Sunday, September 30, 2012

GM Commentary: Last Rest Episode 1 Checkpoint Char-Lay

I listen to a lot of DVD commentary tracks, not just for the amusing anecdotes, but more for the directors/creators/writer's commentary on craft.  I recently listened to the commentary on Firefly, looking for inspiration for both Reign and my upcoming Fading Suns game, and thought that the idea of episode commentary would pair well with the Episode summaries I'm doing for my Reign game.  So, since I've posted the first Episode summary over on the Last Rest Blog, what follows here is my first GM commentary.

This might be a bit disjointed, as it's mostly just the thoughts that have been rattling around since I ran the game on Monday.  Also, for any of my players, fear not!  This won't have any really big spoilers.  Also, also,  you should go read my episode summary before you read this as it's written with the assumption that you have done just that.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

GM Confession: XP

One of my least favorite GM chores, aside from player wrangling aka game scheduling, is keeping track of XP.  I can recall many of the sessions of the 3.5 game I co-DM'ed starting out with the players and DM discussing exactly how many XP we each had and trying to keep track of it all as some players would have less due to missing sessions or the DM would have forgotten to announce the earned XP at the end of the last session or the players would forgotten to have written down said XP...


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Beginning of My Reign

Monday night saw the first session of my Reign game (which you can follow over at the Last Rest blog).  While all that was accomplished was character and company creation, I feel it was highly successful.  Before Monday, the last character creation session I had overseen was for two 4E D&D characters, which took almost two hours, even utilizing the electronic character generator.  Monday night I was able to guide six players through creating a character each and constructing, together, a company.  And whereas the D&D character creation yielded two playable sheets with very little background, personality or goals, each of the six Reign PCs created on Monday night has a rough background, potential goals and relationships and as the characters were being crafted I could tell that the players were also starting to develop character personalities as well.

The players decided to go with a smuggling outfit disguised as a merchant company working to assist the rebellion against the Witchlord's Ashen Kingdom.  We've got (if my memory serves) a merchant following in the family tradition, a noble kidnapped by mountain folk who rose to become their thane, a master thief who had been imprisoned by the Ashen Kingdom due to a case of mistaken identity, a gypsy turned sailor, a sorcery wielding archer and an Ashen Kingdom army officer who learned strange magics and turned to the rebellion after being imprisoned due to a political imbroglio.  I am certain that my brief description did not do justice to any of those characters and I hope to be posting backgrounds and descriptions of each soon on the Last Rest blog.

With the characters and company created, I've started planning the plot arc, keeping my Goal Posts in sight. I've decided on a starting point, I know two plot high points for the middle and I have an idea of the climax of the campaign.  I have some ideas on the antagonists and allies, from the character backgrounds as I understand them now, and I'll flesh those out and finalize them as I get finished backgrounds from the players.  Most importantly, I have three themes that I want to focus this first season of Reign on:

  • Family/Community
    • The game is going to focus on families, and on communities as the extension of family or as the 'created' family as opposed to the biological family.  Many of the players have a part of their background that involves being a part of a family or being opposed to a particular family and I'm going to play that up as well as introducing other families and communities for the players to impact as their characters make decisions.
  • Do The Ends Justify the Means?
    • I want the game to offer real moral choices to the players. The player's company is a smuggling operation, circumventing the laws, because it is an offshoot of a rebellion that sees those laws as unjust, but how far are they willing to take it?  Through out the game, the players will have to choose how far they are willing to go and will also see NPCs who draw hard limits on what they're willing to do for their believes and who are willing to do anything...
  • Justice/Vengeance
    • This may overlap some with "Do The Ends Justify the Means?" but I decided to make it a theme anyway.  Many of the characters have a person or group (including a family) that they want vengeance on, and I want to use these opportunities to focus on the difference between justice and vengeance.  Will the characters seek justice, where a kind of fairness or proportion might reign, or will they seek a kind of scorched earth vengeance?  They'll also encounter NPCs who also seek justice or vengeance.
These themes might change a bit after contact with my players and their characters, but for now, I think these will be the themes I start shaping the plot around.



Sunday, September 9, 2012

Theme and Mood, pt 2: Mood

As I wrote previously in my earlier post about Theme, Mood has always been the easier one for me to convey.  It's always been much easier for me to focus on conveying a Mood, especially for a single session or adventure, than it has for me to focus on reinforcing a Theme over an entire chronicle.

This doesn't mean, though, that as I plan my upcoming campaigns that I want to let Mood out of my sights.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Theme and Mood, pt 1: Theme

So, as I prep for my new Reign chronicle and a possible Fading Suns game, Thomas (of the Tower of Infinite Evil), in his ongoing role as my RPG Spiritual advisor, has admonished me to think about Themes and Moods, and specifically directed my attention to the game-mastering sections of the old World of Darkness books that cover these topics.

Basically, the Theme is the idea or concept that runs throughout the entire chronicle, helping provide a unified feel for what the chronicle is about.  Mood on the other hand, can be a more temporary, thing, with the Mood changing from session to session or episode to episode.  Mood is the underlying feel of the game.   Of the two, I've always been much better with Mood.  This post will focus on Theme and my thoughts on how I'm going to work it into the chronicles I'm planning.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012

Character Creation - True Background vs. Limited Future Choices

I'm gearing up to run my new Reign campaign and was chatting with Bob, a friend who'll be playing Reign but has otherwise played 4E D&D almost exclusively with  dashes of Mage, Mazes & Minotaurs and Dread thrown in as well.  As we chatted I realized how different character creation in D&D (and similar games) can be from a game like Reign.


A Bang & then a Whimper - The Final Dispatch from Parcher's

When we left our rag-tag band of PCs and their 50-60 hangers on (in addition to Pinky's gang, Man also decided to take the 'hav...