Thursday, December 29, 2011

Like A Box of Chocolates

I really hadn't intended on posting anything until after New Year's Day, seeing as how I have a lot of things on my mind that are not directly gaming related. Still, when a gaming thought worth discussing comes up, well, it has to go somewhere right?

Gaming, especially Campaign Design, much like life I am told, is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.

Sometimes, that isn't what I'm hoping for.

Now usually, it's not a big deal being surprised by your players during the character creation phase of a campaigns development. As a matter of fact, I personally encourage it. "Wow me", I have said on more than one occasion. I love when they create an unusual, atypical group of player characters.

This is especially true in D&D or similar fantasy games. Of course, this is largely because it really won't matter to the adventure what they are playing. OK, I'm oversimplifying there, since in truth it matters quite a bit to me and my games but generally speaking...

If GM A intends to run 'The Beligerant Castle Basement of Unending Terror', does it really matter what the players come up with for characters? Outside of a possible tactical advantage or disadvantage, does it matter if the party consists of a Wizard, two Fighters, a Thief/Rogue and a Druid or a Cleric, two Wizards, a Ranger and a Paladin? Does it change the adventure premise? The focus of the plot? Not really right?

Same is true for Superhero gaming.

Imagine Dr. Doom has temporarily allied himself with Vandal Savage to uncover an ancient mystic tablet that will give them god-like powers. Cool. So the players, who have access to any Marvel and DC hero or heroine they want to use, choose to send Superman, Capt. America, Zatanna, Quicksilver and Red Tornado to go after Doom while Thor, Batman, Scarlet Witch, Flash and The Vision take on Savage and his minions. The PCs decide to replace Superman with Capt. Marvel (SHAZAM!) and The Vision with Iron Man. OK. Story is the same right?

With some campaigns I design, I can't make the first adventure, let alone work on the campaign, until after the players have made their PCs.

This is especially true with Traveller.

My buddies and I have been talking about various Sci-Fi properties lately and it's a well known fact among my group(s) that I would rather run a space opera type game then pretty much anything else (OK, save the Muppets of course). So after discussing the Prometheus trailer, the upcoming Mass Effect 3 computer game and a variety of other similar subjects, we finally, finally! decided to give Traveller a shot after quite a long while.

I geared up with some Megacorporations, Ships, a Sector Map, some NPCs and a variety of ideas featuring Sci-Fi Horror elements, Megacorporate espionage and deep space exploration (all the things we've been talking about) and my players create...a Noble who fights Pirates to protect his family's Bioengineering Company, a Pilot who chauffeurs him around, an Engineer and a Doctor.

Now, this is a cool fun idea for a game. I am really liking the premise. But it's not the premise I was banking on. I thought I knew exactly what the players were going to go for. The worlds, characters and events I was planning on introducing are not really designed with the above idea in mind. Can I adapt them? Sure. That's not my point though.

My point is I prefer to design my campaigns around the PCs. I don't do what I see all too often and which I have myself experienced (which I am not very found of), which is the PCs, whoever and whatever they are, get dropped into the GMs world/universe. In this latter type of situation, it doesn't matter all that much who the players are and what they can do. The adventure is there and if they don't go on it, someone else would've.

I tend to prefer something a bit more tailor made to the players' or PCs' interests so the adventure isn't just something to do 'cause they're bored, it's something they want or even need to do.

For those who hook PCs with something other then the promise of fame, glory and gold, how do you do it? What are your techniques for making a mission matter?


In other news...


I am playing the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG. It is very close to absorbing my soul or would be if I had one. It is very fun and more then a tad addictive.

I finally made it out to Queens and went to the Jim Henson exhibit at The Museum of the Moving Image. Wow. It was pretty moving for me. I don't know that anyone else would describe it that way but it effected me very personally in a way I can not accurately describe. It was surprisingly small but also surprisingly powerful.

I really, really, really want to run Star Trek again. Really.


OK, that's all the time I have tonight. Happy New Year everyone if I don't see or talk to you before the weekend. Here's hoping 2012 possesses a significantly decreased level of suck compared to the last two years.

Wouldn't that be awesome?

Barking Alien


  1. I always have a campaign concept in mind before I offer to run something. Usually I try to have some kind of kick off scenario ready to go after character creation if we're doing that in person so it's not a "wasted" session. What happens more often these days though is that charcaters get made in advance with some email and text chatter and then the first session is pure gaming. When that happens then I can and do adapt the opening situation to the PC's and I do like that better in most cases. I've tried to run pure sandboxes where there is no plottish reaction to the character actions in the gameworld but I just can't maintain it for long - I like rivals and personal antagonists and consequences to actions too much to ignore it completely. In the begining of the campaign the Orc King may just be a distant legendary figure, but halfway to the "end" he sould be a personal foe, a measuring stick for how powerful the PC's are, and a memorable character that gets talked about years down the road.

    So you just started a Traveller game and now you want to run Trek? Are you running the right game sir?

  2. One of my most successful games I ran was set in the Firefly 'Verse using GURPS. I built the adventure around the characters.

    I am currently running a Zombie Apocolypse game using GURPS.
    The players made average Joes for a modern day setting.
    They were completely unaware of what I was going to GM for them.
    The game started with people getting sick. Some players feared I was running "The Stand."
    Then the real Shit hit the fan. The first death happened...
    I had ready the intro to the (Remake) Dawn of the Dead on my laptop. I played it and put them on the run without mercy.

    This is the most fun, most enjoyed game I've ever run. The energy in the room is like the first time you played a rpg.

    True Story.

  3. Lord Blacksteel asked:

    "So you just started a Traveller game and now you want to run Trek? Are you running the right game sir? "

    Am I ever? lol

    Just 'cause I started Traveller (a sort of side project campaign I'm not even sure my group will get around to playing) doesn't me I don't have other ideas roling around in my head. As a matter of fact, even running a game in a related genre can have little bearing on ideas for games they might seem similar.

    I am something of a theme/genre snob as I've mentioned many times before and while there are ideas that would fit easily into both Traveller and Star Trek, I definitely see the feel of those two as very, very different and as such, some ideas are not compatible between the two IMO.