading and Guiding Without Tracks

Main Topic

Role playing games are collaborative efforts with parts of the story the responsibility of the players as well as the GM.  A temptation for a GM is to try to control the overall story to such a degree that you “railroad” your players potentially leading to an unsatisfying game.  The classic example of a railroaded adventure is a dungeon crawl – there is one way in, one way out, and a predetermined series of encounters along the way that the players cannot change.  How can you as a GM take part in the storytelling in a more planned way without leaving your players feeling like you have put them on tracks? There is always that player that just wants to see what is over the hill, off the map you drew and how do you handle that part of it?


The main tools you need are flexibility, openness, and a little trickery.


Set a Theme for the Campaign – decide what big picture theme you want to focus on in the campaign and where it starts.  Are you going to look at the conflict between order and chaos? Is this about how a growing empire deals with new territories?  From there, you can shape the campaign a step ahead of the PCs.


Let the Ending be Determined in Play – If your campaign focuses on a conflict between two corporate rivals, does it really matter which one wins in the end? Let the Players make decisions that shape how the campaign ends and have a tangible impact.  This style can require you to be a more prepared, and less improvisational, GM because you have to make those parts of the world react to what the PCs did, but it allows you to make it look like a seamless story when really the PCs were able to make it about them all along.


Don’t Discard Your Notes – Sometimes, you’ll have the PCs go “off the rails” and need to scrap some encounters and that is okay.  Keep those thoughts, notes, and ideas handy to slide back in later. If the PCs didn’t help the parents in the tavern find their missing child, the next chance to add something into the game replace the orc band with a larger gathering orc horde showing the danger these wild places are making to civilization.  You left a clue that you tied back in later, leading to part of the story you wanted, but without forcing the PCs to have the only clue to solve their problem in that missing child’s hands.


Plan set pieces, not Paths – Let the PCs find out “how” to solve a problem on their own.  Instead of worrying about making one solution for each problem, let the PCs decide how to navigate between the major plot points with their ingenuity.


Stat Blocks


The Cult of the Void

Also known as the Void by people in the know. They are a very quiet group that has been run quietly and in the shadows for decades. How large are they? Who is controlling them? What is their larger agenda? These are questions people that have looked into this secret group have asked. Do they know? Hard to say since anyone that is not a full member that goes digging has never been able to get information about them out. They have a dress code for when they are out and doing the deeds that they do. It is a white robe with a hood and a white face cover with a single black inverted triangle in the center of the face.


The current leader might be anyone but as of right now investigators are looking at this group for  number of missing teens and young adults from the nearby towns. While people have thought that the membership has grown no one is sure and the missing teens could be converted or just missing. What do they want? Well ask them since they are right outside your door and have surrounded your house. The power is out and communication seems to be dead.


Joules- The Deck of Moirai

At the end of the final quest, each great legend was bound to record their life’s journey.  The events of their life, both meritous and vile, are recorded in cards and sealed as a deck and buried with them.  Over aeons, some of these decks were unearthed. They now serve as a powerful divining tool, or rarely, as a test of worth.


Those that were born under a mystic sign or event often face the Deck of Moirai as a rite of passage.  It is already known that this person has a destiny, but facing the deck will give that person great insight and possibly a choice.


The person chooses one of many decks and then deals the cards.  When the cards are dealt they now face the life within. Some people may gain insight to their future, seeing where the Legend stumbled and swear not to make the same mistake.  Some may see virtues that they wish to emulate. Even others may see the quickest path to power and follow the footsteps of a tyrant. This is the standard experience that most have with the Deck of Moirai.


But in the rare case, a very unique individual will try and change the story within the cards.  Rather than be a passive observer, they will actively try and change the fate of the long dead legend.  They may try and redeem a fallen hero, corrupt a saint, or kill a tyrant. Usually those that try and change the story within the Deck of Moirai fail.  The strain usually ends up killing them. But sometimes, just sometimes, they succeed. They change the legend’s story through the strength of their own will.  When this happens, the Deck is destroyed and the chains of fate shatter around the Legend’s soul in the afterlife. The Legend’s soul is now free to reincarnate back to the mortal realm, to try again.


Afterwards, a new deck materializes in the victors possession.  A Rasa Deck of Moirai. Each card blank. You see, for these rare people, they are the lucky few who are now free to write their own destiny.



The Last Scrap of Humanity – Or how to Put these ideas into practice

As humankind as expanded across the continent, planet, and maybe beyond, there is always a chance that they lose something of themselves.  The Last Scrap of Humanity is a record of what was human before the expansion, growth, and changes that happened. The problem is that not everyone wants a reminder of what once was and will go to great lengths to stop it from getting out.  


Let the players hunt for this scrap of humanity, this tether to the past across locations they have seen before in your game.  Leave them clues to backtrack and search for what they employer truly wants. It can’t be that far away, right? The PCs will eventually figure out where the Last Scrap is, and let them figure it out however they do, but make sure there is something held back.  You see, the Last Scrap of Humanity is a human child. He or she may have gotten to the age of 10, but the oral storytelling history he or she has shows the past in vibrant and descriptive terms. What will the PCs do? Now they have to face the question of what they value and whether to share this golden or terribly human past with the world, take the child and run, or fulfill their job and turn this child over to someone or something that may have other plans for humanity’s future once the past is safely locked away.



Parallax        noun par·al·lax  \ ˈper-ə-ˌlaks , ˈpa-rə- \


Definition of parallax

the apparent displacement or the difference in apparent direction of an object as seen from two different points not on a straight line with the object; especially :the angular difference in direction of a celestial body as measured from two points on the earth’s orbit


Origin and Etymology of parallax
Middle French parallaxe, from Greek parallaxis, from parallassein to change, from para- + allassein to change, from allos other


First Known Use: 1580


Popularity: Bottom 30% of words


Closing remarks

Zendead- Ghost Files by Apryl Baker


Joules-Join the Anarchy (Youtube) (Twitch)




Music is courtesy of The Enigma TNG you can find his music on YouTube or on Bandcamp


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And Thanks to Merriam-Webster for our Lexicon segment

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