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New GM - Where to get started, and should I do a custom campaign or a Pre-made

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#1 Domino25



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Posted 03 November 2012 - 05:49 AM



I've been lurking on these forums since I started playing WFRP this spring. I enjoyed the game a lot though we have only had maybe 15 sessions. Most of the group is new to table top roleplaying games, myself included. Our GM has done a good job trying to manage our inexperienced group but hasn't had a chance to be a player in 7 years, and doesn't have as much time to prep. I've offered to take over as GM, which I'm equally excited and terrified of. The first big decision I have to make is what to run (Andy, if you're reading this, stop now).


I could go with a pregenerated scenario, I'm going to take over after we finish The Gathering Storm (careful, I don't know how it ends, we've killing goblins near some cattle ranches right now) and Eye for an Eye has already been run for the group. As a player, I haven't read all the scenarios, and I wouldn't want to in case I take a turn as player again sometime. What is a good scenario to run for a Noob GM to run after Gathering Storm?


I have a few ideas to put together a custom scenario which would specifically target the Hero's deeds and backgrounds in an attempt to discredit them. My character would be the catalyst as he is caught and hanged for desertion, which would be the opening move in a power struggle between a Noble of Stromdorf and the Burghermiester. The characters as agents of the Burghermiester would be specifically targeted, and would have to prove thier innocence and improve conditions in the town to reinforce the Burghermiesters standing. One of the chief benefits I see to this is really forcing the players to engage because it's thier honour and reputation on the line. To tie them closely to allies in the town who are taking a beating and put the Noble in front of them the entire time taunting them and trying to drive them mad. Currently we're all fairly new role players, and so it's a bit stiff and dry when we interact, my theory is that this would give them more emotional stake in the game.


My questions for everyone here would be:

How much harder is it to do your own adventure rather than a pre-created one?

Is it a good idea to "go after" the players agressively? Accusing them of everything I can, Slandering them, or will that frustrate and discourge them? What is the balance between "Grim, Gritty" and "The GM is a **** who makes everything turn on us all the time, why bother when we'll get no credit?

Do you have tips for a new gm?





#2 Emirikol


    ~Ĉiam subskribi antaŭ-nup kun Fimir

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 10:51 AM

I've been running tabletop games since 1982 (I was 9 when I started GMing).  Here's how you weigh what your options are:

Home-made Campaign
(The Good)

  • You can tailor more things to your group and let your creativity shine
  • You can write up your scenario ideas and put it on the web and let other people play it.

(The Bad)

  • It generally requires 2-4 hours of prep PER SESSION at some point before the game.
  • It is un-tested
  • You will burn-out unless you're really experienced and a natural planner and it can cost you the coherence of a group of gamers
  • You will have less time for family and a life outside gaming.
  • You will tend to start to sound like a broken record on many of your situations because naturally our brains are finite in their ideas.

(The Good)

  • It is 1 hour of prep before a game.
  • Scenarios are generally playtested and if your group goes off on a tangent, you always have a structure to fall back onto
  • They're pretty
  • You can share discussions with other GMs on the forums

(The Bad)

  • Sometimes your group will want to go do something completely off-track and you will need to learn how to "gently nudge" them with Kordren's Hammer back onto the plot, or else you essentially are moving towards the Home-Made situation.
  • Sometimes the pre-mades are kind of lame..but usually it's better to have a direction than none.

In either case, you can always do BOTH.  I typically prep 1-2 fan-written scenarios (you can download a couple hundred of them here).  I NEVER completely follow the pre-made plot and NEVER fail to add a LOT of extra background material for my sessions.  I find the benefit of pre-made to be better because you already have a skeleton of ideas to work from and you can mold them any way you like.


Just some free advice GMing:

  1. Establish expectations right off the bat (EXCLAMATION POINT).  Here is what I tell players:  #1) your characters will die horrible deaths, be grown up about it and keep a back-up character ready, #2) Try to play a character that fits into the group and makes things interesting,  #3) Did I mention you 'll die a horrible, horrible death and I will have failed you as a GM if you didn't die in an interesting way?,  #4) We expect our gamers to show up for 90% of the sessions, bring some food/drink once in a while, avoid politics/religion, and get into the game (we don't want to hear about your crappy home life..that's why we come here to game).
  2. Have a clear set of rules on how replacement characters enter the game.  Our rules:  Same xp, starting gold, and everything but plot-devices are buried with the last character.  If you just want to switch a character, go ahead. No punishment.
  3. Set a reasonable goal of # of sessions for your campaign.  For example:  Plan on running 10 sessions.  This helps you focus on what you want to do, and when you tell the players this, they will also make a point to organize their lives as well.
  4. DO NOT LET ANY SINGLE PLAYER HOLD YOUR CAMPAIGN HOSTAGE.  That is, do not write or interpret pre-made scenarios that have a single purpose of doing "something for one character."  Examples include:  The Roadwarden just inherited some land in Bogenhafen..oh, the Roadwarden died?  Now what?  Better to say:  "The Members of the Party" inherited some land in Bogenhafen..oh the Roadwarden died?  More spoils for us.  Darn, his new character is also an inheritor!        WFRP3 is a great game for this because they have Party Sheets.
  5. Keep the action moving.   By Morr's Bells, I cannot tell you how lame and boring a game can be when a GM doesn't keep up the action in both a combat and in the "you're traveling down a road" parts of the game.   Talk faster during combats, point at who's up after the current person and tell them to start their actions.  Don't stop in the middle of a combat to look up stupid rules unless someone is going to die if you don't look it up (in which case, you delegate a player do do that for you).
  6. Not every character is typically thought to have equal strengths during every encounter, but you need to give everyone something to do. This is easily prepped pre-game. I usually put a post-it note with each character name on there.EXAMPLES:
  • During the combat encounter, the Elf Envoy really needs more to do than throw his dagger and hide.  Give him a chance to make some SKILL ROLLS to notice advantages or things.
  • During the "Talking with the Mayor of the Town" encounter, the Trollslayer needs something to do (besides talk, which would simply get the party thrown in jail and probably hanged in most cases).  Give him some SKILL ROLLS to make for the same reason.



Jay H

#3 valvorik



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Posted 04 November 2012 - 04:02 AM

 Jay has lots of good points.

I suggest similarly perhaps using existing content from FFG for this edition but then adjusting for your players and their characters, and for what makes sense and is fun to you.  Be ruthless, you own your copy of stuff so mark it up and add your own notes.   To use an existing adventure, map out its key scenes and bone structure so you can see what your modifications or those from play result in changing and what you can add or in fact need to add.  See what NPCS and issues you can link to PC history and interests, both what each player creates and what is on that career sheet write up.  Imagine the free Day Late scenario had just been "late coach", then you add mentor gone missing, expected package etc to link to your players.

The you can start using free earlier edition fan scenarios, converting, and writing your own to respond to issues, plots things that rise from play.  Your table will have its own mix of interests from melee scenes to role playing without any dice, which will affect what you play up and focus on in scenarios.

if you are new to gm role overall I suggest also being clear about table rules and expectations.  My own rules for good play are in an earlier post on my blog.  They boil down to everyone being responsible for everyone having fun, not just the gm for players.   To avoid burn out you must be about what is fun for you too.  I suggest also being clear that players must explain and play why they are a group.  Why is a high elf keeping company with a dwarf for example. 









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