[Advice/Tools]

Why Tweak an Established Setting?


Let's face it as a game master in a busy world, we don't have a lot of time to always come up with our own setting. To our rescue many times is the established setting. Sometimes even, the game has such a setting implied. Take the game I've been playing a lot of, The Savage World of Solomon Kane. The whole point of the game is to play in the setting of Solomon Kane. Of course other times, it's also the de facto standard setting for a system. In Traveller, the Imperium is such a setting. While you can play games outside that setting, all the rules and supplements are going to be based on it.

So with all the pressures of time and the wealth of information out there for established settings, why on earth would you want to even bother to tweak the setting?

First off, let's face it. If it's a good setting, then your players may have read all the material. Let me give an example. As a person who has played Traveller and run Traveller quite a bit, I have read most of the Classic Traveller material out there. Which means that if I was a player, I would likely have too much meta-game knowledge. As a good player, I would not try to have that influencing how I play my character. Still, I'm sure in small ways it might. As a GM, having a player like that could ruin what I'm trying to run. This can be especially true if the player has read things that you the GM hasn't read.

Second as GM, we do like to invent things. Which means we want to make our own mark on the world in question.

Third without knowing it, you are already tweaking an established setting. Yes that's right you are. Just by using the material, the GM and players are making their own interpretations of the material presented. Let's use a simple example, maybe the description for an NPC king says that he's sad about the death of his daughter. Now the material may give examples of how that's effected his kingdom. Still as GM, you will have to decide how that NPC may act in the front of the players if it's not already stated. All of which means your sad king may act differently than another GM's version of that same sad king. Congratulations, you have already tweaked your game and didn't know it.

So what sort of tweaks can you as the GM make easily?

• Change the Names of certain places.- Change the name of Inn or tavern or move where it is.
• Add/Change/Delete NPCs in the setting. - Maybe flesh our that sad king's adviser
• Add/Change/Delete monsters and their treasure.
• Flesh out locations

No matter what, you need to let the players know that just because they have read the material doesn't mean you haven't changed it in some way. This will prevent arguments in the future. One should always be on guard against fan boys and girls.

One word of warning. If you use an established setting, please don't expect your players to have read 60 pages of setting background. If you do, you will be disappointed. Create a one to two page summary if you can.

Just remember, it's your game and you get to do things you want to do. Using an established setting is just a jumping off point that prevents the GM from having to creating everything.

Update: I forgot to include a link back to original Blog Carnival Post. So, here it is.

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Announcement: RPG Blog Alliance Open For Business

Greetings Fellow Bloggers and Podcasters,

I'm happy to announce the official opening of the RPG Blog Alliance. The RPGBA is the start of new Blog Community for RPG related Blogs and Podcasts. Like many such communities, at it's core it provides an RSS Aggregation Feed. So what set's the RPGBA apart from other such services you may ask? I think the following are some things that set us apart from other services.

  • User Profile, which can be updated by user
  • Ability for Users to Hide Posts From being shown in Feed
  • Email Verification of New Users
  • New Blogger and Podcaster Help via Wiki

Even with these features, some will ask why this even required, as there are similar sites out there. To which we say, Yes there are. The issue for me has always been that they just didn't seem like a community. We wanted to start a community. I wanted something that users could edit their own profile information without an administrator. I wanted simple to use administrator functions. We think we done that. We should note that we do not believe that the RPGBA is a replacement for any such site. For us, it is just simply a new community that we would like you to join.

We want you to help the community grow. We want the RPG Blog Alliance to be thriving thing. We want to hear your comments, we want to try to create new features based on user feedback. Basically, we want you involved. We look forward to seeing you join our community.

To join simply to go to RPG Blog Alliance, and click join us.

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Number of Players at the Table

Yesterday, I was flipping through on old book of mine, Gary Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery. In one section, he had a little to say about the maximum number players that a Game Master can handle while maintaining a good game. He set that number to three or four players.

What's interesting is that is the number of positions in the old standard party. You know the one where there is a fighter, a magic-user (wizard), cleric, and thief (rouge). It really sort of makes me wonder if that number was sort of influenced by that concept in some way. Of course it could have been the reverse as well. Honestly, I'm not sure which came first, I'm just sure that there is some sort of link between the two concepts.

In the same area, talked about using a Game Master's assistant. Someone who could handle some of the GM administrative work. Gygax, basically suggested that with such an assistant a GM could handle eight players without make his game suffer. Of course, I'm not sure anyone would want to be an assistant. Much like the working world, assistants seem to get none of the glory or respect that the person they give assistance to gets. As GM, I'm not sure if I'm down with someone not really playing and not really the GM. But that's my opinion.

Still, what is maximum number of players that can be handled at the table without assistance? I've always thought that six was my personal number. Any more than six and you have no idea what the hell is even going on. And even if you do, you will find that a few players will monopolize you time. Of course I guess the same could be said about any number of players. I do now that no matter what, there is a limit of some sort. Once a long time ago, I played in a group with about ten to twelve people. That's right ten to twelve people. The adventure involved some sort of war and we were in some sort of castle siege. Since there were so many players, the poor GM couldn't help but focus on a few people at time. This meant there were long stretches with nothing to do. We actually started to do other things while we waited for our turn. This became a huge disconnect for us. Since we were not paying attention, we sometime had no idea what exactly was going on. I dare say that game ended poorly. Eventually, I think group broke into two groups, which is what sort of needed to happen in the first place.

So what is the maximum number of players you can handle as a GM? What are your thoughts on a GM Assistant? Have you ever used a GM assistant? Finally, what is the largest group he have ever played with and how successful was it?

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