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Thoughts after first game (Lessons Learnt as GM)

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I just got done with my first game. I tend to GM SWRPG and have GM'd a lot of D&D over the years.

 

I enjoyed the experience but couldn't help feeling I was doing some things wrong. Wondering what the experience has been for others.

 

I'm posting a link to the full write up in case, after some sleep, I go back and add more thoughts: http://www.reddit.com/r/theendoftheworldrpg/comments/2sx4at/thoughts_after_first_game_lessons_learnt_as_gm/

 

Looking forward to seeing other people's thoughts here or on reddit.

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With a 10 point buy stats are really low. It feels punishing to ask players to roll as they rarely succeed and get stress as a result.

Voting during character creation was a bust, the group just preferred to talk about changes (but we know each other very well and its a mature group that can handle those discussions

 

 

We felt the same and ditched the suggested and went with 16 points and dropped the voting which everyone felt was clunky. In the end we worked out something we all felt comfortable with.

 

NPC stress felt useless or clunky to track, I tended to handwave damage rather than track any back and forth during combat. Typically resulted in most damage above a 3 resulting in a kill for a zombie or I would give a trauma to non-zombies

 

 

I didn't bother keeping track of NPC stress. Even as an experienced GM it felt unnecessary. We had some issue though because I felt that only head shots should kill zombies so I ported over the head shot doubles rule from the first scenario idea but that meant fights went for ages. But at the same time I don't like zombies going down D&D style.

 

I didn't ask my PCs to deal/check against mental traits enough. Due to the first issue about failure rate I tended not to get them to roll when they wanted to do morally questionable (e.g. Steal or leave people who needed help behind), this can be a double edged sword in a lot of games and I prefer to have my players in control of their PCsTowards the end of the session, I found myself moving towards failures and success on dice rolls being fuzzy in the outcome. For example I had a player who failed her roll while trying to shoot a zombie in the head at point blank range (while it tried to bite another player on the leg), rather than say this "missed" I had the shot not be a kill (see my damage point above) and it attracted other zombies in the area.

 

 

Mental didn't really come up in our game either. One player talked down a looter and forced him to flee through a charisma check but that was it. Dexterity seemed a much more important stat.

 

I couldn't decide when something bad should happen. Negative were always there and it felt wrong to keep screwing the players over because they had negative dice left. In future I might make it that doubles on remaining negatives do something bad (gun jams...etc). Having the sound of a gunshot attracting zombies should be expected rather than based on a roll. Just my thought on it.

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I'll try... It is impossible to say anything reasonable after playing any game just once so I'd figure (eventhough I am still not in possesion of this game mind you) that would go for this system as well.

 

I totally agree that you need experience with a system to get the most out of it. With that said, I don't think you can really have "house rules" within the context of a rules light RPG system. 

 

As we're all really newbs with this system, also as the system leans heavily on the GM, I wanted to start a conversation based on my experiences to deal with the trip ups I ran into.

 

For example, now that I've had some sleep I've noticed that actually everyone's stats start at 1, so the 10 point buy is effectively 16. That would have helped a bit last night and the rolls of my players wouldn't have been so harsh.

 

Rusted and Dante - What was your first (few) game(s) like, what did your players like/dislike in those sessions?

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I have been in a campaign (As the GM) since I got this book when it released and I have learnt a lot. Though every group is different we have not had to bring in any house rules, all of the rules seem to work fine. When I first got the book, I read it from cover to back twice, Now it's somewhere like 4-5 times. we did dive right into it when I first purchased it which gave me some valuable insight as well. This game definitely plays different than any RPG I have played (except maybe Shaowrun).

 

Over the course of the campaign I have discovered a few shortcuts or faster methods of doing things, For example the Zombies, If you feel like your friends are going to fight a group of zombies, follow what the book says and just give them one bar of stress rather than 9. Speeds things up much quicker. Plus they only need to take 3 stress this way so usually one swift hit with a large weapon can kill them, Which in real life it would most likely happen.

 

Another great tool that works well if your playing in your home town is a map book. This makes it easier to track everyone when they decide to split up to gather supplies. Also a great tool for keeping track of a huge horde during your campaign so they will have to deal with it constantly.

 

I find mental to also be a little short coming, However you gotta remember that mentality in this game affects everything. A prime example I use is when a bunch of zombies are surrounding a player, The negative dice he rolls for defending himself (basically trying to break free of the zombies grasp), would usually go into the mental category, where when they are swinging or shooting there weapons is when they suffer the physical. 

 

Another example is,you see your friend being pinned to the ground and eaten by a zombie, You try and throw the zombie off your friend, any negative dice you roll should usually go into mental but that's not always the case.

 

I also found in this game you have to be a little harsher on your friends than you would in DND or SWRPG.

 

The voting system I think works wonders and adds in a bit of humor and entertainment making character creation not seem so tedious and boring.

 

Another note would be to read the book as much as possible when you can, it actually offers really great examples and details regarding almost everything.

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Where does it say to give zombies one bar of stress? I can't seem to recall actually reading that?

Page 46 under "NPC's and Trauma" it says

 

"To simplify the amount of tracking you have to do during the game, it is recommended that you don't keep track of traumas for less important NPC's. There is no reason to know weather or not the zombie a PC just took down has a broken leg or not. Once it is out of the way, it is no longer important to the story. When these minor NPC's fill up one of their stress tracks, don't allow them to "Cling to life". Instead just have them die. 

 

So when they fill up their first stress track (3 damage) just have them die.

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Where does it say to give zombies one bar of stress? I can't seem to recall actually reading that?

Page 46 under "NPC's and Trauma" it says

 

"To simplify the amount of tracking you have to do during the game, it is recommended that you don't keep track of traumas for less important NPC's. There is no reason to know weather or not the zombie a PC just took down has a broken leg or not. Once it is out of the way, it is no longer important to the story. When these minor NPC's fill up one of their stress tracks, don't allow them to "Cling to life". Instead just have them die. 

 

So when they fill up their first stress track (3 damage) just have them die.

 

 

 

I read that to but a stress track (page 30) is defined as 9 boxes, not 3, for each of the 3 categories. Each row is a Tier not a track

 

THE STRESS TRACK
 
"All stress is tallied on one of the three stress tracks in your three categories. Each stress track consists of nine boxes, which are divided into three tiers of three boxes each. Whenever you take points of stress, fill in an equal number of boxes on the stress track in the appropriate category, starting with the boxes in the fist tier, proceeding up to the second once all three boxes in the fist are full, and so on."
 
In the end though it's really up to the GM, if it makes sense to kill them quickly do so. Reduce the amount of tiers they have where appropriate to the story.
 
Also don't forget about their resistance to damage as well which further increases the stress needed. I am a fan of the Night of the Meteor mechanic of rolling uncancelled doubles equates to a head shot instant kill. 
Edited by llothos

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Where does it say to give zombies one bar of stress? I can't seem to recall actually reading that?

Page 46 under "NPC's and Trauma" it says

 

"To simplify the amount of tracking you have to do during the game, it is recommended that you don't keep track of traumas for less important NPC's. There is no reason to know weather or not the zombie a PC just took down has a broken leg or not. Once it is out of the way, it is no longer important to the story. When these minor NPC's fill up one of their stress tracks, don't allow them to "Cling to life". Instead just have them die. 

 

So when they fill up their first stress track (3 damage) just have them die.

 

 

 

I read that to but a stress track (page 30) is defined as 9 boxes, not 3, for each of the 3 categories. Each row is a Tier not a track

 

THE STRESS TRACK
 
"All stress is tallied on one of the three stress tracks in your three categories. Each stress track consists of nine boxes, which are divided into three tiers of three boxes each. Whenever you take points of stress, fill in an equal number of boxes on the stress track in the appropriate category, starting with the boxes in the fist tier, proceeding up to the second once all three boxes in the fist are full, and so on."
 
In the end though it's really up to the GM, if it makes sense to kill them quickly do so. Reduce the amount of tiers they have where appropriate to the story.
 
Also don't forget about their resistance to damage as well which further increases the stress needed. I am a fan of the Night of the Meteor mechanic of rolling uncancelled doubles equates to a head shot instant kill. 

 

The part I mentioned was a suggestion from the book to shorten the life duration of the zombies. Unless they are important NPC's, they are just there to be a bump in the road for the survivors.

 

The book also says if an NPC is important to the story or campaign, they suggest making a character sheet for him.

 

But yes it is up to the GM to shorten the life span. Though not all the zombies in each campaign have that "destroy the brain" negative ability. You can most certainly give them all this negative feature but again, that's a house rule.

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I am actually curious as to why they didn't include a similar rule for the other 4 scenarios to define basically what a "critical" hit would be. If I run any of the others I probably will house rule that in. 

 

 

The part about making it easier I took that as not worrying about the possibility of them coming back the same way a PC can roll. I would narrate a full stress track as a destroying the head or cutting off the head or something (i think all the scenarios it's destroy the brain or cut off the head but I could be wrong there as I haven't read through all of them completely since I picked the one scenario and ran with it)

 

So far my players haven't really had any close calls, other than the initial encounter with a zombie cat and dog, the human zombies have always been in the distance and shambling towards them, but we are only 8 hours into the apocalypse before we had to quit.

 

 

For character creation my players didn't really like the secret voting and they agreed to just use a show of hands. They didn't really put much thought into it which was unfortunate and they just voted to have everyone boost a characteristic in each category which they just took the extra negative or cancelled out their positive feature. My group was rather large though at 9 players but surprisingly it wasn't too bad to GM although the table talk did get a bit excessive at times and delayed some decision making among the group.

 

Another comment that came up was why would a character suffer physical stress for firing a gun or swinging a weapon? what could a player translate that into if converting his stress into a trauma? Maybe soar muscles or something?

 

I know one mistake I did make was in the opening scene I actually should have had the players who witnessed their gm being ripped to shreds by a dog should have rolled some sort of mental check to see how horrified they were but I didn't think of that till later. They did play though as if they were genuinely horrified by it but one player mustered up the courage and planted an axe in the dogs head (rolled uncancelled doubles) and then they rushed me to the hospital since the ambulances were all dispatched already and it would take some time for them to arrive. 

 

I like the idea of a map used on the table. I recommended my players get one for next session or I could go get one myself. Another Idea to further that one would be get a piece of clear plastic that you can use to cover it and then use dry erase markers on it (if it would work). This way you could draw all you want on the map and just update it as the night progresses without leaving permanent marks on the map as things could change as the campaign evolves. 

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Im thinking physical stress can manifestbitsself in a few different ways. You just have to be creative. With hand weapons-base ball bat, axe, etc. The stress could be translated as yhe shock of hitting something going up your arm. If youve ever tried to chop at a log with an ace, you would know jow it feels after quite a few swings.

With guns, there are a few ways i could see this. If they are in combat, the neg dice could be translated as the gun jamming. That wont give them physical stress, but it is sonething to worry about. Or, it could be freshly fired shell casings going down your shirt. Ive had that happen to me before, it hurts. Bit that has always bern somebody elses casingcasings, not my own. What i would do here, is if anybody is standing within a few feet to the right, they get the casing in their shirt and suffer stresd in stead.

But i think its important to view stress as abstract damage instead of specifics. Thats what traumas are for. So while running through a building shooting at zombies you rack up some stress from your own bad rolls. Afterwards, when you convert that stress to trauma you make that stress mean something- like you bruised a shoulder when you hit a wall while running through a dark hallway.

But stress caused by zombies should be tracked,because that means they hurt you in some form. I like how the voodoo zombies have you roll a dice. If its a 4-6 then that means they actually bit you. Otherwise i could see it as they grabbed you really hard and sracthed you up, or you broke your arm trying to escape from their death grip.

This is done from my phone-small jey board, so pardon the bad spellimg

Edited by Eyeless1

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All stress is subjective. Physical stresses in combat can by from wear and tear, fatigue from after adeeniline rushes, actual damage, and more. Keep in mind there is a lot more going on than just standing there swinging or shooting. Running, dodging, hitting, opening doors, etc. It is all going on and the stress tracks jhst a running gauge. Until you turn it into an actual trauma.

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Could grasp the idea of swinging a weapon like a ace or bat and them getting stress but was just curious what others thought about when using guns. i know when converting to trauma you would just do a quick recap of what you finished doing and come up with something. I have an example where the players weren't doing anything major, as they were leaving a grocery store a ambulance crashed into one of their vehicles but no one was near to have to dodge or anything. Inside the ambulance they saw a zombie chewing on the driver and they shot it in the head. The pc ended up with one stress. after they looted the ambulance they headed out of town to a farm one of them owned and that's where we ended. Now he could convert that stress into a minor trauma.i would probably just count that as exhaustion but it's not really the gun that caused it and i think that's maybe where you don't have to think of it as the gun causing the issue specifically it's just that you now have physical stress.

Edited by llothos

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Maybe there was a bad bullet that exploded in the chamber.

Maybe the person wasn't used to the recoil of the rifle.

Maybe the gun wasn't in great condition and caused a nasty sliver.

Or maybe it was just the mental anguish of seeing the zombie's bad table manners while dining on the ambulance driver.

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If a bullet exploded in the chamber whoever was holding the gun is either dead or dying.

a simple youtube search for "gun explodes" proves that your statement is false. Thanks for the spam post

Edited by rustedghost

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If a bullet exploded in the chamber whoever was holding the gun is either dead or dying.

a simple youtube search for "gun explodes" proves that your statement is false. Thanks for the spam post

 

 

People being wrong is not a reason to act like a jackass toward them.

Edited by DanteRotterdam

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I was actually thinking of an old western show Appaloosa? made decades ago. Some guy clogs his shotgun and charges into a bunch of indians and kills them all when the shot gun explodes. 

It would make sense that modern barrels can withstand more pressure than ones made 100 years ago.

 

But if a bullet did explode then the gun would be ruined...

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If a bullet exploded in the chamber whoever was holding the gun is either dead or dying.

a simple youtube search for "gun explodes" proves that your statement is false. Thanks for the spam post

 

 

People being wrong is not a reason to act like a jackass toward them

You're correct.

My apologies to Eyeless1 and community.

Edited by rustedghost

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We skipped the voting too, but that was because we didn't know each other that well.

 

Regarding the 10 points limit - I thought that was too but then somebody pointed out you get level 1 for free, so it's really 16 points.

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But 10 points still seems a little low. I was trying to make a balanced character, but if you have one 4 then you can have three 3s a 2 and one characteristic is a 1. Sure you could take points for the 3s to beef something else up, but then you have two 2s, which is pretty bad. 

Even if you are trying to roll threes on multiple dice, you still dont have a good chance, especially after dice start getting cancelled out....

Im thinking maybe 11 to 13 points would be best....If you give yourself 16 points, not counting the 1s to start with, thats just to much. With fewer points you have be more creative with your character, but I feel that Dex with be the most useful stat and the others will be neglected...so having to test on those others would be a pain....

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