Everyone has a pattern. Every GM I know has some sort of pattern that they fall back to when deprived of any sort of planning. Be it a particular set of NPCs, a given plot structure, it exists for every GM.
While these patterns are comforting for us to have, it’s also something that turns around to bite us from behind if we get to comfortable with them.
When it comes to running for a regular set of players, it’s easy for these patterns to manifest their weakness: predictability. Predictability is anathema to a GM, it is the one thing that can turn an awesome idea into mediocre execution. So the point is to somehow keep yourself difficult to predict, always having something new to throw at your players just when they think they’ve got you figured out.
So how do you start breaking your patterns?
- Talk With Your Players – First you need to know what your patterns are. Best way to find out is to talk to your regular players, ask them for their opinions, their observations. If they can find the pattern (and trust me, most of them will,) then you have something to start with.
- Verify – Just because your players have said one thing doesn’t mean that that’s everything. Check you last few campaigns / sessions and see if you can draw a thread between them. Sometimes the patterns emerge not in play, but during your planning.
- Try Something New – Run a different chronicle from one you’re used to, or add a twist to the game you’re currently running. If you can challenge yourself, then you’re certainly giving the Players something new to adapt to.
- Improve your bag of tricks – Read, watch, play. Soak in as much as you can from other media, other games, other forms of entertainment. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and sometimes, willingness to learn is all it takes for you to start soaking it in. It’s easy to think that you know enough, and that alone can stop you from learning anything because you’ve closed the door.
As a GM, I’m always looking for the next innovation, the neat little trick that I can spring on my players next. I want to make sure that I never end up predictable and boring, so I try to make sure that no matter what, I keep an eye out for the next way to break my established patterns.