In order to run a game, I like to "Gear Up." Simple process really.
Skim the books of the game I am wanting to run, then grab some interesting thing I find and jam that square plot peg into the round setting hole.
This can be the hardest part for some, running the scenario you want to run in a setting that it does not 'fit' in at first glance.
In order to 'Gear Up,' I try and spend some time re-familiarizing myself with the setting, grabbing the books, skimming the system info, reading the important parts of the setting, etc.
The hardest part for me is always settling upon a system. There are many that I just love: d6 from WEG, Omni/Talislanta from Morrigan Press, SLA Industries from Nightfall games...ok, there are really just a couple that I honestly like.
After that, it is just a matter of setting. what do the PLAYERS want, fantasy? Sci-Fi? Pulp? Modern? This can be hard to sort through also, as until you know, you are kind of stuck in what you want to do, and there is a good chance that every player will have a different answer.
When this sort of challenge rears its sick-toothed grin, you have to get everyone to agree on the basics first, of which, I only consider there to be three: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Modern
My breakdown is fairly simple...powered body armor or space travel? Sci-Fi. Sword and sorcery? Fantasy. iPhone and Jaguar? Modern. Galleon and parrot? Historical.
That is the basic breakdown you want from your players, after that, it starts to get a little convoluted as you start to leave the basic genre and start heading for the niche.
Subgenres. I have talked to people in the past that basically stated I was wrong in this, that so matter what you do with a basic genre, it is always that particular style: fantasy is fantasy, sci-fi is sci-fi, etc.
Looking at the trash spilling from Hollywood, that is obviously wholly misguided.
Sci-Fi genre + gangster subgenre + fantasy races trope = a high powered setting with space travel and organized crime gangs run by malevolent beings (demons, orcs, devils, etc). Wait...was that "The Fifth Element?" I believe it was
Fantasy genre + gangster sub + fantasy races trope = as above, but no space travel, no powered armor or lasers. Maybe one of the crime bosses is a sorcerer of some ability, or an Elf that has a very charming ring...magic is everywhere, and can be used as currency.
Modern genre + gangster sub + fantasy races = Shadowrun...without the magic. Or add in the magic trope of fantasy and VOILA! Full on Shadowrun campaign!
- Advanced science (weapons, vehicles, space travel, etc)
- Plots centered around daily life
- Usually some background of how we can overcome our differences and work together
- There is no Good or Evil, only shades of gray
- Usually skillset based: Pilot, Mercenary, Diplomat, Scientist, Military
- Examples: Star Trek, Alien, Blade Runner
- Primitive items (torches, swords, metal armor)
- Plots usually involve some epic adventure (killing a dragon, routing an Orc horde)
- Magic, fantasy has some sort of magic, or religion
- Good vs Evil - black and white, orcs bad, elfs good
- Usually class-based: Fighter, Magic, Rogue, Healer types
- Examples: Star Wars, Beastmaster, Dragonslayer
- Player gear can usually be purchased in the real world
- Real world companies exist
- Usually some sort of survival plot
- Characters can be anything found currently in the world
- Usually skill-based progression
- Examples: Ghostbusters, CSI, Jericho
- Some point in our past history is the stage for the game: Old West, Victorian Europe, Pirate-infested Caribbean, Cold War era, etc
- Historical figures are alive and well, familiarity is not exactly needed
- Loosely based off of history, normally, historical campaigns only present the Hollywood adaptation of the world at that time
- Usually skill or skillset based: Gunslinger, Gambler, Gladiator, Spy
- Examples: James Bond, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Untouchables
- Alien Races
- Fantasy Races
- Large Empire vs Rebellion
After getting the setting and dressings down, the stage is set. Time for choosing a system.
More to come...