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Old 03-17-2013, 02:28 AM   #1
Gef
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Yucca Valley, CA
Default Please welcome a new GURPS GM

Just got this email from my nephew and thought I'd introduce him to the best GURPS resource, this forum:

Hey Uncle Jeff, this is Jonathan. I'm organizing a GURPS game with my friends and had a couple questions for you.

Some details about the adventure: It's going to be a Western, as you recommended. I wanted to add zombies to it though (when I was thinking up the adventure I remembered when you took Christian and I to play Magic with Dom and you mentioned running a Zombie Western game to someone there and I liked the idea). It'll take place in a town similar to the McCracken adventure we played Christmas Eve with tensions between railroad men and ranchers.

I read all of the GURPS Lite book. I'm probably going to go through parts of the Basic Characters book in more detail when I make the characters. Is there any sections in the Basic Campaigns or any of the other books you gave me that you recommend I read through for more detail? I also read the blurb about zombies in Gurps Horror.

Am I right that GURPS High Tech is a reference book that's meant to be turned to when I ask myself "I wonder how X was handled in this time period and what sort of weapons/technologies/knowledge was available to people then?"

Is hex combat a necessary or critical part of the game? How do you think new players will handle it? I was thinking of leaving it out of this first game but don't know how big of a deal it is.

If the characters in question have lived most of their lives in the desert, should I make them make HT rolls to see if they lose FP to the heat when they're not in the shade?

How often should I make characters roll for Fright Checks? Would seeing a zombie for the first time call for a fright check? What about the second or third times?

Thank you very much for all of the GURPS material you gave me. I'm having a fun time learning the system and planning out the adventure. To my knowledge, my friends have never done tabletop roleplaying before but they seem very interested and excited. It will probably be at least a couple of weeks before we actually play because they have a lot of commitments at the moment. Any other advice or suggestions that you have would be appreciated!
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Old 03-17-2013, 02:30 AM   #2
Gef
 
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Default Re: Please welcome a new GURPS GM

And my reply:

Would you object if I share your letter with the hivemind (GURPS forum)?

>Zombie Western

For best results with any horror game: Always have a "cover" identity and don't tell the players that it'll be a horror game. Let the conflict between the ranchers and the railroad take center stage for awhile, at least the first TWO sessions. The first clues about the horror should look like a setting element, some local legend or the eyewitness report of the town drunk or some wild-eyed evangelist trying to drum up business for his church. Make 'em wonder if they're in a Scooby Doo cartoon where the zombies are a fake to scare off claim jumpers from a gold mine before they come face to face with the hard evidence and make a Fright Check.

>Is there any sections in the Basic Campaigns or any of the other books you gave me that you recommend I read

The combat section.

A combat map is really important at first although you don't need to use all the rules for hex combat. The idea is to have a visual aid so that everyone has the same understanding of what's happening. If you don't have actual hexes just use a ruler. If you don't have painted minis use lego people or dice. If someone is encumbered and can move 4 hexes (or 4") per second, then you can measure the distance they need to run in order to determine how many times they get shot at while racing for cover. Once you've used this visual aid for awhile, you can dispense with it because everyone will be able to see it in their mind's eye.

>Am I right that GURPS High Tech is a reference book

Yes. Pick your year and check what firearms were available.

>Is hex combat a necessary or critical part of the game? How do you think new players will handle it? I was thinking of leaving it out of this first game but don't know how big of a deal it is.

This should be a teaching game. Start with the simple combat system, and introduce complexity gradually as players become more familiar. One of the benefits of high skill is to be able to do hard things, like aiming for the heart, or right between the eyes. If a player makes a marksman, spending a lot of points on gun skill, you're kind of cheating him if you don't allow called shots, for instance. However, fighting is more than just a matter of hand-eye coordination. If the sheriff needs to take down that really good marksman, he'll try to maneuver for position, and that's hard to model without hex combat.

>should I make them make HT rolls to see if they lose FP to the heat when they're not in the shade?

This is a story-telling decision. Sometimes the plot is man-against-nature, and then you should. Sometimes you just say, "You've spent several days on the trail, and arrive in this small town sweaty and very tired. Any problems you have here, you have to solve yourself, because there's miles and miles of forbidding terrain between you and the nearest lawman." If you want to take their acclimation into account, you can give 'em a bonus for routine circumstances for any roll that you do require.

>How often should I make characters roll for Fright Checks? Would seeing a zombie for the first time call for a fright check? What about the second or third times?

This is PARTIALLY a story-telling decision. In a horror game, there should be lots of Fight Checks. There should definitely be Fright Checks for facing an ordinary human outlaw with a loaded gun and a rep for ruthlessness. Any obviously dead man, walking or even shooting, should call for a Fright Check with a penalty. Anyone who's faced zombies and won should get a lower penalty the next time. Keep lowering the penalty, then grant a bonus, then waive it entirely EXCEPT when the zombie is a surprise, like when they appear in an area previously assumed to be safe, or if you open the door to the outhouse and come face to face with death.

>It will probably be at least a couple of weeks before we actually play

Good. That'll give you time to prep. Take the points you plan for PCs and knock it down a peg. Design several generic characters on that lower but still competent total. For instance, if the PCs will be 100, use 60 or 75. Design a cowboy, an outlaw gunfighter, an Eastern dude (could be used for a gambler, or one of the railroad surveyors). You can use these as-is or beef 'em up a lttle, for instance, the leader of the outlaw gang is a standard outlaw gunfighter plus combat reflexes and charisma. Then design some of the important figures in the setting, like the sheriff and the bartender and the biggest ranch owner...and his daughter. This exercise will give you a good idea of what's possible with a point so the players don't surprise you. Then run some practice combats between these characters. Can the sheriff and his deputy take on a trio of outlaws? Can they break up a barfight between drunken cowboys? This will help you run the fights that occur in the real game.

Good luck, and keep me posted. -GEF
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Old 03-17-2013, 02:35 AM   #3
Gef
 
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Default Re: Please welcome a new GURPS GM

And one more from him, before I send him the link to this thread:

I wouldn't mind you sharing the letter at all.

One more question: How many sessions should/could I expect this kind of game to last? How many "scenes" is a reasonable amount to plan for a session?

Thanks for the help!
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Old 03-17-2013, 02:47 AM   #4
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Default Re: Please welcome a new GURPS GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by my nephew View Post
How many sessions should/could I expect this kind of game to last? How many "scenes" is a reasonable amount to plan for a session?
If this is a teaching game, especially with pre-generated characters, plan on about 4 sessions. After that, you can continue if everyone likes it, or start a new game with something more complex, with more input from your players on what they like, and characters that the they get to make for themselves. Really good games run for years, but you should shoot to wrap yours up by the time you graduate, if all of your friends will be going to different colleges. Games are more satisfying when they have a real ending instead of just trailing off.

Try to plan only a few key scenes, zero to two per session. Obviously, you'll want a scene to set up the adventure, to introduce the player characters to each other and to the setting, and to give them a reason to do something within it. You may want to have them witness the beginning of the storm, the brewing conflict between the ranchers who favor the new rail line and those who for some reason benefit from the status quo. Eventually in a future session you'll want the scene where the whole town is overrun by zombies, but how you connect those dots should not be written in stone. It should flow out of what the player characters are doing on stage and what the villains are doing in the shadows.

What you mainly focus on is what the major NPCs are up to. Take that rancher, figure out his schemes, what resources he has to go about it. Remember to take his character flaws into account, and remember that if he needs to rely on other people, like his ranchers, they'll have limitations too. They may be great cowpokes but not so good at the nefarious duties, but if he hires mercenary gunmen, they may not be loyal. Then figure out what the railroad company wants, why there's conflict, and how they're planning to achieve their goals. Once the player characters come into the mix, they may not be the most powerful faction, but they may be able to influence the outcome if they throw in with one of the others, the swing vote. Or if they dither, you can figure out what will happen without their involvement. It should not be what they wanted - give 'em an incentive to get involved, to be the heroes.

Some of the important scenes to think about are ones that ALREADY HAPPENED, where the player characters have to figure it out after the fact, like a crime scene. Once you know what happened, then when they ask questions like, "Are there any footprints?" then you'll be able to figure out the answer based on how you imagined the crime (or zombie case zero) taking place.

GEF

Last edited by Gef; 03-17-2013 at 03:07 AM.
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Old 03-17-2013, 03:51 AM   #5
Gef
 
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Default Re: Please welcome a new GURPS GM

A little background: The McCracken scenario that Jonathan mentions is one I threw together as a demo, with a brewing range war. A major rancher was squeezing out the competition, and the arrival of the railroad would give the small-timers a fighting chance. Not stopping the railroad, but delaying it a year or two, would allow him to consolidate his hold on the town and then rake in all the profits for himself when the new railhead cut out the costs of a yearly cattle drive. -GEF
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Old 03-17-2013, 04:58 AM   #6
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Default Re: Please welcome a new GURPS GM

I'm not sure I like the idea of misleading the players into thinking it isn't horror. If I sign up for social intrigue and get zombie shoot-up horror, or vice-versa, I'll be unhappy.
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Old 03-17-2013, 07:36 AM   #7
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Default Re: Please welcome a new GURPS GM

First off welcome to your nephew and congrats for having family ties like that.
Telling them its zombies early on can blow the suspense and I am ok with hiding that fact. However Vickis right and it can mess up ome players enjoyment if they think they been snookered or playing a game they dont want.
This is really a matter of knowing your players. If they would like it surprise with hints is better IMHO.
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Old 03-17-2013, 08:08 AM   #8
Gold & Appel Inc
 
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Default Re: Please welcome a new GURPS GM

Welcome and congratulations for choosing GURPS to Gef's nephew.

I personally tend to go for the happy medium between a total lack of surprise and a complete bait-and-switch when I do that sort of thing: Tell the players that the setting will appear normal at first, but that they will eventually discover something weird or experience some sort of mind-screw, without telling them what or how specifically. If they buy into that, they have given their explicit consent for you to flip the script on them, but can still be surprised, excited, etc.

Check out this thread for lots and lots of easy to use Old West templates with variable levels of cinematicism.

Good luck!
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Old 03-17-2013, 02:05 PM   #9
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Default Re: Please welcome a new GURPS GM

Welcome to nephew of Gef (Gef-phew?).

Sounds like your shipping him some solid advice.

I especially like 'try this for 4 sessions, see how it goes'.

As far as telling/hiding the Zombies, either is fine and dont fret about it so much. It doesnt sound like a proper horror story, so suspense may not hold as high a value. Cowboys and Railroaders popping brainpans is as good a basis for a game as anything else. Knowing whether or not there will be zombies matters less in the grand scope of things.

As to how long it will last, well it will last till Gef-phew or his players are done with it, which is as long as it should last.

Quick Hit advice

Im assuming you know what kind(s) of zombies youre gonna use. If not, nail that down.

You have a central conflict to start your story. Cowboy vs Cowboy with the Railraoad as a battleground. All cowboys kind of look alike to me, its not so easy to tell one side from the other so a way to quickly identify them will be a handy story telling aid. Hat shape, bandana color, brand on the horse, ANYTHING.

Im not 100% sure of the era and location, but allow me to offer these as suggestions.

Occupations
Gambler
Farmer
Doctor
Guide
Miner
Cowboy
Rustler
Preist/Preacher
Prostitute
Merchant

Locations
Mine
Graveyard
Town
Train Station
at least one ranch
Saloon
Church
Train Cars

Ethnicities
Chinese/Celestials
Indian/Native American
Europeans of all sorts

Nymdok
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Old 03-17-2013, 02:18 PM   #10
Turhan's Bey Company
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Default Re: Please welcome a new GURPS GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
I'm not sure I like the idea of misleading the players into thinking it isn't horror.
I'm quite sure I don't like it. Two important factors:

1) If I'm approached to play a particular sort of campaign and I agree to play, it's because I want to play that kind of campaign. If it's really a different kind of campaign, maybe it's one I'm not interested in, and even if it is, I might want play a different sort of character from the one I made for the first type of campaign. If the GM does a bait-and-switch, I'm almost certainly not going to have a good time, and I'll probably resent the GM and not trust him in future campaigns.

2) Horror campaigns are all about mood, so more than most other kinds of campaigns, they require serious buy-in from the players. If you don't start with that, Monty Python jokes and Star Trek references will turn your horror campaign into a bizarre farce.
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