[RPG] Learning to use spells comfortably


I'm hoping to get a little but of advice. You see, I've been running Rise of the Runelords, although the fact that I'm using Pathfinder probably isn't too relevant. Point is, I'm relatively new to GM-ing and we've reached a point where NPCs using spells has become a lot more common.

As I'm not that familiar with how each spell works and what it does, sometimes I slow things down a little when deciding what the NPCs should do because I have to look up some spells.

In order to help with this, I've been:

  • Reading the books quite a bit and I'm comfortable with a bunch of
    spells so far, but not everything that could possibly pop up at any
  • Creating spell cards, but as you can image, I end up with
    quite a large pile of them by the end of a dungeon and I still need to just flip through them sometimes.

Does anyone have any other ideas or techniques for how to deal with learning and using spells as a GM?

Best Answer

Let the Players Help You

If this is early in your DMing career, it's okay to ask the players for help. You've already put the spells on cards, so when a creature casts a spell just flip the card into the middle of the table and say, "I'm pretty sure this is the spell the creature would cast, but I'm not exactly sure what happens."

In other words, give yourself a way to take back the spell if it does something you totally didn't expect, like color spray's weird area stunning all the caster's allies or the obscuring mist preventing the caster from using his sneak attack ability. Do this because (I hope, anyway) you'd grant the same leeway to the new players; while the PCs understand the area of a color spray and that obscuring mist often grants concealment, the players don't yet. But they will.

And that's kind of important. Sharing this information can pause the game, but when running a new system, pauses are okay, and mastering the low-level spells makes using higher-level spells much easier. Further, the newer players also learn how the spells function, and the experienced players learn the kinds of judgment calls you make.

The great thing about doing this now with, I hope, low-level spells, is that those spells will happen again--in later campaigns. Low-level spells like color spray, grease, obscuring mist, shield, sleep, and the like are things your group should agree on because campaigns start with those available. Making sure everybody agrees on how they work is a priority for your gaming environment, now and in the furture.