Monday, 30 May 2016

Pay No Attention to that Man Rolling Dice Behind the Curtain

Slowly getting to grips with my new found obsession with mastering games (that obsession helped greatly by it being a whole lot easier on the wallet) has given me a much more meaningful insight on how much time and effort goes into role-playing games and their gods controlling them. Home brewing my current AMP game that's soon coming to a close has been an amazing contrast of laugh-out-loud highlights and "the f*** you doing Joden?". 

My first session, in my head, was the tutorial which is a horrible horrible way to start any campaign, short or ongoing. I love Get Backers and so based the story of my two players as:
You're both in heavy debt with the owner of this cafe and to pay him back, you do mercenary work that involves returning stolen goods to their rightful owners.

Their first task in "Player timeline" was securing a briefcase from a building that didn't have security! And they were even told to wear the Harry Potter invisibility cape in the form of the MIGHTY HI-VIS(tm)! 

Blazing into a cafe where helpful Tommy Chong was there to point them in the right direction to then have them casually walk into the basement level of the CCTV-less government building had the hint of a good idea behind it but lacked any real substance.

You see, as my first ever GM'd session, I was so utterly terrified that my players would be unable to unearth the secrets of what my story was telling. So afraid I was, I made two characters that by primary, secondary and tertiary roles (& beyond) was there purely to say:

"Oh yeah THAT building. The briefcase you're looking for is going to be in the basement. It just so turns out that I know exactly what they do there, where they would place stolen cases, when the building was erected and how good the security is there DESPITE not knowing dick about it until just the second you asked me about it...."

As I said, brown-pants-ingly timorous (Timorous Joden? Was 'afraid' too arduous to write?).

Learning my lesson pretty darn quick, I rested on my laurels and decided to let an adventure book do the meat and potatoes of the writing allowing myself more freedom with fleshing out NPCs and giving them noticeable traits, body language and outrageous accents!
Adding pinches of my own world I had originally intended to connect the basically random plots of "Find the Zero Patient Tumor epicenter" & "Escort Fireboy in an RV" worked in my favor and really built the existing characters up from the shells they were in the first session.

Having a bit more of an idea of what to do I then once again faced the bright burning light of running a session without leaning on pre-written material. It went better this time although instead of telling my players exactly what they should be doing, I instead went with sticking them onto some rails and gave them no options whatsoever instead...

Ahh, the Bliss of Hindsight. At the time I thought I as being right clever with interesting encounters and events, unknowingly tying them together with precisely one way to proceed. I'm still learning, give me a break...

How to improve myself as a GM? Well for starters I need to smash the training wheels. Assumptions that my utter brilliance will prevent players from ever leaving the room they currently occupy must be quashed if I ever want to have meaningful sessions that aren't predicated on "Stuff happens, stuff happens SUPER INTERESTING BOSS BATTLE, then stuff happens". Letting my players loose and making their own choices in how to alter the world they stand in is better than my current flaw of answering the question "How do I get the players to go where I want them to?" with a character who's only characteristic is that he's got a bad Jamaican accent and freezes time whilst BAMF'ing the players with no save or reaction to the next story location.

The other flaw I have right now as a GM is being a little TOO loose with the rules. AMP's two-skill combo system is fantastic as a narrative tool but when it comes to fair and challenging combat, my players have learnt that having nothing in a stat isn't a detriment since making another stat make sense is as easy as slightly changing what they want to do. My Gf for example has absolutely no Fighting skill but still rolls huge numbers because being an amateur surgeon who primarily uses needles in combat, she uses Medicine checks mixed with Marksmanship to make attacks. My friend uses Intimidate instead of the normal Speed+Intuition as his Initiative roll in combat which results in him getting hit first but only after he makes the first attack being that his intimidation stat is through the roof. I let it happen because the game outright tells you to (as in if it makes sense, use it). It does smell slightly of BS when instead of using one's actual fighting prowess in a brawl, a player instead remembers their days at medical college and how good they are at origami and be just as good, if not better at killing a man as the guy who been street fighting their whole lives. It's still fun and my players are awesome enough to only slightly abuse it but it's still a little funky in my own view. 

Talking about fear, I'm also super afraid to get my players killed. My Gf's character rolled low to defend vs a high roll against a truck full of machine gun nutcases (I prefer to let the dice fall as they may and then do what the character would do in the given scenario) and she took double her hit points in damage which by AMP's game rules means that character is DEAD but since it was only halfway through my intended campaign arch; instead of being SUPER DEAD, she instead lay on the floor and the NPC teacher of science performed kitchen drawer surgery enough to get my Gf's character conscience and heal up unaided.

Luckily, the players I game with aren't using this to munchkin through the campaign knowing they're immortal and are instead doing the honorable thing of doing what they feel their player characters would do which is a huge boon as a GM in my mind, but still a pretty big failing on my part if they were that type of player.

With the next session looming, I hope to hell I learn from these experiences. Negatives aside though, it is so very rewarding being a game master and creating worlds and characters. Being able to have a laugh with friends and creating "Remember that time when" moments is pure and simple joy and I'm so glad I took the leap to do it.

Make those characters in your head come to life and have fun out there.

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