Reklamer

Crisis prep for GMs!

TRANS FOR ME(Should work for most traditional games. Crowdsourced on Rollespill.info).

The scenario: You have the characters (with some background, motivations and special abilities), an idea about setting and genre, and the system you’ll use. Maybe you have notes from previous sessions.

But you have no idea what’s going to happen next time you meet!

It’s a couple of days until you play, and – knowing yourself – you know there’s somewhere between half an hour and two hours remaining for prep.

What do you do?

In prioritized order (drop the one’s you don’t have time for):

1) First of all; skim through character and setting notes, and notes from previous sessions (if any). Make a note of any ideas they give you.

2) An explosive start: not necessarily violent, but something the characters have to relate/react to. Something that changes the status quo, preferably involving 2-3 NPCs (it’s good if at least one of these is central to the game). The scene may well start in medias res (in the middle of unfolding action).

3) Prepare 3-5 NPCs especially for the session. You can detail predefined secondary characters, or make up some new ones. Preferably tie them to the characters and/or their agendas (as adversaries, helpers, obstacles).

3) “Cool elements” to sprinkle on top: a couple of specific scenes/moments, a specific setting, a group/organization (with agendas), items with unique properties. The characters should be able to interact with these in a meaningful way. Dilemmas are good.

4) Threat clocks/countdowns (if time): make a note of a couple of “background processes” where events will unfold in such-and-such a manner unless the characters intervene. This can also be combined with 1-2 further “crises” like in the opening scene, 1).

Over half of the items and ideas you come up with may be tied to specific character agendas/abilities/backgrounds/contacts. Give the characters a chance to shine.

All of this information can be organized in a mind-map (with lines between the elements denoting order of appearance or how they relate to each other). A few keywords should suffice.

Further inspiration for making up NPCs: Your next AW NPC is going to be awesome.

Further reading from Imagonem: Some tips for new Game Masters

Alltid passelig uforberedt

Spilldesign | GM-tips

Apocalypse World har et sett prinsipper og et sett «moves» for spillederen. Spillederen kaster aldri terning, men det finnes regler han er ment å følge.

Prinsipper

mad_maxPrinsippene er generelle kjøreregler og «skikk og bruk». Mange av dem er anvendbare i de aller fleste rollespill:

  • Tordentale: Korte, kontante stemningsbeskrivelser relatert til settingen. «Himmelen er – som alltid – grå. Ubehaget: sand over alt, insekter i maten. Smak av rust og blod i kjeften. Stank av brennende kjøtt og bildekk, like utenfor leiren.»
  • Henvend deg til rollene, ikke spillerne: (selvforklarende)
  • Vis dem det, ikke fortell om det: (min lesning av «Make your move, but never speak it’s name»). Istedenfor å bare si «dere blir adskilt» eller «du er tom for kuler», beskriv hvordan mutantene angriper, lenker rollene fast og trekker dem fra hverandre gjennom den brennhete stranden. Beskriv klikkelydene i revolveren. Osv. Denne ligner så mye på «Make your move, but misdirect» at jeg slår dem sammen: Ikke bare rams opp regler og terningkast. Istedenfor «du bommet med to, og det er hans initiativ» sier du «slaget ditt sneier Janus’ kinn. Han bare gliser, og fyrer opp motorsaga». Elementært.
  • Se gjennom trådkorset: Hver gang din oppmerksomhet streifer noe du eier; en birolle, en gjenstand, organisasjon eller en relasjon: vurder først om du kan endre den, ødelegge den eller sprenge den til himmels. Status quo finnes ikke. Alt du eier er først og fremst et mål.
  • Gi alle navn, gjør alle menneskelige: Lag en navneliste før spill. Kvinnenavn, mannsnavn, androgyne navn. Se på den når rollene møter en ny birolle. Sett opp en tilsvarende liste med helt enkle motivasjoner: kåt, sulten, gjerrig, grådig, osv. Gjør birollene enkle, men menneskelige. Ikke bare papp og miniatyrer.
  • Still provokative spørsmål, bygg videre på svarene: La spillerne være med på å definere bakgrunn og setting ved å spørre dem om ting: «Hvordan fikk du tak i en bil her ute i ørkenen? Hvor finner du bensin? Hva måtte du ofre for å få den?»
  • Kødd med rollene. Belønn dem en sjelden gang: Gi dem det de trodde de håpet på, og vis dem hvor jævlige konsekvensene av å få det er.
  • Vær fan av rollene: La dem få det de har kjempet for. Ikke ta fra spillerne det som definerer rollen. Gi handlingene deres meningsfulle resultater.
  • Samtidig, et annet sted…: Hva foregår der rollene ikke befinner seg? Hjemme i leiren? Ute i ruinene, der mutantene bor? Hva planlegger Misfosteret for noe dævelskap nå?
  • Utsett avgjørelser, av og til: La en birolle bestemme: hva gjør du hvis du er en ensom mor i apokalypsen, og Bowie-kniven er alt som står mellom rollene og ditt nyfødte, svakelige barn? La rollene bestemme: «Ja, dere kan nok nå frem i dag, men det vil være mørkt, og da bruker de vandøde å yngle i området.» Gi en tidsfrist: sett opp en nedtelling av forjævlighet for hva som vil skje hvis ikke en bestemt situasjon endres. Huk av og beskriv utviklingen etter hvert som rollene somler.

Spillederens støttehjul

tank_girlHvis det kommer til et dødpunkt i handlingen, du står fast og ikke vet hva du skal gjøre kan du la deg inspirere av denne listen. Velg en av handlingene nedenfor og gjør det. Velg en handling som kan følge logisk fra det som allerede er etablert. Velg en handling som gir rollene mulighetene til å handle/reagere. Aller best: gjør ting som endrer situasjonen for godt.

  • Skill dem ad: Dette kan være så enkelt som at to roller er på forskjellige steder, mobilbatteriet er flatt, osv.
  • Ta noen til fange: (selvforklarende).
  • Gi et vanskelig valg: Du kan redde én av dine venner, men ikke begge.
  • Fremtidig trussel: En diger svart røyksøyle på horisonten, en ulyd nærmer seg, rykter om at en «skitten bombe» er på vei med lastebilkonvoi, ryktebørsen, trusselbrev.
  • Øye for øye: De gjør noe faen, og får noe faen.
  • Gi skade (i samsvar med det som har skjedd/det reglene krever).
  • Ta fra dem tingene deres: Noen har punga dekka dine, tømt bankkkontoen din, stjælt  typen din, osv.
  • Tving dem til å kjøpe: Du kan få det, men det vil koste deg.
  • Aktivér ulempene ved utstyret deres: Hun er utenfor rekkevidde, sekken er for tung, bilen er tom for bensin…
  • Fortell dem mulige konsekvenser og spør om de fortsatt vil gjøre det: Hvis du løper ut dit nå er du fullstendig blottstilt for skarpskytteren.
  • Tilby en mulighet, med eller uten en kostnad: Du kan ta dem igjen, men da må du sette igjen ungen her.
  • Vend [resultatet av] handlingen deres tilbake på dem selv:
  • True dem: Med utgangspunkt i det du vet om birollene og deres motivasjoner.
  • Etter hver handling: «hva gjør dere nå?»

Andre tips

  • Lag masse kart og andre handouts.
  • Gi spørsmål tilbake til spillerne: «ja, fortell meg det: hvordan ser det ut her på søppeldynga?»
  • Digresjoner og detaljer, en sjelden gang: gå i dybden om  hvordan det ser ut hjemme hos en birolle, et eller annet foruroligende om deres kroppsspråk, osv. Noen ganger spiller du ut kamper helt detaljert, med gørrete beskrivelser, taktiske avgjørelser, oversiktskart og det hele. Andre ganger kan du gå over det med harelabb og bare etablere hva som har skjedd etter et par terningkast. Samt mellomting der du for eksempel kutter midtveis i en kampsekvens når alle ser hvordan det vil gå.
  • Ta runden rundt bordet, gi alle spotlight. «Hvor er du nå, hva gjør du der?»
  • Ta pauser, ta deg tid.

Please consider backing Apocalypse World 2nd edition on Kickstarter.

 

Some tips for new Game Masters

Photo: olepeder

Photo: olepeder

(Please note that many games, particularly newer ones, will have some of these tips integrated as part of the method. Have some good tips of your own? Please let us know in comments).

Creating the characters

  • Create the characters together in the group, or at least spend some time in a physical meeting or via e-mail/Facebook group talking a bit about the campaign you want to run.
  • Make sure the characters have some points of contact to each other. Figure out why they will experience things together as a group (most roleplaying games still presuppose this as a default, though there are exceptions). Do they already know each other? Are they stuck in the same situation? What ties them together?
  • Make sure the characters have some interesting weaknesses/challenges to overcome. Preferably also some clear goals (that do not conflict with each other to the extent that they can’t cooperate).
  • Drama = conflict, but if the conflicts between characters are too big, the campaign might be short-lived.

Setting up the game

  • Plan adventures and campaigns based on the character’s background, interests, skills, goals and motivations. Let them be the main characters. Tie important elements of the plot directly to the characters.
  • Plan starting points and “hooks”, not solutions. Preserve the player’s freedom.
  • When preparing an adventure: give yourself a framework for improvisation, not a finished map over how events will play out (players generally dislike being “railroaded”.) This will ensure both your and the player’s freedom during play. The game is created at the table, not in your study in advance of play.
  • Don’t cling too tightly to your secrets, bring them into the game. The true excitement is in seeing what happens when the secrets are revealed.
  • Non-player characters (NPCs) are one of your most important tools. Plan a handful of these in advance of the game. Write briefly, just a few keywords about who they are. Sketch them out in a simple “relationship map.” How do they relate to the characters? To each other? How do they relate to the plot? What’s their agenda? Write them down between each session of play.
  • Having prepared a simple list of a dozen typical men’s and women’s names from the setting can come in handy when you have to name NPCs on the fly, during the session. – Don’t spend lots of time preparing things you feel reasonably certain will never see play.

During the game:

  • Make sure all characters get some spotlight, and all players get a chance to speak.
  • Follow up on player’s initiatives and ideas. Reward them, add to them. Maybe their ideas are just as good as what you’ve planned.
  • Players will rarely do exactly what you expected. This is a strength, not a weakness, of roleplaying. Relish the opportunity to improvise and think at the drop of a hat. Take a short break if you need to gather your thoughts.
  • Breaks are good. A bit of food before or after the game is good. Some snacks is good. Many groups like playing with a bit of atmospheric music. Some GMs use prepared handouts. Most groups will need dice, books and some pencils and paper to make notes with. Cell phones are a distraction. Ask players to turn off the sound and put them away. They can check them during breaks.
  • It’s better to allow frequent, short breaks than a lot of off-topic conversation during the game.
  • Use the player’s imagination. Ask them what the setting looks like, what the character is wearing, how she’s feeling, if the character knows anyone in the area, etc. Never reduce them to a passive audience, they should be active participants and co-creators (otherwise, they might as well be watching a movie). Build on and add to their input.
  • If you are not ready to have the character fail at a given task, don’t ask the player to roll. “Say yes, or roll the dice”.
  • Be careful giving the players challenges where there is only one possible solution. Try to leave challenges open, possible to solve in various ways. You don’t always have to picture a solution in advance, leave it to the players.
  • Make some notes as you go. Write a brief synopsis (half a page should suffice) after the game. This documentation will prove a goldmine when planning future sessions.

Timing and dramatic sense

  • As game master in traditional games, you have a lot of freedom to establish scenes where you want, decide which characters and NPCs are present, and what is going on when the scene starts. You can start in the middle of the action, spend time on exposition, cut a scene when it feels *dramatically right* rather than when the players are starting to get bored. Keep the action moving, at the same time as you’re preserving player freedom (you’ll get better at this balancing act given experience).
  • Timing. You’ll train your sense of dramaturgy by experience, and start with what you got. You’ve seen movies, played games, read books. A lot of this is already in your blood, and you’ll learn as you go. We are never fully taught as game masters. Timing has to do with when you reveal secrets, introduce new threats, cut scenes, raise your voice, whisper, sit quietly and just stare at the players for a quarter of a minute, or put on *that particular* song.

Check out the great website Learn to Play Tabletop RPGs

Best of luck!

Thanks to: Morten H.

Running Convention Games

Photo: Jorge Leal (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Photo: Jorge Leal (Flickr/Creative Commons).

US game designer and activist John Stavropoulos has game mastered hundreds of games at conventions over the years. In this text, he boils his experience down into 5 basic points. Originally published on G+, shared here with the author’s kind permission. For more about John’s projects, please see the end of the article. 

When I think about the games I enjoyed vs. times where I’ve had less fun, it often comes down to a few super basic obvious things that most people say «of course» and then in practice is gets muddy…

1. Set expectations
2. Time management
3. Spotlight management
4. Character vs. Player consent
5. Direct: Focus, Edit, Ask, Review, Teach as you go, Delegate

What does the above mean?

1. Set expectations

Don’t assume. Be explicit but brief. Maybe the players didn’t read the event description or they did but didn’t understand it. Why are we here? What do you want us to do? What do you want us not to do?

Is this a cooperative game? Competitive? Are we aiming for a certain tone or theme? Should we stick together? Should we split up? Should we stay serious? Make jokes? Attack each other? Wait till the last 30 minutes before PvP? Always work as a team?

It doesn’t matter. Just say what it is you want. Or be clear you are flexible and then let the group decide. Give enough info so people can opt out if they aren’t interested or buy in so you can all get on the same page and maximize the fun factor!

2. Time management

We have 4 hours to play which is actually probably 3 considering late starts and breaks. Then it is helpful to note how much time is left. When are we half way done? When do we have 30 minutes left? 5?

John is not, as far as Imagonem's editors are aware, a Revolutionary Icon from the 60's. However, he *is* an accomplished convention GM and organizer, and has graciously agreed to share some of his insights with our readers.

John is not, as far as Imagonem’s editors are aware, a Revolutionary Icon from the 60’s. However, he *is* an accomplished convention GM and organizer, and has graciously agreed to share some of his insights with our readers.

I know many great GMs like to limit new information after the halfway point to keep the game manageable. After that we reuse what we can, twist it, redefine it, combine it, destroy it, explore it but limit the amount of information.

Then once we hit that 30 minutes left point, start wrapping things up. Close loose ends. Resolve conflicts. Answer questions. Fulfill promises.

Then once we have 5 minutes left wrap up, epilogue, clean the table, and be respectful that players need to go to the next thing and new people may be playing at this same table next.

3. Spotlight management

One of the biggest convention game problems I see (depends on the game, there are exceptions). We make characters and the world for an hour. We play individual solo scenes for another hour. It can end up where players spent about 15 minutes talking and 100+ minutes being really quiet before the game feels like it really started and then you run out of time before you get any pay off for all the stuff you built up.

And if that is the point of the game… that is great! See «Set Expectations». Tell us so people can make an informed decision about opting in or out.

Maybe instead of solo scenes do scenes that start with 2 people at a time with a 3rd person coming in towards the end of the scene. Mix it up. If someone has been quiet a while, maybe they want to be quiet, maybe they are bored and anxious they haven’t done anything, not everyone wants equal participation but give everyone an equal opportunity to participate.

And make sure that spotlight is meaningful. Waiting 20 minutes to say or do anything and then stating 6 words, rolling, failing, having the GM describe how you fail, and then waiting another 20 minutes for maybe doing something engaging can kill many people’s interest real fast (or real slow so they can savor the agony). Stick with someone long enough so it feels meaningful. Context matters. Maybe that is 1 roll, maybe that is 3 rolls, maybe that is no rolls. They waited a long time, lets get some payoff!

4. Character vs. Player consent

This is a tricky topic that I should expand elsewhere. My opinion is the people playing a game are more important than the game itself. It should not matter if I win or fail at something, it is all still roleplaying. In an RPG ideally I could fail every single roll and still have a great time. Part of this is spotlight above. Part of this is that I am ok with the results of a roll. That even of it is the worst thing for my character, that I as the player am on board with it.

Part of this is simply the 3Cs. Communicate, Consent, Confirm.

Communicate the stakes of the situation, «if you fail X may happen, if you succeed Y may happen».  Get consent from those involved, «is this cool with you either way or would you like something else?» And then confirm, «to review, this is what we are doing, cool?»

It doesn’t have to be that formal. Or maybe it can be. Either way it is easier and faster than it sound above and with practice it solves many problems before they happen.

5. Direct: Focus, Edit, Ask, Review, Teach as you go, Delegate

As the facilitator (GM or GM-less), don’t be afraid to act like a director. Keep the above points in mind. Set expectations. Manage the game. Focus people when focus is useful. Get out of the way when people need time to process or slowness or uncertainty is a benefit to the game. Don’t let people talk over each other or interrupt people who haven’t had a fair chance to talk. Edit scenes by making suggestions. What if this scene happened here? What if we play the next few scenes as a montage? Lets cut the scene here or ask, «any last lines?» Ask for input, «what do we want more if in the next 2 hours? less of?» Review what we know, where we are headed, make sure the flow of information is manageable, understandable, and not full of misinformed assumptions. Don’t overwhelm people, teach rules as you go. And finally delegate!

While «directing» sounds like the GM’s job is to be a «dancing monkey» and «provide the fun» this doesn’t have to be the case. Delegate.

Have players frame scenes, play NPCs, suggest conflicts, answer questions directed at you, teach the rules. You would be amazed how much you can delegate. Hell, I’ve sometimes delegated entire games, then handed the players my phone number to text me if there were problems, got a coffee, came back, and asked, «how am I doing so far?»

Disclaimer:

It always depends. Context matters. There are many exceptions. And ultimately the needs of a specific game override some of the above. Just like the needs of specific people override the needs of specific games (in my personal opinion influenced by my own social context, cultural lens, privileges, experiences).

And while this may be 101 level material, sometimes we assume we have a solid foundation but lack the basics that help us have a great time. Take a step back and ask, «am I really doing all these things and where can I improve and practice.»

______________________________________________________________

About the author: 
John Stavropoulos. 

Brief gaming bio:
– organized 26 conventions in NYC;
– co-run Gen Con’s Games On Demand;
– designed convention game scenarios including MvsM, The Yearbook, CyberNoia, Demons at the Door, Monsterhearts LARP, Monekydome, and the5;
– playtested 100s of games;
– run numerous gaming industry panels;
– designed games for the History Channel played by 100,000s of people;
– co-created games in Ethiopia for the Nike Foundation to help hundreds of adolescent girls learn teamwork, financial literacy, and to speak out against gender based violence.
John has written: 
– How to Run Convention Games, http://tinyurl.com/run-con-games;
– How to Run Safer, Accessible, and Inclusive Conventions, http://tinyurl.com/run-safer-cons;
– How to Write Game Instructions, http://tinyurl.com/write-game-rules.
Find out more here: http://jstav.com
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