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New to GMing - tips, suggestions, warnings?

DakDak Registered User
edited February 2007 in Critical Failures
Hello! A group of friends and I recently started up our first role-playing group - we've always wanted to get our dice rolling but never had the opportunity. I recently got some dice, a grid map and the Serenity handbook for Christmas so we decided to finally get it on. We played a couple of practice sessions and decided Serenity while having an awesome system, we didn't really take to the setting too well, mainly because some of our characters were non-combat (mechanic, pilot) so it was a bit boring for some of us.

That being said, we modified the system a bit and now we're playing a variant that deals with super heroes, and we're definitely having a much better time with this.

Basically after our first few sessions I was elected to be GM, so I'd like some tips to make the role-playing/combat/experience enjoyable for everyone. I'd like some dos and don'ts on the subject of GMing. What I find my main problem is, is that we have a large group - seven people. Sometimes the quieter friends tend to get lost in the role-playing and I feel they're left out. I've been working to correct this by incorporating elements of their backstory/origin in the campaigns, but any pointers you can give would be great too!

Feel free to ask questions so I can tell you what I'm doing wrong.

Edit:

tl;dr - Newbie to roleplaying is GMing with seven friends, would like tips.

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Dak on

Posts

  • ReynoldsReynolds Raving Rabbit Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Yeah, make sure you give everyone a time to shine. Traps for the rogue, people to talk to for the charismatic nobleman, things to kill for the fighter, etc. Even in a fight, you can put certain guys out of reach of the fighter for your backup guys to shoot at, or give them some electronics they can fiddle with to open/close a gate or drop something on the bad guys.

    It also might help if you pair up the quieter guys with the types that are more outgoing, especially if they can back each other up well. Like a combat character and a charismatic character, or an putting an electronics wiz togehter with the pilot when he needs to fly somewhere. So when you throw a problem at them that the outgoing type can't solve, the other guy can pipe up, and will feel good for saving his buddy.

    Also, with that many people, you'll probably want to split the party just a bit, like I said above. Give them two different things to do, but try to keep them in the same area. Sending them to two parts of the city will bore whoever isn't up. Sending one group around a corner to unlock a gate so the other group can slip in and grab someone is more the idea.

    Have combat mapped out, and try to get everyone to think of what they want to do while everyone else is going/rolling. Try rolling to hits and damage dice at the same time to speed things up. If someone is a bit slow with the rules, pair him up with someone who really gets it. Let them sit together, so he can help coach him before his turn comes up.

    I babbled on for a while. That help any?

    Reynolds on
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  • laughingfuzzballlaughingfuzzball Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Never count on anyone being there, especially if it's a new group.

    Never count on them doing anything, especially if you haven't played with them much before.

    Don't be afraid to invoke rule 0.

    Incorporating quiet players can be good, but don't make anything dependant on them becoming active.

    laughingfuzzball on
  • DakDak Registered User
    edited February 2007
    Reynolds wrote:
    Yeah, make sure you give everyone a time to shine. Traps for the rogue, people to talk to for the charismatic nobleman, things to kill for the fighter, etc.

    That's a great idea - When I'm writing my sessions I tend to focus more on the events and stories, these little minute details escape me. This will probably make things more interesting, and it sounds easy enough to do.
    It also might help if you pair up the quieter guys with the types that are more outgoing, especially if they can back each other up well. Like a combat character and a charismatic character, or an putting an electronics wiz togehter with the pilot when he needs to fly somewhere. So when you throw a problem at them that the outgoing type can't solve, the other guy can pipe up, and will feel good for saving his buddy.

    My question is, how do I pair them together in game, as in, what excuse do I give? As GM I have little influence as what they decide to do as a group - I can say "the group needs to split up" but it might end up that the two teams are less than optimal?
    Also, with that many people, you'll probably want to split the party just a bit, like I said above. Give them two different things to do, but try to keep them in the same area. Sending them to two parts of the city will bore whoever isn't up. Sending one group around a corner to unlock a gate so the other group can slip in and grab someone is more the idea.

    Oh, that sounds very exciting, and makes sense. I was very reluctant to split up the group in any way because during our first session, our GM had half the group go planet side while the other gorup stayed on the ship. So not only did he split up the group, he also gave one half absolutely nothing to do. But this is a viable way to encourage team work, maybe forge some chemistry between the palyer's characters.
    Have combat mapped out, and try to get everyone to think of what they want to do while everyone else is going/rolling. Try rolling to hits and damage dice at the same time to speed things up. If someone is a bit slow with the rules, pair him up with someone who really gets it. Let them sit together, so he can help coach him before his turn comes up.

    I find that a lot of the time that goes by is a player taking too long to decide what to do. Now, in the Serenity rulebook, it says the GM can skip a player's turn and say "you spend your turn trying to decide what to do." I may want to implement this, but I'm afraid of player reaction. Obviously no one wants their turn skipped, but it just serves to keep things so much more fast-paced, which is important in combat.

    I was thinking of getting one of those little hourglasses and giving them a time limit, how does that sound?
    I babbled on for a while. That help any?

    Very much, thank you.


    Never count on anyone being there, especially if it's a new group.

    We foresaw that - basically when someone is absent we just say he has other superhero/civilian duties.
    Never count on them doing anything, especially if you haven't played with them much before.

    Don't be afraid to invoke rule 0.

    Incorporating quiet players can be good, but don't make anything dependant on them becoming active.

    What's rule 0?

    Dak on
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  • laughingfuzzballlaughingfuzzball Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    It's the idea that the GM is the final arbitrator. It's present in all games that uses a conventional GM role, and a lot of new GMs are uncomfortable using it. Overusing it can erode player trust, but underusing it is a lot more common and can spoil the game much more thoroughly.

    laughingfuzzball on
  • DakDak Registered User
    edited February 2007
    Can you give some examples on how it would spoil the game?

    Dak on
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  • ReynoldsReynolds Raving Rabbit Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    I think using a static time limit is going a little to far. But if they're taking too long, just warn them. If they still can't figure out what to do, just tell them they're going to act later in the round because of it.

    As for how to convince people to split up like you want...some ideas. Use NPCs that can order them around, or whose suggestions they'll listen to. Try making it very obviously as well. Such as pointing out that the bad wiring on this ship reminds the engineer of an old piece of junk he used to fly on that was always breaking down. Or just say, "Hey fighter, since you're going to try to get that info out of that mook, why don't you bring along someone else that can do the talking for you?"

    And if some sort of 'accident' or other event you set up happens to split everyone up...such as a scramble to some life rafts/pods, a room collapsing in the middle, etc. you can just seem to 'randomly' split them up just like you want.

    Reynolds on
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  • ReynoldsReynolds Raving Rabbit Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Dak wrote:
    Can you give some examples on how it would spoil the game?

    Say someone figures out how to use the exact word of the rules to make their character night unstoppable. They love it, but it takes all the fun and excitement out of the encounters. All the other players are bored and annoyed at that player. So, Rule 0, you say it doesn't work. And that's final.

    Reynolds on
    OGueI9Q.gif
  • laughingfuzzballlaughingfuzzball Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Usually you'll waste a lot of time arguing over a point if you're unwilling to just say "this is the way it is, let's move on for now". If you go the players way rather than stall the game, the more obstinate players will wind up with an inordinate amount of control. Also, some decisions require information the players don't have, but you do. Allowing the players to make those decisions won't turn out well, since they don't have all of the information.

    You can maintain player trust by readdressing major issues later, after the game, and trying to fix any mistakes.

    laughingfuzzball on
  • ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    My favorite line, which I think I got from someone here, is "The most powerful tool a GM has is the word 'No'."

    Scooter on
  • MasterDebaterMasterDebater Registered User
    edited February 2007
    Plan.

    planplanplanplanplanplan

    For EVERYTHING.

    MasterDebater on
    ZeroZero wrote:
    Rule 645: You can not add "core" the end of a word and call it a metal genre
    Fuck you, country-core is awesome.
  • Gabriel_PittGabriel_Pitt (effective against the Irish) Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Don't over plan, and if the players get off on a tangent away from what you intended, try and roll with it, and subtly get them back on task. It tends to kill things fast when for some reason the players end up feeling that it's impossible to go any direction save the one you dictate.

    Gabriel_Pitt on
  • ElfWordElfWord Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    You should already have your players write down some basic info from their characters on index cards, like HP, AC, saves, and Spot/Listen modifiers so that you can roll things on your own if you need to do it in secret or save time. The other thing this is good for is that when you're not in combat, rotate through these index cards and focus on each player as their character's card comes to the front for a brief moment. That way you won't ignore anyone.

    You should check out http://treasuretables.org. I've found it to be a wealth of GMing help.

    ElfWord on
    Star Wars fan, Battlestar crewman, Fantastic GM. Frequent lurker, occasional adventurer.
    Awesome android RPGs are made by my friends; check them out.
  • laughingfuzzballlaughingfuzzball Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Plan.

    planplanplanplanplanplan

    For EVERYTHING.

    This is a bad idea. Over-planning leads to railroading, as Gabriel pointed out. Players like to have choice. Plan what you need to, but improvisation is much more useful and leads to more satisfying games. Familiarize yourself with the rules and setting to make this easier.

    It can be helpful, if improvisation is difficult for you or for whatever reason not useful in a given situation, to give the players an illusion of choice. The easiest way is to change the hook to fit the direction they're going, rather than the direction you expected them to go. This can be easier at some times than at others. If the players know they weren't actually given a choice, however, it winds up no different than railroading.

    laughingfuzzball on
  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    I like to have my encounters, NPCs, important items, and locations planned in a compartmentalized, disconnected manner; rather than plan for a straight path of 'minor villain is at the warehouse, to be encountered when X event occurs...' and deny your players from going anywhere but to the warehouse (which will reduce their trust in their freedom of choice), just write down each part on a separate index card (along with alternate options) and pull out your villain and related events at the opportune time.

    Someone in the "You wouldn't believe it" thread actually had a story where a player sent some giant-type creature toppling into the side of a random building, which the DM had pre-planned as containing the campaign's main villain and henchmen, thereby ruining his own adventure by his own rules. Rather than keep the result quiet and move the previously-hidden bad guys elsewhere, he announced the result to the party and began to cry. Suffice to say a looser sense of planning would have been in order.

    I liked to write up pre-made vehicle damage results for D6 Star Wars, giving the players quicker and more-detailed descriptions than searching through a table for default options. I'd write up the encounter like "Two pirate Y-Wings, pilot stats:..." followed by a quick note like "1-7 damage, left maneuvering vanes are sheared off, reducing the fighter's agility OR shot slices into fuselage which begins venting gas; 8-11, the shield generator is blown out OR one engine cuts out; 12+ fuselage bursts open and ship is violently destroyed OR cockpit is blasted apart and engulfs remains of fighter in flames."

    Utsanomiko on
    hmm.gif
  • MasterDebaterMasterDebater Registered User
    edited February 2007
    Plan.

    planplanplanplanplanplan

    For EVERYTHING.

    This is a bad idea. Over-planning leads to railroading, as Gabriel pointed out. Players like to have choice. Plan what you need to, but improvisation is much more useful and leads to more satisfying games. Familiarize yourself with the rules and setting to make this easier.

    It can be helpful, if improvisation is difficult for you or for whatever reason not useful in a given situation, to give the players an illusion of choice. The easiest way is to change the hook to fit the direction they're going, rather than the direction you expected them to go. This can be easier at some times than at others. If the players know they weren't actually given a choice, however, it winds up no different than railroading.

    I guess I didn't really mean plan what the players would do.

    I meant plan everything the players COULD do.

    For example, in the last RPG the GM had the following for every city and town in the area (this was Warhammer Fantasy, sort of D&D-ish):
    1. A detailed map
    2. A list of establishments (stores, taverns, etc)
    3. A detailed price list for the stores
    4. Full characters generated for many of the most important people, and generic characters for the rest

    So when we went off on wild, crazy tangents, he was prepared and could go with it while trying to generally steer the party back the way he wanted them to go (see my story in the "Greatest Moments in Tabletop Gaming" thread for an example of a tangent - there were many more along those lines).

    Obviously you don't have to go to these extremes, but the more you know about the world, the better you can accomodate your players and the more fun you will have.

    MasterDebater on
    ZeroZero wrote:
    Rule 645: You can not add "core" the end of a word and call it a metal genre
    Fuck you, country-core is awesome.
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