Monday, December 30, 2013

Great Expectations...No Relation - Part I

When you are pressed for inspiration for a gaming blog post, you could do worse than to listen to the Play on Target podcast.

The latest episode is about How to be a Better GM.

Listening to it made me think about a lot of things but the key revelation I took from it is this...

I am awesome. No, seriously. I am an Awesome GM.

Wait...I am an awesome GM...for some people.

I don't doubt there are a ton of people for whom I am not only not that awesome but possibly wouldn't even be considered all that good. I've been pretty lucky over the last 36 years and played with a large number of people who seemed to really like my style of play. The reverse is also true. I've had a lot of fantastic players and I developed the style I have today thanks largely to the style of play most of the people I've gamed with preferred.


Now, some notes on my specific brand of awesomeness directly based on thoughts spawned by listening to the podcast.

I am Great At Combat

During the Play on Target podcast, Lowell and Brian mention that Combat, a key element of the vast majority of RPGs, is an area of running games where they feel less comfortable and less engaged.

To some extent they seem to feel that in the vast majority of games they run which have fewer crunchy, involved rules for combat, it's harder to keep the battles interesting. Essentially, having a game that has more rules and tactical options mechanically makes for a game with a cushion that makes combat flow more smoothly.

I kind of don't get what they're saying.

I find if there are too many rules for combat, I feel constrained and can't flex the ol' creativity. My games, and therefore my combats, have never been based on the mechanics of the games as much as the ideas in the players' heads. The game is as tactical as the PCs want it to be.

This concept, which I hope to explain in detail in another post sometime, may go a long way towards explaining why my Champions games have fast combat and my Star Wars D6 games involve such epic battles. I am using a single theory for combat located somewhere in between them regardless of what game I am actually playing.

I am Great At Descriptions

I wasn't always. Yes, this is one area even the amazing Adam has had to work on. For years I would over-describe everything. I wanted everyone at the table to see the exact same picture I saw in my head. As time went on, I learned to describe only distinct or important elements and let the players use their imaginations on the rest. If questions on the appearance, location/position or something came up, I would get more detailed as needed.

I am Great At Puzzles

But my players aren't always.

I am a little guilty of comparing my old groups to my new group but because I am good at puzzles, good at creating puzzles, like creating and putting in puzzles and used to groups with a least one person who is good at puzzles, it's hard for me to get used to my new team NOT having that person. Not a one? Not. A. One.

I am trying to make the clues more obvious, the riddles less complex and number of options other than 'the answer' larger and more adaptable.

I am Very Flexible

Being flexible is perhaps the key to everything you will do as a GM. I strive to be as flexible as possible. I started out flexible and I think that is one of my primary advantages.

I am Great At Listening to My Players

I run games with the players and their PCs in mind. I myself don't like to play as a player and the reason for that (or at least one of the biggest reasons for it) is that I gamed under a number of GMs who made you feel like your PC didn't matter compared to their campaigns and NPCs. Your PC could be anybody. It isn't about them.

If you've ever, as a player, said to yourself, "Gee, I wish this cool backstory I came up with actually mattered in the game", than you'd probably find yourself pretty comfortable at my table.

I am Great At Names for People, Places, Things and Technobabble

Names have always been very easy for me.

One of the reasons is I read a lot and will sometimes borrow part of a name from a character in a book.

I know, and have known, a lot of people from a lot of different places, cultural backgrounds and ethnicities.

Take a first name from a book and a last name from an old friend or vice versa and you have a pretty large supply of names to draw from.

The same is true for places and even things like starships or taverns. Mix something from a film or novel with the name of an old haunt of yours and presto!, instant memorable name.

Another tactic I love is developing 'Naming Conventions'. I've mentioned this one on the blog before. Set up one or more rules on how you name a particular species, race or class of starship and coming up with a name for them on the fly is suddenly much easier.

Vulcan male names tend to start with 'S' and utilize the letters V, L and K a lot, the most common vowels being O, U and A. So, need a Vulcan? No problem. Sovlok, Suvol, Solavak and Savul reporting for duty. Loknar Class Frigates are named for places where battles took place. Launching the USS Alamo, USS Agincourt and the USS Thunder Bay.

The Play on Target guys recommend keeping a list of names handy. I concur and do it all the time. Never let yourself run out of resources.

Technobabble is easy. Follow these steps...

Original Series:

Keep technobabble low and simple. They have Jefferies Tubes, Transporter Locks and Phaser Overload. They don't Modulate The Proton-Induction Coils. They just didn't really do that.

Next Generation Onward:

Read the technical manuals. Actually get to know a little about the ships and how they are supposed to work. Makes discussions of the technobabble feel more grounded. If that doesn't work, use any of the following words in different combinations: Modulate, Calibrate, Exchange, Realign, Reroute, Induction, Phase, Warp, Subspace, Proton, Ionic, Coil, Field, Manifold, Interface, Dampener and Compensator.

So if the Subspace Field Manifold goes offline, you may need to Realign the Warp Coil Interface. If that doesn't work, check your Subspace Phase Compensator. It could be damaged.


Come back tomorrow for more about how great I am. No really. I'm amazing.

Barking Alien

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