GM Advice: Themes

Here’s a little game prep thing I like to do (when I remember to):

Choose one or two themes that you want to be central to the story in the day’s session. Keep them in mind. Then, when you are choosing your consequences of failure, tweak them to fit your chosen theme(s) whenever possible.

For example, you might choose the themes “Love and Vengeance”, or “Deception and Ambition”, or “Madness and Horror”. Whatever you think fits the story you want to spin out by challenging those Beliefs. Then, when the PC tries to sneak into the bandit camp, spice up the consequences of failure by having them be accosted by an angry ex-lover, or secretly tailed back to town, or discover the bandits are actually cultists of the Demon Lord.

Do this sort of thing a bunch of times each session, and you’re guaranteed your story will have a handful of central themes – which means it will be a story about something, something somewhat external from the PCs themselves. I find it really ties each whole session together, makes it feel like you just finished a good book. ^^