First Time GM - WTF?

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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Baz King » 9:26pm on 13 Feb 09

Evilgaz wrote:[*]Advertise the game, with a note that you’re a new GM. If people come to the game knowing you’ve got a learner plate on, they’ll be more forgiving.


It's well worth 'tagging' your flyer with some aspects of your game and gaming style. There's often not much to go on in a flyer or in a programme. I'd prefer to know whether a game is 'cinematic' or not rather than a paragraph of backstory. I think you'll be more likely to get sympathetic players if they have some idea of what they're getting.

[*]Take breaks if you need them.


Take breaks even if you don't think you need them. Four hours without getting some fresh air, or a drink, or some mental space is too much to ask of anyone. I've seen a lot of games peter out at the climax, and I reckon a ten minute comfort break would help avoid that.

Oh, and don't be afraid of going with a pre-published adventure. It takes some of the strain off you when you're naturally going to have enough worries about your GMing chops without having to be nervous about your writing abiity too.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby dpmcalister » 9:47pm on 13 Feb 09

Spotted the link in your signature Baz and thought it worthwhile to mention it in the body of a post.

http://smartparty.wordpress.com/

It's a good read :)
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Baz King » 10:05pm on 13 Feb 09

dpmcalister wrote:Spotted the link in your signature Baz and thought it worthwhile to mention it in the body of a post.

http://smartparty.wordpress.com/

It's a good read :)


Very kind. It's very early days, but there will be a lot of content going online soon. I'm sure our very own Minister of Information (EvilGaz) will be along to point out updates as and when they happen!
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Evilgaz » 2:14am on 14 Feb 09

dpmcalister wrote:It's a good read :)

Very flattering... as soon as the others get scribbling (looks at Baz ;) ), then I'll start shouting about it! :D

Baz King wrote:I'm sure our very own Minister of Information (EvilGaz) will be along to point out updates as and when they happen!

And as if by magic... on the back of our first enquiry an expanded GM tips is published.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Sundog » 8:28pm on 18 May 09

Very good tips, there. Sometimes I have done chargen as part of the slot, but you do have to be careful of the system. In-game chargen needs to be fun and fast, but it can give newbies an idea of how the system works before the dice really start flying.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Baz King » 1:41pm on 19 May 09

Hi Sundog,

I'd always counsel against doing chargen as part of a normal game slot. I just don't think it adds enough value, and it really sucks away actual playing time. There are exceptions to that of course; most indie games, games that run over multiple slots for example.

One thing that can help newbies understand the game is to run through a quick example of play before getting into the game proper. The Smart Party once ran some Godlike demos for Arc Dream and we did pregens for all. We then ran all the players through a very quick sample combat using those characters. It took 10 minutes and really gave them a heads up on what the system would be like when the bullets started flying.

What does everyone else think, would you like to create your pc as part of the slot? or is pregens the way to go?
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby w00hoo » 2:06pm on 19 May 09

90-95% of the time, in a Con game, pre-gens.

Generally generating characters is the most system intensive bit of a game and if you've players around the table who don't know how to do it then it is too big a drain on time for not enough payback of fun.

the 5-10% of time, in a Con game, that I would do character generation is with some games where it really does pay off during the game. Don't Rest Your Head, character gen is relatively quick and painless with the biggest time drain being expecting the players to be creative when asked. Tailoring the game to the created characters is a big part of what it is about, for me, and I've had good results with it.

Monsters and Other Childish Things is another game that I tend to do character generation in, but I'm not convinced it's the best thing to do because it's not a very concise system to explain and I'm starting to think that pregen my give a better game. It's a tough one though because getting the crayons out and creating your own monster is a great way to get people in to the mindset of the game. If only I could work out a simpler way to explain it.

Basically, if the system really shines when played with characters that the players are seriously invested in then trying to put character gen in is worthwhile. If it is nice, but not critical to the feel of the game then it's too much. With DRYH the character gen takes around 20 minutes out of a 4 hour slot, so I tend to run it, then do the first comfort break to give me time to note down what's been decided and work out how to fit it in, that leaves 3.5 hours of slot time which is fine. Monsters+ seems to take around 45 minutes and while it's a fun 45 minutes, I think it might hit the slot too hard, definitely too much for a 3 hour slot I'd have thought.

As a first time GM, I'd never bother, you run the risk of killing the atmosphere before you start, or just getting bogged down in complexity.

For multisession/non-Con games then for me it's create your own characters every time. No argument. If I'm going to play / run a game for more than one session then having the players fully invested in the characters is paramount if it's a long process then either do it outside of the gaming environment, or devote the complete first session to character creation. That has worked very well recently using Mongoose Traveller for instance.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Tylorva » 7:06pm on 19 May 09

Definately pre-gens. When I write con games, I write the characters and the plot together, so both are very much part of each other. When I play con games, I tend to have this expectation as well, and get sorely disappointed if the characters have no connection to the plot.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby annoyinglizardvoice » 9:14pm on 02 Sep 09

Pre-gens are geat for a con but terrible otherwise.

Hide your dice rolls. It gives you a bit of margin of error when you really want the players to survive or strugle.

Always be willing to add-lib and change the story a bit.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Halfbat » 9:35am on 03 Sep 09

annoyinglizardvoice wrote:Hide your dice rolls. It gives you a bit of margin of error when you really want the players to survive or strugle.

I think that piece of advice needs to be taken with a big warning as it is often a substitute for poor GMing - if it's that important a particular result happens, why roll at all? And why _force_ a group to struggle if they've roleplayed well? The story is much more important (as you said). All my dice rolls are open - and the best things happen when luck turns against the group and they can _see_ it has. Sometimes they do not know what the roll is (D&D4e: Stealth vs. Passive Perception, for example*). Players frequently back away if it looks as if they are being overwhelmed and, ime, many groups start trying more imaginative things as a result of being in more trouble than they thought. I just can't trust a GM/DM who has to fudge dice rolls.
Always be willing to add-lib and change the story a bit.

Solid advice. A plot's a plan, subject to change without notice after contact with the players. :D


* Just an example. Same things can happen in many other systems.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby zackspacks » 12:25pm on 03 Sep 09

Halfbat wrote:
annoyinglizardvoice wrote:Hide your dice rolls. It gives you a bit of margin of error when you really want the players to survive or strugle.

I think that piece of advice needs to be taken with a big warning as it is often a substitute for poor GMing - if it's that important a particular result happens, why roll at all? And why _force_ a group to struggle if they've roleplayed well?
Personally I don't mind if someone wants to hide die rolls ( eg to not make it obvious how deadly that small bunny actually is ) but fudging, no way, for the reasons above.

I write my scenarios so that obstacle X can be overcome with some ingenuity, but successfully rolling skill A will give the characters a bonus, more insight, or a way to overcome obstacle Y later on. IMHO that gives rolling the dice some meaning, and not hitting a brick wall with a failed roll.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby w00hoo » 12:56pm on 03 Sep 09

Only thing I will fudge is damage in combat. While I'll admit that sometimes I am too loath to kill off a character I really see no point in accidentally killing off a character because a no name guard got some freakishly lucky dice rolls.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Heselbine » 2:44pm on 03 Sep 09

oreso wrote:I'd only add that showmanship and energy is really important.


I so agree with this.

When you're DMing, you're putting on a show. Take risks. Be lively.

But - the flip side is that the point of the exercise is for everyone to have fun. So don't put on so much of a show that the players just sit there.

In a convention game, don't go for subtle plot lines. Go for punchy archetypes everyone can latch on to. Same goes for characters.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Mist77 » 10:37am on 06 Sep 09

Some good stuff.

As a few folks have pointed at. Generals note 'No play ever survives contact with the enemy' well GM's get 'no plan ever survives contact with the players'. However if you have thought about things and know your scenario you can survive most hairbrained schemes players come up with.

Most players in a convention game will expect:
A pregenerated character.
So really do state if not supplying them. A handful of games can do chargen in 10 minutes or so where it is selecting attributes a few skills and a couple of signature items. Some Indie games its part of the scenario.
Also although some good hooks are an idea remember you have no idea who will be playing the character so do not build overly specialised characters or overly limited ones that force a player to be interested in obsure part X of the rules or playing a specific personalities to the hilt unless there is some sort of warning in the game blurb.

A mission to do.
Most convention players will accept that they have to 'rescue the princes' or 'get back the secret ' because they don't gamke a game if they don't take the mission you have writtien but... don't push it too far.

A game lasting 75-95% of the slot.
You can let things get really deadly in the final scene as the characters end with the end credits anyway but players don't expect to get killed by the third goblin from the right in the first half hour unless they do something REALLY stupid like blatantly walking over and clearly letting the goblin put a knife to thier thraot then deciding its time to take some hairbrained action that is aclearly a threat but does not even try to stop the goblin doing the blatantly simple, opps you now food Human. Dice rolls can be fudged for 'thats simply not fair' (this is supposed to be fun and not knowing how well the dice will roll is supposed to add to the suspense but when the NPC's roll three critical 01's in a row it gets a bit silly if half the party are now dying due to pure attrocious luck) but players should never rely on it. If they deserve it let the chips falls where they will.

Most convention games are for 4-6 players simply because most 'traditional' roleplaying games run best at around 5 players (it gets you a scout a warrior a mage and a healer plus something special) and a lot of cons used to always put out tables with a GM chair and 6 players ones (often led by GenconUK). Investigation heavy games tend to prefer fewer playes, because generally you will find that only a few of them are the best at the situation in hand and they come to dominate that. Some games will tolerate more than 6 but the 'screen time' for each player starts to plummet and physically getting more than 8 round a table and able to hear the ref can get hard. Sure its been done and done well but generally more than 6 players is heading for trouble unless you KNOW you have a solution that does work.

As a new GM i would suggest that you start with traditional scenario types. Group of characters off to fix X. Some investigating on the way. a Skirmish or two and a final big battle. You can get more adventurous once you have learned a few things about what is different about it being a convention game.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby dice_monkey » 8:56am on 30 Sep 09

Wow. There's some fantastic tips here, i've only ever played at CON's and never run a game.

Must try harder :lol:
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