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  1. #1

    First Time GM

    So just a little feedback on how my first session went - Savage Worlds - RoC (Campaign - Mysteries of Drake Manor)

    First of all, through all my preparation and testing I didn't realize that a full license meant that only a single unregistered user could connect. So when everyone arrived and couldn't connect it was slightly disastrous. We ended up setting up the second laptop at the end of the table so that everyone could see what was happening. I printed out hard copies of the character sheets and maps and stepped everyone through the character creation process. This took some time but things turned out relatively okay. I gave everyone free weapons if they explained their motivation for having said weapons and gave them some startup cash which I ended up taking away (after they were arrested) to just get the story rolling and not sit around buying more gear.

    So the story went on and then one of my players guesses the resolution of the story. Okay, fine. That's fine... Just continue.

    Finally we get to the single combat that I set up for the session and I completely drop the ball. I lost my stats for the Ghoul that I set up and completely miss out on parry and toughness (Used a TN of 4 for both). So in one single really quick round where my "Wild Card" was supposed to give them a proper run for their money my guy is just dead. He didn't even get a chance to attack.

    So the feedback that I received from the session was as follows. It was messy and confusing and some kind of a turn based approach to RP outside combat would be appreciated because there are quiet people in our group that just sit and listen. (This I don't really want to do anything about since I want the players to interact and discuss decisions. It's supposed to be a team effort.) This was from one of the players. The others loved every second of it and can't wait for the next session, they apparently just want more fights.

    Now comments from me. Everyone was really focused on me and I had to multi-task and listen to multiple people speaking to me at the same time. This is fine for the first session I suppose since none of them knew the rules and I had to manage everything, from the world, to the NPCs to queries from players. However I'm going to try harder to get the players interacting with each other in the future sessions.

    Secondly, my prep was shoddy since I didn't really understand my NPCs. I had no idea what their motivation was, what information they possessed, what made them who they were. As a result the RP element sort of went out the window and by the end of the session it was becoming more of a "call out action" number crunch thing than actual descriptive role play. I also had only a vague idea of where the story was going (Murder in the mansion, creature in the basement, woman hiding in the gardener's house, her brother used a Byakhee to kill the victim and crazy old man in the observatory messing with Mythos stuff.) When they killed the ghoul (Scrabbles) the first thing they asked me was what does he have to do with the story and that threw me off for a second... because what does he really have to do with the story. He's just some random creature plopped in. Since I was attempting to slowly introduce the Mythos it didn't make a lot of sense that there were so many crazy and unrelated Mythos elements in one house.

    So what now.

    Well, I've purchased the Ultimate license. (Which was horrifically expensive and made me cringe when I saw that amount of cash drain from my account for something that I could have likely built on my own but whatever).

    And I've got a hold of an old CoC book (Escape from Innsmouth). So prep starts anew. Now I have to somehow get my CoC book into Fantasy Grounds, properly prepare for my NPCs this time (Of which there's a ton) including using the conversion rules in the RoC book for CoC to RoC. I'm considering simulating a play-through just to make sure that I'm prepared enough for the next session.

    GM'ing is tough.
    Last edited by PyroHiroshi; September 27th, 2013 at 09:55.

  2. #2

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    You'll find as you GM that the more you do it, the easier it is. Just about the only way to get better at it is to just do it. Also you don't have to be perfect, and as long as people are having fun you are doing it right.

  3. #3
    jshauber's Avatar
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    Welcome to the world of GMing.

    I haven't done it for years and now that I have FG and am learning to use it I found myself DMing again.

    As Griogre pointed out the more you do up front the easier it is to run the game. First if you are using a pre-designed scenario/adventure just read thru it to get an idea of what they are trying to set up. Then read thru it again looking for things that don't make sense to you and try to either modify so it does or find a way to explain it if the players ask.

    Next, I always look at how to break down the adventure into stages. If you are in the village, what are locations players care about, who are the NPCs they interact with, what plot lines develop from here, etc. This allows you to have notes for just that area. Another stage might be the ruined mansion basement and secret passageways, why are they here, what were they used for, why are the things that are placed there here? Then have notes for that if players start asking, make them figure things out.

    As for handling player interaction, sometimes you have to just ask the quite ones what they are are thinking or what they want to do. I have been in many groups where one person takes control and just orders/tells other players what they are doing. Sometimes being the GM means you have to have that character incapacitated so that someone else has to step up. Don't be afraid to wield the big stick sometimes to get control of the game.

    For your penultimate battle remember you are in control. I am not sure if you share rolls with players or not, but I never do so if something seems to easy then I can always just say that the characters missed or failed to do enough damage with their roll. Having the final battle be anti-climactic is a real downer to an otherwise great session.

    The main thing to remember is that as GM you are the story teller, do what you have to in game to make things work. Learning how to do this without the players even knowing takes time and skill but once you can do it you will find that they enjoy the game more and so do you.

  4. #4
    Trenloe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PyroHiroshi View Post
    First of all, through all my preparation and testing I didn't realize that a full license meant that only a single unregistered user could connect. So when everyone arrived and couldn't connect it was slightly disastrous. We ended up setting up the second laptop at the end of the table so that everyone could see what was happening. I printed out hard copies of the character sheets and maps and stepped everyone through the character creation process.

    ...

    So what now.

    Well, I've purchased the Ultimate license. (Which was horrifically expensive and made me cringe when I saw that amount of cash drain from my account for something that I could have likely built on my own but whatever).

    And I've got a hold of an old CoC book (Escape from Innsmouth). So prep starts anew. Now I have to somehow get my CoC book into Fantasy Grounds, properly prepare for my NPCs this time (Of which there's a ton) including using the conversion rules in the RoC book for CoC to RoC. I'm considering simulating a play-through just to make sure that I'm prepared enough for the next session.

    GM'ing is tough.
    Very interesting review of your first session.

    Are any of your players playing remotely or are they all in the same room as you? If they're all in the same room as you, what do you use Fantasy Grounds for?

    I know that a few people use Fantasy Grounds to facilitate their own face-to-face gaming and there can be a lot of merits for using it that way, but primarily Fantasy Grounds is a "Virtual Table Top" - providing a computer based version of your tabletop for gaming. If you're all in the same room there is less need for a virtual table top - just use a real table top. Now, of course, when you use a real table top the players will need to have printed character sheets (sounds like you did that already), their own dice (or a good amount of them to share) and the GM (you) will either need to print out any maps you intend to show to the players or draw them on a piece of paper/erasable battle map. This is how the majority of face-to-face role-playing games are carried out. Are you new to pen-and-paper role-playing? Have you played in such a face-to-face game?

    I just think that from your description you are trying to take on too much by running your first game as a GM in a face-to-face environment and then throwing in the additional complexity of having to prepare everything on Fantasy Grounds as well. Yes, a well prepared scenario in Fantasy Grounds can help the GM out, but you would need to make sure it is well prepared and you're familiar with Fantasy Grounds and how the scenario works. Additionally, Fantasy Grounds is not a replacement for the RPG rulebook - you will still need to know the rules for the game you are running...

    Now, this might not be what you want to hear having just forked out a lot of money on the Ultimate License, but perhaps you could remove/reduce the use of Fantasy Grounds so that you and the players can enjoy learning about the game system and the scenario face-to-face - they'll learn more and so will you. Then, once you're more comfortable with the game system rules, the scenarios you are running and the gaming group you can see where FG can help you out and start to use that to aid your games, not drive them...

    Additionally - the comment regarding one player wanting more turn based role-playing. Don't do this - it will slow your game down and stops the flow. In a face-to-face game it is easy for the GM to notice if a player is not getting involved or feels they are a bit out of it - when you notice this simply bring them into the story "What are you doing?", "Do you agree with what the rest of the party is doing?", etc.. It's all part of the GM learning experience - don't let one or two players own the session, make sure you bring everyone around the table into the story. This can sometimes be hard for certain sections of a scenario as certain characters do come to the fore in specific situations - but having a player appear out of it for the whole session will need some addressing. Have a word with them outside of the game, find out their opinion and work with them to involve them more - it may be that the character they are playing is not right for them or not right for the campaign, it might be that they are looking for a bit more action, investigation, or something else; or it may be that they have an issue with the style of another players. It's difficult being a GM sometimes - you have to try to make sure that everyone is enjoying themselves, engaged and contributing to the storyline. This will take time - you to get comfortable in your GMing style, for the players to mesh, for you to understand what makes each player tick, etc.. But, GMing is also an incredibly rewarding experience - keep at it! :-)


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  5. #5
    Mgrancey's Avatar
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    I have made use of Fantasy Grounds for running modules at conventions, but I currently don't run any F2F regularly. I have used FG as you did a couple of times though I set up the client on a TV rather than just a laptop, which worked alright for images and maps. Characters were run from paper as were dice rolls.

    If you've only just started GMing or are new to FG, don't worry too much. You'll learn and fall into your own style of GMing. As a general rule of thumb, write up your plot then look at it again to see how it can be screwed up. As far as over campaign plots, see if you can find Pixar's rules for making movies. I have the image but its a big long one. Doesn't necessarily apply 1:1 but they are good to keep in mind. If don't have a copy, take a look at the beginning of DnD 4e's intro to player types. It is pretty accurate and good to go over every so often to remind yourself.

    If you don't know, out right ask PC's what they want out of game so you know what to deliver.
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Trenloe View Post
    Very interesting review of your first session.

    Are any of your players playing remotely or are they all in the same room as you? If they're all in the same room as you, what do you use Fantasy Grounds for?

    I know that a few people use Fantasy Grounds to facilitate their own face-to-face gaming and there can be a lot of merits for using it that way, but primarily Fantasy Grounds is a "Virtual Table Top" - providing a computer based version of your tabletop for gaming. If you're all in the same room there is less need for a virtual table top - just use a real table top. Now, of course, when you use a real table top the players will need to have printed character sheets (sounds like you did that already), their own dice (or a good amount of them to share) and the GM (you) will either need to print out any maps you intend to show to the players or draw them on a piece of paper/erasable battle map. This is how the majority of face-to-face role-playing games are carried out. Are you new to pen-and-paper role-playing? Have you played in such a face-to-face game?

    I just think that from your description you are trying to take on too much by running your first game as a GM in a face-to-face environment and then throwing in the additional complexity of having to prepare everything on Fantasy Grounds as well. Yes, a well prepared scenario in Fantasy Grounds can help the GM out, but you would need to make sure it is well prepared and you're familiar with Fantasy Grounds and how the scenario works. Additionally, Fantasy Grounds is not a replacement for the RPG rulebook - you will still need to know the rules for the game you are running...

    Now, this might not be what you want to hear having just forked out a lot of money on the Ultimate License, but perhaps you could remove/reduce the use of Fantasy Grounds so that you and the players can enjoy learning about the game system and the scenario face-to-face - they'll learn more and so will you. Then, once you're more comfortable with the game system rules, the scenarios you are running and the gaming group you can see where FG can help you out and start to use that to aid your games, not drive them...

    Additionally - the comment regarding one player wanting more turn based role-playing. Don't do this - it will slow your game down and stops the flow. In a face-to-face game it is easy for the GM to notice if a player is not getting involved or feels they are a bit out of it - when you notice this simply bring them into the story "What are you doing?", "Do you agree with what the rest of the party is doing?", etc.. It's all part of the GM learning experience - don't let one or two players own the session, make sure you bring everyone around the table into the story. This can sometimes be hard for certain sections of a scenario as certain characters do come to the fore in specific situations - but having a player appear out of it for the whole session will need some addressing. Have a word with them outside of the game, find out their opinion and work with them to involve them more - it may be that the character they are playing is not right for them or not right for the campaign, it might be that they are looking for a bit more action, investigation, or something else; or it may be that they have an issue with the style of another players. It's difficult being a GM sometimes - you have to try to make sure that everyone is enjoying themselves, engaged and contributing to the storyline. This will take time - you to get comfortable in your GMing style, for the players to mesh, for you to understand what makes each player tick, etc.. But, GMing is also an incredibly rewarding experience - keep at it! :-)

    Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it. Though the big problem is that we're all programmers and learning a new interface is part of the fun, whether we're doing it f2f or online. It looks cool, provides a lot of the atmosphere and it's actually pretty easy to pick up. I mean, basically all the player needs to do is check the images, move his/her character around, select which monster they're attacking then roll their attack and damage. Not that complicated for them. And I've pretty much got everything with regards to the Savage Worlds ruleset down now. I do realize that pen and paper is an option and I know that the modules are no true replacement for the books. I have the books. I just love the Enhanced Library filters to find things quickly. And the fact that each of the players has to bring their laptop makes it much more like the old LAN games we used to play. And then there's the additional option of playing online when we can't all be in the same place.

    There are a few things that annoy the living hell out of me about Fantasy Worlds though and I've already started writing my own little programs to solve the issues because for some reason there's nothing free. Generating NPCs is a hassle and I'd much rather just have the option of automatically generating them and then fleshing them out. I'm generating them now with my own little program and importing them as PCs before moving them to personalities. Still a hassle but much faster than doing it the normal way.

    Secondly, why isn't there an easy way to export your full campaign for others to download and play. Something like that should be free. I'd happily share my campaigns after I've created them. I suppose you could just zip the full folder and upload it somewhere, pictures and everything included. But I haven't seen anyone do that. I think I'll do that when I finish my current version of "Escape from Innsmouth". Or would there be copy-right issues? I'm creating my own campaign of course but I'll be using a lot of detail from the Escape from Innsmouth book.

    Thirdly, why the hell does FG crash when you delete an image out of your images folder. Adding one is great since it's immediately added to the campaign on the fly. Deleting it shouldn't cause the program to crash.

    So yeah. We'll likely stick to FG even if we don't always play online.

    And to answer your questions: I've only played twice on 3.5 and that was years ago. So yes, I'm completely new to it.
    I took their character sheets this week and moved them into FG. They're going to have to revise their characters as for some reason they have a very low shooting skill and guns are the only weapons some of them have. Learning curve.
    Going out and buying dice and a battle map is probably not gonna happen considering what I just shelled out.

    Thanks for all the advice. I'll keep it in mind with the next session. Though my brain works in a funny way. When I get focused on a situation or an explanation my peripheral vision sort of fades away and I don't notice things. My wife has gotten really angry with me for this, ex. When we're watching TV and I don't answer her when she asks a question. Something I'll have to work on it seems but then again it makes me a good programmer as I can just sit with a problem for hours until I figure it out and nothing can distract me.
    Last edited by PyroHiroshi; September 28th, 2013 at 07:49.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Mgrancey View Post
    I have made use of Fantasy Grounds for running modules at conventions, but I currently don't run any F2F regularly. I have used FG as you did a couple of times though I set up the client on a TV rather than just a laptop, which worked alright for images and maps. Characters were run from paper as were dice rolls.

    If you've only just started GMing or are new to FG, don't worry too much. You'll learn and fall into your own style of GMing. As a general rule of thumb, write up your plot then look at it again to see how it can be screwed up. As far as over campaign plots, see if you can find Pixar's rules for making movies. I have the image but its a big long one. Doesn't necessarily apply 1:1 but they are good to keep in mind. If don't have a copy, take a look at the beginning of DnD 4e's intro to player types. It is pretty accurate and good to go over every so often to remind yourself.

    If you don't know, out right ask PC's what they want out of game so you know what to deliver.
    Thanks. Appreciate the advice.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by jshauber View Post
    Welcome to the world of GMing.

    I haven't done it for years and now that I have FG and am learning to use it I found myself DMing again.

    As Griogre pointed out the more you do up front the easier it is to run the game. First if you are using a pre-designed scenario/adventure just read thru it to get an idea of what they are trying to set up. Then read thru it again looking for things that don't make sense to you and try to either modify so it does or find a way to explain it if the players ask.

    Next, I always look at how to break down the adventure into stages. If you are in the village, what are locations players care about, who are the NPCs they interact with, what plot lines develop from here, etc. This allows you to have notes for just that area. Another stage might be the ruined mansion basement and secret passageways, why are they here, what were they used for, why are the things that are placed there here? Then have notes for that if players start asking, make them figure things out.

    As for handling player interaction, sometimes you have to just ask the quite ones what they are are thinking or what they want to do. I have been in many groups where one person takes control and just orders/tells other players what they are doing. Sometimes being the GM means you have to have that character incapacitated so that someone else has to step up. Don't be afraid to wield the big stick sometimes to get control of the game.

    For your penultimate battle remember you are in control. I am not sure if you share rolls with players or not, but I never do so if something seems to easy then I can always just say that the characters missed or failed to do enough damage with their roll. Having the final battle be anti-climactic is a real downer to an otherwise great session.

    The main thing to remember is that as GM you are the story teller, do what you have to in game to make things work. Learning how to do this without the players even knowing takes time and skill but once you can do it you will find that they enjoy the game more and so do you.
    I did share my rolls with the group in the first session but I'll definitely keep it in mind for future reference. I did find and activate the Dice Tower feature a while ago.
    Last edited by PyroHiroshi; September 28th, 2013 at 07:50.

  9. #9
    Thanks for your advice guys. I appreciate the feedback. I do realize that I've taken on a lot with this but we do enjoy using our laptops for gaming, tabletop or otherwise. I even set up an entire board of Clue/Cluedo on Roll20.net and the main reason I didn't stick with that virtual tabletop was because I wanted a downloadable client. I do realize that there's a high learning curve for both myself and the players but I think it's part of the fun for us. I just hope I don't scare them away. Thankfully they are my peers and we programmers all tend to have a lot of the same qualities. We love our laptops almost as much as we love our wives.

  10. #10
    Trenloe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PyroHiroshi View Post
    Secondly, why isn't there an easy way to export your full campaign for others to download and play. Something like that should be free.
    Yes there is. Type /export in the chat window and this brings up a window allowing you to export portions of your campaign into a module - this is how most commercial FG adventures are created.

    Quote Originally Posted by PyroHiroshi View Post
    I think I'll do that when I finish my current version of "Escape from Innsmouth". Or would there be copy-right issues?
    Yep, there certainly would be copyright issues. You can't distribute any material covered by copyright without breaking copyright laws if you don't have permission from the copyright holders. Everything in Escape from Innsmouth is covered by copyright so I'm afraid you can't distribute it without agreement from the Chaosium. Fantasy Grounds have a commercial agreement with Chaosium so perhaps you many be able to do a full conversion of Escape from Innsmouth and distribute it as a commercial product through Fantasy Grounds? Mote info on this here: http://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums...tures-rulesets


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