Saturday, July 7, 2012

Gearing Up to Game

I miss the weekly gaming session, but with an upcoming schedule change, I believe I can work one out.

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
Those are the basic Genres that I use.  After that, it becomes a matter of tropes, or dressing.  Some favorites used in many games include the following:
  • Alien Races
  • Monsters
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Fantasy Races
  • Large Empire vs Rebellion
  • Romance
  • Superheroes
Everything else is just a matter of mixing and matching until you get what you want, sometimes you do not even plan for something - Comedy and Romance can crop up anywhere without warning.

After getting the setting and dressings down, the stage is set.  Time for choosing a system.

More to come...