Saturday, February 16, 2013

GM Advice - Let the players get to the adventure

“All right you are all in full battle dress power armor with weapons stowed and belted into the drop pods. They fire out of the ship like a bullet, hammering you back into the cushioning. As they pass into the atmosphere your teeth rattle as everything shakes and bucks. Suddenly warning lights come on; you are getting fired upon by anti aircraft weapons in an attempt to keep you from reaching the ground. I’ll roll once for each pod and if they are hit by the incoming rounds then it’s game over for them.”
“You mean for the NPC’s that are coming down with us right?”

“No for every pod, including the PC’s.”

“If we’re hit then we get a chance to pull out of it and make it though right?”

“Nope it’s game over like I said.”

“Well that’s just stupid.”

Have you ever been in a situation like this in a game? Have you ever put this situation upon your players in a game? In case you haven’t noticed it’s not exactly a fair thing and not really fun for the players. After all they’ve gone through all the trouble of generating characters and then suddenly BAM they may be killed off in a die roll that they can’t affect and usually before they get to do anything much.
The usual argument back from the GM is ‘But that’s the way life is!’ Yeah well this isn’t life we are playing is it. If all we wanted was life we would walk downtown for a while and shoot some pool. But we’re not, we’re playing a game and a game is supposed to be fun. That means fun for everybody. This responsibility is in the hands of everyone playing but it’s all under the control of one person.

The Gamemaster.

For the direction he takes the game and the obstacles he puts into the way are what makes everything work. He just needs to be aware of the way the players want to take the game and make it work for them as well. This is a little fact that is often overlooked by many GMs.

First thing off he needs to let the players get to the adventure. What is the point of all your planning ahead if nobody gets to fight their way through it? There doesn't need to be any 'roll against instant death' within the first few minutes of any game because then there is no point for people to waste time making characters. In the above situation, yes it's dangerous, yes if it were real anybody could be killed in an instant. Do kill off an NPC or two especially if you built up a bit on them so the players like that NPC. Make a point that it's going to be a rough game but at least let them make it to the damn game.

People joke about how you can die during character creation in the original Traveler rules. Don't become a joke yourself by killing off characters as soon as they hit the table.


  1. We are using Ace card system.
    f.e. Character is makes a fatal mistake he ( or someone else that is in the situation ) can use his Ace card ( one for each player for "scenario" ) and if they explain well enough how / why that player would stay alive. He or she survives.

    And yes other players have used the card to somebody else in our games.

  2. I am guilty of this one. In an effort to bring to the game the harsh realities of combat ["You can do everything right and still get killed"], I have put PCs in similar situations.

    After gaming with the Wash Co Crew, I have backed off of that a bit, which is why each crew I game with thinks the newer crew is getting off easy. The goal of the game [for me as a GM] has changed. Before it was an exercise in game mechanics; see how long PCs can survive. We had a MERC PC who was famous for making it thru 5 game sessions. Most folks didn't last 2.

    Now the goal is [as stated above] having fun. And of course, it varies, based on setting, intent, story, etc. I will always run a fairly lethal game, but I no longer Kobayashi Maru my PCs.