Confessions of a Newb GM: Inspiration Strikes

As you’ve probably surmised I’m setting up an online campaign while I’m still running an offline game. I have great fun with this group and we have just finished going through Beyond the Rim from Fantasy Flight Games. While I do have The Jewel of Yavin I do not want to run them through it yet,  since the feel is wrong for the group. The party has a Trader/Big Game Hunter, an Outlaw Tech/Demolitionist, an Assassin, and a Doctor.

For a while I was stumped about what to do next that would keep things interesting for my goup and I. Since we were just out exploring, I wanted a session or two where we were having fun in the high tech setting of Star Wars instead of out in the wilderness dodging more nexu and kobolds (or the local equivalent). The only thread I had for an impetus was the Tech’s criminal obligation triggering for three sessions running. In doing some administrative upkeep for the campaign on the private Obsidian Portal site an idea struck me as I saw what skills they haven’t been using of late.

I want them to steal a McGuffin.

They have the two needed archetypes with the Tech and the Assassin to pull off a simple heist, but they have a talker and an indeterminate doctor as well, so I figure they could be doing some grifting and investigating, too.

Realizing that the Tech’s obligations keep weighing on his mind, I thought to put this to use. He is ‘accused’ of stealing and smuggling but hasn’t been caught or prosecuted, so having someone show up with evidence of this would be a great way to hook a  player who is normally meticulous. I came up with a mouth piece for a Crime Lord and a basic idea for what I wanted them to do. Now that I knew the party is being blackmailed into crime, really the worst of the oil slicked slopes, I started to wonder who they’re going to steal from.

Since their skulduggery isn’t the best, I thought they might want to charm or negotiate someone unaware of their nefarious plans. I ran through the general species they’ve seen in play so far and looked to Donjon for available random names and came up with a Mon Calamari woman.

Now that I have an aquatic woman that the players might have to charm, much to my amusement, or steal from, the question shifts to what does she do? The last thing I want is for her to be a push over so I glanced at the talent trees and came up with the idea to combat the parties’ trader with a trader. I decided that the party will need to have access to one of her computers for the caper. The data the blackmailer wants is shipping manifests from the Mon Calamari’s  small company so that he can smuggle ill gotten goods in these shipments while the company itself remains unaware.

But wait, there’s more.

If all I wanted was an adventure, I’d finish with a few notes on her office security and a few of her after hours activities and be done; but this will act as a prologue to the real adventure. The tilt will be  the party finding information during this fairly simple data theft that results in them racing off to a planet in search of Mr. Techie McGuffin. The longer campaign will be one of exploration and lost technologies and if I tie this in it wouldn’t feel like a rest stop adventure but something that connects it all together.

I’m working the longer plot threads into the data breach scenario and need to find out what other sorts of incriminating data can be on the system. My first thought is that she is smuggling for the rebellion, but I am suspicious of that because it’s too easy. If we stick with a theme from Beyond the Rim it could be staging for an excursion to find a damaged CIS transport ship that held a major battle station part.

The twist will be a great find for someone wanting to discover cool old technology, or trying to sell these secrets for a nice profit. This brings two player’s desires to the fore and links them into a common goal. Not wanting players to feel left out, I’m going to draw each of the players into this in the most melodramatic way possible. I am going to bring the two other character’s obligations and motivations into play. The assassins’ motivation and obligation is to protect his friends and to find his family that had been slaves at one time or another. Using this, I would say his father was the stated captain of the transport ship that was lost. Lastly, the player for the doctor latched onto the Richard Kimble story, so his character has been framed for the murder of his roommate by a one armed Bothan who I’m putting as the head of the Mon Calamari’s expedition.

Now the fine detail

This gives me enough frame work to start populating all the smaller details like an opening speech to start them on their way, a couple different ways for the data to be accessed, possibly a double cross from the instigating crime lord and it should be done with a definite direction for the party to be going on that isn’t just wandering about aimlessly.

Episode 86 – The One Rogue Tale

We saw the Rogue One trailer and then recorded an episode about it. We go from some of the initially cool things we see and how we can frame narratives around a briefing to the act of defiance that rebellion actually is.

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Confessions of a Newb GM: Learning From Mistakes

Finding the right way to go back:

I have had the Lepskin Sector bouncing around in my head for a while. The creation of it sprouted from my offline Star Wars: Saga Edition campaign. The crew was a little down on their luck, the rebellion was disappointed in them, and they needed a place to go to recover their good name and their confidence. I came up with a sector of 25 named planets, I have no idea how the names came about, and a big McGuffin, a deep space manufacturing facility.

Based on my past experience with this group I had expected it to go with a bit of investigation and branch out into a sneaking assault on the facility causing it to either explode or for the group to pull a ‘Red October’ and steal it. The party had a history of stealing ships and repurposing the captured ships as their own so I was betting heavily on them going straight for the facility and taking it over leaving time for me to develop a plot. This bet backfired to the dismay of everyone.

I had it in my head that I could wing it completely, my problem was I didn’t have a series of goals for the players.

I didn’t give hints leading to the bread crumbs to take them to the next piece of the plot because I hadn’t thought through what the meta-plot should be. My players, being players, upturned my plans and decided they wanted to go on a tour of the sector and try to start a business. Due to the lack of planning I wasn’t able to herd them in a direction closer to a plot and from there it turned into Star Wars Tycoon.

Since that time I have played in games outside of my little group as well as coming to realize that there are some good people out there in these forums and a few other places. By absorbing as much as I can, from how to plot out books, adventures, and TV, I’ve learned how to make something more cohesive than just “I have a great idea” and have started to put it into action.

I am now approaching the Lepskin Sector in a dramatically changed fashion now that I’m going back. I really like the idea of an open sector where almost anything the players do has an effect and creates ripples. The problem I had with my first implementation was that I was using the sector as the campaign, not as the backdrop. This blinded me to what the players were doing and the failings of what I wasn’t doing. The campaign setting can be a very living and cool thing, but it isn’t the campaign; the campaign is the adventures that go towards the goal and I had lost sight of this. My plan for the first campaign in the Lepskin Rising saga is to blow up, or steal, the same deep space facility. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on the characters and archetypes chosen by the players.

Actual entry into the campaign is always dependent on the players; they need to choose what type of group they are and how they react to each other. A great method of doing it is the introductory session which, for this campaign, will be an explanation of how they get in the sector and to the secret rebel base that’s ‘cleverly’ hidden. After this, it shifts to one of two methods, if there is enough interest I’ll do a prologue event in the style of Executive Decision, otherwise, I have several bread crumbs already worked into the cast of rebel characters that will provide the first adventure inside the sector. From this beginning I can create incremental adventures leading to the harrowing resolution.

It’s this focus on incremental adventures and planning that is different for me. Before, I had a large plan and thought that it would hold out over many sessions, and that my players would want to follow with me to the end, because obviously I thought it was awesome so they would as well. On reflection I have found the grand idea was exciting, but the session to session was boring. Session to session is where game groups live, if it is boring from time to time it’s okay but consistently boring will kill a group.

Having a one or two part adventure that solves a portion of the puzzle without having a true idea of the final picture is a much better idea than having the picture of the puzzle and not realizing five pieces are missing.

Episode 85 – The Lead By Example Tale

We look at Lead by Example and poke it with sticks, trying to find interesting ways of playing the new specializations along with some ideas on how to use the new special abilities.

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Confessions of a Newb GM: The Beginning

Hi there, I’m Deuterium Ice. I like telling a story, but I don’t like telling all of it. I like to come up with a few of my own plot twists, but I also like it when those plot twists have gone sideways on me. This is what has brought me to Game Mastering.

Luckily, 21 years ago I was given West End Games Star Wars 2nd Edition by my mother and I’ve had pencil and paper in hand ever since. I’ve grown a gaming group around me everywhere I go, from gaming in the hallway at ‘lunch’ in high school to starting a gaming group as I learned how to repair avionics. I’ve started to branch out into board games when it was proven to me that they aren’t all Monopoly or Risk.

I love Star Wars and vacuumed up the EU as much as I could. Since I love the universe so much and there was this role playing game that was parent approved I started up a campaign with my friends (the only other option was Rifts) and off to being wookiees on the edge of the Empire it was.

The styles of story I like are the tales that go down in the shadows while the big flashy protagonist draws all the attention. I find there to be as much, if not more, personal drama in the forming and pushing of morals than in a ‘will he blow up the McGuffin in time’ story.

I want to expand my circle of gaming; this has led me to the fabled halls of the internet and online gaming. I have had an idea for a living sector for a while. A place where the characters are more involved in it than a ‘you pick up a load from Asy Lya’Trey and take it to Bothi Spaceport while Creenk here tries to stop you’ kind of thing.

Through the Mad Adventurers Society and potelbat I’ve found some tools to try this out, such as Obsidian Portal and Roll20, and I think that the integration will become epic. These are my tales of Hope and Frustration as I learn how to translate being an okay GM into being a good online GM that brings player’s imaginations to the fore.
The Campaign

Since this is going to be fairly out of the box for me I’m going to use a system I understand well, Star Wars from FFG, for this adventure. I have a small, somewhat thought out, sector of space mapped as well as some of the more prevalent unique organizations.

Edge-of-the-Empire-Corerulebook_FFG_2013

This will be a living sector where the player character actions will have an effect. If they bring down a crime lord then there will be a whoosh of dangerous people trying to fill the void. A struggling band of adventurers will be helping those around them, hoping their assistance doesn’t cause more harm than good. I want to the players to feel their actions have a consequence.

The campaign, as I envision it, will be a Rebellion based look at entering a new sector that has none of the established supports that the Rebellion can normally rely upon while having a fairly massive set of goals.

I’m looking to this from the perspective of TV seasons.. Each campaign will have several adventures to it that allows for decent action, reversals and heroics, but it all will be leading to a big ending that only partially wraps up the major plots. This should allow for players dropping in and out if life gets in the way as well.
The Setting

I’ll delve into the setting in more detail later, but for now, the idea is that a sector on the edge of the unknown regions is opened for settlement a scant three millennia ago. It caught the attention of the rebellion when a mobile, and hidden, construction facility was credibly reported in the sector. Not knowing where in the sector it is, and having a special ops team fail horribly some years ago before the Alliance was formed, the Rebellion is sending in more materiel to the sector as well as some heavy hitters.

There is enough going on in the sector what with the secretive Sullustan Brotherhood, the duplicitous Bantha Express, and the bold Free Corellia Militia. Several classic style planets may be slightly familiar to Sci-Fi geeks; for example, I liked the idea behind Noveria from Mass Effect. Once I’ve filled in some more details I’ll share a link to the Obsidian Portal campaign and advertise for players.
More to Come

I’m going to be posting my experiences with Roll20, finding art and creating maps I can use, planning from a rough outline (such as Cpt. Futures ideas), trying to construct a ‘big scene’, and any other learning experiences I have. I will be looking at all of these things as I move towards getting the campaign off the ground.

Throughout, I will try to make some of my mental leaps easier to understand, such as how I went about transforming one of the planets that, on paper, was a simple agricultural planet into a desert planet with a survivor colony of Twi’leks in a deep rift valley.

Plotting and planning a full campaign is hard work and must be an adaptive process, this will be a look at the weirdness that goes through my head and how I go from hoping to have fun to having a great group of players that have fun with me.

Episode 84 – The Conflicted Max Tale

We talk with Max Brooke about how to use the Dark Side in your Star Wars game.

How do you make it more nuanced, and not just good vs. evil? How do you deal with people that don’t respect the force and player force users that aren’t major nemesis?

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Episode 83 – The Return of Max Tale

We interview producer and writer Max Brooke of FFG about confict in Force and Destiny.

As we lookinto a few gaps we’ve seen and stumbled over he’s able to help us greatly with our understanding.

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