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Old 06-15-2012, 07:29 AM   #11
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Join Date: May 2011
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Default Re: More GMing and Campaign Help

Thank you for that giant wall of text! And I don't mean that sarcastically at all. You covered my biggest fear which is making and organizing NPCs. I think I'm going to stick with doing what you said plus a few more -- namely the owners of certain places like taverns and forges. Plus, for taverns, I might create a couple of regulars that have secrets of their own. I'm going to start it of with a nice hook. An ancient artifact is hidden under one of five volcanoes and they have to retrieve it for one or many of the Houses. I'll have a couple NPCs tag along. One of them is going to eventually be the main bad. After the adventurers work so hard to retrieve it, this guy steals it from them. Of course, that might leave them feeling very defeated but I'll find a way to boost their spirits again with some minor treasures.

Also, a little more shameless self-promotion. Please don't forget about my other thread, Miscellaneous Help. I could really use a lot of help there.
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Old 06-15-2012, 09:17 AM   #12
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Harrisonburg VA
Default Re: More GMing and Campaign Help

This is probably conventional GM wisdom, but here's my ..02:

If you look at TV series like Serenity and Doctor Who, you'll see that they'll take an entire episode (read=> session) to explore just one aspect of a faction.

Your rough sketch of background information doesn't have to be all filled in for you to start. While you might want to have a variety of plot hooks for the players to choose from, your session only has to delve into one of them at a time. No matter how much you've planned, you'll still end up improvising. Make notes of the session... and try to think up ways to leverage the events to make new plot hooks.

When I run my games... I summarize "the story so far" so that the players can keep up. The illusion of reality comes from having logical consequences impact future sessions and plot hook options... and also in the reuse and development of previous situations and NPC's. (Think of Badger, Niska, and Yosaphbridge from Firefly.) The work is not done on the front end, however-- it is done from session to session.

And like other people have said, rationalizing mistakes can be a real source of creativity. (Give yourself a no-prize!) Players' misinterpretations can often be better than what you would have planned anyway. The reason this style of GMing works is that Players generally don't know how to articulate the nuances of their campaign preferences. If your setting adapts to their in-game choices over time, you'll invest effort where they'll appreciate it most.
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Old 06-15-2012, 11:10 PM   #13
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: More GMing and Campaign Help

I'm currently getting set up to start a campaign in Worminghall: first session scheduled for Saturday, July 14. Of course, I've done some of the prep work in the course of writing the supplement, which has 42 establishments, 10 major npcs, and shorter accounts of 30 more—but no character sheets. I've also already drawn a map (several versions of it, which are now with the artist). But I'm working on drawing up character sheets—so far I've done 10 masters, 9 NPC students, 7 townsfolk, and half a dozen generic character types.

I haven't drawn a map of England, or Europe—I'm using the real medieval landscape. One of the players asked me a lot of questions about which nobles were affiliated with which factions; I gave him a sketch of the general political scene and invited him to make up his family's history.

What's primarily important to me is to define the individuals that the PCs are likely to run into—with some element of "the players will roll dice or roleplay to determine what sort of teachers and fellow students they get, and I'll start by giving them someone appropriate from the ones I've made up, and fill in a few blanks as needed." The more offstage NPCs don't need to be defined as individuals; I just need to know the factions (English royalists, English marcher lords who want to hang onto independence, and Welsh folk unhappy with the conquest; town and gown factions in Worminghall) and to treat major figures such as the Abbot or the Lieutenant of the tower as Patrons or Enemies or Contacts.

In fact, I recommend that to you as a way to handle many NPCs: define what level of Patron, Enemy, or Contact they would be, their characteristics as each of these (for example, what skill they could supply as a Contact), and a quick sketch of their personality and alliances, and don't worry about character sheets.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 06-15-2012, 11:20 PM   #14
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: More GMing and Campaign Help

More generally, when I start a new campaign, I don't use a campaign planning sheet, and I don't have a standard list of things I look at. I try to identify the theme of the campaign ("what are all the characters' doings going to be about?") and to create a setting where that theme can be explored. What specific details I create will vary with the theme.

Looking only at original settings—

In Sovereignty, the key actors were supers who were so powerful that the world's governments treated them as one-person sovereign states without territory (other than their personal residences, which were classed as embassies), so I mostly wrote up sovereigns the PCs were likely to have to deal with.

In Salle d'Armes, I took historical Paris and made up people a group of fencing students were likely to meet—their master, a rival master and his students, women who held or attended salons, and so on. When one of them was called in for an interview with a lieutenant of police, I treated him as a Patron/Enemy figure and didn't worry about his character sheet.

In Manse, I actually had each of the players make up a noble lineage of sorcerers—style of magic, internal organization, marital rules, family tree, style of dress—and then wove them all together into a social fabric, including turning a bunch of the names they made up into NPCs, some of whom came vividly to life. Oh, and I drew a detailed map of the huge isolated castle they all inhabited.

In Gods and Monsters, I took the world of the 1920s and transmogrified it so that various characters from pulp fiction, film, and similar sources were real and functioned as proto-supers (my running joke was that "Adolf Hitler is real, but Leni Riefenstahl never existed").

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