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  

The Gms Character: you only get one

World building.  A lot has been writen about it and there is probly a lot  more to be said. In this series we are going to look at the world building as a form of character creation.  The world is the Gm’s character the history of the world is the backstory, your plot is just the plans for the character development. Important NPCs are abilities and the map is your character description.

It is important to note that there are major differences between building world for fantasy, sci fi and modern games.  In fantasy games you need to start building the world from whole cloth.  in a modern or historic setting you are not so much building a world as you are tweaking and rebuilding what is already there based on a changed event or premise.  And with sci fi you are mostly back to whole cloth but with a basic foundation of reality if you chose to use it. We will look at each of these types of worlds indep and in there own time.

The purpose of world building no mater what the genre is the same to create an exiting and completing place for your story to play out.  how detailed and complex you make it is up to you however I strongly recommend maintaining a middle of the road approach. A world that is to detailed will leave little room for the players to be effective while a world with to little detail will feel gray and bland.

Some things that must be considered no matter what type of game you are running.

Tone: are you planing a dark game or a comedic game? this will have a direct effect on the history of your world.

Style: both the style of play of your group and your style of Gming should be taken in to account when building a world.  if you love flavor text and description of settings them make sure you keep this in mind as you build the world load it up with place that are a feast for the senses. On the other hand if you have a party that will start hacking while you are still talking don’t wast your time. Instead fill the world with beasts and dangers and your players will be happy.

Theme: Theme will dictate were you put the time and detail in. A game set adored a space station for instance should be vague about the rest of the galaxy while being detailed about the different areas of the station in detail. A story of an epic quest across the world will need general thought put in to all areas were the party is likely to travel.

Remember the idea of world building is to create an interesting and exiting backdrop for events to happen.  As the Gm the world is not your oyster but your character and you are as responsible as the players for making your character come alive.

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 7:54 pm  Comments (4)