Friday, February 27, 2009

The Problems I Noticed Are Surely Outnumbered By Those I Didn't

Game night tonight, but I thought I'd squeeze in a little blog time in just the same, since I don't want to break the short little streak I've built up. I've been trying very hard to avoid the mistakes I made in my last long-running campaign (at least, the ones I noticed). This isn't a long list, but they were major enough to bug me.

First, the map and the history were both kind of incoherent. If I ever get around to running that sequel that some of the players keep bugging me about (which I am considering) I'm going to have to go back, redraw the maps, and rewrite the history, so it all conforms to my specifications. This is mostly a peeve; the players never noticed, so I'm not too worried about it if it happens again. I'm mostly dealing with it by avoiding detailed references to ancient history, which isn't too tough in a space game where the secret backstory mostly amounts to "some bad stuff happened, and then there was an empire." And Traveller has built in controls on maps. (The ones that matter, anyway. My planetary maps are still a mess.)

Second, and a much larger problem in theory but again, in execution, something that bothered me much more than the players, my last campaign fell prey to a bit of the ol' GMPC. I had one character who I put more thought into than strictly necessary, and had this whole "lost heir of an ancient empire" plot attached to him. In that specific case, it worked out okay because he spent most of his time getting kidnapped and rescued, one of the other (female) players really liked him, and tagging that plot to an NPC let me avoid playing favorites amongst the PCs. But still -- I'm avoiding world-saving plots in general this time around, just to bypass that whole issue.

Lastly, the largest actual problem with the previous game was that almost all of the plot revolved around two characters. The two active characters, with the most complete and hook-filled backstories, and the ones who really went around doing things, but still. I could have put more attention on the quieter characters, even if it would have been more work. Which is exactly what I'm doing this time around. Mongoose Traveller helps some; the two quietest characters both have hook-laden NPC relationships from character creation. (One of them is of the "secret mission" type, which honestly bugs the heck out of me but which I'll leave off complaining about for another day; it's something I can work with.)

The only problem with the way I've been handling things so far is that I've been leaving my two most active characters sub-plot and personal-villain-less, even though they do have those things in their backstories, because my attention has been on the quieter people. Which is okay, since they give themselves things to do on their own, but I'm still working on the details of the balance.

Anyhow. Should be a fun session tonight; I've done something mildly ridiculous with one of the planets they'll be hopping off to, so if they figure that out (and don't strangle me for it) I'll definitely have to post about it here. And I still don't think I've done justice to Trollsmyth's game, yet. But these are matters for another post. It's Friday! Go game!

1 comment:

  1. GM NPC - This isn't as cut-and-dried as most folk would have you believe. You actually do need cool NPCs for the PCs to interact with. You just need to make sure that these cool NPCs create opportunities for the PCs to look even cooler. Just being the secret heir isn't enough to make an NPC a problem. There have been lots of stories in which the heroes shepherd or protect the One True King or whatever, who never manages to overshadow the real heroes.

    Cool and powerful NPCs make wonderful love interests, rivals, and mentors for PCs. The key is making sure that these NPCs are not always pulling the PCs' fat out of the fire or showing up the PCs. The GM NPC does their thing, but you need to let the PCs do theirs, and they don't necessarily need to overlap. One of my favorite anime TV shows, "Vision of Escaflowne" does this very well. The heroes are always rubbing elbows with kings, merchant princes, tragic techno-sorcerers, and catgirl sisters who are expert mecha pilots, and yet you never forget who the heroes are and why the story is about them. A cool supporting cast can make the heroes look even cooler. It does require, however, knowing what's important to your players and not stepping on their toes (unless you're trying to create animosity and rivalry, which can also be cool, but is a bit harder to pull off well).

    As for doing the Thursday-soon-to-be-Sunday game justice, you've already said some wonderfully complimentory things about it, which are greatly appreciated. Of course, thoughtful feedback is always good to get. :)

    Best of luck tonight. Have fun!