Currently, we're playing Settlers of Catan. I started them on Dungeon! which is great fun, but Catan offered more in the way of complexity and they ate it up. I was a Catan newb as well so it leveled the playing field. Since we started playing last November we've trained 10 newbs who all love the game, and at least three others bought their own copies. Table gaming is where it's at!
Three players (besides me) have expressed interest and availability. Basically my wife and a couple we know. One of them I've done some D&D Day gaming with at our FLGS. The other is a certified sci-fi fan (we have protracted discussions about "magical realism" in literature. My wife is the wild card: this is like an audition to see if something this freewheeling holds her interest. Catan did, Dungeon! less so.
ME AS GM:
I haven't GM'd since high school. Yeah, talk about stage fright.Written lots of supplementary material,which is really my strength (ideas), but I've never felt strong on mechanics. This is really the bulk of my preparation of late--know the rules and flow of the game really well so I have the flexibility to follow/forget them as needed. Basically get it down so I know what to do next.
Undecided. I have three players with different interests. I'm currently working on setting and randoms for X-plorers as well as a Masters of the Universe-like setting for Marvel Superheroes. I could also go straight sci-fi, supes, or fantasy to simplify. I'm still feeling them out.
While catching up on my blog reading and found the following four posts that I think each offer unique insight. I'm obviously not going to repost their entire (and very thoughtfully written) advice, but here are snippets that struck a chord with me.
1. COVER THE BASES
The Excessive Gamer, who posted about being a "decent GM" and who offers great advice (pulled from his own experience as well as others) on being prepared. Not overly prepared mind you--but there's no harm in getting your act together. I think this is the thing I worry about the most, that I'll not have a way to answer questions quick enough before the yawning commences. Here are a few (poorly paraphrased by myself) points to consider:
- Be prepared (2 GM styles: preparers and improvisers, guess which one takes natural talent?)
- Timing is everyting (get pacing down--something I struggle with!)
- Teen wolf syndrome (achieving balance between players at proper levels)
- Don't fall in love with critical results (keep the big picture in mind--avoid off-balancing the entire game with one good or bad result)
- Never split the party ('nuff said!)
- No one likes the RPG railroad (ditto)
- Tool time (rules lawyering)
- Wrong guy running the game (man, I hope that's not me!)
When Doug Easterly posted about "Selling a different gaming experience," I don't think he had my exact situation in mind. He was thinking more "old (grog)dogs, new tricks"--that is, convincing veteran RPGers who prefer a particular type of gaming experience due to familiarity. I think there's a great lesson here about getting players on board:
"...character creation in the newer editions has a dual effect. On the one hand, it is an obstacle to just sitting down to play and thus is an obstacle to new players. On the other hand, it is a portion of the game a new player can engage in between games on his or her own, thus is appealing to new players.Now this actually gives me hope that: 1.) Less prep/simplicity for players is better--esp. for newbies in my case and 2.) Be wary of letting them spend too much time customizing. In one of our Dungeon! sessions I tried to work them up to an RPG-frame-of-mind by letting them come up with background and items for characters. This was a disaster because it was plainly obvious that this was a superfluous exercise for a game that didn't require either. They did enjoy selecting their own minis to represent their board tokens--so there's hope, after all. In the end, Doug says it best that "it is a leap of faith," so it seems I have some proselytizing to do!
Personally, I can do without all the excess work. After years of running Hero System after leaving AD&D, I have had my fill of customizing characters just so, and see the beauty of simpler systems, even class and level systems I once would have lambasted. But I am not so sure it will be easy to get my friends to walk away from newer bells and whistles."
3. FIRST ADVENTURES:
Jeff Rients post, "brief thoughts on starting adventures" talked about including encounters that will be relevant to each player in the party. He used the example of the Keep on the Borderlands module not having enough for certain classes to do (especially as it's an introductory module). I'm embarrassed to say I never even considered that! So it's definitely pertinent with keeping the players engaged--esp. those who are known to drift off.
4. RUNNING THE GAME
Al at Beyond the Black Gate had really great advice for mechanics in his post "Old school DM, new school players," which I'll just bullet and egregiously over-simplify (apologizes to Al!):
- Attacks of Opportunity (lose 'em)
- Level Cap (don't be afraid!)
- Critical Hit Confirmation Check (ditch it)
- Class/Race (okay to limit them)
- Skills (player Actions should trump Skill Checks)
- Game Balance (adjust published adventures as needed--dovetails with Jeff's point)
- Communicate (be up front with players)
- Old School One Shots (have plan B!)
Anyway, this post doesn't nearly do justice to the great advice they've provided, but it helps to collate this into once place where I can reference it and share their tips. Have one of your own to share? Please feel free to comment--and thanks!