Melissa’s Customized Session Cheat Sheet for Game Masters

In my experience, having a 1 page cheat sheet for each session has benefits that far outweigh the time that it takes to build it.  I recommend creating a unique sheet for each session, a new cheat sheet for that specific game.

Plot Hooks – You should create hooks for every session, not just the first adventure.  You want to get ‘buy in’ for each game so that your players and their characters really care about what is going on in.

Locations/Encounters/Scenes – Depending on the structure of the game system you’re using, having a bullet point list of the locations such as dungeon rooms, waypoints on the road or unique places can be a loose guide to keep your game on track.  If you’re running a more crunchy dungeon delve style of adventure, having a list of probable encounters is just as valuable.  As a storyteller, I find that having a list of possible scenes provides me with a loose framework for the story.  Bonus Points: Create a scene tailored to put each player in the spotlight. Continue reading Melissa’s Customized Session Cheat Sheet for Game Masters

3 Warning Signs that Your Campaign is about to Crash and Burn

We’ve all stuck to a campaign that was well into its death throes. It can be hard to give up on a story that had a lot of work put into and characters that took time to create.  Sometimes shooting a dead horse is a mercy.

No One Shows Up – if your group meets together regularly and suddenly you have schedule conflicts, take a hard look at your game.  Is the reason it’s hard to fill the gaming table due to a lack of interest in the campaign?

Your Players Don’t Care – if the pre-session banter takes twice as long as usual,  your normally attentive players are more interested in their cell phones and almost anything starts a non-gaming related discussion, your players aren’t into your game.

You Don’t Care – It takes a lot of time and effort to run a campaign.  When all of that work feels exhilarating and you can’t wait to run your next session, you know your game is a hit.  If going through your session notes, creating story hooks and figuring out what to do with plot holes is unbearable drudgery, there’s no reason to continue.  If you’re not enjoying the campaign, your players aren’t either.  They can sense that you’ve given up on it.

This advice is easier said than done.  I’ve run my share of dud campaigns and it can be hard to throw in the towel.  In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re only 3 sessions in or 30 sessions in.  If no one is enjoying it, acknowledge it.  Discuss with your players what went wrong and move on.

Complete Campaign – Lessons Learned Along the Way, Part 4

After finishing up the first campaign that I’ve intentionally completed, I have contemplated the lessons learned.  This was the most character driven and story intensive game I had ever run.  Today I’m covering the Audio and Visual aids that made the campaign feel more real.


Battle music consisted mostly of movie sound tracks.  Since the Conan The Barbarian movie sound track simply rocks, that was queued up the most often for serious combat encounters.

Bard music was a must for the taverns.  Deathsong had her own music.  I used the songs by ……… for my vampire bard npc.  Every time this music came on, it became apparent that Deathsong had taken the stage.  There was a small bit of electric guitar on a track or two, but I joked that it was a magic guitar.  It also matched her miniature pretty well.

A few well placed howls announced the arrival of werewolf antagonists.

There was some generic “exploration and dark mystery” music that I used throughout the game as background music.



The large Chessex Battlemat that I bought worked great.  It was so quick and easy to use.  Along with the Reaper Mini’s that I had painted, the battlemat gave combat and encounters some much needed spacial structure.

I made ancient letters, notes and scrolls for the game.  These were NOT a big hit with either my player in the solo game or the players in the group Ravenloft game.  I was surprised.  Most of the time players would briefly look at a letter and hand it right back.  I had wanted them to be excited about the clues in the letters and keep them with their character sheets but they just didn’t drum up any enthusiasm.

There are two more parts to this series, coming soon!

• Tall Tales – Why not let the character do that?

• Epic Endings – How to make the final game memorable.