I consider myself to be a GM of middling skill. I can build worlds like nobody's business. I excel at that aspect of it I think, and I do tend to have a pretty extensive knowledge of the mechanics of the game and an ability to make them work to my advantage to get what I want out of the system. I can build characters too. I mean, if my players ever leave somebody for dead and they're not actually dead and they recover and move from faceless mook status to unique vengeance seeker status, well, the guys'll be in trouble. Plots, eh, I do ok, but in this campaign there isn't a very clear plot. Partly because it is a sandbox and partly because they have such a narrow view of what is going on in Orcunraytrel. If the characters were Orcunraytrel characters and not The Known World characters, I could come up with like fifteen or twenty "Go do this now!" campaign ideas to snag their interest with. The the pirates, it is a little more difficult to give them anything beyond what they want to do, because the pirates and Kusseth are more interested in securing their foothold than anything else at the moment. Though I do have some plans about how that gets interesting in the future. We'll see if they go anywhere though.
To continue, my combats are...lackluster. I'll be honest. I try to add environmental effects (thanks for that insight 4e) to spice it up sometimes, but the terrain is so barren in their chunk of Orcunraytrel that I don't have much to work with beyond, "That pile of rocks is harder to move through." Also, the enemies they've been fighting are like CR 1 & 2 and they're 5th level (6th level now) and have an NPC well above that with them. So that may have something to do with it. Hehe. Additionally, my enemies tend to be straight forward. My sneak attacking zombies were fun, but most of my enemies walk right up and hit the guys, or hang back and shoot them. I've been feeling for a while that my enemies need to be more tactical in nature. I just feel like if I make their enemies too tactical or tough, it basically amounts to me trying to kill them instead of challenging them. But, I'm not really challenging them in the first place, so I suppose I am already doing it wrong.
Traps, I don't really use traps at all. Which is a failing of mine.
Have you ever looked at shit like White Plume Mountain or The Tomb of Horrors? What the fuck man? Who comes up with this shit? I have an old Dragon Magazine from 2nd Edition era that has some additions to the Tomb in it. One of them is a really small entrance to a larger room. There is also like a wand of shrinking or some such to be found elsewhere in the area protected by a baddie. Through the very tiny entrance the players can see a pile of loot. So the play is that you use the wand and go in and get the treasure. The room isn't trapped or full of burny death and the treasure is legit and not an illusion, and there is a lot of it. However, there is an anti-magic aura centered on the room. Guess what, your shrink ray no longer works and now you are stuck. Welcome to starving to death as a rich rich man.
My brain works in a pretty direct fashion, there isn't a lot of subtlety
Oh. Oh Dog. My cat just farted on my lap. Oh it's foul. I might throw up.
To continue. My brain works in a pretty direct fashion and combat is about as direct as you can get in DnD, so that is what I throw at my players. I tried mysteriousness and secrecy and questions last campaign, but it came to an abbreviated end when I signed up for the paramedic class, which I didn't end up taking. Although, it probably would have broken up anyways, what with the whole situation that developed with the girlfriend no one liked and whatnot. Anyway, I didn't get to experiment a lot with subtlety and secrecy and general tricksieness.
So in a grand departure from form, I am focusing on traps in the next scenario. This actually works out well, because I was going to stuff the place full of monsters, but that makes very little sense given the nature of the place they'll be hanging around in. In the fifth scenario of the campaign, I put in a few trapped doorways in the mansion of The Grog Guzzling Grenadiers, but those basically amounted to tripwires setting off explosives. Not exactly creative or mold breaking. In this scenario I am trying to be a little more interesting and I've got to say, it is kind of fun.
Now, I'm not saying it is save or die every ten feet, or even that these are sneaky traps. I'm just saying that it is kind of fun to step out of my norm and make something a little different than I'm used to. We'll see what the players think of it next month.