Running a game at ORC

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The following could be considered a "best practice" guide - not just for games running at ORC but in general. There's also a useful thread on the forum:

Choosing a System

Here's where you need to self-promote. By far the most popular systems at ORC are D&D, Pathfinder, and Call of Cthulhu. These games are always popular, although GMs may need to be strict as to what particular ruleset mods or PC types are allowed (e.g. PHB only, core rulebook only, etc.). If your game is little known, try promoting it on the forums - talk about it: the setting, the PCs, ruleset, etc. Beginning GMs often find that some players know the rules extremely well, so they can let these players help provide advice to those less sure of themselves (including the GM). See if there is anyone interested among your friends or societies you are already a member of - even online forums for the games themselves.

Finding Players

Aim for six players. Most games have 3-6 at ORC. That way GMs can cover the occasional absence, without the game becoming overcrowded. Bill estimates that in any game you'll likely lose 1/3rd of any players in the first few sessions as well. You can use the Looking to Run A Game area of the forum

Choose and day and venue for you to run as a GM.

It's best to talk about the game in the forum and give yourself about a month or so to run up to this. Smaller and lesser known system you may have to go into depth about the settings and rules! Put an event in the Calendar when you're ready. Folk can register for it at that point. The event is also published on the ORC Facebook page. There's also an ORC Facebook group, but that's barely used now..

Talk to folk in other games, or at the occasional pub meets or games, but don't set out to "steal" players from established games. You can also contact players directly - check the Introductions section of the Forum for new players and send them a PM. Also spread the word outside ORC and get other folk onto the site if they are interested.

Session 0 and Social Contracts

Social Contracts allow GMs and players to work out what is acceptable in a game and what the group as a whole looks for. In can be as simple as kick-in-the-door-dungeoneering or a high-end political shenanigans. Everybody gets to start from the same page. Session 0 is when this happens, often along with character creation. There's absolutely no problem with running a session 0 at Roleplay Haven nights. They often do games pitches the week before each quarter although tchnically you can begin any time. Aim for 4-6 players, and give yourself two weeks or so to allow RolePlay Haven and ORC to get the message out there on social media (Facebook, Discords etc). A Session 0 at the Mercat or any venue is best. D&D games will fill up fast - others require a bit more talking up by the GM (think marketing),

Give yourself a few sessions to get to know the players before commiting yourself to a long campaign. It's better to do that and come back later with a different group if things aren't working out.

Create your characters in Session 0, make sure the players know the starting level etc. If you need extra PHB etc. just ask me - I have two I can lend out

Don't worry about party balance - contrary to popular belief it's not necessary to have a healer or rogue etc.

Also, it's OK for PCs to run away - old-school D&D could be lethal and "Challenge Rating" is a guideline for GMs, not a hard rule. If low-level PCs encounter a dragon, they're wise to run!

At Session 0, layout some basic expectations - e.g. No evil alignments, possible content (grimdark etc.), dungeon bash or poltical etc. Also, what rulebooks and any optional rules are OK - some D&D races an be problematic in certain settings. Monte Cook's checklist might be of use - see - it gives some basic themes that might be triggers.

If you do want to go ahead let Bill know what the blurb is for the game - around 250 words with an introductory hook. Give a little background about the setting and campaign. Enough to get players hooked and interested - the RPH as a venue is sorted (or others such as Red Dice etc., and you can also post here in and on the RolePlayHaven ( and ORC ( Discords.

When you're ready, put the game on the RolePlay Haven website - you'll need to let Bill know the email when you're signed up with so he can arrange GM-level access to submit your game.

When to Run

Pick a date that works for you as a GM, not just the players. Weekly or fortnightly works best (e.g. Wednesday nights at the RolePlay Haven) . Too often, and a GM will likely "burn out", and players will often have scheduling conflicts. Too long between games, and players may lose interest or the game drops its drive and energy (not to mention folks remembering what happened!). If you're gaming on a week-night allow time for people to get to the venue, especially from work, and try and finish at a reasonable hour. If you're playing on a weekend, try and keep the game to 4-6 hours. Stop at a cliff-hanger moment!

How to run/Be a GM or DM

There's whole podcasts dedicated to being a GM/DM. Most say you need to do x or y, otherwise you're doomed. That's nonsense. As a GM, it's your story. Never forget its about having fun. As a new GM you'll forget stuff, have to look it up, make mistakes and 'fess up to them when you do.

Finding a Venue

Always a tricky point to bring up. A lot of ORC games happen at peoples homes, but there's a number of venues to use as well. It's a good idea to check with the owners of these venues regarding bookings, and remember: if they sell food or drink, they expect you to buy stuff there. DON'T bring your own. Bill's web page lists some of these places at Make sure everyone feels safe in the environment you're playing in - be considerate of boundaries and common courtesy.


Let's be honest here - gaming does not always have a good rep regarding safe spaces and harassment. If you see anything untoward happening, speak out - whether your are the subject of it or not. As a new GM, make sure your players - and venue - are comfortable with certain topics, especially in horror games. Some games may prefer their players (or GM) to have a card they can hold up if a subject is making them uncomfortable. Use the X card if necessary.

There's also a forum thread for GM suggestions here: