Tales from the Gazebo – Progressive Games: GM Planning, Part 3 (Sloppy Seconds)

Progressive Games: GM planning, Part 3 (Sloppy Seconds)
By Cape Rust

Yes, I went there. Being second in line to me is one of the toughest positions to be in as far as GM’ing a progressive game goes. If your group has never run a progressive game, the person who was first in the chute might not have thought about all of the consequences of some of the items they gave the group or actions they took. Things get worse if the first GM didn’t keep a good continuity notebook or is so tired of running the game that they don’t share any of the previous game’s information. There are so many things that can go wrong with a Prog game and the hand-off between to GMs is a single point of failure, unless handled correctly.

GM #2 becomes a single point of failure for several reasons. First and foremost, most of the players have become accustomed to the 1st GM’s style and how their characters operate in that GM’s “world.”. If the 2nd GM has decided to stay in the same place as the last GM, then the stakes go even higher. All of a sudden, some NPCs are not acting the way they did before, the locations of some buildings have changed, or worse, some churches are changing their beliefs. You can see from these few points how important that notebook is.  If the sloppy seconds GM decides to change the venue, then they must plan for a solid and realistic transition.

If as the 2nd GM you decide to change the venue, you still have to have the PCs operating where the last GM left off. As you can imagine, getting to a new location, if that is your plan, should be done quickly and in a plausible manner. Sure you can just meta-game the solution away, but how fun is that? The default action is to send the PCs on a quest in a land far, far away . This can get them to those “other continents or countries” we discussed while planning the game. The travel alone provides fodder for several game sessions of adventure. This is a great time to transition to a sea faring game if that is your plan. Some other interesting transition ideas I’ve seen include mysterious portals, a significant passage of time, a not so significant passage of time, planes hopping, magical experiment gone horribly wrong, you name it; you can make it happen, the biggest thing to remember is to make it fun and interesting for the players.

I am a huge fan of inserting these transitions when the players least expect it. I’ve done it when the players were training, shopping or even on in-game vacations. It is the most fun to do when the players are separated and wouldn’t expect the transition to occur. A fun tactic is what I’ll call the Dr. Who; this, as you can imagine, is where you move the players back or forward in time. This works really well in a situation where you want to keep the same setting but want to change what the previous GM may or may not have done.

Transitions from one GM to another and one setting to another (if this is the course you decide on) are huge and often overlooked. Fun and interesting are two major keys to success in this endeavor. Next week we will finish up some transition points and discuss the advantages to sticking with the current setting and the advantages of changing it.

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