1. Your players arrive in an abandoned city - the first thing they do is enter a home, asking what's left in the pantry. what do you say to them?
"You find cobwebs, dust, and mold mostly. A few piles of clay shards and wet stained spots mark where someones fermenting cabbage long ago burst the pot. Digging through the remaining intact pots and sacks reveals a rat nest hidden in the back corner of the cellar, dug half into the wall. The glint of something shiny catches your eye but to get at it you'll need to stick your hand in the potentially-still-rat-infested hole."
2. Your players want to talk to a city magistrate about an unpopular idea of theirs. In order to catch the magistrate off-guard, they approach early in the morning. What state do they find the magistrate in?
I could go two ways (or more if I have an actual characterization for said magistrate already pinned down or in the works).
Perhaps, "You hammer on the heavy brass faced double doors of the Magistrates residence, after a solid few minutes, and a few insults hurled from neighboring residences, the peep-slot is yanked open and a sleepy eyed servant glares out at you. 'You lot better have a good reason for bothering her Honorableness at this hour. She's not even woken yet.' How do you answer?"
Or maybe, "You jog along through the empty early morning streets, passing yawning vendors opening their stalls and shops, and quickly catch sight of the Magistrates palanquin hurrying down the lane. As you draw closer however, you spy the Magistrate lazily watching their surrounds out the window and they spy you in turn. The Magistrate seems to freeze as if thinking 'oh no, not these madmen again' then frantically drums on the side of the palanquin and shouts something to their servants who begin to jog double-time away from you. What do you do?"
3. During character creation, a player mentions that they want a naturally blue-haired character. Not for any particular reason, you were envisioning your campaign setting without this possibility. How do you respond?
Well if I really found that a single instance of blue hair was so egregiously in violation of the settings vibe it'd be on me for not properly communicating said vibe to the players. But in most cases I'd go 'alrighty' and maybe add a hook in tied to that like 'a wizard did it' or 'you come from a blessed/cursed bloodline' or something.
4. Read the following entry for "point of interest", and then refine how you would present it in a game in some way. You might change how you would describe it out loud, edit it in writing, add typographical emphasis (bold, italics, underlining) for a play-by-post game, etc.
Out loud at the table it might end up like so...
"The thick trunks and brambles fall away to reveal a clearing, a gentled sloped hillock capped with stone and encircled by crumbling granite pillars ensconced in ivy and engraved with ancient writing, Ash Dwarf from the looks of it (if there's a player in the group whose an ash dwarf, a scholar, or just someone who knows about such things I'll tell them that 'miners would frequent this shrine to get protection before going to the volcano', they could also probably get this info out of the salamander) As you draw closer you spy a pool of bubbling, simmering water at the center of the pillar circle and sunning itsself lazily on the edge is massive rust colored salamander. They salamander opens one eye and glances at you and rumbles 'Come travelers, rest your feet and partake in the protective water, etc, etc, you know the rest...' then closes its eye and resettles itself."
In my notes it would look anywhere between...
Ash Dwarf Shrine, Salamander Guardian
Ash Dwarf Shrine, Granite Pillars (ivy), Salamander (guardian of the fountain, greeter of pilgrims, keeper of its history, pretty chill), Hot spring water grants protection from flame
5. Your players enter a dungeon you have prepared, and leave after being spooked by the monsters within. In truth, they are more than powerful enough to overcome the threats of the dungeon, and well-equipped to do so. One of the players asks "Do you think we're ready for this dungeon?" How do you answer?
"Yeah, you could totally take it no problem, especially if you're smart about it."
6. One of your players has a spell, speak with insects. They use it to speak with a spider, at which point another player points out that it shouldn't work. The first player is obviously disappointed, and looks to you hopefully for you to overrule he other player. You don't remember the actual details of how the spell works, but your rulebook is handy if you need to look it up. What do you do?
First off, sod the rulebook. My players and me can agree on what happens just fine between ourselves. Second, this is a fantastic opportunity to have some fun. "Okay so your right spiders aren't arachnids but they are arthropods and pretty close compared to a frog, so maybe the spell works but not as well, with some broken language and confusion, heck, maybe this applies to any insect adjacent group, you could even talk to crabs but not very well. Does that sound reasonable to everyone?"
I make a lot of stuff up in the moment. Like half the details for the shrine would probably be made up in the moment including the salamander being able to talk. And if Im doing good, top of my game, I'll be throwing lots of complications/dilemmas made up in the moment in. Additionally, I prefer telling players straight up without valuing too much. Especially if it would make the scene better/more clearer (like describing the thoughts of an NPC in terms of 'they look like they're thinking'). Also also, I prefer working with players then defaulting to the rulebook or holding my choices as supreme.
7. (response to 1) "There's nothing in the pantry."
A bit bland, missing a chance to throw some more fun at the players and help make this abandoned city more evocative. But understandable if trying to keep the game on pace (though I would still include a description even if its a glossed over one).
8. (response to 2) "The magistrate - only a petty official who has temporarily taken over this post, by the way - isn't even tired - he's an early morning sort of gentleman. Despite the early hour, the dawn's rays still barely tickling over the hills, he looks well put-together. Not a hair is out of place on his head, and his sharply kept mustache suggest a morning ritual of wax-infused grooming. The man is already making steady headway into a stack of tidy paperwork as you arrive, You're in luck however - he seems to be in a good mood, which may make him more amenable to your suggestion than normal."
Sounds fine. A bit overly verbose without adding much I think, but that's a stylistic difference. Though the 'however' after 'you're in luck' strikes me as odd, since nothing about the previous description seems to go against the the magistrate being in a good mood.
9. (response to 3) "Sure you can have blue hair! I hope you don't mind if nobody else does though - I didn't really originally picture that sort of hair, and I've got so much else to juggle that I probably won't add a whole lot of world responsiveness to blue hair. It'll just be an aesthetic thing to help you better picture your character, not much beyond that."
Not my fav response but understandable as it seems to come from a different refereeing style than me. I do wonder what this Ref is so busy juggling that they can't throw in some response to the blue hair, blue hair doesn't seem any different from any other character feature that the world might respond too. They're probably using a crunchier ruleset, or perhaps have a high intrigue game planned (though in that case such a detail feels like it would be useful to add some reaction too).
10. (response to 4) "The point of interest should be more direct, short, and to the point. I don't want to mention other shrines, since they'll come up when they come up, and players can make the connection about salamanders being normal if they want to. Since it's for a game, the phrases don't have to be grammatically correct or complete sentences - they just need to convert information. For a play-by-post game, I also want the keywords to stand out, so I will bold them:" "An Ash Dwarf shrine. 1 salamander stands guard outside. Simmering pool of fire shield (1 day duration) inside"
The logic makes sense. Not exactly how I would do things myself. Hm, yeah the point on direct and short stand, I need to work on making my descriptions punchier and more focused. Especially when in a voice or live text game (in a play by post I would actually go with longer descriptions because I can and players have the time to read them). Though I would go a bit more descriptive than this example, throw in some evocative wording. Totally agree on the subject of grammar, run on sentences for the wiiiiinnnn!
11. (response to 5)"Who knows? Haha."
Hard dislike on this. It feels a bit dick-ish to be honest. I much prefer to be upfront and honest to my players than cryptic and vague.
12. (response to 6) "I would look it up in the book, and if it's a regular question, I would add a sticky note to that page so I could find it faster, to show my players what the rules say. Knowing the rules and when to look them up is important, and I want to lead by example."
Hard pass. See my previous comment on 'sod the rulebook' I think that's a missed opportunity to include the players and have some fun. As well, it would slow the game down. And furthermore for me it feels like disavowing responsibility, as a Ref I feel that you should not have to break out the rulebook every time you're unsure of something (especially for something as small as a spell). I feel that you should be able to make a ruling in the moment with your players consent and consensus.
13. Imagine briefly, that the responses in 7 through 12 all came from the same GM, within the same campaign. Are there patterns that emerge about how this GM runs? Would you want the GM to be more consistent and predictable about anything? Does examining this hypothetical GM change how you thought about your own tendencies, and your own patterns? Would you want to learn anything from this hypothetical GM or not? Why?
They seem to be someone playing in a much crunchier ruleset than me, who places a greater value on holding to the rulebook than making rulings in the moment. I would theorize that they probably are more concerned with planned ideas and concepts than with coming up with stuff in the moment or letting players do lots of unexpected stuff (though this is just an impression). If I was this GM's player I would most likely prefer if they let us have a bit more freedom. These examples certainly bit my more collaborative and anarchic refereeing style in light since they are quite different from what I do. I'd be cruise to chat to with this GM but I suspect our respective styles would be too different for me to learn much. Maybe I'd get some cool ideas out of it tho. Their thought on making the description of the shrine more concise is a good one though, Im working on making my prose more tight myself. Though I like a little evocative flare to things. Fancy words and all that.