Rules for the GM
Creating and Running Adventures
Mirage is a long-form improv game. Your goal is to create a fun story together with your players.
To play the game you need an adventure. Make up your own, or use a premade one. Find a collection of premade adventures here. Join our Adventure Writer’s Room - a community of GMs who meet in the discord voice chat, and improvise adventures together. You can follow our brainstorming process to make up adventures on your own as well. See a useful guide on making adventures here.
Before the game - help the players to understand the rules and create their characters.
During the game you tell players what’s going on around them, ask them what they want to do, and then use your imagination and results of dice rolls to describe consequences.
Give the players a task to accomplish (find the treasure, defeat a monster, save the princess). Put challenges on their path, obstacles to getting what they want. Watch them find creative ways to overcome them.
Imagine how the world responds to their actions, create and describe interesting consequences, add fun complications. Play the role of all NPCs like an actor, respond to what the players do the way these characters would respond.
Don’t over-prepare, don’t try to force preplanned outcomes. Try to make sure you have prepared everything that would be hard to improvise on the spot, but no more. Play to find out what happens. “Yes And” players’ ideas - let them take the story in their own direction, and build on top of their ideas.
Bring the story to an awesome, dramatic, satisfying conclusion. Like an epic climactic showdown with the antagonist. Watch the heroes overcome their biggest challenge and reach their goal.
Tell the players to roll the dice only when both succeeding and failing at the action could each contribute something interesting to the story. Don’t roll for insignificant things. The situation always changes after a roll, for good or ill, each outcome pushes the story forward, takes the story in a different direction, moving the characters closer to or farther away from their goal.
Failure always leads to consequences - the characters suffer a temporary defeat, face a complication, or have to try a different approach. Don’t let failed rolls to halt the story. “Nothing happens” should never be an outcome of a roll, players should never get stuck at the door they can’t unlock. Instead, let them succed at a cost (you’ve picked a lock but triggered an alarm and now guards are about to show up). If the failure can’t lead to something interesting - don’t call for a roll, just make a judgement yourself.
Before the roll, set the target number the player needs to beat in order to succeed at a task. Make it higher or lower depending on the difficulty of the task.5 is easy, 10 is average, 15 is challenging, 19 is very hard.
If the player fails at a roll - you can offer them to reroll the dice at the cost of suffering some negative consequence/complication/setback (take damage, lose an item, lose time, attract unwanted attention, give the enemies an opportunity to advance, cause collateral damage, etc.), or taking a riskier option.
When the player uses a talent relevant to the task they’re attempting, comes up with an awesome creative idea, or has an amazing roleplaying moment - tell them to roll with advantage.
Split interesting tasks into several rolls, resolve simple tasks in one:
Picking a lock is a single roll. To open a bank vault you might want to roll for disabling the alarm, breaking the lock, hiding from the guard patrol.
Don’t call for a roll just to see if the spell fails - spells always do what the description says. Roll only when it’s extra difficult or risky, when it’s fun to see an unpredictable outcome.
Don’t hide information behind the roll. If the player describes looking for clues - they find them.
Use your judgment and common sense to decide what happens as the result of players’ actions. If you were watching a movie, and a character had tried to do what the player wants to attempt, what do you think would happen?
Follow the rule of cool. The more awesome, creative, or funny the player’s idea is, the more likely it is to work.
Don’t be afraid to add complications, unexpected negative consequences, tension, drama - it’s good for the story (“You have successfully killed the guard, but someone has seen it and is now running to raise the alarm.”)
Resolve combat the same way you resolve any other challenge in the game - with one or several (often 3-5) rolls.
Fighting a regular guard might take one roll. If the player succeeds, the guard is defeated.
Fighting a dragon might take several rolls:
- Get the dragon to land or prevent them from flying off (this would probably require some sort of plan, like wounding its wing).
- Get into close enough range while avoiding it’s fire breath and claws.
- One player might want to roll to distract a dragon to create an opening for another player.
- Get onto the dragon to hack/pry open one or two of its scales.
- If that fails, players might need to try a different strategy an coordinate to attack its underbelly.
- Manage to land the killing blow.
You can treat groups/swarms/hordes as one enemy:
- A successful roll might kill a significant number of the enemies.
- Another roll might break the spirit of the remaining making them run for cover (or to set off the alarm).
- You can roll to chase down the remaining ones, or overcome the cover they’re hiding behind.
Do not run combat blow-by-blow. You can decide how granular the combat will be - resolve simple fights in one roll, break down more challenging ones into several stages. The combat stages should present new interesting creative challenges to the players, put them into new situations, giving them opportunities to take risks. Each roll is for a decisive moment in the conflict, a dramatically interesting turning point, not an individual action. Each roll changes the situation in some way, providing new opportunities or obstacles, getting players closer to or farther away from defeating the enemy.
Enemies do not have healthbars. Players are progressively backing the enemy into a corner, you decide what a successful roll does to an enemy, and at what point the players have an opportunity to land the final killing blow.
When a player fails a roll, they take damage from the enemy’s counterattack. You decide how much damage they’re taking depending on how powerful the enemy attack is, and what makes the most sense in the story. Dealing 3VT worth of damage is a good number to default to if you aren’t sure.
The goal is to make combat feel more like improvising a cool movie fight sequence, as opposed to playing a turn based game like XCom or chess. Players roleplay through the dangerous, high stakes, interesting challenges. They use their creativity to come up with cool solutions, vividly describe what they do, and create awesome, cinematic, movie-like combat scenes that are engaging and don’t take too long.
If the players lose - they are at the mercy of their enemies.
Awarding Vitality Tokens
Award VT when the player uses their personality traits to make the story more interesting and exciting. You’re free to decide whether the player’s action earns them VT.
When you see an opportunity for the player to use one of their traits - suggest it to them (“You see someone in danger. If you risk your life to help them, you will gain 3VT.”)
If you want players to have more VT to play with - award it for awesome ideas, jokes, roleplaying moments. Or just let them find a Vitality Potion.
To create powerful and important NPCs you can use the NPCs App. Hover over “Create” button and choose a premade NPC to get started with. Add an image, fill in the description. Click on the stats button (top-right corner of the NPC card), and customize their talents, abilities, and items.
You can also improvise your NPCs and their powers on the fly, according to your story, you don’t have to create the character sheets if you don’t feel the need to.
Friendly NPCs can give players items as a reward for completing quests, important enemy NPCs can be looted after they’re defeated (each player gets one of the items they’ve had), so it’s good to prepare reward items in advance.
Encourage the players to invent their own talents, abilities, and items. Brainstorm them together. Make sure that abilities/items aren’t too overpowered.
All these rules are only a guideline, they exist to help you have fun and tell a cool story. If a rule stands in the way of playing the game you enjoy - ignore it or change it. You are free to override any of the rules, to simplify or extend this system. If there’s any confusion about the rules - don’t waste time arguing about them or looking things up. Make the decision that makes the most sense to you and go with it.
We’re looking for the GMs!
If you’re interested in running a lighthearted, low-combat, storytelling/improv-focused one-shot in Mirage (or know a GM who might be) - join our discord server and send me a message! (I’m
A few notes:
- Mirage isn’t meant for combat-heavy games, and probably won’t work great for those. It’s designed with storytelling/improv in mind, so it’s for people who like that kind of stuff.
- It’d be ideal if I could find people willing to run one-shots, as opposed to long-term campaigns. That way more people on the server would get to play games from time to time, instead of one consistent group with consistent schedule.
- If the rules for GMs are still a bit unclear/confusing, if you have any questions, or are having trouble preparing an adventure - I’ll be happy to help! Message me in discord and we’ll figure it out.
- It’s best if you first participate in a few games as a player, to get a better idea of how things works.