Interviews towards designing support tools for TTRPG game masters
Devi Acharya, Michael Mateas, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin
In running tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs), game masters (GMs) are tasked with helping create and facilitate the building of a shared story between players based on player choices. We use qualitative interviews with GMs to perform a requirements analysis on a digital prototype of a GM assistant. Through asking GMs about their process and the features in the digital prototype (such as consolidating information and helping GMs keep track of what has happened in the world) we learned more about what GMs would like to see in a digital prototype.
We interviewed eight different GMs about how they would run Lost Mine of Phandelver, an introductory module for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. We also showed them a digital protoype that contained information from Lost Mine of Phandelver. This information included lists of characters, different information characters had, and different paths that the players might take while exploring the world and story. We asked GMs about what they liked and what they would like to see in a digital assistant for GMs. See below for links to the different digital prototypes we showed.
An example of connections between characters, locations, and information
Overall, GMs liked the digital prototype, especially how it condensed information from the module into a format that is easier to understand and navigate.
GMs also talked about how the tool could assist with tracking information such as what has happened in the story or information that the players know.
GMs wanted to see more features to easily sort and filter through information such as lists of characters, and wanted to see more visualizations of story information, such as character relationships or faction goals.
GMs wanted the ability to be able to add, edit, and swap around content, especially in order to better suit the needs of the players, such as tying in quests and encounters to players' backstory.
One GM also talked about how framing questions might be helpful in helping establish information about the game world, such as how a certain faction would respond to different threats.
GMs also talked about how a computational tool could help GMs guide players through the story, especially if the GM is at a loss with large narrative or physical distances between the current and future parts of the story.