Look, I never said it was going to be easy #BoysCampaign #SavageWorlds #Roleplaying

The next time I write a column where I mention creating a world from scratch, or running a game in a well known TV setting, please comment along the lines of ‘Stop you fool!’ Because I am having a devil of a time figuring out this Savage Avatar game for the boys.

The world is too well known

I think that the show Avatar: the last airbender was really cool. I really enjoyed it. And I thought it was a cool world. But when I start to really dig into the setting, to the point where the boys are, with their having watched the shows, I am becoming aware of some limitations.

It is like trying to set a game in Middle Earth, you know who the Big Players are, and where the Big Events are happening. So if you try to set a game there you have to avoid running into those Events or Players. Which is a big limitation.

Even bigger (or smaller) is that the world of the show is actually geographically quite small. But if you just say the game is taking place elsewhere you run into problems with the actual history, history that is covered in the shows. So I cannot just claim that there is a different continent elsewhere on the planet without contradicting all of that back story.

I am coming up with something that I can work into the origins, without contradicting the story line. And then come up with a campaign for them that digs into that. But,

I hate coming up with entire worlds from scratch

In a sense I have been running the boys in a world of my own creation for quite some time. But, it has been a more or less traditional Fantasy setting. With Orcs, Elves, Dragons, Undead etc. Which really makes it easy for me at least.

But for this game I cannot just fall back on those tropes. It is one thing to say that there is a continent on the other side of the world and come up with a story for why there are humans there. But if I just say that there are knights, dwarves, goblins and ogres to fight there, the boys might rebel.

I want to preserve at least some of the flavor of this setting for them, so they can fit in more comfortably. Which becomes a bit of a problem for me.

I am slowly coming up with a solution to these problems in my mind. But it sure as hell is not as easy as if they were just playing another D&D game. I just have to remember a few simple rules:

  1. They know even less than I do, so as long as I keep the broad strokes consistent I am okay.
  2. Stay small at first, if they are starting in a small coastal village, and only know what is in that area, who cares what is happening in the rest of the new land?
  3. Make it interesting and who cares where they are playing? If I can get their attention and hold it, they will stop caring about the bigger picture.

My ‘What am I good at?’ GM Challenge (long form)

‘What are you good at’ GM Challenge.  It is pretty simple, five systems/genres you do well, three you do not, five GM skills you excel at and three that need improvement.  For me:

What genres, settings, or games in general do you GM best? Which ones do you think you totally rock?

  1. Fantasy Adventure: D&D specifically, it is what I started with, and where my mind most easily follows when asked to come up with something.
  2. GURPS: Non-setting specific. I just know (or knew, haven’t really run the latest edition but it wasn’t that different) the rules really well.
  3. Shadowrun: I know this world really well, doubt it would take me much to get up to speed on new edition rules.
  4. Deadlands: I know the rules pretty much inside and out (or did last time I played with original books) and really grok the setting.
  5. Savage Worlds: Again I know the system pretty well, and it is versatile enough I could throw something together if I had to.

Which games could you use to work on? That is, if your group wants to play one of these games, you yourself would probably recommend a different GM.

  1. Horror: I am terrible at atmosphere, which is what this setting requires above all
  2. World of Darkness: see above regarding atmosphere, plus never really got the whole world concept
  3. Super Heroes: None of the systems I have played are good with super heroes, it is just not something I can really dig into.

What elements of Gamemastering do you do best? What aspects do you nail more often than not?

  1. Combat scenarios: Right now I have gotten pretty good at devising good scenarios that are well balanced and fun
  2. Knowing rules: I don’t offer to play unless I know the game, I’m not saying I have an encyclopedic knowledge, but I have an answer when someone asks how to do something
  3. Imagination, I do not like working much with out of the box worlds, I like to think that what I come up with is very interesting.
  4. Consistency: I like to think that my campaigns, scenarios, make sense, you won’t find a monster that doesn’t belong where it is.
  5. Excitement: By necessity I like to keep the action moving in my games. I don’t make traps or puzzles, I keep things moving.

Which elements are still a work in progress? Name some things that you don’t do as well as you’d like.

  1. Pacing: I really need to keep working on this, I am getting better, but there are still a few too many dead spots
  2. NPC’s: I am terrible at NPC’s, I am working at it, but it just isn’t my strong suit
  3. Atmosphere/storytelling: There is a reason I specialize in combat and excitement, I am just not very good at enthralling players with a setting and drawing them in.