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.

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

Beyond the numbers: Backstory and scaffolding

Here is another new column for you guys.  In this space we will be talking about what makes a character a character, how to be a better player and how to help craft the story of your adventures.  As with rule 1 I am going to start with some basic ideas and build on those as the blog progresses so lets take a look at the proper mind set for character creation.

How you think and what you think about when creating your character has a direct effect on how quickly he will advance in game. Don’t believe me? read on, give it a try and you will be rewarded. When you sit down to make a character were do you start? Do you work from a picture, or think about filling a role in the party?  Do you start with just some numbers on a page and a race or do you think about what you want to be able to do?  For the most part all of these starting places are means to answer the question “what can I do?” which I believe is the wrong question to ask if we truly want to make memorable characters that have more depth then the pools of there enemies blood.

The question we need to answer at the beginning of character creation is this: Who is my character, what is his current situation and how did he get there? The richer the character back story the more dynamic and complex the characters motivations will be. Lets look at three ways to start thinking about back story. Each of wich comes from a difrent first action of character creation.

First action: what is my role in the party.

The idea here is to think of how you will fit in with the group and how you can be effective in the main focal interaction of the game (i.e. combat,, investigation, court intrigue).  So with this thought in mind you desied to paly a pilot or a wizard detective what are some good ways to start thinking about backstory?

While you know why you as a player chose that class or career you need to shift to thinking about why did your character choose that path for there life?  Did you grow up wanting to be a pilot to escape a bad home life or maybe it is the family business, my father was a wizard so I will be.  just setting down this frame work gives you a lot of hooks to hang character personality and skills on.  At the hart of the back story proses this is the key to create a scaffolding so that when push comes together your character is a coherent whole.

First action: rolling stats

If we choose to roll states before we have even a concept of what we want to play we can let the character grow organically from the numbers.  Hun? Look at the states which are high which are low, if your character is particularly week is this an aspect of genetics or does he suffer from an energy suffered in his youth? If you have wisdom what life experience has led to that.  how did these intrinsic aspects of you characters being influence his childhood. Then start to think of hopes and dreams this then becomes the scaffolding.

First action working from an image (mental or otherwise)

If this is were the character creation proses starts for you you have also probably begun to tell yourself a story about the character.  you start thinking about were did that gun he is holding come from were did he get that scar.  These are simple questions we ask our selves and this is probably the essayist place to work from when it comes to back story.  It is also the hardest to come up with consistently when we need to make a character.

When we create a strong scaffolding of backstory for our characters we give our selves and our GMs ample hooks on which to hang story elements. With these hooks in place our characters will be more involved in the action of the game, they will spend more time in the spotlight and as a result we will get more opportunities to show of what we can do and there for more chance to advance in game

Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 10:14 pm  Comments (1)  

Looking up from the table: Rule number 1

Looking up from the table will be a loose colection of articles that deal with how we interact with each other when we play games.  We will look at different types of play style here as well as gming stiles and player styles.  We will talk about how to find people to game with and what to do with a player that does not fit in.  But befor we start on all that good stuff we have to talk about the most important rule in gaming.

No matter what game you are playing there is one rule that must be remembered at all times.  If you find yourself in a game that violates this rule then you  must do something about it.  The rule is simple but if it is broken you will see GMs burn out and players leave the game in frustration.  What one rule could be so important that it can kill any game from Traveler to H.O.L.E. It is so imprtent and will show up so often around here we will just call it Rule #1.

Rule #1: We are here to have fun

If you have been a gamer for a long time you have probably reached the point were going to a game becomes a chore.  Maybe the story is moving to slowly or maybe the effort of prepping for the game is to much.  Some times we just need a break from one system, play stile or character and need a change.  I have seen more then one gaming group fall apart just because people stopped having fun with the game being played.  Enforcing this rule should be the GMs number one rule, every thing else he does should fallow from this one thought: Is every one having a good time. If we can answer yes to this question then we as game master are doing our job.

Now before you get all up in arms about this let me clarify a few things. Making sure that every one is having a good time does not mean giving them every magic item they want, letting them level up when they feel like it or handing them piles of treasurer.  What it does mean is letting the players do something cool each and every setion and giving them a story to tell to there bored nongamer friends.

Players while this is the predominantly the GMs responsibility you are not off the hook in keeping this rule.  GMs do a lot of work to put together the cool things for your character to do don’t go breaking the adventure just because you can. Do not act out of character for your character just to get an advantage. when we step outside our characters normal behavior we tend to block the path that is intended for us and we miss out on the cool things that we were supposed to see.  Does this mean you should always go were the GM wants you to, hell no but do it because it is what your character would do for his or her own reasons

Every thing else I share with you here will be directed at this one simple idea.  We get to gather with our friends to roleplay for one reason and that is to have a good time. What a good time means may be different from group to group and that is OK as long as every one at the table is having fun.  Some groups will just want to crawl through dungeons and loot dragons hordes, other groups will want to buckle there swash or get involved in court intrigues. The important thing is to know what the other players at the table want and to help them to find it. If we do this, help build the fun of others, they will help to increase our enjoyment of the game as well.

Published in: on January 12, 2010 at 12:08 am  Comments (1)