I’ve never done any actual play logs here at Nevermet Press, and that probably will not change. However, I have been thinking about chronicling my experience as a Game Master. Specifically, I’d like to put some concepts of mine, as well as advice and tricks found on the internet, to the test.
From the Ashes
My gaming group has been through some twists and turns recently, suffering a lot of drama between and surrounding a few members. So it’s been months since I’ve played or ran anything (I still want to finish that Pathfinder Age of Worms game!).
However, last weekend I made the trip down to the backwaters where my gaming group convenes and we, the four remaining members, were trying to decide what to play. I had brought a plethora of RPGs with me including World of Darkness/Vampire: Requiem, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Alpha Omega, Star Wars Saga Edition, and Mutants & Masterminds. We picked Star Wars SE and they picked me to Game Master.
I was wholly unprepared to run anything, but after a relatively quick character creation session, I managed to craft on the fly a decent beginning to a swashbuckling space adventure. The first lesson the players learned was that having everyone play a Jedi left huge gaps in skills that I made fairly important (like mechanics and pilot). The second lesson was that huge breaches in a ship’s hull are lethal.
I’d like everyone to be able to play a Jedi, because that is 99% of the reason to play in the Star Wars universe! So in light of the skills gap, I am considering letting everyone create a second, non-Jedi character.
7 Ps of Game Mastering
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Ok, I ripped that out my good ol’ days of being enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, but it is applicable. I am pretty freakin’ decent at improvising a story on the fly, but I think I’m even better when I have had an opportunity to plan things out.
I began jotting down notes from the previous session, trying to remember all those fictitious names I spouted out at random and then I fleshed out the PCs’ current location, gave myself a few NPCs to work with, and made notes about the local attraction (which is where much of the “adventure” will occur).
These things are not detailed, but it gives me enough information that I can easily extrapolate at the table. It also prevents me from confusing which made-up-name guy did what. I also like to jot down about 3-4 adventure hooks per location, and work in characters and elements related to those things throughout the course of the PCs’ time at those locations.
I also decided to create a Campaign Charter, which is my fancy version of one of those social contracts that received a decent amount of attention on the RPG Blogs last year (well, that is at least when I read the most about them). If you would like to read more about social contracts, I recommend RPG Athenaeum’s social contract article.
I should note that I do not call mine a contract, because that word carries with it a lot of negative connotations. I consider it a set of guidelines that we all agree to uphold during the course of the campaign. So basically, it just makes it easier for me to kill things that bog-down gameplay.
The first order of business in the downtime between sessions this week was to determine what kind of play style I wanted to support: story-driven or location-based. I’m opting for a hybrid method by actually including plots in my sandbox.
I am a huge fan of sandbox style play, in that the players can choose their adventure instead of being spoon-fed a story. However, making the Star Wars universe a sandbox sounds like a monumental task for a GM. So I’m taking an easy route by creating several locations that can be fitted onto almost any planet. I’m creating locations with themes: jungle, urban, desert, frozen, starship, space station, asteroid, lava, gaseous, and underwater. It’s still a ton of work, but it’s manageable.
On the other hand, I also enjoy epic stories and the Star Wars universe was built upon one of the most epic and memorable stories ever. So having a SWSE game without an opportunity to partake in some enormous, galaxy shaking plot doesn’t seem right. So, I plan on weaving several meta-plots through campaign. The players can decide if they act on any or all parts of it; regardless, there will be consequences either way.
So, in the future, I plan to see how well the implementation of my ideas works. I especially look forward to see if the Campaign Charter curbs any of the game sapping behavior I’m trying to eliminate. Look for future installments of this journal as long as the campaign doesn’t implode first.