Mine is a World with Many Paisley Curtains

It has recently occurred to me that some of the folks reading this blog may be of the impression that I have some great wisdom to impart. Some of you may have convinced yourselves that by reading my blog you will become better GM’s. You may be right about that, but not because I have any idea what I’m doing.

The most important thing to remember about GMing is to make it look like you know what you’re doing. When a player asks what color the bad guy’s curtains are you can:

  1. stammer because you never considered that antagonists might have curtains
  2. yell at the player for being a royal pain in your ass
  3. smoothly tell your player how their character was hit by a meteor that happened to sail through the window just as they were walking over to get a closer look at the lovely paisley pattern on the curtains.
  4. Both 2 and 3 (not necessarily in that order)

It’s easy to get caught up in planning a thousand niggling details for every session in case the players happen to ask. I have found that if I do that much planning not only will the players not ask those questions, they will ask other questions that are far more annoying and niggling! This problem is compounded in a game like Mage by the player’s abilities to interrogate ghosts, talk with the animals, and use Post-Cognition. For example, you you might have every member of a victim’s family and workplace fully statted out and given a personality, and instead of actually trying to make contact with any of these potential leads the PCs will instead wander around aimlessly on the college campus where this victim was a teacher, poke their head into a classroom full of students this teacher didn’t teach, and ask if any of these hundreds of students that never met the victim in question have supernatural markers in their auras.  They also might ask you what the foundry marking on a bell is… or the ISBN number of a book.  It doesn’t matter what detail you didn’t bother to come up with, the players will find it! They will find it, and they will ask it, and you WILL hate them for it. You will hate them all!

I have often found that the best thing to do in these situations is really to do nothing at all. Practice the slow spread of an evil smirk in the mirror while you’re getting ready to head to the game. There is nothing that will freak out your players more than a nice long pause after a question that they have asked… if it is accompanied by that evil, maniacal grin. They will assume that they have just stumbled onto an important fact. They will say something like “Oh noes.. there is no ISBN number on that book!” Whatever is the worst possible thing that they can think of in that moment will come flying out of their mouths, and if you’re smart you will just sit there and keep grinning at them. Let it sink in. Let them say more. Don’t try to stop them! Whatever they are saying right now is probably their worst fear come to life!! And you didn’t have to come up with any of it.

Well played!

The downside of this is that the players will think they were so smart that they figured out what you had worked so hard to plan. They’ll convince themselves that they have outsmarted you and maybe get a little smug about it too. That’s OK though. We know better. We know that in reality they were dumb enough to do all the heavy lifting for us. Let them have their moment of glory.

If they get out of hand you can always whip out the meteor. Then they’ll know who the smart one at the table is.

Mages Make Me Cry


Posted on July 8, 2011, in Gaming, Mage Awakening, MtAw, RPG, White Wolf, WoD, World of Darkness and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I read and post hoping it will get me closer to that 462 extra XP so I can buy the rest of my gnosis up to 10. 🙂

  2. Gnosis of 10 shudder. Time for me to look for my own sanctum where that bright shinning beacon of paradox is on the other side of the world. Lol

  3. You know… I am thinking about all those extra Paradox dice I get for Gnosis 10, and I’m thinking there is a deal to be made here…

  4. I have a solution to your ISBN problem! Use the following ISBN:



  5. It even works online! My PCs are just that eager to hurt and abuse themselves. It makes me weep with joy.

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