What do you do when you have a story you like to tell but relies that the system is getting in the way? That is the question I have been trying to answer for the past few months.

For over a year I have been running a Dungeons and dragons fourth edition game and it has been going well. The party which started with just two players has ballooned in to as many as nine and even after pairing down the roister to those I really wanted to keep around I still found the system getting in the way of the story I wanted to tell. What is a GM to do?

My options seemed to be limited, kick out players I like and characters that are interesting, change the story to fit the combat slog of 4th ed, find and create house rules to help speed up combat, or switch systems.

Changing the story to a more combat heavy dungeon crawl mechanic did not sit well with me. And cutting out characters for no other reason them my convince was not palatable. So that left me with the idea of shifting systems or modifying the one I have. The modify solution would probably be the easiest way to go but I have reached a point where I find no joy in opening a d and d book and considering the rules. I Gm and play rpgs for fun, I do not want it to become work. With that consideration made the only choice I had was to shove a new system down my player’s thoughts.

Fortunately my players were agreeable or at least willing to see were my madness will lead. We are switching the campaign to Burning Wheel. This is a new system for all of us but one that seems interesting and story driven. Hopefully it will meet both my needs and my player’s needs. I will keep updates coming on the outcome of this experiment.

My question is what would you have done? How would you handle the situation?

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Powers do not make a hero

Here is guest post from my friend Mike, one of the best superhero GMs I have ever had

Powers do not make a hero; this is the most basic difference between a super powered game and a super Hero game. I play and Gm super hero games not powered games (one of the reasons I was never much of a fan of Aberrant and Trinity or Rifts ) so my first question to a player is not what are your powers but why are you a hero? / What is your motivation? Are you in it for the fame? Or because you can? To make the world a better place? Etc. Then what do you fear? Is it letting people down? The dark? Etc. What is your character interested in? Hobbies job etc. Who relies on your character when (s)he is not wearing a mask? When (s)he is? Who will miss them if the left? Who are you? What do you want? (Throwing those in to see who is paying attention) Finally what powers do you have? The same thing goes to team building most of the Hero team advice talk in the realm of powers make sure you have: the Brick, the fighter, the flyer and a utility player. But I believe that all super hero teams (and I think gaming groups in general) needs a blend of head, heart, hands and feet.

Head the character (and hopefully player) who _plans_ or at least thinks through options before leaping in the Character who at least tries to hold off TPK’s (Mr. Fantastic/Cyclops/Leonardo normally they are team leaders

Heart the character (and hopefully player) who feels this can be as well the one who hold’s the team together (Jean Grey, Invisible Girl, and Michalanglo) all fit in this niche can be the team leader in a pinch but normally second in command

Hands, by this I mean talents or skills not powers the ability to survive in the world without tights and a cape even though his looks are against him Donatello is in this category because of his skills Nightcrawler and his acrobatics Cypher and computers

Feet someone who gets the characters moving and doing something while this is normal for all games it is especially true for Super heroes where Mercenary and monster killer/treasure hunters are not normal Rapheal falls in this category as did Kitty Pryde and many of the younger characters on older teams the ones who leap before they look.

What happens without this well it can make for an interesting game session but not much in long term playability for example I once had a game where a character infiltrated a super villain team. The next session instead of turning them in he helped them destroy the city which effectively ended the game (did not let players infiltrate bad guys for a very long time after that) the main reason that he did it? No reason to be a hero he was just a guy with powers. And for teams well JLI was a fun read but….

Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 7:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Beyond the numbers: 20+ Questions

When I Here is a quick list of questions you can ask yourself to help stimulate backstory. There is no need to answerer each question for every character, but picking a few will lay a solid foundation for character development.

  1. Where are you from?
  2. How far have you traveled from home before the adventure starts?
  3. Who was your first love?
    1. How did it end, or is it still alive?
    2. What drew you to this person?
    3. How did you meet?
  4. Are your parents still married?
    1. Were they ever married?
    2. If no why not?
    3. If yes do they still live in the place you grew up?
  5. What is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you?
  6. What is your favorite holiday?
  7. What was your dream job when you were ten?
    1. How did that influence your choice latter in life?
  8. Where you a bully or where you bullied?
  9. What was your parents dream job for you when you were a child?
  10. Did you have a pet as a child and if so what happened to it?
  11. Do you still have any scares or health problems from childhood injuries or disease?
  12. Do you have siblings and if so what is your relationship with them?
  13. What are your hobbies?
  14. Did you go to school or did you grow up working on the farm?
  15. Did you have a permanent home as a child?
  16. What was the most traumatic thing that happened to you growing up?
  17. Have you known true love?
    1. How did it end or is it still on going?
    2. How did you meet?
  18. What was your first job?
    1. Did you like it?
    2. Why did you leave?
  19. What was the happiest moment of your life up to now?
  20. What was your biggest victory and worst defeat before you started adventuring?

    Do you have some great character backstoies to share? If so leave them in the comments and don’t forget to fallow the feed. Have a great day and happy gaming.

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 7:37 am  Leave a Comment