To me this sounds very much of a case of different expectations. When I am about to start a longer campaign (it's generally not necessary for one-shots or short adventures) I always have a heart to heart with the group. We discuss what I call the "social contract" of the game.
I think this is a good point. If the players want to play stone cold killers (it's cool!) then [EDIT] that's enough reason to let them [/EDIT] - unless of course that's not the game you want to GM. In which case I again give you answer 1a - talk it out.
Generally the advice in my first post that you liked is useful when you need to "fine tune" a campaign. If there's a major difference of opinions on what the game should be all about, wether the differences are unspoken or not, you really do need to have a sit down.
Below is a more in-depth discussion on what I mean by "social contract" that's from a discussion we had for a completely different rpg that we wanted to play in a long running campaign.
And btw, this is not meant as a "block-of-text-of-truth-wisdom". It is just meant as an example of what I'm talking about. I think most players and GMs do this with various effect and emphasise. I should also note that the below is very, very detailed. Probably unnecessary so and is only really needed when preparing for a long running campaign with a group of players who do not know each other very well.
I think Björn's questions from earlier in the thread would be a great place to start. As far as the location question that I added to the list, I'm going to assume Boston unless anyone has serious objections.
Do you have a good idea on how to structure the "template" discussion? On the one hand we could throw around movies, pictures and the like on what kind of feeling we all like, but on the other hand there actually is a fair amount of original fiction behind the game and perhaps that's enough. Perhaps we should keep picking out parts of that which we find especially interesting? Or are there more structured ways of going about it that you want to try?
Beyond that, well... Björn, would you be willing to answer Willard's questions and direct that discussion somewhat? I've never really planned out this sort of stuff prior to a campaign before, instead taking a general approach of "do whatever you want and I'll find a way to make it work", so I think you'd be a better person to oversee that.
Right, well, this is not something that I do everytime I sit down to play with a new group and while many games have some sort of in-built "group template" generation mechanic there's no real universal way of doing this. In short, let's keep it basic, concrete and leave the final decisions until we can meet and have some face time.
Try to look at it as a way of giving the campaign focus and drive. The theme, template, mood, level or whatever-you-want-to-call-it of the campaign should be able to tell you what sort of character you should think about creating and what your character should be doing in case you are ever asking yourself that question during a session.
One example I often give is the potential problems that crop up if one player sits down to play a casual game of taking names and kicking down doors while another player expects to have to plan ahead, investigate from the shadows and explore his characters. Unless they have talked about their expectations before hand it is likely that each player will feel that the other player is ruining the game - not taking it serious or taking it too serious as the case may be.
I like to call this talk of expectations the social contract. Just as there is a social contract were we expect players to show up on time, not throw candy on eachother or talk on the phone throughout the session the social game contract would telling us that in this game we try to get experience X and leave experience Y for another time.
Now, establishing this social contract is easier said than done. Especially through a forum but I am sure we can hash out a few ideas and establish some facts that we later can decide on when we meet up. Since epic or gritty or many other game words mean different things to different people we should try to be concrete and give examples.
The place where the game takes place in-game is important since it sets the mood and frames the story. In our case we have decided on Boston. This means that while every character does not necessarily have to have been born in Boston each character needs some reason to stick around in the city. To help out with this I'll put up part of the background after this post.
So far we've spoken about how gritty or epic we want the story to be. Sebastian wants his story epic where his character mows down squads of mooks with a casual flick of the wrist (he mentioned the lobby scene from Matrix wich is a good concrete example). I said I wanted it more gritty and I guess a decent example of this would be the same scene from Matrix only that going in like that would get a large portion of our group killed. Basically I want it to be a good idea to scout a location before hand, put a sniper on the roof and plan escape routes. Not for every combat but at least the "boss" fight.
There's a bunch of Savage Worlds mechanics and edges that can help adjust the game to become more or less epic or gritty.
I guess what it comes down to is plan or no plan - do you want to have to plan our moves before hand and use "real-world" tactics or not?
Generally the difference between gritt and epic also signifies how much detail or grain the story will have. More gritt usually means you need to worry about having enough money, wounds becoming infected, police stopping you in the street if you carry around a big gun and that sort of thing. Epic means you heal wounds fast without any real problems, don't need to worry about buying ammo for your guns and can tell the police to get lost without any real fear of getting caught.
Essentially gritt means more resource management and "real-world" problems. I like this and while I don't want the game to bog down to much I think it's cool if we have to worry about weapons licenses, being caught by police if we start a shoot-out in a bar.
Next up is the genre which is closely related to what exactly it is our characters are expected to actually do:
We could play..
...police officers combating drugs, gangs, criminal syndicates. More gritt means we might also have to worry about budget cuts, politics and bureaucracy.
...criminals trying to climb the hierarchy in the syndicate, killing rivals and making deals on the side.
...intelligence (or counter-intelligence) agents/spies that work for the government.
...mercenaries/trouble-shooters taking assignments but not working for any one employer. More gritt would mean having to worry about paying rent, food, repair weapons and get transportation and ammo for our BFGs.
While it might be going a bit over board for extra credits we could also try to talk about a more general and abstract theme.
This would be some, generally a bit more philosophical, questions that we think it would be cool to explore as we play. A game of police can become very different if the theme is "How far would I go to put criminals behind bars?" or "Isn't it really the people in power who are the most corrupt and criminal?.
An example of this that I think many are familiar with is Ghost in the Shell. It is not very gritty, while they do plan a little they generally go in shooting and do not really need to worry about their ammo or being wounded. The genre is agents in a special investigation unit (Section 9) and the theme is "What is it that makes us human?".
So with all that said (sorry if I got a bit long winded, I am sure this is not completely new to you) everyone, including Dave (and that wants too) should answer the following questions. The examples I've given above are just examples so feel free to add your own. I should also add that even after deciding on a particual genre or theme it is perfectly fine, even expected, to occasionally take the campaign somewhere else. Like a campaign about police officers suddenly finding themselves in a warzone. Especially if it's a long campaign and the players want to freshen up things a little.
1. How gritty or epic do you want the game to be?
2. Which genre do you want to play?
3. Is there a specific theme you want the campaign to explore?
4. Is there something else, not mentioned above, that you think is important to discuss to get a really great campaign going?