Confessions of a Newb GM: The Fuzzy Future

You’ve read GM sections so you know preparation is the key to a successful session, you’ve probably heard this in regards to almost everything. For a newer GM it’s true. Preparation ahead of time means having the depth of knowledge to react to a party that wants to go anywhere but the nice little path that you have lain before them. Continue reading “Confessions of a Newb GM: The Fuzzy Future”

The Jelly Tale

We have Ross Rockafellow back to talk more about morality, conflict, and sith flying squirrels with us to learn how to use each more effectively at our tables.
Continue reading “The Jelly Tale”

Confessions of a Newb GM: Disinterested Interest

Player Engagement is a precious thing. If you lose a player to an outside distraction it takes quite a while for that player to come back and be fully engaged. When players are bored they show it in a multitude of ways, from glancing at their phone, to planning out their next level, to looking up arcane uses of their current skill sets. The ability to be distracted gets heightened online when you have a browser in front of you, it’s so easy to slip over to twitter, to a chat room if you’re on Twitch or any number of other things the giant calculator can do. Continue reading “Confessions of a Newb GM: Disinterested Interest”

The New Worlds Tale

Ross Rockafellow from Dice for Brains sent us a message about wanting to answer some listener questions with our group of opinionated GMs. Little did he know that we wanted to ask a few questions of our own.
Continue reading “The New Worlds Tale”

Confessions of a Newb GM: The Forever Fight

A few weeks ago I was in a Dungeons and Dragons 4E combat that lasted an epicly long time. The sad part, in retrospect, is that it will not be remembered by anyone who fought in it. The reason being is that nothing substantial happened. Let me repeat this, after an 8 hour fight nothing of value happened, no useful loot was to be had, we didn’t go up a level, no characters came close to being killed (one did get reduced to below zero health one slot in the turn order before being healed). Continue reading “Confessions of a Newb GM: The Forever Fight”

The Menacing Villain Tale

We start with an impossibly powerful villain and try to figure out interesting fashions to make them feel menacing without having them feel staged or forced.
Continue reading “The Menacing Villain Tale”

Confessions of a Newb GM: Played to Death

As a GM, am I out to kill my players?

In a way I am, but it’s more complicated then a yes.

Every role playing game I have played has opportunities for players to die. In campaigns, I have had very few of my characters die since I’m normally very conservative in how I play. When I’m in one-shot adventures I’m not expecting to play the character more, so I try to play to the archetype of the character and choose characters that are different from my normal support styles. Continue reading “Confessions of a Newb GM: Played to Death”

The Bar Brawl Tale

David and Ben talk about how you can get a brawl happening in a bar without your players going murder happy.

From how to split a scene into two encounters to why it’s okay to do so we dive deep into brawling in public.

Continue reading “The Bar Brawl Tale”

Confessions of a Newb GM: Calmly Adventuring

An RPG is about people telling a communal story and having fun while doing it. If all that people do is get together to get in fights and kill things there is Warmachine or that other, more expensive, one. Players and GMs get the fun of a common goal that they work towards, the players slowly chipping away, up and down action, the GMs frantically trying to spin a story from whatever cliché they can think up in that moment. The putty to fill in the gaps between expectations and what is delivered comes from everyone buying into the premise of having fun together doing the same thing. This is the same reason why people get together to do various sports with friends, play board games, play cards, watch movies, or even just to have a few drinks together.

The difference with RPGs is that while there is a game, there are also roles to play; I mean it is right there on the book jacket. During setup everyone gets their role, depending on their desired outlooks for the game: the face, the muscle, the tinkerer, the sneaker, the mob of other people. This make up requires communication. If you’re playing a random Lord of the Rings derivative RPG and your players all have fighters, as the GM you shouldn’t spend time with a with a rogue based sneaky portion to save the party from a massive fight. Everyone ends up feeling frustrated at not being able to use their fun abilities.

To help facilitate group creation the GM can give an elevator pitch for what type of adventure is going to be happening. Even a list of a few movies or books you’re going to riff on is a good idea. A blank page can lead to anything, one person wanting to do cowboy horror and the next to create a werewolf teen basketball star, guidance is needed. Everyone sitting down at the table needs to say what their intentions are for their character.

The Long Campaign

As has been said before a miss-matched group of characters leads to inevitable headaches. I normally want to talk over with the players ahead of time what sort of campaign we all want. I may have my own ideas for the campaign, but I may be spurred on by a cool idea that a player has.

Party creation can be done in its own session and usually it helps with setting expectations for everyone. If it’s with old friends it allows for a nice relaxing time, if it’s with new people you can size everyone up and the emergence of a table leader starts to happen. This isn’t throwing away a session. You’re gathering ideas and honing them into a larger notion of where you’re going with it. It allows for the players to decide what they’re taking and to make sure that any particularly visible holes can be dealt with.

The holes matter in a long campaign, especially if you as the GM want to play around in one of the areas that the players are weak in.

Party balance is a weird beast depending on the RPG system you’re in. If you’re in a more narrative system where people are able to do pretty much anything and it’s the story that matters it isn’t as crucial. With narrative games it does still matter when considering the “odd one out.”

When I was in the playtest of @Fiddlebacks Mask of Ordo (a great module, I cannot recommend it more) we had two to three combat orientated people and a sneaker, the GM tried to let the sneaker get ahead and do stealthy things, but the rest of us didn’t let him because it wasn’t in our character’s natures.

If you’re in one of the d20 alum games it matters an amazing amount. If you are chronically without a healer that means slower going due to natural healing, no one to control the enemies for more than a round, and your damage dealers are having to evade without dealing damage. Not enough damage dealers and the fights take too long and people get bored.

One Quick Shot

One shot adventures are a completely different beast, whether it’s at a convention or wanting to try out something new. These don’t always require a balanced party, as @wood-jasond rightly points out, but it depends on what people are trying to do with it. You need to be aware of the experience you want and what you’re trying to accomplish. Is it a convention game with a bunch of hardened players for the system? Are you doing pregen characters? Can that adventure be used to welcome new people to it? Do you really want to do that one and only time you GM a zombie adventure now?

Making sure you know what you want out of the adventure allows you to give the players an idea of what is coming up and how it will affect them. Knowledge of the adventure paths allows you to also decide if player party balance matters to you or if it’s more advantageous to have a completely tilted play group. Can three fighters and a mage slay that dragon or does it need to have the rogue and cleric as well?

Adventuring Together

I’ve gone through my two types of adventure thinking here for both campaigns and one shots. I hope it helps with figuring out how much you want to know about the party before starting to plan an adventure. Planning ahead is wonderful for a campaign, but a series of independent adventures that focuses on each player can  allow for greater enjoyment.

The Tale of Fear

We talk of fear checks and how some really dislike them, bringing a full top to bottom examination while giving a few ideas on how to make them much more awesome than a pit trap.

Continue reading “The Tale of Fear”

The Herding Players Tale

This week Joshua asks David and Ben why his players are floundering after giving them an open sandbox to work with.

Discussion erupts around ways to move the story along and ways of presenting story that players care about.

Continue reading “The Herding Players Tale”

Confessions of a Newb GM: Making the Obelisk Smaller

I’m going a bit more in depth on what you can do with the language used on Obsidian Portal today. I do have a tiny bit of programming knowledge which helps me find what I’m wanting on the dense reference page linked by Obsidian Portal. Here are several things I’ve found and bashed into working for me. I’m going to be referring back to my Draeks page quite a few times, so it might be useful to have it open in another tab.

General Formatting:

Formatting for the fluff is pretty simple. Treat it like normal paragraphs, or at most highlight and use the nice little icons at the top of the text box, these are the same that you find in forums almost everywhere. A few recommendations to keep it from becoming unweildy:

  • Keep bullet points to a minimum
  • Choose one heading size and stick to it. The page is already sectioned off into two major halves, anything more no one is reading.
  • Link everything
  • Link everything

The Period:

Textile lets you mess around with commands in its language and combine different commands easily, you can smash together alignment, bold, and size changes all at once with a single leading string of seemingly nonsensical characters followed by a period. It’s the period that tells textile the random stuff that came before are commands to follow.

Linking:

Linking can be easy if information is treated simply. Having long wiki titles and character names becomes unwieldy when more and more entries show up to look through. Tags and the insert links can help, but become a hassle for simple entry. The reason to keep the slugs and the titles short is the ease of Quick Links.

Character Quick Links can be put in with a double square bracket and a colon before the slug. [[:icor]] will bring up and display Icor Brimarch and link to his page with decidedly less typing and creating a link. The colon is what tells Obsidian Portal that the link is for a character.

Wiki Quick Links are a little trickier because you can’t create slugs for them. This is why you want to have the name as short as possible and preferably unique. I can link to The Lepskin Void by putting square brackets around it like so [[The Lepskin Void]] and it becomes hyper linked. The problem stems from long page names and a desire for nicknaming things. The Void, Lepskin Void, and The Lepskin Void all would go to different places. The easiest way of dealing with this is use a short but practical name that can be chosen from a list.

Modifying Links:

Quick links are great, but you can do another thing to them that makes them even better. Quick links can be modified to display whatever you want by placing a | between the link and the description.

Examples:

[[:icor | Bantha Express Executive]]
[[:draeks | Fuzzy Commander]]
[[sullustan brotherhood| smugglers]]

 Tables:

Tables are a little weird but easy to implement if you take time to deal with them. The thing to remember is width; you want to make it as easy to remember the width as possible. The Obsidian Portal back end automatically widens the column to the width of whatever is in there, a long sentence will become a really wide cell which makes for a very wide column. Textile has a few cute tricks that I’ve learned to use. This is the result of my meddling with my little table.

Dreaks

Surprisingly enough the usual width of stat blocks works, either the D20 eight or the FFG Star Wars six. Underneath the header cells can go the values for each header and this makes it easy to figure out what number go with which attribute.

The reason you want it to be as condensed vertically as possible is ease of grouping. If you have two rows of things that people are looking at and they are aligned vertically it’s easy to pick out what is being done, and easier to maintain while adding more stuff without reformatting, adding layers and layers to a big table club house sandwich.

As you can see I have double width columns for skills/talent names as well as implying one thing describes two separate stats. Towards the bottom I have full across lines that are there for equipment. This is allowing extra information to be stored while not making a single column become too wide and looking ‘weird’.

Basics

The very basics are vertical lines | and they are the start and end of a cell, they split up everything you want to split into another cell on the same row. Vertical breaks are dealt with by line breaks in the edit field, what’s on one line stays on that line and what is on the next line goes on the next line. With just that you can make a stat block.

EG

|Brawn|Agility|Intellect|Cunning|Willpower|Presence|
|1|2|2|4|3|3|

Creates

Brawn Agility Intellect Cunning Willpower Presence
1 2 2 4 3 3

Splitting Cells

The ‘fun’ is when you start wanting to combine two cells to either make room for more stuff, such as two longer words, or giving the implied use of one header to two lower cells. This is also used for making one cell take up more columns such as where I’m using a whole row as a title line. You can also have a cell become two high making it apply to the two things next to it. The command for this is a slash followed by a number followed by the command period to activate it, before the entry in the cell. The slashes have meanings \ means a horizontal amount of cells being combined and / means a vertical number of cells being combined. The number is the number of cells combined and they can even be combined so that |\2/2. Turns into a 2 cell by 2 cell block where you can put whatever text you want.

EG:

|\2.Defense|, |/2. Weapon quality|.

Slight Tweaks

Every table needs a few tweaks to get it to display the way you want. There are things like the _ that turns cell into a header cell and gives the contents an emphasis (normally bold unless you get really creative) and centers it in the cell. There is the justification groups < left, > right, and = centered. If you have a large cell and want justify you can use the left and right together to tell it to <> justify. In tall cells you can do ^ to put it on the top, and ~ to put it on the bottom.

Out of the Cell

Most of the tweaks can be used for a paragraph, the p tag, or headers, the h1 through h6 tags, as long as you follow it with a period.

If all you want to do is mess around with only a few words out of a whole, you can. Using _ on both sides of a word make it italicized, using * on both sides of a word makes it bold, and using + on both sides allows it to underline (yeah programmers make little sense).

Medium Tweaks

I like making my tables with color, what I’m using for it can apply to just a cell, a whole row, or an entire table. The difference in usage from coloring a cell and a row is fairly minimal. The main part of the code bafflegab that the color is formed is {Background:#hhh} the ‘fun’ part is that after the # comes a web safe hex color number (first two digits on the left hand side and the last on the top). Using the same basic structure we can change the text color, while inside the cell and next to the text you want to color put in the bafflegab of {Color:#hhh}  using the linked color palates. To change things across an entire table a line before the first | is put in Table{anyofthecommandsyouwant}.

A Closing

What I’ve described here has been the virtual entirety of what I have used to create the Lepskin Rising site. This has been fun to detail and next week I’ll be getting back to more on efficient planning.

The Modified Tale

We look at Special Modifications this week and find that there is a surprising amount in such a small book.

We have a bonus sized episode for you to make sure we at least got through the start of the character stories.

Continue reading “The Modified Tale”

Confessions of a Newb GM: Through the Dark Glass

While listening to potelbat Ep. 18  I was introduced to Obsidian Portal, I looked at it and thought, “This is kind of cool to use as a repository for all things campaign related.” Working with Obsidian Portal proved both easier and harder than I expected.

I created my one free campaign to see how things would work out from the GMs side of campaign creation and to see how quickly I could break it. I’m glad that the programmers linked to a textile help page so I could start muddling with how I can get tables and different things to display properly.

 

Dealing with Obsidian Portal is a bit of a bear, especially for the uninitiated. I’m going to give a few examples of what I do for player characters, NPCs, and general wiki entries. I’ll also show a basic layout that allows for quick reading while getting across as much info as possible.

Today’s article is going over the basics of the character wiki pages. In the next article I am going over how Slugs are used, how links are created and modified, and how tables can be used to simply create a quick character sheet without CSS.

Character Creation:

The first two things that are needed are what you’d need on paper. Generally I’m copying off of scratch pad or filled character sheet anyway. Obsidian Portal provides a Description and a Bio; both are useful though I’ve mentally separated them into crunch with leading flavor text in the Description, leaving all of the fluff that you and the player want.

Since this is about the character sheets specifically, I’ll touch on a few of the entries that come up only on character pages. For all examples I’m going to be using Draeks from the Lepskin Council.

Character Name:

What it says on the tin. This is what the character is called and what will be displayed at the top of their page. This also will become the slug seed if a slug isn’t chosen.

Slug:

The slug is the most important thing you can adjust. This is how everyone for this campaign links back to the character. Preferably this is something simple such as first name, last name, nick name, or generic description. It is important to keep it short and unique since other people will use it and can use it when not mentioning a character by name, such as Gands.

Examples:   Han1, Bothan3, itswhomnotwhat, or Fettissarlacfood

Tags:

This is the way to order your characters and wiki entries. This works just like the ones on The Mad Adventurers Society, click on them and you get taken to a page with all of the things tagged with this. Usually this is done at creation, but anyone who has access to the page can add tags. Again, this calls for brevity in what is put in. I can put in Lepskin Council as a tag, but Council or The Council would be preferable, unless there is more than one Council. Normally I toss in everything I can come up with, for Draeks I put in tags to show his links and where he can be found. It’s not crucial, but it doesn’t take long and it’s quite recommended to do at the time of character creation since it is so easy to forget.

Examples for Draeks:   Bothan, Council, Commander, Rebel, and Catiwhinn

Quick Description:

This section is a small description that everyone who is browsing the character section will see. Leaving this description blank is an option, but one that should be exercised rarely since it just becomes a list of names without anything for context. Even short three word phrases work and can be enough to spark some imagination for what the character is.

Description:

This section has two uses. One is a description of how the character is and acts and should be short, manageable paragraphs to keep from painting people into corners when thinking about the character. The description is also for putting ‘the crunch’.

The crunch is the hardest part to do since all it contains is numbers and simple descriptions’; making it readable is near painful. Obsidian portal is putting together a series of Dynamic Style Sheets that use Cascading Style Sheets and information skimmed from the description section. Sadly the one for Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion is nonfunctional and ends up overwriting existing information in spots.

For this I have thrown together a table that looks okay and is fairly serviceable for putting things in an organized fashion.

Biography:

This is where the fluff goes, even if you don’t put anything in this section the vestigial section still shows up for everyone. Character history blurbs are great but a new character or NPC doesn’t need a long one since the character is at the start and everything before should be more boring than what is about to happen, or the character is about to die. A slowly growing journal adding a paragraph or two after each session or adventure is a good idea and gives a bit of history to an established character, this also allows for people to remember what happened a year ago in a fast moving campaign.

The Check Boxes:

Check those that apply. Having people constantly e-mailing updates to other members or their GM can quickly lead to either ignoring notifications from Obsidian Portal all together, or cause the one receiving the notifications to take a negative view of the one causing them.

 Note:

At the time of writing this I don’t know CSS and haven’t played around with it much beyond fixing other peoples pages. It is something I hope to get good at since it seems to be easily learn-able.

The Art Tale

We look to the art of Fantasy Flight Games to glean inspiration for adventures and even campaigns.

Work coordinated and curated by Zoe Robinson has been an inspiration during her time at FFG, and this is our tribute to her work as she departs to Blizzard.

Continue reading “The Art Tale”

Confessions of a Newb GM: A Plan Comes Together

Most adventuring parties only see an innkeeper as the provider of ale and food with the possibility of lodging and rumors if things go well, but the innkeeper can become the gateway to the whole town when the players look deeper. In a quick pass through town, or as a single adventure without a twist that the innkeeper is involved in, nefarious things are all that’s needed, but, when it won’t be just a single adventure, it becomes more important to know why the innkeeper is doing things. Having the innkeeper be knowledgeable about the shady things in town is a common trope and makes sense if they’re the classic bartender like Shotglass, but it can take on a sinister tone if the information they feed the party leads to cleaning out a potential competitor or if they use the party as the heavy hand of the thieves’ guild. The innkeeper in a small town is a huge source of wealth that wouldn’t normally be available and this wealth filters down to the artisans of the town such as the inn’s chef, the town brewer, tailor, farrier, miller, and surrounding farmers; allowing the innkeeper to behave as town leader as far as the party is concerned. How the innkeeper, or other NPCs, are connected to the world, matters.

When you come across a  GM character once, most people pay them no mind, but when they start to become part of the world, it brings a much better connection to the narrative. One of the tricks is to find  points of connection you as a GM already have that the characters can fill. The junk dealer that the party uses as a fence turns into an agent for the local governor to keep tabs on the underworld. The captain of the guard that gives the party quests is underpaying the party and pocketing the extra money that would pay for the squads of soldiers that the party is replacing.

On to the Council

The Lepskin Rebel Council presents an interesting challenge; it’s easy to see the council as a separate section, but it overlaps with the sector in general. They have jobs and motivations, creating simple characters, which continue on beyond what the players will see. This is one of the ways that Obsidian Portal shows its worth as a framing device. I find it easy to deal with the council as a single entity of people and the sector as a single entity of planets, the two together is much hazier. These two seemingly separate sets have common points and should allow for ideas to grow as different aspects are worked on. Working on The Council gets me thinking about the planets these people are associated with and then how that shapes them.

My best example of this is a five link chain that is linked through a set of coincidental ideas. The links go from Catiwhinn, an up and coming maintenance yard on the fringe is the seat of The Council, to Icor Brimarch, a member of The Council and the vice president of business expansion for Bantha Express Transportation, and finally to Axel the headquarters for Bantha Express.

Normally my thought process would connect two of these things, because it’s in Icor Brimarch’s character description that he is part of the Bantha Express, but not the rest of them. Thanks to the linking of the rebel council to Catiwhinn and Icor Brimarch’s position on that council I now have another link for the character, and a reason for him and his company to be so far from their home system.

I find that these unexpected links are what make a setting seem more real. Having them in mind, or at least easily available, is great for when players want to do things that you’d never normally think of. The ways this knowledge can impact and be used for plot purposes is delightful but even moreso if the players link these things themselves without huge glowing signs saying “Shreb is tied to Rooksense” or something similar.

A wonderful part of Obsidian portal is that some of this linking can be visible to only to the GM and select others which allows for the rabbit hole to go much deeper than in a single sheet that the players have unfettered access to. Creating these links ahead of time allows for less work when a player tries to do something almost unthought of. It can be looked up while having a quick planning break.

Thin Skin of Reality

This can be a level deeper than most players want to go, but it can be rewarded with making difficulties just a little bit easier if the players are looking for how it’s interconnected and want to play off of it.

This depth of thinking about a relatively throw away concept I find useful. It brings me deeper into knowing what I’m helping to create and helps me to think beyond swinging the group from trope to trope. I know if I start to put in a few not so hidden gems for characters I can allow the players to start seeking it out on their own. A rescued tech in one adventure gets hired onto a repair shop at the end of another and finally takes it over at the end of the next campaign. Growing the world around the players allows for a reality to form, instead of just being able to cause relentless devastation while being an evil raiding party.

The Challenge Tale

Two listeners asked us about skill challenges in Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars system and we decided to give our thoughts on it.

From outlining what they are for those unaware, to ways the advantage and threat skew how you can use them.

Continue reading “The Challenge Tale”

Confessions of a Newb GM: The Council is Sitting

Last time I talked about the Lepskin Sector and some of the places that players can go. Today I am talking about the Lepskin Rebel Council and what they bring to the table and a few things that I can do with them.

A Little History

The reason I’m using a council set up has a bit of history to it that could help with understanding why I’m hoping to use it. I was fortunate enough to play in a test of the Quinoth system and the council idea worked well for me, it was a Fiasco style game with a few great players and @Fiddleback doing the job of the rest of the council. This experience was quite fun, with the reversals and a few of the more charismatic people getting their way. After the council we had to create a communication going from the council member to our operative in the strike force (played by a different person) detailing what happened and our intents. The full narrative use of a separate council came from having muddled communication between “The Council” and the main play group(s).

Since playing in Quinoth I have found out about and have played Executive Decision and think it fits this style just a little better than Fiasco. The big difference between a Fiasco style and an Executive Decision style of game play is in Fiasco having all players being equal based on their role play ability, where Executive Decision is much more directed with the players are trying to convince the GM (The Executive) to follow a particular track. This style seems better in a council setting and the one that I’ll use.

Character creation is a difficult beast, most of the time you want something that provides something unique to the player themselves but also doing some form of Cast Calculus (careful, TV Tropes link). Until reading and starting to understand the Edge of the Empire system I didn’t consider the story of a character to be a driving factor and only looked to characters with the view of them being a token on the board.

I have become excited since I started to learn about how these attributes can bring story to the front and thought of the interweaving it can bring if the participants let it. This brought to me an idea of how to create simple characters with short back stories that don’t overshadow what will be coming. Taking the obligations, or duties, for reference then adding their species, motivations, and the career together to create a base character has become a small game to figure out what sort of characters these attributes dictate.

The council starts as a body to be trusted and obeyed but as the players see what is going on at ground level, and not all of the council members do, this should cause fractures and a more interesting meta-narrative for the players and I. The council is limited to having an idea of what’s going on but not having direct control, trusting the players to run the actual missions. The single line of communication between the players and The Council allows for the concept to be completely cut out if there isn’t an interest in it and for an unreliable set of communications if the GM wants to include such a plot device.

 

 Now On To The Cast:

Amenta Olies: A human historian grieving for Alderaan and wanting to strike out at those who hurt her. Amenta brings her deep knowledge of history to apply against the trials of the present.

Ayyn’torthal: A twi’lek financier that thinks his fortune and safety is in the deep Lepskin Void. Feeling he is destined to become the one to free Ayyn’torthal, he seems reckless in the plans he puts forth.

Char’bana: An amazingly cunning ex-dancer, this twi’lek is looking to raise the downtrodden and help free the oppressed.

Coden Tazi: A haunted duros sniper who lost himself when his family was killed and hasn’t found himself again by raining vengeance on those who did it.

Dun Sund: A brilliant fleet captain who values his subordinates and knows how to use them well, he looks to bring to justice the admiral of the Lepskin fleet.

Icor Brimarch: The wealthy son of Bantha Express owners, the corporation has fallen under direct imperial scrutiny due to Alderaanian ties. Icor heads the transportation operations of the council.

Pashnia Niathal: A freed Mon Calamari, Pashnia is a genius with keeping everything going and brings her dedication to the organization that freed her.

Scara Harend: A know-it-all pilot, Scara has been transferred to lead the sectors nascent star fighter corps. Few realize how determined she is to do right by her people and see each one of them return home.

Tamar Dangr: A fallen Lepskin Sector senator, Tamar was in line to be the sector Moff but his own local connections bit him politically and now he seeks to free the good people from the far away rule of the Empire.

Yattitcu: Young for a wookiee, Yatticu is a master slicer that knows how to get information from the deepest nets. She’s become invaluable, both for her ability to collate data as well as her burgeoning network of spies.

The Stowaway Tale

We were asked how to make being on a ship more then just piloting or shooting the guns. We come up with a few ideas that expand on your normal star ship scene and give some breadth to your scene creation. Continue reading “The Stowaway Tale”

Confessions of a Newb GM: Introducing the Lepskin Sector

Before I get into describing my battles with Obsidian Portal, or Roll 20 let me take you through the reason why I have bothered with these tools that need dedication to learn.

Today I describe the basic setting of the Lepskin Sector, next week will be the Rebel Council, and the week after will be a few of the things I’ve learned putting both sets of ideas into Obsidian Portal and how doing so can create a better setting.

I understand and encourage players to be spontaneous and I want to give the players in my group a place that isn’t just a set of random set piecess made up from flash cards. I want it to be epic with weird and fun places, as well as dark corners where criminals willingly tread, and to get this a heightened sense of connection to continuity helps. This creates a short hand between the players and the GM to change and detail interactions based on where they take place. A talk in a smoke filled and dimly lit tavern is going have a very different feel and expected outcome than a brightly lit pastel walled open air café.

When coming up with places I used a few tropes to setup specific places for players to know almost exactly what is going on, and others where I try to subvert what the players are expecting. The places then begat a small initial narrative and the two styles together have brought many notable Non-Player Characters (NPCs).

I’ve been working on a setting called the Lepskin Sector. This setting is on the outer fringes of the Star Wars galaxy, but still has a connection to the core and civilization. From a basic narrative standpoint, to be useful to the player, the long term game world needs a few things.

Two Cans and String

 

The first thing the party needs is a home base for them to come back to and lick their wounds and provide communication to higher ups. For this I created Catiwhinn, an asteroid complex that allows for ships of fairly large size to dock and be repaired. The Rebel Council has ties to the station giving preferential docking and repair rates to the player group. The station is newly located on a trade route that allows for secretly shipping almost anything that people reasonably need and can pay to have smuggled into the sector with little hassle.

An integral thing to any campaign is a change to the status quo. The players are charged with preventing this change, or to channel the change in a new fashion with failure being an unwanted option. Usually this change is a McGuffin that the ‘Big Bad Evil Guy’ is controlling and using to impose their will. To start the first campaign we’ll have a deep space shipyard to deal with. The story is that after ten years spent fixing the yard, the current Imperial Governor is using it to amass a fleet to control the entire sector and expand it into peaceful neighboring systems.

Since The Shipyard is hidden, the party needs a public enemy camp that is identifiable and dangerous to the group. I created Jambat to fulfill this need. Jambat is a planet that is mostly a savanna with small hills and deep gorges carved by wandering rivers. Settled a long time ago, the remoteness of the planet has caught the new governors’ eye as a training facility which has been constructed just recently. This very controlled planet is training a massive amount of troops to help supply the shipyard with crews and personnel.

From that beginning a simple adventure could be had, but I want something more for the players to connect with. The sector needs places for high society and high power shenanigans. Here I have created three places to catch the players’ imaginations.

The Big Three

Slovant is the home of a corporate colony sent out to follow up on reports of a vast natural cave system that was rich in minerals and had enough heat to grow food from the geothermal energy. This corporate sponsorship of the colony has directed it ever since it was founded, from mining to processing and finally manufacturing. The people working know that their conditions aren’t the same as the contracted working conditions across the sector and have been able to wrest reasonable working conditions from Sienar Corporation.

Xix started off as a place to put those too ‘independent’ for easy integration into the larger colonies on Lepskin and Slovant. This has caused much tension as the planet turned into an easy place to start manufacturing and has quickly overtaken the original colonies in its ability to produce saleable items. The independent corporations of Xix have become a driving force in the sector while trying to turn a blind eye to many of the excesses of the ruling oligarchy.

Lepskin is a colony that was sent as an academic campus from the Coruscanti Academy and connections from this slowly led to the planet becoming the sector capital. While there is a united front against any perceived or actual external threat to the sector, the intra-sector politics have become almost deadlier than the senate floor. The collocation of government and academic studies has led to resentment from several of the manufacturing worlds that believe their voice is drowned out because of the closeness of the Intelligentsia. The government understands how precarious its position is and the governor has taken militaristic steps to ensure the control of Lepskin is inviolate.

A Better Idea

With these five planets, and nineteen more, I can send players across the sector on almost any sort of mission allowing for a ready built tone wherever they go. After introducing them to a planet or area I can bring up each of them as settings and the players know what they’re getting.

These broad strokes are what the players, and you, have access to read and start to look at and possibly create links between. Any suggestions will be considered; specifics have a good chance of being integrated while broad concepts could take longer.

The Grand Combat Tale

We talk about montage scenes in your game and mass combat in a way that makes every roll matter for your campaign and the fantasy world writ large.

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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.

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.

Continue reading “The One Rogue Tale”

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.