Tales from the Gazebo – More Questions and Campaign Creep

More Questions and Campaign Creep
By Cape Rust

If you have decided to use some of my tips, you will find that you are actually much closer to being ready to run a game than you might think. By socializing your ideas with your players, listening to their input, and adjusting your great ideas, you can create a game that you want to run and, more importantly, that your players want to be part of.

Now that you have settled on the type of game you are going to play, you need to look at some cold, hard, real world facts. If you are getting ready to run a new system, there is a host of possible problems that have to be addressed. The first question that must be asked is simple: Do I know this system well enough to run a game? You would think you would have figured that out by now and should have asked this question during the self-examination phase, but this is a great time to revisit the question.

At this point, your players might have let you know that they are interested in you running a game in a new system. If you are willing to run the game your players want, then take the time to learn the game and its mechanics. I’m not saying you need to become an expert, but spend some time with the books. Most groups are willing to cut the GM a break if they don’t know a few things about the game, but if you are flipping through books every two minutes to clarify something, the game will die a slow and painful death.

The next thing you need to figure out is when and where your gaming group will meet. I normally take this for granted as I am fortunate enough to game at least once a week at one of our players’ houses. What happens if that player is sitting the next game out because of their love for MMOs? As the GM, you are responsible to an extent of figuring this out. I’m not saying that you have to host the game because you are running it, but you do have to make sure there is some place to have the game.

This is a good time to take one last look at the calendar to see what major events are coming up. A proposed game session schedule is not carved in stone, but if everyone in the gaming group is on the same page, things tend to work out much better. Here is an example from December 2011. My group normally games on Saturday nights so the first three Saturdays look fine. But last year, the 4th Saturday was the 24th. All of the members of my group celebrate Christmas, so it looks like the 24th was out for gaming. Then the next Saturday was New Year’s Eve… looks like we will have a two week break. Most of our group will hang out on New Year’s anyway, but if that wasn’t the case, it would be a good idea to try to throw in a non-gaming social activity for the group during the month.

If you just have to game every Saturday, try to plan a before-game activity for your group before you start rolling polys. Grabbing dinner or having dinner at a location other than where you are going to game is a great way to do this. Everyone shows up to the table fed and you have a chance to socialize out of game!

Back to the new game system; as a GM, you have to look at how much access your players will have to information that they will need. The average sourcebook runs around $30.00 USD. It is hard to convince people to drop that kind of money for a game you might only run once. As the GM, you do not have the responsibility to own every book. With digital distribution, game books are much easier to find and purchase. Some companies offer their rulebooks for free or have no problem with you reproducing portions of their material for your players. Don’t abuse these publishers’ good will. They are able to publish their good material with the money people pay for their products. If you like a game or publisher, buy their stuff! The Savage Worlds Explorers Edition core rulebook only costs $10.00. This means that if you and your gaming group were just breaking into Savage Worlds, for the price of a normal core rule book you could have three books at the table for the group to use.

One last thing to think about is how long this game may last. I don’t recommend sharing this estimate with your players as that can paint you into a corner. Having an idea how long the game should last allows you, as a GM, to keep things moving. You do not have to railroad the players to do this. If you don’t think about how long your game might take you can run into campaign creep. Campaign creep is when the game gets going and becomes overcome by subplots. I always encourage GMs to be flexible, but if things start dragging or you find yourself further and further from an end state, campaign creep has set in and must be destroyed! If you have an idea of how long the game should run, with generous allotments for the havoc players tend to reek upon your plans, you have a much greater chance to avoid that creeping crud.

Next week we will make sure we have the right tools in our planning tool box. Remember to anticipate those game session hazards. If you are getting into a new system, learn the system and ensure you have enough of the right materials so your players can enjoy the experience. Avoid campaign creep at all costs, if your good game goes too long, it is no longer a good game.

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