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D20Future: GMing for new players (by a new player), I need experienced help

   
GMing for new players (by a new player), I need experienced help

One of my University modules requires me to GM a game with a group of fellow students; the problem is none of us have ever played a table top RPG before.
I need the help of experienced players to help me turn this into a workable game. Any tips or direction you can give me on how to do this would be great.

We've been set the D20 Futures rules which i have butched to something a a group of new players can use without constantly referring to a rule book.

So without further ado here is my plan so far after 3 days researching tabletop RPGs.
One last thing I'm pulling no punches. This will be a mature 18 rated game. Expect horrible things to be happening in this world..

I'm starting with a small contained prologue.
This will give the players time to settle into their characters and get to grips with the idea of staying in character as much as possible.
Super quick background: Players will be travelling on a large but beat up spaceship that gets attacked by raiders.

I'd start the characters in a gypsy like camp in the ships cargo hold.
This part would pretty free form, wake up do whatever you want to learn to express your actions in character and get the feel for role playing your character.
I'll then quickly bring the players into their own indiviual mini arc depending on what they chose to do. This could range from getting involved in a fight at a food stall to killing someone in a fit of rage, witnessing a rape, anything.

All of these arcs will end with the player being taken to med bay (guards will beat up the characters if they don't manage to injure themselves). Putting the players in med bay allows me to time skip so their previous actions don't have too much bearing on what they find next. This is needed as they will break whatever I have in mind.
Once in med bay the players will have a chance to learn how to talk to each other in character and a bit of a chance to learn about the other characters in the game.

After I feel the players have got used to staying in character (or when they appear to be getting bored) I'll start the main arc of the prologue.
I'm unsure how to do this. Ideally I don't want to tell the players anything their characters wouldn't know. So something along the lines of a tremor running through the ship followed by sounds of distant gunfire.

In order to get all the players working together I think I'll need to bring in a NPC (some kind of guard) to get them all working to an objective; namely surviving the attack and taking the escape pods to safety.
At this point I need to kit out the characters, I'm thinking of just getting the NPC guard to give them the basics and scavenge the rest from a few dead guards later on.

It would seem I need a map showing the layout of the ship. How much detail should this have? corridor and room layout or a simple flow diagram of objectives. If I don't make a map I think I'll have the ability to change the layout to force players where I want them to go but I'm not sure if this will work.

Anyway , I need to bring the characters to the cargo hold camp where they began. It will have been purged by the raiders but I want a few survivors around that the players can discover.

Ideas for NPC survivors:
gang member, looking out for themself. if handled badly will attack players.
guards holding a position against some raiders.
someone with a grudge if players committed a crime earlier.
crazy citizen, person driven insane by slaughter of their friends/family.
injured citizen, someone the players have interacted with earlier so are invested in the character.

The general progression will be across the cargo hold with at least one battle with the raiders to teach players combat.

From here to the end I have far less structure, I'm hoping the players will have a reasonable handle on how the game is played. My plan is to create a few character to interact with while searching for a way to reach the escape pods but otherwise create the game on the fly.

Ideas for narrative helper NPCs:
people who know how to reach the escape pods.
people (not raiders) that work against the players for their own gain.
raiders with individualism, e.g. with a rape and pillage mentality.

I might need some smaller challenges prepared that I can drop on the players to give focus to the game. I've no real idea as to what these should be; maybe things like particular people that need to be found in order to progress (perhaps they have a key the players need).

I think my largest problem from a narrative standpoint is how to prevent the players from killing each other. I'm giving them enough freedom to do whatever they want but all the players need to survive the narrative.
How is this usually handled in your games? In fact how is death handled in general? do you let player characters die and if you do how do you keep that player in the game?


whew Congratulations on reaching the end of that super long post. Any help you can give on: how games should be run, what things are going to go horribly wrong, how this idea needs changing etc. would be great.

Alright.

Firstly, your job as DM is to tell a story. Sometimes that isn't the story you started with, or the story you planned on. What you do want to do is give the players incentives to do what you want, but do NOT make them feel like they are constrained. If they are in danger, they will work together better. Maybe give them all a little introduction to the ship, ask them why they are there, either craft reasons their characters already know each other, or have them do it. Connections make them much less likely to fight each other. Make it clear their objectives are to stay together and succeed.

Death at lower levels is common without the proper handling. If it looks like a party wipe is imminent, saving them somehow or giving them a second chance with some good in game luck may be in order. If just one guy dies, make it part of the story. Maybe the Council of the Ship will grant access to the clone machine if they go on a quest, or maybe a local planet has a rare flower that can bring the person back to life. If just one guy dies, maybe give him a character to play until their other character is alive again. Sometimes the player ends up preferring the new guy more, in that case, you can just make him part of the group, and have the old character be revived after the quest and become an NPC.

[1] What class are you taking? I want to sign up!

[2] Be careful about maintaining a balance between moving the story forward and hanging out. If your players aren't cracking jokes and kicking back, it's not an RPG session, its a study session. I suppose if you are just doing this for a class it doesn't matter, but ultimately that social aspect IS an important aspect of the narrative. It's what makes RPGs different from telling stories around a campfire, and it only works if everyone is having fun. While you don't want people to be laughing as one of the PC's friends is being raped by raiders, etc, and killing the mood, there should always be moments to release tension, and more importantly, have fun. If you don't have fun, you've lost, regardless of how the game or class goes.

[3]As for challenges: it may depend on your group, but be careful about assuming your players will care about things, and be very careful about managing what is "real". One thing that I've noticed new GMs have a problem with is describing things completely enough, and and describing things accurately enough for players to base actions off of. Players often have issues visualizing a scene from just a GM's description, so for the love of Cthulhu use a map (graph paper is your friend), and don't be afraid to use references to movies and fiction and other media so your players can visualize what is going on. NEVER assume your players are aware of exactly what is going on. In fact, for new GMs and players you'll be lucky if they're imaging the same things as you are fully half of the time.

Quote:
It would seem I need a map showing the layout of the ship. How much detail should this have? corridor and room layout or a simple flow diagram of objectives. If I don't make a map I think I'll have the ability to change the layout to force players where I want them to go but I'm not sure if this will work.
[4] You need a general layout of the ship - what sections are where, who lives where, and where major systems and access points are - if not for them, then for you. Because the first thing that the players are going to do is start asking "which way to X" - and you need to be able to answer. Now, as you mentioned you could make things up; but this has the problem of looking silly if your answers start contradicting each other, and since the PCs presumably live on the ship, they ought to know which things are in which direction. You don't need a perfect, room by room layout though - that's what graph paper is for. Just try and keep in mind where you are in relation to the larger layout.

[5] As for getting the players working toward an objective...an announcement from the ship's captain ("RAIDERS! EVERYONE T' THE ESCAPE PODS IF YE VALUE YOUR HIDES!") will probably work wonders.

[6] As far as equipment goes, make sure you have an idea of where stuff is located. You may need to equip your players, but I think not - I think they'll equip themselves the instant you give them half a chance. The first question you may be asked is "Where is the armory?".

Quote:
I think my largest problem from a narrative standpoint is how to prevent the players from killing each other. I'm giving them enough freedom to do whatever they want but all the players need to survive the narrative.
How is this usually handled in your games? In fact how is death handled in general? do you let player characters die and if you do how do you keep that player in the game?
[7] Make it clear they need each other to survive; if they try and kill each other off introduce a new threat (try to do so non-obviously). If worst comes to worst, fudge the rolls. One the whole, though, don't try to clamp down on intraparty conflict; that's often the most fun part of a game. I was just in a campaign where I and one other PC absolutely HATED each other from square one, were at each others throats for months, and leading to more than one Mexican Standoff with shotguns and C4. Yet we adventured together for months on end, because we knew we needed each other, and when the final fight did happen, and he died, it was the most epic, pathos filled moment in my recent gaming history.

If a player character does die, because the dice hate them or they make stupid mistakes (IC or OOC), give them an NPC to play; either someone they know or have them run into a new character (you might even want to make one or two for this purpose), and if you continue the game beyond the one mission talk with the player about what modifications they might want to make to the character to make their own.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thelogman View Post
Maybe give them all a little introduction to the ship, ask them why they are there, either craft reasons their characters already know each other, or have them do it. Connections make them much less likely to fight each other. Make it clear their objectives are to stay together and succeed.
How should I go about giving the players' characters a shared background? So far I've asked the players to go away and think up a character they'd be interested in roleplaying and that includes their character background. Doesn't adding to a players background meet with resentment if they feel their character would not have acted the way I say they did?
I'm hoping that their time interacting in medbay at the start of the game will build links naturally, am I being realistic here? I understand that this might not happen so then I'll need some way to bring them all together. Is it likely that a brief stint being led by an NPC would do this?

As we're studying how character interaction can help build narrative I've already mentioned to the players that it could be interesting to see how a narrative works when some characters clearly hate each other. Does their vendetta smother the story, do they have interesting obstacles to overcome so they can work together etc.

On the subject of death:
So am I right in thinking that death isn't normally treated as a permanent thing? I'm interested in hearing more on this; I know most games (outside TT RPGs which I know very little about) never use perma death because it severs the player from their investment in the world. For now I'll plan on making more NPCs for players to take control of if they die.

on to Acatalepsy
[1] see the link in my sig, not the best site to showcase the course but it's all I could find.

[2] I see what you mean, I'm not sure how easily we'll be able to get a social atmosphere going in a 9am seminar but I'll do my best.

[3] The trap I'll be trying to avoid is known as the backpack effect, not sure if you've heard of it. Essentially it's when your narrator (in any media) has a giant load of detail that the characters and environments wear like backpacks ready to divulge as soon as the player/viewer/reader comes into view. How much detail should I be going into about an area? I realise if I say 'you enter a cavernous room that appears to be packed with hastily assembled lean to huts' the player won't know anything that might be relevant to gameplay let alone have a consistent idea as to what the environment looks like. I'll go and read a few PbP threads to get an idea as to how GMs go about explaining stuff but if you have any condensed tips about what needs mentioning and what can be left out to avoid boring players I'd love to hear them.

[5] Do you have any tips for if the players decide to ignore the captains friendly suggestion? I'm assuming killing them all from my Godlike podium isn't constructive :P . But I'm doing my best at planning for the worst and it wouldn't surprise me if some of the players chose to while away the hours using up all the morphine left in medbay instead of fighting for their lives.

Otherwise I'm taking on your suggestions and making a map to boot. Keep 'em coming I'm learning RPGs from the ground all the way up to GMing... for thursday hehheh...

Edit: make that I would read some PbP threads if I could find any actual games. huh seems they're private, I'll look on some other sites.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NickRic View Post
How should I go about giving the players' characters a shared background? So far I've asked the players to go away and think up a character they'd be interested in roleplaying and that includes their character background. Doesn't adding to a players background meet with resentment if they feel their character would not have acted the way I say they did?
I'm hoping that their time interacting in medbay at the start of the game will build links naturally, am I being realistic here? I understand that this might not happen so then I'll need some way to bring them all together. Is it likely that a brief stint being led by an NPC would do this?
The issue is that one serious problem that occurs during roleplaying games is that players get the feeling that a DM is "railroading" them, essentially putting them on a track and keeping them there. The trick to telling the story you want, and letting them have fun at the same time is to be a little bit flexible. The issue is that the scenario you've set up is what we call in the gaming world a "supposed to lose" fight. "Supposed to lose" fights are annoying, since they give the appearance of defeat, which is generally unfun, but the players had no way to stop it.

If, for example, a Bulkhead drops on a player, and you need them to get hit to get sent to the medbay to meet their friends to start this mission, then they are going to get hit with that Bulkhead, because you want it to happen. They will, however try as hard as they can to NOT get hit with that Bulkhead, be it add rolls, plead, dig out modifiers, and that sort of thing, because getting hit with a Bulkhead, or exploded or arrested or accosted or what have you are all losses or defeats of some sort. And losing is a failure, which is an unfun way to start a game.

Many campaigns start out in a tavern, at least the fantasy ones do. If the characters are on a ship, then there is probably a mess hall or a meeting place. Maybe the plot starts there, they are the only ones in the mess hall, and they have to find a way to the main bridge after the whatever happens.

Or, alternatively, maybe all the players work/travel/live on the ship. If they're a space business man, maybe they are getting to their next job, or maybe they're an engineer in the engine room. When the incident happens, the klaxons all blare, the computer tells all people to report to the bridge, and you tell them that they need to get to the bridge to report to the Captain. Then, they have a chance to interact with other ship people to get there, and then they all meet each other in the turbolift to the bridge, or in the hallways on the way there, or on the bridge itself. Then, even the trip to the bridge can be a learning experience. Look at who each player is, if they are a Charisma Hero, maybe have them ask somebody for help, or set up a social encounter, if they have repair, maybe make the elevator or something broken, and they can fix it. That way, each player has a limited knowledge of the game world from the start, they know what they can do and how well, and then they already understand the world and their role in a party.

Either way, a shared background can be something that happens in game world. An encounter or puzzle or challenge right off that requires everyone's talents makes people more likely to connect. This guy is the smart one, this one does repairs, this one convinces people, this guy is the muscle. After seeing or hearing of personal talents and successes of other players, they will begin to assign labels to each person. Labels are great, because if everybody has a position in a party, then there is almost no chance of inner party fighting. For example, the death or injury of the engineer means the next time a corridor is blocked off by a broken conduit, the party is in trouble, or whatever the player or situation may be. The players recognize this, and will keep each other safe.

This set up will provoke railroading no matter what, because the players all start out separately. I can't speak to whether starting out separately will be bad as a general rule - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - but if you have the players start separately, you have a bunch of people sitting around doing nothing while the attention is focused on one person. This can work well, but keep those other players in mind.

It might be better to have them all start in the medical bay, and work their reasons for being there into the background.

Remember that while a player's background is their own creation, that they don't have the 'right' as a player to present a character with just ANY background. You have a game idea that you want to play, and certain character concepts may not work. Perhaps you can simply tell them the 'unifying' factor of the characters. Do you want them to all be travelers on the ship as passengers? Crewmen? Non-space people? etc. You can put restraints on player backgrounds without taking away their creative outlit. Just because their options are more limited doesn't mean they don't have options.

Take, for example, you stating that all members need to be a crew member of the ship. In this case you can have each member start off in their respective job, then when something goes down, simply say, "You remember from your training that when this happens, official crew guidelines state to do X" Now this is still a form of railroading (you have a plot, they can't deviate from it) but it 'hides the tracks' a bit better.

I chose to start the players independant as I expect to have to tutor each player how the game works. This will hopefully cement the mechanics in the minds of the players that are sat around waiting while teaching the currently involed player to use their abilities. Its a large concern of mine that the players will need to learn slowly, I like the idea of getting players to learn the game on their way to the bridge for example. The problem is I think this would result in to much real world conflict between people who understand the game and people who struggle with the ideas/mechanics.
Ideas? I've just noticed how much that reads like a weakly worded defence; those are my reasons, will they work in an actual game?

I realise many of the things I want to do in order to study this could make it significantly different to how regular games will run. For example I think we should be looking at the way NPCs change dependent on the story the players experience and even more importantly they need to react to the players previous actions. My lecturer suggested that if the NPCs in WoW reacted to the cool new armour set you got off a difficult quest you would get more involved in the world as you feel your actions impact the world.
I've got a vague hope that the guards motivations and actions will be thrown into contrast when protrayed in the different lights of a corrupt society and an environment on the brink of death. e.g. One guard I have planned is a fanatic about upholding the law; in a corrupt society this might seem reasonable, set a hard line and it will be followed. After the break down this could be seen as a denial of the facts and clinging to what remains of their well worn mental processes (yes i also studied psychology).

Finnaly, I've heard from a little bird that most of my players have loose ideas for their characters at best. How much influence do you think would be wise for me to have on their backgrounds? Personally I would shy away from anything more than the slightest influence.
However we are all new players,which do you think should be the priority:
  • getting the narrative to work
    or
  • letting the character explore the roleplaying experience?

It's fine to do it one on one to teach them the basics. Seems like a good reason. One thing you have to understand that for an RPG player, the most valuable resource isn't a stat on the sheet, it's the GM's attention. I've been able to pull off ridiculous things just by keeping the GM's attention (by having an interesting character and playing him well); at the same time I've seen players driven away because they aren't assertive enough to get the GM's attention and consequently are constantly overshadowed by other PCs. Giving the players some one on one time where they have the GM's complete attention is a fine way to start.

Beware of that assumption about "impact". It's one thing to have an impact, its another to actually care about it. One thing a good GM does is see what the player has an emotional attachment to - what they hate and fear in an enemy, what they love about a place or character, etc - and play to it. My main GM is great at this. In my current campaign, he introduced early on an antagonist that I hated IC but loved OOC. When introduced he was just some mook, albeit one with personality; but several missions later he was had developed significant connections to the backstory and I had sworn (IC and OOC) that I would hunt him down and destroy him before the campaign was done.

Bottom line? It's not about impact, it's about connection. I don't feel like my actions have an impact in that world; it doesn't matter because I love to hate that one guy. Similarly, a player will probably not care that some random guard comments on his armor; he feels no connection to that guy. At the same time, I cared about what Paul Denton said about my choices in Dues Ex; I liked that character and therefore what he said mattered.

In table top, this means be willing to step up elements that your players latch on to. If the players don't care about that guard after meeting him twice, then it might not be a good idea to have them cross paths again. If they really hate him the first time, then feel free to make him a bad guy of sorts. If they like him, feel free to have him help them out. Or vice versa, if you want to subvert their expectations. Just make sure to pay attention to whether or not they care; if they don't care about an NPC, don't give that NPC a poignant death scene - it's like an unskippable cut scene in a video game (they are teaching you not to do that, right?) , but worse.

Quote:
Finnaly, I've heard from a little bird that most of my players have loose ideas for their characters at best. How much influence do you think would be wise for me to have on their backgrounds? Personally I would shy away from anything more than the slightest influence.
The GM should always have at least some say in the character's backgrounds; they are after all playing in his world. While there is such a thing as being stifling, if the players have ideas but don't know how to integrate them into the world, help them. Remember that the players can't see the world you're setting up; they have no way of knowing whether their concept makes sense and they know it. They aren't going to see all of the possibilities because the world exists in your head, not theirs. So point out the possibilities, help them make the world their own.

And finally, what your priority is is up to you. Personally, I would pick the experience because, from what I gather, the point is to find a way to replicate that in a game. You can't replicate it completely, of course, but you can take some good elements and put them together. I thought Dues Ex was one of the games that did that relatively well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NickRic View Post
Finnaly, I've heard from a little bird that most of my players have loose ideas for their characters at best. How much influence do you think would be wise for me to have on their backgrounds? Personally I would shy away from anything more than the slightest influence.
However we are all new players,which do you think should be the priority:
  • getting the narrative to work
    or
  • letting the character explore the roleplaying experience?
You're looking at this as an either or situation, it's not. In every enjoyable game I've played, both as a player and as a GM, backstories were a collaboration of the DM and the Player. It wasn't the player showing up with a piece of paper that he'd written and that was it, nor did the gm just tell them, rather it was a series of back and forth, where the player contributed some frame work and the gm would offer suggestions and ask questsions to help get the character to fit in the game world.




 

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