Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pirates vs Ninjas - Post Workshop Thoughts

Overview

Creating a game, even a rules light one, can take a lot of time and patience. By following a few of the guidelines that we learned at this latest workshop, I think the process can be smoother, faster, more fun and still provide great results. I'm going to briefly list the positive outcome of our game creation activity that as a group we completed at the end of the workshop.

Step 1: Figure out the setting.

Chris brought a bunch of comics from an artist that had given permission for us to use his world as our setting. This saved us a bunch of brainstorming effort. We went through the short comics to glean information about the setting. Taking notes was very important for this step! Here is what we came up with:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mouse Guard Try It Out! session: A Self Critique

I love playing Mouse Guard as a game master. You get more game play for the time you put into devising scenarios. I only wish I can lead more players in to the promised lands that are the Mouse Territories. In July I decided to do just that, and scheduled out two Try It Out sessions, one at the first of the month, the other near the last to drum up interest in the game. I'm sold on the system - it gives a fresh perspective on the way we GM and look at roleplaying games.

This post is my self critique of the Try It Out session, and what lessons I've pulled from hosting this game.

I've always had the opinion that if you like a system well enough, you should evangelize it as much as you can. Expose more players to a game you feel passionately about, you'll grow your potential player pool. It's hard work that pays off in the long run. Your excitement tends to rub off on those players who like the system. I decided to evangelize and draw players into the Try It Out sessions, hopefully bolstering a house game already running for Mouse Guard.

The Grain Merchant mission was the scenario that I slated to run. It's easy and exciting, and can be cobbled into anything you want it to be. My plans were to run it straight up since everyone was new. But plans do change, and Melissa, my experienced player, wanted back in on the action. I initially planned to design a scenario within the existing house game. But she opted out when the game started to fill quickly, to allow other new players the opportunity to play. With this in mind, I defaulted to the Grain Merchant mission.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Starting out a Campaign

I'm about to put another campaign into the works, and I'm carefully building this one from A to Z. I've done this with a previous on-going campaign, but this will be a series of house games tied together with a thought-out plot and a fresh view on a subject that has been touched on in fiction -- an alternate history. I've gotten a taste for doing these type of backdrops - they appeal to me.

My last thought-out campaign was a GURPS Steampunk-ish game that started in Charleston, SC. This wasn't slated as a house game (quick definition of a house game - episodic games that are tied together, playable in a session with a changing cast of PCs), but rather a regular campaign dependent on players hitting milestones in their own time rather than accomplishing a goal within a session or two. When I started out I carefully considered the rules and even created a small booklet of PC knowledge.

My big problem was that I bogged down on the details, an old bad habit of mine. I also indulged another old bad habit - I tried to make everything I wrote "print-worthy". I worked for a magazine, so I'm pretty good at laying things out. Unfortunately, I've since come to the realization that I cannot GM out of modules, and creating my own module doesn't help my GMing and takes up precious time. My notes do look pretty. The Charleston Campaign currently serves as a laboratory of sorts; honing my GMing style and how I transcribe and store game information.

My first task was to define the game topic itself. The title of the new campaign is Cell 13, and is based on the premise that Germany won WW2. The question I posed is what if Hitler made all the *right* decisions, or even better, if Hitler was deposed of and a more menacing leader took charge. Without giving too much away, I have a workable and exciting premise for a game -- can't go wrong with Nazis in power that need some comeuppance. I also want the game to flow fast and furious, that focuses on roleplaying and some tactical planning. Death is a very real possibility.

The next task was deciding on what game system to use. I like GURPS, but it is not a system conducive to players creating characters quickly, and a system that I can feel good about offing a PC in short order. Instead, I decided to give Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying (BRP) a shot. I've played Call of Cthulhu (CoC) numerous times, and really enjoyed how fluid game play was and how easy it was to teach. CoC uses a modified version of BRP, so I picked the latest BRP rules up. If you're creative enough, you can pick and choose your rules or order other Chaosium products and find things you can incorporate. My task was making the Skills list more robust. So I ordered the Berlin '61 monograph (or supplement). I'm even putting my layout skills to good use too by customizing the character sheet.

When I decided on setting, system and supplements, I sat down and looked up advice in making notes. I've read some articles about creating a "Campaign Bible", essentially a compendium of notes on the game. The best article I found was written by Brandan Landgraff in D20 Source. Entitled World Building 101: Campaign Bibles and Scope, this is a great article to help get you focused on the task ahead.This article is part of a World Building 101 series that includes: When are Campaign Documents Needed, Keeping Organized, Campaign Bible Formats, Keeping a Campaign Bible, Sample Campaign Brief and Effective Campaign Briefs. There are other articles in the series that make great reading, but these are pertinent to setting up a campaign.

Lastly, I've  taken a rather "Amish" approach to my note taking -- keeping as much as I can *off* the computer and simply jotting down my notes in a notebook. I found merit for doing this in another article called 8 GM Binder Tips for the Organized Gamemaster on the Roleplaying Tips site. I can dump ideas on to a notebook faster than I can type them in. I also borrow scraps from supplement books and tape them into the appropriate areas in the notebook - kinda like doing a scrapbook.

This is as far as I've gotten with my current project. I've still got to work on the Spaceballs game for the Space Opera event July 24.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Welcome to the Game Master's SIG!

Welcome to the home site of the Game Master's Special Interest Group of the Raleigh Tabletop RPG Meetup. Inspired by Melissa Moritz' efforts on the World of Darkness SIG, I decided to follow her lead in using a blog format for the GM SIG's home site. Access to this blog will be limited to the members of the GM's SIG. UPDATE: If any RTR GM SIG member would like to post blog entries, please tell me and I'll add you as an author. Otherwise, you only have access to the Comments.

Commentary on this blog will be limited to Game Mastering issues - so if you want to post about hiking, politics or anything else that floats your boat, feel free to open up your own blog! :-) I envision this site to be the resource we can all go to for answers to make our Game Mastering a positive experience.

The first and most valuable posts are the after game reports. I encourage all RTR members who join to become authors too. The easiest way to write these posts are to answer questions. What was your experience during the game as a GM? What did you do right? What could you have done better? This is also a sticky type of post, so leave any commentary about the players to the side. This is about your game mastering style, and what you can do to make it better.

The next most important item you can post is any links you find that pertain to good game mastering. Sharing resources makes the site a gold mine to all GM SIG members, and the final sum result is that it promotes great games for all. Share away!

Game news is always important. What are the latest and greatest games, what's happening with game companies - anything to help become more attuned to the direction of the gaming industry is good for all of us.

Pitching questions is also fair game for posts. At times we have complex conundrums or philosophical issues we need to pitch out to the SIG Membership for deeper discussion.

Humor is good too. It's a nice tonic for being the one who makes the world go round. Any game mastering related humor is always welcome. :-)

Lastly, comment on the posts. That's where some real gems of knowledge appear. Have a solution to a problem? Write up what you think should be done. Other gaming news that goes with the post? Write it up. Your views on a session? Add your thoughts. Make this blog valuable by adding your know-how.

Good luck and good gaming!