Any tips for a new GM

edited June 2016 in 13th Age
Hey, I'm trying to start a new 13th age game in my area. My only experiance with 13th age is a couple of standalone games a guy ran a year or so ago. I figured I start a original campaign. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.


  • If I may ask, are you a new GM or just a GM new to 13th Age?

    13th Age was my second time GM'ing any system, and the New World of Darkness was my first system as a GM. As general GM rules, the following would be my advice:

    - Don't create a campaign script/novel. Stick to barebones/skeleton planning (or short stories) when writing a campaign. If it's too linear and doesn't offer flexibility to branch out, you'll be scrambling to patch things up if the PC's improvise in a different direction than what you had written.

    - Everyone should be having fun. If the GM isn't having fun, they'll burn out and lose interest. Same goes for the players. If time allows, ask players at the end of each session what they liked and didn't like so you can fine-tune games to everyone's enjoyment.

    - Do not pick a player as a "Chosen One" for any plot hook. If that person gets sick/drops out/etc., then you're now out of a plot advancement and that story session will need a lot of improvisation to get back on track.

    - Montages. These are great, and more info can be found in the Organized Play campaigns ( They give everyone a chance to shine in the limelight and really get into the "role-playing" aspect of their character.

  • edited June 2016
    Running 13th Age can be tough because there's a lot of player agency. If you're a control freak it's going to suck for you.
    Example: Typical D&D campaign there's some bad guy doing something bad that needs to be stopped.
    13th Age: You need to tie in the world's icons - why would the icons give a crap about some generic bad guy doing bad things? Each player has different icon relationships so each player has a different motivation to stop the bad guy. You need to tailor the story more towards the players than the bad guy.
    Oh, and each player has a unique thing because they're all special snowflakes, so there's that ;) Don't ignore the one unique thing, make the story about the players not the generic bad guy.
    Oh, and a bad guy that specifically interferes with a player's own personal goals and motivations is no longer generic, he's an enemy.
  • Watch some cool fantasy movies. Watch a Spy movie. Think about how you could make a cool movie combining them. Sleep till 5 min before the players walk in the door. Wake up and grab the books and sit down and once everyone is seated start DMing.

    At first if you are not used to DMing by the seat of your pants this will be difficult but you should find it gets easier as time goes on.

    A lot of times I grab a pathfinder adventure I have read and think, I'm gonna run this next game but once the game starts the players zig instead of zagging and we are off into uncharted waters. I just go with it.

    No matter what I do I bring it all back tot he characters though. Backgrounds, past encounters and npc's, actions they took last year EVERYTHING comes back around bites them on the arse, gives them a unexpected helping hand or in some cases does both at once while at the same time turning into far far more than I had originally planned on.

    All my stories and schemes and plots are subject to drastic change on a dim, A Dim I tell you!

    That Knight that has helped the party for the past 10 years and been a stout friend and companion might have been secretly a evil sadist using the party to further his own goals and destroy his rivals.

    That evil wizard that has been a thorn in the party's side the entire time might be a good person who's husband was murdered by that Knight.

    A DM's notebook filled with game notes and ideas is 100% necessary. You HAVE to remember what your npc's have done/said in the past.

  • Start small. You don't have to design the whole story, or map out an entire region, all at once. Ask each player to provide one quest or goal their PC has, something that's challenging. You can use those as possible adventure points, and link them to icons and uniques. To get them started, it might be good to have an initial goal that brings them together for a reason and gives them time to get to know their characters and how the game works. Maybe it's as simple as all the PCs are looking for NPC X. They all arrive at location Y and realize they all need to find this person, so they join up to pool resources. Throw a bunch of interesting NPCs at them as they spend time searching for the NPC and see what interests the players. Make sure to tie those NPCs to the icons either openly or secretly, and have those icons be the ones in play that session or the ones the PCs have connections to. If they gravitate toward the halfling working for the Elf Queen, maybe that halfling has info about an old elven tomb that has something his people want. If it's the courtesan serving the Emperor, maybe some key governmental documents were stolen and she's under suspicion, but it wasn't her; find who did it. Etc. After a session or two, ask the players what type of game/play they enjoy: More roleplaying, more combat, a solid mix? Try to find ways for each player/PC to shine each session, but don't force it.
    Have fun.
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