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The Renegades
Reckless Random Role Play
New to the GM Biz 
26th-Aug-2009 10:48 am
backflip
I haven't run a single game in my life, and in the RPG world in general I'm rather new - I was in email RPGs in high school and didn't even touch a d-20 until coming to MHC.  Since then, I've been in a few games, and now I wish to hold a game of my own, and hopefully get my GM license.  I hope to hold an Avatar: the Last Airbender one-shot, and will probably be using the Savage Worlds system, but I have that stuck feeling that an artist gets sometimes while staring at the foreboding blank sheet of paper.  Where to start?  Where to start?

I was going to work on this all summer, but clearly I have made little progress and have decided that looking to those wiser than I might be a good idea. ^^'
Comments 
26th-Aug-2009 11:13 pm (UTC)
This is common.

Here is how I start out: Where are your characters going to be at the beginning of the story?

How will they meet up?

What motivation do they have to work together, do the quest you have in mind?

Who are they? Will you have premade characters, or will players generate their own? I strongly suggest having maybe 5 - 7 premade characters to choose from! A middle-road option is to have several customizable features that will be quickly dealt with, so that you don't spend a ton of time on character creation. Letting them pick names, personal habits is always good. You can provide a full or partial backstory, or none at all; these are style choices.

Where are they? For your players to be able to work effectively, they need to understand what type of world they are in. What technology/magic/religion is available? How well known is this T/M/R? Is it common, or uncommon to have this T/M/R? Basically, let the players know what their characters can expect to know about the world around them, and what they can't. If you want an unfamiliar setting, lead into it somehow ("This is the first time you've been called this far north..."), and if they do know the area, let them know that too ("You go to your favorite bakery, and meet...").

Decide what mix of plot and fighting you will have, and how much mystery/puzzle-solving there will be. It is very hard to tell what will be difficult for your players to figure out, so make sure to keep it fun, and to provide constant motivation for your players to do what you want them to do. Giving them choices is also fun, but be prepared to wing it in case they surprise you.

Plan out any combat they might have. If you have a knife-happy player who wants to kill the friendly baker for not giving them free bread, you'll probably have to wing it- I recommend giving NPCs standard, slightly low stats if this happens! But anyways, you should have some expected combat with somebody you know your players will run into, and you should have that monster's (or person's) stats already prepared. Don't bother getting too detailed with this, though- a basic outline will be fine.

HAVE FUN! Have confidence in yourself, and don't be afraid to let convenient closed doors and accidents prevent your players from getting too off track. Or go with it and wing it- you might have just as much fun.

It's satisfying for the players to reach some closure by the end- accomplish some minor goal (or fail it spectacularly), but at least see part of the plot go somewhere (even if it's just "all in a day's work", or "the situation was worse than we thought- it was an entire secret organization! We must plan our next move carefully") This lets the players know that they're done for the day, and it's the culmination of what they were going for. In essence, they should get something out of it, even if they don't solve the whole mystery or get to the big boss.

I also recommend planning a situation in which the players are forced to interact with one another- in Paranoia this means creating a situation in which there is a dark room. For a regular RPG, just let them be put into a situation where they have to make some decision (requiring thought) together as a group. This allows them to connect, and develop their characters (and thus role-play better).

Wow. Hope this helps. Start small, and build as you go- Maybe a few sentences to describe the one-shot, like "Two newbie police officers team up with (secretly) able-to-talk-to-animal zookeepers (they had no idea this existed) in order to rescue Kimba, the Panda mother (who is partially responsible for keeping the life-stream of the city in balance). Kimba was stolen by a rich investor (secretly an evil mage), who plans to start an underground cage-fighting ring with the mafia, and right now she is in an office of his, guarded by two unknowing mafia-guards and the mage. She is wounded. NPC Karen is the only zookeeper who knew Kimba's secret, and she charges the four with finding Kimba and retrieving her."
26th-Aug-2009 11:14 pm (UTC)
(XD- no idea where that came from. I'll totally have to use that for a campaign sometime.) The idea is to know your variables and where you're going, to plan something doable in a few hours, and to give your players enough information to sink into their characters and world, but still want to achieve the one-shot's goal.

Good luck!
27th-Aug-2009 02:00 am (UTC)
Thanks! That really does help. :)
28th-Aug-2009 06:24 am (UTC)
All of this might not apply to you, but this is what I've found works best for me. In no particular order:

-- In a lot of ways, one-shots can be a lot trickier than ongoing campaigns. For one, you have to be a lot more conscious of the time, and plan for how you will stretch the game out if your players are getting to the end of your plot faster than you want them to.

-- What Kelsey said about pregen or partially pregen characters is a great idea. Another idea is to meet with your players and have them make characters ahead of time (it doesn't have to be a long meeting). Either way, knowing ahead of time means you can work custom storylines into the plot for them, or think of ways to create tension between characters.

-- I usually plan ahead of time a little opening speech to set the scene, and also to set the tone of the game. The very beginning is always kind of scary because everyone is staring at you, waiting...

-- Don't get mad at players who lose focus. Side conversations and distractions don't happen because your players hate you. (They never hate you!)

-- Do steal ideas for cool settings, plot twists, events, npcs, etc from lots of different sources. Nearly every game I've run has had ideas blatantly stolen from video games, manga, or television (my 3 muses) with a bunch of personal twists thrown in to make things less predictable. Usually I can count on my players to take an idea that sounds a bit lame or contrived in my head, and run with it to make it wonderful (though giving your players control over the plot might not be a great idea in a combat-heavy game, do at least let them influence ideas so that they don't feel stuck on rails).

-- Keep the party together as much as possible. For every group that splits off, you're effectively running another game. This is a good reason to limit your number of players.

-- Consent is great! If one character is flirting or making sexual advances at another character, make sure both players are okay with it.

Common types of players/characters to watch out for

-- The Chaotic Annoying
Pitfalls: Has a character that doesn't fit in with your setting at all. Constantly requests to do things that are unrelated to the quest. Takes too much time away from the rest of the group.
Your strategy: The player probably feels disinterested or uninvolved with the plot. Before the game starts, make sure everyone's character has a strong motivation for being on the quest, and during the game, make sure to keep involving all of your players.

-- The "Roll" Player
Pitfalls: Wrecks the balance of your game. Are your other players even doing anything?
Your strategy: You can take away shineys in a less painful way, by making it part of a special plot point or npc interaction. Do not under any circumstances let this player argue with you over rules.

-- The Psycho-Killer
Pitfalls: Pure destruction and death is not a character trait.
Your strategy: Keep player involved (see above). Bad-cop approach: "Oh great, you killed the princess, now the king's army is after your whole party. Good luck with that." Good-cop approach: Give the player a reason to keep the character's evil deeds on the dl (secret evil plot, love interest, etc).

-- The Silent Type
Pitfalls: Does not interact with the party, due to being shy/invisible/ninja/etc. One or two isn't always a problem, but you don't want a whole party of them.
Your strategy: Encourage your players to create characters that will interact in interesting ways. Characters who don't speak much should have other peculiar traits or actions in order to stay interesting.

-- The Drama Queen:
Pitfalls: All of the action seems to revolve around one character. This isn't a problem if the character is actually interesting.
Your strategy: If you sense that other players need some time in the spotlight, throw some situations at the group that will play up to those characters' skills.

Above all remember the point is for everyone to have fun! Good luck!
28th-Aug-2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
From a less-experienced DM: When Beth and I had our one-shot last spring, one of the most helpful things (after we came up with a story) was making fairly detailed notes about what we wanted to happen. Obviously, we couldn't control the story or predict everything, but we did write down all our stats for the various possibilities that we could plan for--stats for NPCs and monsters, writing out the language for the geas, and so forth. It made the two of us feel a lot better to be prepared, and having things written down in advance can be helpful if you're nervous and forget what you were planning.
-Betsy
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