Wednesday, April 11, 2012

So you want to be a GM? Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

So before beginning my work on Icosa, Ray calls for a sanity check (no, not like Call of Cthulhu, but close). He asks potential GMs* to answer four simple questions before embarking on this sometimes-daunting creative endeavor. So let me take a few moments and answer these questions here.

1. Should I GM?
Creating a setting from scratch and running it for a game is a major time commitment. Ray estimates at least 3-4 hours a week in preparation, this sounds conservative to me, having spent this much time on prep for published settings. It is important to consider time as a factor to avoid false starts in the game.

Time is not always my friend. When asked which super power I wished I had, I answer, without hesitation, super speed. I never seem to have enough time to plan and do all I want. But I do have a couple of factors that are working in my favor.

First, the only other game I'm running is an on-line game of Dresden Files RPG. This is not a prep-intensive game. We typically play for a couple of hours every 1-2 weeks. This is enough time for a scene or two. DFRPG works best for me if I create some starting conditions with no planned outcome. Make each scene start with a kicker and react to the players' actions. It's worked for me so far and the players seem to be enjoying themselves.

Second, I will probably be doing a lot of traveling for work in the near future. This means lots of down time in airports, on planes (like the one I'm on as I type this), and in hotel rooms. Not to mention the oxygen on planes seems to ignite my creative fires (some people get their best ideas in the shower, for me, I get them at 35,000 ft.).

Of course family and work take precedence, but I'm confident I can carve out enough time to make Icosa happen. One down, three to go.

2. How Many Players Do I Want? Where Will I Find Them?
This is an easy one. I have a built-in source of players with any of my gaming groups. Most likely I will run this for my bi-weekly group that includes my boys. There are 6 of us total, so 5 players hits my sweet spot. Two more questions.

3. How Often Should We Play?
Since there are already three rotating GMs, I'll get added to the mix. This also means I'll have more prep time. We may only play Icosa every other month or so; this could be a problem with players remembering all that happened last time. I plan to use Obsidian Portal to act as setting repository. Last question coming up.

4. What Rulebooks and Accessories Will I Need?
I've mentioned before that the system of choice in our house is Pathfinder. However, wanting to stay true to the Old School inspiration that spurred me to first start this blog, I'm going to go with something else.

In previous posts I've mentioned several retro-clones including Swords & Wizardry. For a long time, this system seem to fit the bill: it is simple and straight-forward with lots of flexibility. But time has a way of changing minds.

Recently I've been reading up on Lamentations of the Flame Princess by James Edward Raggi IV. I heard that he had released a free Grindhouse edition PDF of his rules and decided to check it out. I like what I read; the mix of fantasy and horror had the feel of what I was looking for. I think the design choices he made will make for an interesting game.

This does pose one potential issue related to prep time. James' philosophy is that all monsters and magic items should be unique. As such, there are no stat-ed lists of either in this game; along with the setting, I will have to create monsters and magic items from scratch. This could significantly increase the prep time for this game.

On the flip-side, this will also tax my creativity and make for a truly unique gaming experience for my players; I'm very excited by this prospect. Also, since the players will have no preconceived notions about the setting, it will truly be an adventure of exploration; this only adds to the air of mystery about the setting.

So the players and I will be using the same free PDF to play from. I may purchase the full PDF at some point, but the Grindhouse edition certainly has enough to get me started.

So there you have it, Icosa is a go. I would recommend these four simple questions to be asked by any DM/GM/MC/Storyteller/Referee of themselves before beginning any creation of a setting for any roleplaying game.

Follow your bliss,

*Ray refers to DMs, of course, as these articles were written for AD&D 2nd edition and published in Dragon magazine in the late 1990's, but since I'm not using D&D as the setting engine I'll use the more generic GM.

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