Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bringing My "A" Game

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the differences between my two one-shots - that is, why was one of them an A Game, and one a B-Minus Game?

Wade (as usual) does an excellent job of breaking it down for us.

I agree with his points, and have a few more to add. Here is what I'll be doing differently in future one-shots:

Setting Familiarity
Wade is right: The FUDGE Deryni game flopped in part because the players didn't know the setting and there was no one-sentence description to summarize it easily.

Even though Cthulhutech was an unfamiliar setting, it drew on a number of familiar elements. I was able to easily describe it: "It's like a cross between Neon Genesis: Evangelion and Cyberpunk, with Cthulhu added."

In the future, I will try to run games that are either familiar to the players or for which it is easy to create said familiarity with relatively few brush strokes.

For FUDGE, I did all the character generation according to what I thought the players wanted. I didn't pay much attention to what I needed to move the story along. I also had the characters 100% complete before the players ever saw them. I failed to provide any hints as to character personality.

For Cthulhutech, I made more characters than players, and allowed them to choose which character they wanted as their own. As I had four players, I made six characters and made sure that each critical skill was covered by at least three characters. I also left the characters partially incomplete, allowing the players to customize slightly. Part of the Framewerk system involves giving each character a character virtue and a character flaw, so they had an idea of who these collections of numbers were, too.

In the future, I'll do what I did with Cthulhutech. I know which players will gravitate to which character type, so I can make sure that the players will like who they wind up with. I'll also make sure there are some personality hints somewhere on the page. And I'll leave a few things unfinished so that the players have some personal touches added to their characters.

My weakness is endings. It always has been. They completed the major objectives in the FUDGE game, but I left too many hooks dangling - and it's a genre that doesn't seem to like dangling hooks. The "climax" was also unsatisfying - most players like a good solid combat at some point, and I did my best to dodge it for FUDGE.

I left plots hanging in Cthulhutech, too, but they were plots that felt like they were supposed to dangle. Sure, they caught the bad guy, but the mastermind got away. It's like that mid-point on TV Crime Dramas, when you know who the real bad guy is, but you don't have enough proof to get him. There was a good dust-up, too, before things returned to "Business as Usual."

Other Points
I did a better job of sensory engagement with Cthulhutech. Every GM Guide I've ever read has a reminder to GM's about this, too. Describe smells and sounds. If the air feels damp, tell them that. Just telling players that "the carpet squelches underfoot as you walk across it," goes a long ways towards setting the tone.

Part of that is because I'd just re-read Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering (which is well worth the $8 PDF price). I have several other excellent GM-ing books around that I've been refreshing myself on, too.

I should probably write about a few of them.

I'm also going to suggest that my players read Play Unsafe - there are a number of excellent books for GM's and not that many for players.

I'm currently reading Kobold's Guide to Game Design, Volume 1. It's for people who are writing an adventure, not necessarily for GM's who are in the thick of things, as it were - but it has some good information. I'll be writing more about this one later, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment