All manner of scifi/fantasy/nerdness: Roleplaying, comic books, .... okay, so mainly just RPGs & comic books. And Dr. Who. And Firefly. And comic books. And role-playing games. And Community. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And comic books. And RPGs. And Avengers. And RPGS. And whatever else amuses me today...
9.) Strategic combat or dramatic plotlines?
Oh definitely dramatic plotlines. I’m pretty mediocre at combat strategy. I mean, I can make a particular encounter challenging, but largely that’s because we’re playing Star Wars right now and Storm Troopers are cheaper by the dozen. If a particular combat seems to be getting too one-sided I can just throw more Storm Troopers at them. And forget aerial combat. I’m awful at that, and one of my players primarily plays Star Wars BECAUSE of aerial combat, so he knows all the options, rules, tricks, and minutiae around it. For that I just have to hope that two more tie fighters won’t cause them to be blown out of the sky.
But dramatic plotlines? Oh I’m all over that… taking the character’s motivations and using that to assess what is really important to the player… then taking that and challenging them over it. Building up NPCs that they like and trust, then revealing them to be a traitor, or taking the PCs’ assumptions and biases, and forcing them to overcome those to be able to accomplish the group’s goals. Yeah that I can do.
19.) Your most memorable in-character moment.
29.) The best / worst character concept you’ve ever heard.
Worst: Without a doubt, when I was running my 17-player Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game (MURPG) campaign, I had one guy that wanted to play an “elementalist.” In MURPG there was a family of powers that would make you the master of some particular element…. fire, ice, water, wind, etc. Except, he really really really really wanted to play as a … Hair Elementalist. And at the time I was considering it because I was thinking prehensile hair that he could control like Madusa of the Inhumans.
No, that wasn’t it. He wanted to be able to manipulate OTHER people’s hair. He wanted to cause their eyebrows to get so bushy they couldn’t see, or call forth beards onto their faces to make it hard to breathe…. weird stuff like that. I know GMs aren’t supposed to say “no” but… I didn’t want a “Great Lakes Avengers” vibe to the campaign, so I asked him to come up with another character. I can’t remember the specifics of the character he did end up playing (again, there were 17 people in that campaign), but I do remember that his combat specialty, rather than kung-fu or boxing or something like that, was roshambo.
Best: I’m going be super egotistical and mention to of mine, because I still think they’re brilliant. Either Tanq, the Shadowrun Troll that I’ve previously mentioned, or Key another Shadowrun character I played that was a hacker. Key was a human that was obsessed with playing video games. He played any/all video games, racing games, first-person shooters, MMOs, whatever. He actually learned how to hack so he could get access to unreleased video games & alpha testing. He was so good at it however, and his addiction was so bad, that he could no longer tell what was reality and was a video game.
So he would sit in meetings with fixers and Johnsons telling the other players how he hated block text, whether he thought the voice actor for this NPC was lousy, he would ask if anyone knew what the XP rewards were like for this quest chain, etc. It was totally meta and super fun (especially because the GM and I knew what was going on, but the other players just thought I couldn’t stay in character. Eventually they figured it out). He also absolutely no sense of self-preservation since he thought everything was a video game. He actually had to take a considerable amount of damage before figuring out that he wasn’t just playing an FPS, but was ACTUALLY getting shot at. It was super fun.
So this isn’t The One True Way to GM, or The Definitive Guide to Being a Gamemaster, or GM Like This or Everyone Will Hate You.
This is just a collection of thoughts and opinions that I’ve gathered after several years of running roleplaying games. I just finished one long-running campaign and I’m about to startup another so I thought I would write up my own personal process for campaign preparation.
You’re welcome to do it differently. You probably should. But if you’re interested in trying your hand at running a game and feel overwhelmed, or you don’t know where to start and feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, here is the process I go through when planning my campaign in 6 “easy” steps. Your mileage WILL vary.
We all introduced our characters, gave sort of descriptions, and were told we’d worked together before on minor jobs. Fair enough.
Then we get a meeting with Johnson. Cool.
He, before we introduce ourselves, greets us by our names. Okay, fair enough, he’s done his homework.
Not our shadowrunning names, our real names.
Wait. Perhaps the GM doesn’t realize most of us have multiple identities? So I gently mention to him (out of character) that I’ve never worked under that name before, I always work under this false ID. I figure he’ll agree it is a mistake and amend his statement to having greeted us by any fake name we are known to use.
I figured he’d realize that he wouldn’t know our real names, or at the least wouldn’t have reason to use them. The GM insisted, saying that this Johnson wanted to prove he wasn’t an ordinary Johnson.
Nope, our real names. I mention (again OOC) that that would probably be considered pretty creepy and unprofessional. GM said Johnson wouldn’t care, and would use the real name anyway.
I tried reminding him that too much connection between the Johnson and us was unwise, because it sort of defeats the purpose of shadowrunners being deniable temporary assets.
So, in character this time, I tell Johnson that I don’t want him to ever use that name, that that name is not to be connected to my illegal activities at all.
He refuses to use my false name.
My character walked out. 20 minutes into gameplay. A character I’ve been tinkering with for at least a month.
I didn’t want that to happen, but that sets a very bad precedent. That would not set well with my college student who does this for thrills. It says he will blackmail you with the knowledge of your true ID. It says you’ll be his puppet for as long as he wants you. My character envisions a future of magical research, which would not be likely if she worked for this Johnson, giving him ever-increasing blackmail material on her. It says that, even if he doesn’t intentionally screw you, he is highly unprofessional, and thus more likely to get you screwed by accident.
I sat out the session. I stayed, and kinda helped out with rules and how combat should work and stuff, but that’s about it.
So the character I’ve been building for a month never got to play, because she was highly disturbed by the GM’s way of showing us that this Johnson was “special” and “unique.” That, in addition, was a bit annoying since we have never played Shadowrun before, and so don’t really have a good comparison to other Johnsons to work with. We just kinda have to take his word for it that this one is different. Maybe if we had done quite a few jobs together in our background, enough that we’d be sort of famous, that level of invasive knowledge would feel more acceptable to my character, but not as basically a beginner.
So I’m gonna spend the next day or two working on a new character, who will be more accepting of irregularities.
I’d say nobody was really “in the wrong.” It seems more like a learning curve folks need to get over. Assuming that your GM hasn’t ever played Shadowrun before, he needs to know that what he’s doing goes completely against Shadowrun etiquette. Sure, some Johnsons find out all sorts of dirt on their runners, but they never air it out in front of them. Dragons and demigods go by fake names when dealing with Shadowrunners, so the fact that the Johnson made it so obvious & public means that the only thing “special” about this Johnson is that they are extremely unprofessional and no runner worth their salt would come within a 10-mile radius of him.
If your GM wants to change the world of Shadowrun that bad, he needs to have a conversation with them as players to ensure the impact that he wants to have is the impact that he actually has. He probably wants the Johnson to appear very menacing and like he has more contacts and power than your average Johnson. But like I said, even dragons and demigods play by the usual Johnson/Shadowrun rules, so he isn’t going to be either more dangerous, connected, or capable than other Johnsons. He’s just being more of an unprofessional showoff. If I walked into that room, I probably would have seen him as an inexperienced immature tool and one of the two of us wouldn’t have walked out of the room still breathing. As you’ve described it, any experienced runner is going to think this Johnson is way too unhinged, unprofessional, and unreasonable to actually work with.
But if he wants to change the world to allow for this Johnson, that’s prerogative as GM. He shouldn’t HAVE to be confined to one particular version of the Shadowrun/cyberpunk world. If he wants a version of Shadowrun where this Johnson is perceived as something other than too risky to work with, he needs to communicate with his players (ideally ahead of time) what changes he’s making to the world, so your characters know how his version of the world works. But his Johnson does not work in the standard Shadowrun world.
Become the DM.
The hardest part about running Dungeons & Dragons is that the game really hits its stride around level 6-11, regardless of edition. The amount of unique and specific options, both for DMs and players alike, is astounding and incredibly rewarding.
With that being said, unless you really want to, a game like Dungeons & Dragons is kind of hard to keep the momentum going. It is really taxing on DMs to learn every rule, know all the supplements, and design fun and interesting new dungeons on a regular basis.
Some people (myself included) find this to be incredibly fun and rewarding, but I want to design games as a career, and would be a rather small segment of the population in that regard.
It really is difficult. While it is a bummer to the players that games generally fizzle out right when the going gets good, the amount of work required only increases as time goes on. If you want to run a game and see it all the way to the end, the best option is to throw yourself to the other side of the screen and give it a try.
Hell, that is literally the reason I started DMing.
Other than that, you could always propose to your (current or new) DM of having arcs, breaking points in the game to allow everyone a minute to recharge their batteries. That way, the pressure of constantly creating will be lifted, and while the game might have some gaps, it will have a higher chance of continuing to a real end-point.
Best of luck to you in your future adventures, Anon!
When I GM, I use finite, limited story-arcs as “campaigns.” My most recent one just finished with our crew helping to ensure the destruction of the Death Star (it’s Star Wars RCR).
I had a single story-arc in mind: players find Death Star plans, players make sure it gets blown to pieces. The End.
Now, we have a nice long break to talk about what we want to do next, assess each other’s strengths as players, assess each other’s strengths as characters, and assess my capacity as GM.
We proposed new ideas for new settings/systems/campaigns/GMs, but in the end everyone was cool with continuing the existing story.
I like this because, if anybody had to back out, they still got a full story and room to explore their character. There’s no “letdown” if we stop here as it was always the goal to reach this point. If the campaign was awful or the group dynamic was unpleasant or I just sucked as a GM, we have the opportunity to address it, fix it, or leave the game as friends without it being awkward.
As it stands, everybody is really excited about continuing their characters, starting a new story arc, and keep playing together.
I’d recommend every GM take a short-arc approach to their game. It’s really reduced the pressure on me to maintain a perpetual environment of awesome.