GM Tips: Use the Map

GM Tips articles offer advice and ideas for gamesmasters to help hone their techniques and run their games, these lists are not exhaustive but provide some tips to point a GM in the right direction. Continue reading

Complete Graveyard Shift

Just ran a very enjoyable session of Edge of the Empire for a group of great players (most of whom I’ve not had the pleasure of gaming with before), the session was titled ‘Graveyard Shift’ and focussed on a group of smugglers who had been hired to take some colonists on a pilgrimage to the Alderaanian system. I’ll be putting up a post shortly discussing how I thought the game went, but until then here is the complete list of videos connected with the game. Continue reading

Idea for Star Wars planning

As is often the case with my campaigns I’ve found the notes for my Jadepunk game (and this post is mainly about Star Wars so stay with me here) getting more and more expansive, necessitating more time to update them and making them a little bit more unwieldy to use; as someone who has a fairly poor memory notes are pretty much a must have for me when it comes to running RP campaigns, in order to maintain any level of internal consistency. I’m always looking for new/more efficient ways to store my notes and have moved from hard-copies to storing them in a tiddlywiki to help with this.

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Runeslinger’s Edge of Empire: Legacy of Destruction

I’ve just finished playing in another Edge of the Empire session run by Runeslinger; playing with Andre (who runs his own game Tides of Change) from the Brigade and two of Runeslinger’s regular face-to-face players; our motley crew consisted of:

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Structured Aspects

I’ve been thinking a lot about aspects recently as I’m starting to consider what is going to go in my PWYW PDF ‘All About Aspects’, at the same time I’ve also been thinking about submitting a pitch to the Fate Codex, in their writers guidelines they claim to be looking for:

  • Quick Start Adventures that contain a short setting, NPCs and plot hooks, and pregen characters (roughly 4,000 words).
  • Fate Core Essays that explain how to do exciting things with the Fate system in your local game (2,500 – 3,500 words).
  • Extra Systems that can be added to your game to provide new ways for your players to engage the fiction (1,000 – 1,500 words).
  • Short Fiction that will help to inspire you with new worlds and characters that will be statted up along with the prose (roughly 2,500 words).

I quite like the idea of trying to write an adventure that is self-contained but that also does something a little different with the basic Fate rules-set, so I’ve been thinking about how it might be interesting to tweak the structural guidelines that are provided for creating aspects. The default method in Fate Core asks players to think about their first adventure and then each person works out how their characters play a supporting role in the other peoples adventures and pick aspects based on them; some people love this idea and some people hate it, and of course there’s nothing that says you have to use it, however, having some guidelines can be useful to prevent people from stalling or getting that blank expression when aspects are first explaining.

When it discusses running horror games using Fate the Fate Toolkit one of the pieces of advice it gives is:

Compels Aplenty: While compels aren’t tools for forcing outcomes, they are tools for making things go wrong. So make them abundant. Place aspects on the scene, the story, the campaign—and compel them to make things go wrong for everyone. Simply dropping Death Comes for Everyone onto the story and compelling it at the exact worst time (for the players) to make things that much worse will get lots of traction. Yeah, the players affected will walk away with some fate points—which they’ll need in order to survive—but they’ll also feel the emotional gut-punch of the moment—and will wonder when the next compel is going to land. Make them hurt. Make them worry.

Often one of the problems with horror gaming is that, unless the PCs buy into the genre conventions then it can fall flat; after all everyone knows that splitting up is a bad idea, that reading the old book is a death-sentence and don’t even think about going down into that dark cellar. Still, the characters/victims in horror films and stories do exactly that because, unlike the players in an RPG, they generally don’t know they’re in a horror story; if your players are too concerned with survival and playing it safe then the horror RPG experience can seem a bit limp and deflated.

I think aspects could be just the thing to change that; using compels frequently could, if used with appropriate aspects, re-inforce the genre tropes and reward players who buy-in to the setting whilst still allowing those who wish to pay a fate point to avoid the compel, although doing so eventually means they will succumb to the dark forces of whatever nameless horror stalks them.

Taking the standard five aspect approach, I’m intending to define them something like this (I’m using the example of a haunted house investigation below, if the goal/setting of the game were different then some of the wording might change):

  1. What is your job? – this replaces high concept
  2. What brought you to the haunted house? – this replaces trouble
  3. What are you hoping to find in the house?
  4. What do you fear is in the house?
  5. What will keep you investigating when weird stuff starts to happen?

And there are examples below:

  1. What is your job? Newspaper photographer
  2. What bought you to the haunted house? Some people have disappeared here and the place has a bad reputation.
  3. What are you hoping to find in the house? A big scoop.
  4. What do you fear is in the house? Some kind of crazy person or killer.
  5. What will keep you investigating when weird stuff starts to happen? I need the money that the story will bring me to support my family.
  1. What is your job? None, I’m a homeless person.
  2. What bought you to the haunted house? My dog ran off and disappeared into the building.
  3. What are you hoping to find in the house? I just want to find Rex and get out.
  4. What do you fear is in the house? The house was built on an old graveyard and they say ot’s haunted.
  5. What will keep you investigating when weird stuff starts to happen? Rex is the only friend I have, and who knows I might find something worth something in the old place.

I’m hoping to keep refining this idea over the next few weeks and then look at making it into an adventure with a view to playtesting and submitting to the Codex.

The Importance of Feedback in RPGs

No-one starts off as the world’s best GM, when I think of how truly shocking that very first game of WFRP I ran was I give a little shudder, but at the time we all had fun and we learned a lot from that first game; I always say to people that there’s nothing wrong with not being a perfect GM as long as you’re always trying to improve and you’re putting that effort in.

One of the best ways to improve you games is to solicit feedback from your players, now you can ask players for feedback in the aftermath of a game session but some people don’t feel comfortable giving feedback in-front of others or need a bit of time to reflect on the session and get their thoughts in order; I find it best to ask for feedback a day or two after a session has completed. One other issue with feedback is that it can be difficult for players to know where to start or what sort of feedback you are looking for, after all someone just saying “the session was crap” might be accurate in their eyes but it’s not particularly helpful from the perspective of a GM seeking to improve their game.

So what can I do?

The best way that I have found to get feedback is to make a feedback form available to players shortly after the session that asks them to rate various facets of the game and also asks specific questions, this not only makes it easier on the players but also ensures that you get the sort of feedback that will be useful to you as a GM.

You can find an example of the feedback sheet that I use for my Jadepunk game by clicking on the link below:

Click here for Jadepunk Player Feedback Form

feedback-t2

Useful links page updated

I have just finished updating the useful links page to contain links to the Fate hacks that I have stored on my Google Drive.

Writing a Werewolf Downtime

One of the things that appeals to me about version 2 of the NWOD Werewolf: the Forsaken is that the emphasis of the game has been placed squarely back on the hunt, something that i’ve always seen as being essential to the werewolf mythos, after all what’s the point in RPing someone who turns into a predator if they then don’t behave like one? Even in books/films where people are struggling against the curse of lycanthropy the struggled is normally spurred on by the damage inflicted during moonlit hunts.

I’m also playing in an OWED MET Werewolf: the Apocalypse game (helping me to cram in as many acronyms as possible) that my friend Dave is running in Derby at the moment; since i’m a bit wooley on the OWOD werewolf background (being more a fan of the NWOD iteration) I went for a Red Talon lupus ahroun.

Red Talons

The Red Talons are the claws of Gaia; they are her rage at the human race given form, or so they believe. The Talons come almost entirely from lupus stock; only in the last few decades have they even accepted Metis that come from Talon-Talon matings.

Lupus Garou

A lupus is a Garou who was born as and raised as a wolf. Many lupus are familiar with Gaia and bear a strong grudge towards humans for their tampering; this frequently extends to HomidGarou.

I did this for a couple of reasons, one was because I didn’t have a lot of free time to be creating detailed backgrounds and meddling around with influences (something i’ve always seen as more appropriate to Vampire: the Masquerade than werewolf anyway) and also because I didn’t want to get too enmeshed in the OWOD werewolf cosmology, I wanted to focus on playing the part of a predator and enjoying the RP that lead to.

Writing the Downtime

Of course I still do downtimes since they add a lot to the game and allow you to get things accomplished between monthly game sessions, but that left me with a quandry, how could I create a downtime that was actually meaningful whilst still keeping the essential character of the wolf-like lupus hunter?

The answer I’ve found is to try and view everything as a type of hunt; I do this by breaking the downtime down into three stages which I have nicknamed hunt, capture and kill.

  1. Hunt (stalking stage)The hunting stage is all about discovering what you want and working out the best way of going about obtaining it; get the scent of what it is that you want to achieve and then make a few quick darts at it to determine the best course of action.Example: If our werewolf has decided to kill a vampire, follow it for a while, then follow who it speaks to, possibly make a few attacks or feints at some of it’s servants to see how the creature responds; when you know how it behaves then you can move onto the next stage.
  2. Capture (closing in)In the capture stage you’ve decided on your best method of approach and begin to carry it out; once you have decided on an approach commit fully to it, throwing all your resources and abilities into it.Example: We’ve discovered that the vampire has a servant that it particularly values, our werewolf stalks the servant and then captures it, leaving a visible sign (possibly a severed limb, some blood or perhaps a note for the more squeamish) for the vampire to find letting it know that it’s servant is in danger unless it comes to the abandoned warehouse at the docks.
  3. KillThis is the climax of the hunt, once you reach this stage continue to commit fully to bringing down your quarry or achieving your aim, however, a wise hunter does not entirely lose their head; look for ways to maximise your chances of achieving your aims but also leave yourself a get-away.Example: The servant is restrained and left in the middle of the warehouse, whilst our werewolf lurks nearby in a spot overlooking the building so that he can see when the vampire arrives; if he has access to such equipment then he may have rigged the area with explosives, if not then simple home-made devices will do. When the vampire approaches he is allowed to rescue the servant (the emotions of the moment will distract him) and then bombarded with explosives designed to weaken/confuse him, the werewolf then closes in to finish the kill personally.

I’ve found that this approach to writing downtimes allows me to still get a reasonable amount done without the character just becoming a human with fur.

Fate Core Character – Sebastian Crow

Playing in a Mad Max inspired Fate Core one-shot this evening hosted by Ian F. White, very much looking forward to it.

We were given the following background info (please note I didn’t write the background info it was provided to us by Ian F. White the host of the game):

Relevant points in my interpretation of the world of Mad Max:

(Some of the following points do not hold up to detailed scrutiny, but we’re going to gloss over that fact in the name of entertainment and playability.)

• There was a limited nuclear war a few years ago, amongst the nations of the Northern Hemisphere.
• Nuclear radiation fallout, famine, drought, and civil war combined to decimate the world-wide population, and the global civilization as a whole, collapsed.
• The world quickly ran out of stored processed fuel and munitions. Therefore, fuel is scarce, guns are scarcer.
• Most major cities still operate to some degree. Enclaves were formed by groups of survivors around strategic resources.
• The land in between these Cities and Enclaves descended into lawlessness, occasionally punctuated by a lone farmstead or trading post.
• Anyone travelling through these lawless areas would have a vehicle (personal or shared), and be constantly on the lookout for more gasoline…

Character background and lead-in to the scenario:

• What type of vehicle do you (and your ‘partner’ if applicable) drive?
• What weaponry do you favour?
• Why the hell are you trying to make a living in the Australian Outback?
• How do you know the entrepreneur Donny “Spider” Webster?
• In what form is the message “Met me at Fifi’s on the 23rd. Spider” delivered to you?

Here is a link to the character that I have created Sebastian Crow.ron perlman

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByVpAo4rxDGuVUJSampJTGMtb0k&authuser=0

And the extra background info:

• What type of vehicle do you (and your ‘partner’ if applicable) drive?
A rusty looking (but well maintained) motorbike covered with religious symbols.

• What weaponry do you favour?
A shotgun that Crow refers to as the Sword of Azrael.

• Why the hell are you trying to make a living in the Australian Outback?
Crow believes that (as he lost his faith & then found it) this harsh new world is a test, a new flood or crucible designed to forge man into something better than he was, but to do that people need to be show the way. He travels the outback looking for signs from the Lord.

• How do you know the entrepreneur Donny “Spider” Webster?
Crow has a monetary arrangement with Spider, given Spiders contacts he keeps an eye out for anything weird that might be a sign and lets Crow know in return for regular payments.

• In what form is the message “Met me at Fifi’s on the 23rd. Spider” delivered to you?
Spider knows that Sebastian has a soft spot for youngsters (believing them to be innocent and undeserving of the harsh world created by their parents), so he sends a youth with the message.

sebastian crow

How many games can you actually run?

Have you ever had one of those ideas that seemed like a brilliant one at the time, but then in the cold light of day, maybe not so much?

I’m sure we all must have done right?

Well I had one the other day, it was late, must have been nearly midnight, i’d got up early at 6:00am to play in a StarWars Edge of Empire one-off run by Runeslinger (you can find a link to the AP of that session here) and really enjoyed that, banged a load of energy drinks down me, went to a local RP convention then I came home, did some blogging, drank some more energy drinks and kept writing until near midnight. It was as the witching hour approached that I was sitting at my keyboard, Edge of Empire corebook tantalisingly within reach that a thought occurred to me:

“I could probably run an Edge of Empire campaign at the same time as my Jadepunk game”

I was chatting to a couple of people online at the time, but the idea seemed like a really good one as I started to crash, the last of the caffeinated goodness from my earlier feast of energy drinks spent; I went as far as to start writing down the skeletal notes of a campaign outline and began musing idly about what day I could run it on – Saturday was out because otherwise i’d be running games on both days of the weekend and I’d never manage to get into a one-shot, how about Tuesdays? I was going to be playing in a bi-weekly StarWars game run by somebody else on Tuesdays, but perhaps I could slot my game in on the other weeks; i’m pretty sure that some of my Jadepunkers would be interested and I could always look for other players on the many RP Facebook groups I’m a member of.

Luckily for me it was at that point that I really started to crash and, making my excuses retired to bed. When I woke up the next morning the idea of running another campaign seemed a little silly in the cold light of day, after all, it would effectively halve the planning time that I’d have for Jadepunk and would mean that I’d have to organise two groups of people, with all the scheduling difficulties, correspondence and other things that entails.

If you find yourself in the situation where you’re thinking about running another campaign, I’d suggest asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you have the energy to run another campaign?
    Although running games is fun, a lot of effort goes into them and it can become exhausting if you take too much on, leading to the dreaded GM burnout.
  2. Do you have the time to run and plan another campaign?
    There’s only so many hours in the week, work and other real-life stuff tends to eat up a lot of time for most of us, so seriously consider whether or not you have the time to devout to it, keeping in mind that you’ll be splitting this time between your new game and any current campaigns you’re running.
  3. Is your significant other going to murder you?
    A very important consideration, whilst playing non-stop RPing games would be a dream come true for some, even if you have a very understanding other half, they may frown on the amount of time you have to devote towards running yet another game.
  4. Could you get your fix another way?
    If you’re just looking for a change of pace or maybe want to try out a new system, perhaps running a one-shot or one-off session might help to scratch that itch and, since it’s only a one-off it won’t chew up so much of your time.

    If you want to run a one-shot I highly recommend giving the Tabletop RPG One Shot Group Facebook community a look.

Hopefully once you’ve answered those questions you’ll have more of any idea of whether running another RPG campaign is actually desirable and feasible…

…and I definitely can’t run another game…

…nor do I want to…

…definitely not…

…mmmm …Starwars.