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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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 78 – The Whole Party Tale

David and Ben talk about making a party and not just a bunch of characters, how this requires more then just a few lines and some deep thought.

Then Ben challenges them both to make a party that is going to show up in Meet the Party soon.

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Episode 73 – The Converted Tale

We talk about converting adventures to your table, starting with The Temple of Elemental Evil and going through to making Onslaught at Arda I work for you and not throwing in unknown characters.

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Episode 70 – The Awakens Tale

We talk about The Force Awakens and how you can take several of the lessons from it and put it at your table. From how to deal with a Big Bad to how to move time along in a believable fashion.

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Episode 68 – The Holiday Tale

As we enter into the longest night we look to holidays in Star Wars and role playing games in general. From what makes up a holiday, to covering a few ideas and themes that you can do from major adventures all the way to little bits.

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Episode 65 – The Boldly Going Tale

David was talking about his Nebulon-B campaign and the idea was cool enough that we decided to do an entire episode about campaigns being set on a ship and the cool things you can do with it. Taking cues from The Hunt for Red October and Battlestar Galactica all the way through SeaQuest we talk about how to bring being on a large ships bridge to life.

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Episode 40 – A Tale of Social Contention

This week we talk about the five social skills and how they can be used and characterized by the NPCs and the players.

It isn’t just choosing from the list, it’s part of the character and how the character is perceived throughout the entire adventure.

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Episode 37 – Hiring Guns

Hired Guns are a huge pillar of Edge of the Empire. One of the six careers. But, the basis behind how you can make the most of them is not quite as easy as it sounds. We dive into the career and find some people who help bring the nasty pain to their opponents and how you can make an even better one.

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