Game Mastering
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December 21, 2005, 1:35 pm

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It's midnight (GM time crunch)


Pieh asked:Its around midnight, you are scheduled to play some RPG at about 10am. All of a sudden you find out the DM is sick (sore throat, ect) and he knows you’re planning a game. The problem is you only have a world map. You don’t want to disappoint everyone by letting them show up with no game to play, what do you do?

You go for it.

Never forget, that if you appear confident, seldom hesitate, and seem like you know what you are doing, the players will believe almost everything you tell them. 

You tell them you have a campaign ready and look like you do (you’re carrying a notebook lets say), then they will probably believe you.

Now, the first thing I do in such situations is character generation.  Always good for sucking up time and ideas. 

While this is in process, Ask every player about what they want in the game. These bits can be cobbled together for future elements.

When each player makes a character, assign them a place in the world.  So, the Ranger is just not a Ranger… They are a member of the Order of Oaks.  They work for the King, and sideline for the Druids. 

The first person done with their character becomes the keystone character.  So if they are a Ranger (who is a member of your newly minted Order of the Oaks), connect every new character to the keystone.   So the Druid character has been working with The Ranger, and is assigned as a liaison to the Order.  The Fighter becomes a squire or knight assigned to the Order or the Ranger’s brother (who obviously gave up his first son status to become a Ranger).  The Thief… well nobody knows he is a thief… except maybe the last character rolled up, who is related to him and they are both minor nobles).

This is just fast and dirty character weaving.  The player gives you a little bit, then you give them some serious hooks that tie them to each other and the local area.  The players can work out the details and try to make sense of it all. (Heck they make sense of randomly rolled stats and abilities, they can come up with a back story). 

All the while this is happening, nod and smile like this is “exactly what you want”. 

The scenario is as follows… come up with something banal that The Ranger has to do… the group comes along for the fun (make it a local festival…).  While the characters are expecting nothing more than to have fun, the players all know that something will happen at the festival.  So don’t disappoint them.

Make the mooks interesting or odd.  Have them search for something and not quite find it or have them find it, but one of the players kills the mook that has it, and the others try to get it back.  Eventually, the mooks all die or run away. 

Now you have an action scene, a dark conspiracy, and a mystery, and you have no clue as to what is really going on.  Yet if you keep up the brave face, the players will think you do… and begin to speculate… (which you can scoop up and use… making them feel so smart for figuring it all out). 

Now, if the session ends, then you have a week or so to actually make it all work. 

If not, have the King make an appearance soon after the carnage begins to clear.  The King (or suitable noble) commands his Ranger and his vassals to find out who was behind this heinous attack.  Now you motivate everyone. 

So general advice…. If not, keep being vague and mysterious. Drop something that might be a clue in their way.  Make the clue lead them to something they have to travel to.  (you have a map, but nothing on it… their traveling will help you fill it). 

Some additional advice useful to you in such a crunch
Its like baking a cake (World Building)

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Comments ( 10 )
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November 9, 2005, 23:54
Oh, and since there was a day or two between the question and the answer, I hope you did not post that up on the night before the game.
November 9, 2005, 23:58
Here is some additional stuff you should look at, if you are going to go this way....

There are a couple of piece of advice I would give you
.... If you don't want to just "wing it" as much... Starting a campaign the MoonHunter way is the piece for you.


Light Camera Action

I recomend a bit more structure than you want, but hey... try these to change your mind.
Dip Happens

World Packs

World Building 102: Environment building the MoonHunter way

And for EVERY GM... You need to read these...
MoonHunter Advice 2005

MoonHunter Advice 2004

MoonHunter Advice 2003
Voted KendraHeart
November 12, 2005, 0:23
This is kind of funny, but it illustrates some serious points. It takes the variation on the old "girl" addage, "It is not what you know, but is how good you look". If you look like you know what you are doing, people think you do. You dress the part. You follow up and act the part.

The campaign is then built piece by piece. The first piece forms the cornerstone. Everything is built up behind them.

Play it vague and make it seem to work. The whole point is to amuse the players, string them along, make them seem smart, and then scramble around when you get some breathing room.
Voted Ancient Gamer
February 7, 2006, 19:32
Been there, done that!

This is true GM fodder! Every GM of some experience will know exactly what MoonHunter is talking about here. It might not even be that the GM is sick... You might be the GM, and have been way too lax in your preparations. That computer game sure drained a lot of your time, and when you come to think about it, the story in that game was so lame it could not entertain a retarded 3 year old, much less your players. Time to scavenge some ideas!

AG's add on tips (in addition to MH's tips above):

-Sneak into your office and enter keywords from the player characters' backgrounds and secrets into the search field on the main site of Strolen's Citadel. Quickly browse the results and use whatever strikes your fancy. An item could result in a quest to retrieve or protect that item. A plot hands you everything on the platter. A society could be someone to work for or against.

***The text below is really just a replay on Moon's advice in the text above. I missed the paragraph on the first read. Read on if you care, but it is really just the same in my words***

-If the game has begun and you still do not know what to do...
Never admit it! Follow Moon's advice and stall, stall, stall! Delay them with a random battle, or even some lock to pick (something that takes time and requires less of you... Never stall with NPC dialogue as that requires a lot of effort on your side).

Make the players curious about their adversaries or what is behind that lock... Make them wonder! Use words such as "mysterious liquid", "strange symbol" or "foreign accent" when you describe these random encounters. "Unsettling", "Disquieting", "Disturbing", and "Alarming" are examples of good words to trigger their imagination! Make their imagination work for you!

-The unknown scares us.
-Scared players start imagining things.
-Scared players talk a lot.
-Their imagination might be better than yours right now.
-Then you can scavenge their ideas! (and then say, when the game is over, that they were darn accurate in their guessing).
Voted valadaar
July 27, 2007, 15:45
These articals are really good. I wish I had the time to even run a short tabletop, or I'd be using these!

My old gaming style is dead and buried with these articals in hand.
Voted Michael Jotne Slayer
October 29, 2007, 6:55
No matter how prepared I am I always listen to the Player speculations. More than often their ideas about what's going on might be better than mine. But no matter what, I always take them into consideration. This is AG's strongpoint in my opinion. It's even more paramount if you wing-it.
Great article for beginners as well as jaded GM's, we can never hear good advice too many times!!
Voted dark_dragon
November 27, 2007, 9:24
Ok, so, let me get this right. This is not the _normal_ way to run a campaign? ;-)

Very good advice, And to be honest, you can run an entire campaign like that and make it work. I'll probably write something up sometimes in the future based on my experiences with a scifi campaign underway. (I was preparing an epic fantasy, turns out my players wanted scifi. Cue fast 'interactive' world building)

Great stuff!

November 28, 2007, 1:25
It is not the prefered way to create a campaign. :)

I think every GM has had a desperation run and worked it from there. My most successful Champions Campaign started out with five very random "heroes" (and the term loosely applied to them) who had been captured by the Evil Mech Master and stashed in his local base. He then left, heading to his main base where he launched yet another great scheme... only to be defeated by some real heroes. This left our five heroes and the local base's AI alone. After a couple of days, they eventually escaped. They made a deal with the local base's AI and used the supervillian's base as their own heroic headquarters. And the campaign went wierder from there.

Remember, this article outlines the world's best delaying tactic and interactive campaign creation. It gets the game moving, gets the players involved, and ensures that the characters are embedded into the world (as you build it around them) and linked to each other. You then have to spend a desperate week (or three) trying to build things up to support this start.
Voted axlerowes
January 27, 2015, 20:54
this is a cute little rant
Voted Murometz
January 8, 2016, 19:22
Fun read, lots of useful advice, and brought back many memories!

One thing I always stress is "give the players want they want". The key of course is to do this without them realizing it, and maybe even thinking the opposite--you're an evil GM out to get them. :)

For me, in this preparatory time-crunch scenario, the character creation bit is crucial. Listen to all the players, (stretch the process out if you have to). Pick up on every little tidbit of info your players share, as they ponder their characters and their places in the world. Use your GM-fu skills of psychology and perception, during this time. Start formulating ideas for every character's arc. Come up with potential (they don't all have to be used) scenes for every character. Mold the world around them. The game becomes easier for you. The campaign may be unfinished and your plot may be shaky or even non-existent, BUT, six hours later everyone had a great time!

Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

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