Rules for the GM
You are a Game Master (GM) - the narrator of the story. GM describes the world around the players, plays the role of non-player characters, decides what challenge the players will face next, and narrates the consequences of their actions. Your goal is to create a fun story together with your players.
Creating and Running Adventures
To play the game you need an adventure. You can use a premade adventure, or make up your own. You can find a collection of premade adventures here. To create your own adventure, you can follow the adventure brainstorming process described in this guide. If you need some help - join our Adventure Writer’s Room - a community of GMs who meet in the discord voice chat, and improvise adventures together.
Before the game, help the players to understand the rules and create their characters.
During the game, 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.
Try to 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.
Before the roll, set the target number the player needs to beat in order to succeed at a task. The target number represents their likelihood of success, it depends on the difficulty of the task, situation they’re in, and their approach to solving the challenge. Set lower target numbers for easier tasks and clever solutions, and higher numbers for difficult situations and risky actions. 5 is easy, 10 is average, 15 is challenging, 19 is very hard.
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 saw characters in a movie attempt something like this, what would you expect to happen?
Failed rolls always lead 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.
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.”)
Action and Combat Scenes
Resolve combat the same way you resolve any other challenge in the game - with one or several (often 3-5) rolls.
Enemies do not have healthbars, and you do not run combat blow-by-blow, rolling for separate attacks or actions. Instead, you use the dice to determine the outcomes of decisive moments in the conflict, dramatically interesting turning points. Players are progressively backing the enemy into a corner until at some point they have an opportunity to land the final killing blow.
Resolve simple fights in one roll. Players describe how they’re fighting, roll to see if they win.
Defeating a fearsome enemy (like a dragon) may require 2-4 challenges (wound the dragon’s wing to force it to land, distract it to help another player to get close enough while avoiding it’s attacks, pry open one of it’s scales, land a 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 ones making them run for cover. You can roll to chase down the remaining ones, or overcome the cover they’re hiding behind.
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.
Players don’t die (unless they want their character to die when it feels dramatically appropriate), but you can describe how they got hurt and take it into account when deciding the difficulty of future challenges. If the situation gets severe, players may be forced to escape or be left at the mercy of their enemies.
The goal is to make combat feel more like improvising a cool movie fight sequence, as opposed to playing a turn based boardgame. 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.
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.
Prepare what’s hard to improvise
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.
If you’re struggling to come up with a creative idea - use one from your favorite Movie, Game, or a TV show.
Mix and match tropes. Combine two different ideas. Try to add an unusual unexpected twist. Change a key element of the idea, switch the genre, setting, goal, important character traits, etc. What makes it different from what we’ve seen before?
Listen to players and “yes and” their ideas. Let them take the story in their own direction, and build on top of their ideas.
Draw players into the story by asking questions “How does your character feel about x?”, “What’s going through their head as they do y?”, “Describe how you want to do z.”
Use similar prompts to encourage the players to follow the roleplaying guidelines.
Keep the scenes short
Shorter scenes are better than longer ones. Start scenes as close to the action as possible, end them as soon as the interesting part over.
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 is a storytelling/improv/roleplay focused game, somewhere on the intersection between freeform roleplay and improv. It is for people who want to become better storytellers, roleplayers, writers, improvisers, and enjoy doing these things. It is not for people who like “crunchy” and intricate rules.
- Mirage isn’t meant for combat-heavy games, and probably won’t work great for those.
- It’d be ideal if I could find people interested in running one-shots (games that can be completed in one 2-3 hour session), 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.