Gamemaster Basics

While each player in a Quest of Destiny game is important, no role is more important than that of the Gamemaster. Maybe the best way to describe the role of Gamemaster is to compare it to a movie. While your players each take on the role of a main characters within the film, the Gamemaster is the director, writer, set designer, villain, support characters, and extras all rolled into one. In addition to framing the plot of an adventure, the Gamemaster must develop a full and detailed setting, provide challenges for the character's to face, create nonplayer characters to interact with the PCs that further the plot, and serve as the referee to any conflicts found with the rules.

The Gamemaster's role is integral to the game, and while it may seem difficult or intimidating, the following tutorial will provide you with the tools you need to make a great game. Remember, the first rule of Gamemastering is to make sure that everyone is having fun. As long as everyone is having a good time, then you are doing a great job.

Before you begin, make sure that you've read through the How to Play tutorial and have a firm grasp of the rules of QoD. If you are new to roleplaying games in general, we suggest that you start with What is a table-top RPG? and go from there. When you are comfortable with how Quest of Destiny is played, then you can begin to design and run a game for others.

The Gamemaster as a Writer

As a Gamemaster, or GM, you are the writer of a choose-your-own adventure narrative, where the course of the adventure is chosen by the Player Characters, or PCs (who are portrayed by the players). This requires you to establish a setting and fill it with interesting creatures, locations, and objects for the characters to interact with. The outcomes of these interactions are left open, so that player choices can influence what happens. In this way, your adventure will continually adapt in response to the player's actions.

For example, Jeremy is running a game in which the player character's find an unusual box with strange writings on it. The PCs know that the wizard and sage, Balkemar, could help them decipher the writings, but are not sure whether they can trust him. The PCs now have a choice before them: choose to trust Balkemar with the knowledge of the box or try to break into Balkemar's office and steal the necessary information. Jeremy has planned ahead and already knows the outcome of both scenarios. If the PCs trust Balkemar, he will attempt to take the box for his own means, but he could be convinced to ally with the PCs against the cult. If the PCs decide to steal from Balkemar, they will draw his wrath and he will send a group of mercenaries to track them down. Alternatively, the PCs could come up with a different solution that Jeremy has not considered, which will require Jeremy to reimagine this scenario and how the story will change as a result of the PCs' influence.

The Gamemaster as a Director

As the PCs interact with different aspects of the story, the Gamemaster directs them from one scene to another to move the story forward. By doing this he ultimately controls the pacing of events, making sure that gameplay doesn't stagnate. This requires the Gamemaster to interject plot when necessary to keep the game moving, by inserting characters or events that progress the story in some way.

The Gamemaster is responsible for maintaining PC engagement, by ensuring that each Character becomes connected with and involved with the story. This may involve directing a PC's motivation, linking events in the story character background or goals that may influence how that PC acts. Additionally, the Gamemaster is the adjudicator of the game's rules: determining when a variable outcome requires a die roll (and what determines success), managing the progression of combat challenges, and serving as an judge when questions or conflicts arise.

For example, after a lengthy discussion, the PCs decide to seek out Belkemar to get his help deciphering the box. Though the PCs have never visited Belkemar before, they know of him by reputation and can easily determine where he resides. Jeremy does not require a skill check or roleplay encounter to determine this information, as he knows it is easily obtainable and doesn't want to slow down the story. Instead he simply narrates that by asking around, the players find out that Belkemar's residence is a three-story tower on the edge of town, and that he does business out of his workshop on the first floor.

One of the PCs, Gershwa, decides that she'd like to try and gather some more information on Belkemar before they visit. Jeremy determines that this will be a more difficult objective, and requires Gershwa to attempt to use the Gather Rumors ability (utilizing her Investigation skill) in order to get this information. When Gershwa succeeds with her check, she is told that Belkemar is generally considered to be a very powerful mage, but that he mostly keeps to himself. He takes a great interest in magical knowledge, and is not above dealing with unsavory folks to get what he wants. This information somewhat concerns the party, but they decide it is worth the risk and continue with their objective of speaking with the wizard. Jeremy then moves the story to the next scene, when the PCs arrive at Belkemar's abode.

The Gamemaster as a Set Designer

As the Gamemaster you are also responsible for setting the tone of your story through detailed descriptions of the creatures, locations, and objects that the PCs encounter. These descriptions should evoke an emotional reaction, that help make the setting feel real and tangible. Additionally, through each scene that the PCs interact with, the Gamemaster provides a detailed description of the environment and everything in it, helping the players to visualize where their characters are and what exists around them.

For example, Jeremy describes Belkemar's office when the PCs enter it for the first time:

The air is stifling as you open the door, a fire raging within the fireplace beneath a bubbling cauldron that emotes a sickly, sweet scent. The walls of the chamber are filled with floor to ceiling bookcases, save for a workbench against one wall of the hexagonal room. The bench is covered with various alchemical devices, including a small burner adding heat to a baker of purplish liquid above it. A cabinet next to the bench is filled with stoppered flasks and jars, no doubt containing a multitude of components for Belkemar's infamous experiments. There are no windows in the room, leaving the area dim even at the peak of daylight. The center of the room is taken up by a massive oak desk, piled high with books and loose parchment, behind which sits the man of interest, Belkemar himself.

The Gamemaster as the Villains, Support Characters, and Extras

A Quest of Destiny setting wouldn't feel very alive if there weren't other people in it, so the Gamemaster is responsible for creating other characters for the PCs to interact with. Some of these characters may be integral to the story line, serving as an adversary, informant, or quest giver. Other characters serve as the extras in the story, the background characters that make the setting come alive and feel like a living, breathing world. As the PCs interact with these characters, it is the Gamemaster who will describe their appearance and demeanor and portray them in roleplay situations.

For example, Jeremy introduces Belkemar to the PCs for the first time:

Belkemar looks up at you from over his spectacles, his gaze piercing as he scrutinizes your group. His brown robes are simple and somewhat drab, but there is an undeniable feeling of power coming off of him, almost as if it were something tangible. The look on his bearded face is irritated, yet curious, as if he is still deciding whether you're worthy of his attention.
"Yes? Can I help you?" he says in a measured voice.