Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rookies - First Time GMs


So it's Father's Day, and I like many parents in this hobby have the pleasure of sharing gaming with my step-son. He's played in one campaign of mine and is lining up to be in the next one. He's come along as a player.  

In the meantime, he's started playing games with his peers; his own friends from high school and college. Actually, he's started down the path of game-mastering, running games for his friends. Frankly, I dimly recall my own first time experiences running games back when I was his age; another decade...hell, another millennium ago. Not only that, but when it comes to Star Wars gaming, I ran 5 whole systems ago. The West End Games system had different rules, but not really a different vibe. WEG's system was ahead of it's time, it had a narrative core layered on with rules and crunch bloat.

As I said, I don't recall much of specific challenges I faced when I was my son's age, but as an exercise, I realized it could be an interesting experience to talk to Jason about the challenges he's facing as a rookie GM.

So why did you want to run a Star Wars game?

Because I've been playing it enough, I wanted to try being the GM.  It's the game system I've enjoyed the most out of what I've played.
What else have you played?

Mutants and Masterminds, the White Wolf games like Vampire, Werewolf, and those. What's their fantasy game...Exalted?  I think I played one of your Rifts modules, but not in the Rifts systems (likely one of my many attempts to hack it to another system).  

I tried the latest Marvel Super Heroes game, but I found the system too complex.

How many times have you run a game?

Three times so far, and they've been all really small groups; 2 people. I've got 5 players, it's just problematic trying to get them all together, so I run with whoever can show up.
 
Talk to me about your experiences running the game; what aspects are you finding a challenge and is anything coming to you easy?

I've been running adventure modules so far, and it involves a lot of "fleshing it out". They give you a good map to follow, and suggest a lot of stuff for plotlines in between; side quests and things like that. I've been trying to do that, but I've had two problems; the first issue is I've found that fleshing out the book's suggestions is tough.

The other problem is my PCs are relatively new to this, and are more focused on following the main storyline, so some of the side quest stuff is out of their interest.  Like, in Mask of the Pirate Queen, the players are eager to take the bounty contact without doing any background checks on the employer or obtain any information about the target of the bounty. They just want to take the contract and advance the story line.

As far as what's easy?  Combat is really easy, the PCs are all over that, and I enjoy the way the Star Wars system works. It's so open for what you can try to pull off with the results of the rolls.

Rules wise, what's the hardest obstacle you've found?

When I can use skulduggery (laughs) It's really just that you can use a variety of skills for a variety of situations. I'm just trying to figure out which skill you want to use or how to use it given any situation I encounter.

You're running your players through several printed modules. Do your players do what you expect, or are they going "off the rails"? Do you think the books handle that problem, or are you having to come up with your own solutions?

They're not even going off the rails, they're pretty much sticking with them. They straight-line the plot line and don't get distracted with any side topics.  Although they did decide to murder a Rodian shop assistant...

It's like they're playing Diablo; follow the main story and no side quests.

Do you want to create your own adventures?  Any ideas of what you want to come up with for a story or plot idea?

Absolutely, but I'm kinda stuck on what I'd want to do for an adventure with them. Thus far we only have one person in the group who's gamed before. Bringing the newbies through the various adventure modules is a good start. But I'll eventually run out of modules.

Honeslty, I think I'd like to run something similar to Beyond the Rim; find something, retrieve it, have stuff happen in between, and then they discover what they retrieved isn't what they originally thought. 

What setting would you like to run the game in?  Rebellion? Outer Rim?  Force and Destiny?

Probably a freeform game. If everyone shows up we've got two Edge of the Empire characters and three Force users. I think Edge of the Empire is the way to go for this group.

How have your players been taking to the game?

They seem to enjoy it. I mean, they show up, throw some dice, attempt to kill people, and have a good time.

What's their play style?

"Blow everything up". The last game I played that my buddy Everett was running, we had two Hired Guns, two Bountry Hunters, and me as the Demolitionist.  So yeah; "blow everything up".  We had to rescue someone from a building and the other players started throwing explosives through the windows.

I can't image that ended well.

Thankfully the guy we had to rescue was on the second floor.  Everything else got demolished. Anything we might have wanted on the first floor was completely wrecked.

It was all high school guys; no one wanted to be the talker, they all wanted to just wreck things.

I had that phase...

Honestly I'm surprised because two of them didn't go Force Users this time around.

Because they haven't blown stuff up with the force yet.

Exactly!

I'm trying to think of my own experiences, and I'm having a hard time doing it. When I was your age running games, I mean.

When I started playing, I wanted to go straight combat. With your Another Longshot game, I decided not to go full combat. Let's be honest, everyone in my group was a tank or a beatstick.

Right?  Do you find yourself wanting to spread out more?

Yeah, that's why I want to go part mechanic for my next PC. As opposed to maxing out agility and shoot everything off the map.  

But that's fun too.

True! That being said, with some of the mechanics stuff for Rigger, it's really useful.

Any final thoughts on running and being a new GM?

I need to write stuff down if I want to make a game. Otherwise I'm not going to have a clue where to continue games.  I need to write down NPCs, planets, names, backstories; write it all down and keep track of it. I haven't really remembered every character's name when I played Longshot as a player. It's important to do that now that I'm a GM.

I do like using a white board for combat scenes.  In one of your games you did that, and I liked that. My players found it really useful to see where opponents and hazards are. So I'm going to keep using that.

Thanks for participating, Jason!
 
I gotta say, I'm having a "proud papa bear" moment when I think of my stepson sitting down behind the screen and running games. 

He keeps wanting to borrow my books, though...and I need them too.
Finally, a big nod of thanks to my wife for suggesting this topic. She's a real smartie, that one.

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