Monday, June 28, 2010

Confusing My Players

I've incorporated two ideas into my game that confused my players a little bit. Both are stolen ideas from excellent GMs - Lowell and Kip. One idea my players know is in play (Kip's), the other (Lowell's), not so much.

Quick snapshot of my game - Firefly/Serenity 'verse five years later, using Cinematic Unisystem rules with Andrew Peregrine's Spacefarers and Prairie Folk ideas from ESP vol. 1. The cast is the crew and a passenger aboard a trading vessel with the captain being an NPC. So, these people spend a lot of time together.

During character creation, I handed each of the players two note cards. They were instructed to fill them out during the character creation process. On one card, they had to write something only their best friend would know. On the second card, they had to write down something that no one else would know. They turned these in to me, I jotted down notes about each one, and gave them back to their owners. I let them sit on these cards for two hours before telling what we would be doing with them.

Right before game play, I told everyone to take their "friend" card and pass it to the person to their right. This illicited groans from some of them. However, the result was that they immediately began interacting with each other, even if it was out of character.

The other card, they keep. I'll be using those for future plot lines. Many of their secrets will tie-in very well together.

The other idea may not originally be Lowell's, but he's the first GM I've seen use it in practice ~

Never say no, if you can help it, to the players.

If the players need or want something in game, a device, a weapon, a plot move, whatever, and it doesn't hurt anything, I let them have it. Sure, it comes with the usual caveat of, "If you get this really big gun, the bad guys will have access to the same thing." However, unless it's a rare item or moves the plot in a direction that hurts other players or future plot points, I let them have it.

This confused the youngest player at the table when he wanted a new gun that would do more damage. He wasn't asking for anything crazy (like a .45 automag), he just wanted to upgrade from a 9mm to a .45. They were in a city where such a thing would be easy to get. There is nothing that will be hurt in-game by him feeling more protected (his character took a round from an M-16 equivelent). The party had also just been paid very well, meaning no shortage of funds.

He kept driving at the fact that he had the money to pay for it and was I sure such a thing was available. He was very confused by the part where I didn't care if he accounted for the money or not. He wasn't as confused by the availability of the weaspons. After all, we're talking the Old (sci-fi) West. Why wouldn't a .45 handgun be available?

Another player was more interested in a sonic weapon. She asked near the end of the game. I told her I didn't have stats, but that I would get her stats before our next game. (Note to self: create stats, use Endurance Damage.) I also told her it would be no problem for her to get such a weapon, utilizing her underground contacts. I think it surprised her how quickly I said, "Yes." Settings-wise, the Alliance uses sonic weapons in the Core. They wouldn't want bullets flying around and hurting any of those pretty citizens.

I count all of the above situations as wins. The players are getting more out of the game, whether they realize it or not, and my life isn't any more difficult as a GM.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Levitz Paradigm, Three Act structure, and the RPG Scenario

I'm going to try and use the Levitz Paradigm, as well as, proper three act structures with my Saturday night game. It's more official structure than I've ever put around my games. Sure, I've scripted them before, but not like this. I've done crazy level of scripting and character development. I've run games that were mini-scenarios where I had a specific agenda for each episode. However, this feels like a new level.

Have any GM friends had any luck with either of these? It's hard to imagine that I've run successful games (and highly successfull convention games) not utilizing these tools. I know Lowell has his 3 Things layout and that Steve uses a variant. What about the rest of you?

I'm hoping it will make it easier to rope in the players who want action to come to them, instead of creating it themselves. By easier, I mean force my hand to actively include them.

I have created an Excel file that outlines the paradigm. I like the idea of having an electronic file for this that I can reflect back on during the writing process, instead of a hand-scrawling it out on a peice of note paper.

My episode notes are done in Microsoft Word. I have them broken down by Act, then scenes (usually just two major scenes per Act - should I breaking that structure in the future?). I bullet point everything here. The last page of each episode's notes includes a list of NPC names, quick function why they are there ("contact for job"), locations, and as the current game is sci-fi, list of ship names and type of ship fir that episode.