Sunday, 29 September 2013

Two things I'm working on as a GM

1. Pacing. This seems to be easily forgotten while playing. We become entrenched in a moment of play, captivated by a detail of the situation, and when it's resolved we've spent too much time in part of the story that doesn't move things forward. There are things I can do for this. 

a) Reduce the number of things the NPCs do to the PCs. 
b) Weaken the NPCs to lessen the challenge and finish things quickly. 
c) Strengthen the NPCs to force a surrender or retreat.
d) Increase the stakes for each die roll.

2. Compels. This is part of my current Diaspora game. Each session I start with a pool of fate points that I haven't spent by the end. Each session also has plenty of fate points left over for each character. I'm going to try the following. 

a) Write three compel situations for each character. 
b) Force a lot more die rolls for each character, preferably with higher challenges, to burn through their own pools so they feel the need to be compelled. 
c) And if they don't work I'll reconsider the refresh levels again. 

How about you? Which GM techniques are you improving, and how?

Friday, 13 September 2013

From story to drama

It's taken a while but I think my Diaspora game has turned into a campaign. We've played ten episodes and the player characters have fought alongside each other, fought with each other, travelled with each other, stolen from each other, gotten drunk with each other... just about everything except slept with each other. One of them even had his half-brother kidnapped and then forgot about it.

Although perhaps "campaign" isn't the right word. It's turned into an ongoing drama. The group has broken the urge to stay together, or even to work together. They're associated by convenience, alongside achieving their own goals.

It's such a joy to turn story on and extend it to a television length season. Soon we'll reach episode 13 and I'm hoping that together we come up with a cliffhanger. We might take a short break to play a couple of one-shots, and possibly come back to it.

(And as a side note, I might convert the game from Diaspora to Fate Core for season 2.)

Rapid switching

I've been working on a GM technique lately. For want of a better name I've taken to calling it Rapid Switching. I use it when the characters are separated from each other, and especially when they're all in individual pursuits. 

To do it I break from one character to the next after only a couple of minutes or actions. It might be after a few volleys of gunfire with a villain, or some argument back and forth with an NPC, but it is nearly always long before that encounter is complete. Sometimes I might switch to and fro as many as four or five times before it's resolved. 

What I'm trying to achieve by doing this is threefold. First, I'm minimising player downtime. I don't like waiting 20 minutes for my opportunity to play and I'm sure my players don't either. Rapid switching gives players short and frequent opportunities to play. Second, I'm emulating something I enjoy in tv and books. I can interpose fights with dialogue, or fights with fights, or fights and chases. Third, I can maintain dramatic tension. Things are unresolved for everyone for longer and there's a shared sense of it for all the players. 

This rapid switching has helped our game sessions. What about you? Have you used anything like this? How did it work for you?