Asking for Advice Abound

Ducky4u2

Registered User
Validated User
Hello!

So I was directed here, and I wanted to get some advice. I have been playing RPGs for 20+ years, but have been running pregens the entire time. My players have been encouraging me to try my hand at creating my own content, though I think they vastly overestimate my abilities. I love them though, so I thought I would give it a try. What I find is I am getting stuck on where to start and how to develop the ideas into the mechanics of the game. I can run a story, but get lost when developing out the ideas an applying the mechanics. It is a form of creativity I struggle with. So, I thought I would reach out to others. I have four ideas currently running through my head, with the possibility of three systems. I have done some research into them, but the more I do the more lost I become. What I am looking for is:

  • Advice on the system in question (Two of them I have played, but never ran, so pitfalls to avoid, concepts to keep in mind, advice on maintaining the pace, etc.).
  • Advice on how to go about developing the mechanics of the world (I will have some more specific questions with each idea).
  • Advice on creating encounters, including battle, puzzle, and social (This is in general, creative ways to make the experience fun for the players, I will provide an example from a great GM I played with).
I am greatly appreciative of any and all advice. Also, any questions for clarity on my end are welcome, I may not explain something correctly the first time, so please ask. So, without further ado, on with the ideas:

  1. The Ozius Loop - Dungeons and Dragons 5th Ed: This is probably my most developed idea. Infant gods of law and chaos are fighting over their domains in the world, not unlike children fighting over a toy. So, a diety of balance decides to make them a deal. Removing from time and space part of the world, the diety set it to loop 13 times, from birth to destruction. At the end of each incarnation, the world is weighed in terms of order and chaos. Whichever side wins the most outcomes, the world is returned to where it comes from with that diety reaching adulthood as the chief god of the domain. Each incarnation lasts generations, with additional temporary gods being created by the people, but certain souls are marked (The player characters) to influence and usher in the final destruction of that particular venture.
    1. Concepts and Ideas: Starting in the middle of things, so a few incarnations have already happened, and because of that, there are several other features to the world. First, the "ancient artifacts and forgotten dungeons" of the world are in fact remnants of the previous world and are in a sense alien in origin and use. Second, some of those remnant are actually of previously believed in gods, and form the taboo cults of the world. Finally, echoes of the heroes choices sometimes become evident, hinting at certain moments of hard expectation.
    2. Concepts I am Struggling With: Creating encounters and the mechanics behind them. Never really had to create them from scratch, just tweak them. Also, managing storylines and NPCs, as in organizing it (I am horribly disorganized on my own). Creating magical items, not opposed to those presented in the DMG, but would like to see if there are some tools you all know of, or philosophies you hold about creating magical items tailored to the characters.
  2. Sailing the Space Between Stars - Fate Core: This springs from a board game we have been playing involving space exploration. We sort of developed our own character personalities just through play, and I thought it would be fun to run some sessions filling in the in-between moments. Essentially, they are the crew of the Crystal Fox, which entered a whole new star system, and they are exploring/looking to settle a new world, complete with tribulations and obstacles. I chose Fate Core because being a settingless system I could adapt it to the particular flavor the group has created.
    1. Concepts and Ideas: Of course, the wonder of exploration, and encountering peaceful and not so peaceful communities in a not so space opera setting. Settling a new world, and all the issues dealing with that, including the fact the world, which previously seemed uninhabited, is simply inhabited in a different way.
    2. Concepts I am Struggling With: Fate Core seems easy enough to adapt, I just have never run the system before, so pacing management, philosophies behind creating characters, enemies, and storyline mechanics, experience and character growth, Fate Chip management, etc.
  3. The Atlas Society - Fate Core OR Hollow Earth Expedition: This is a Pulp Adventure setting. The world is still vastly unexplored in 1935, and an enigmatic member of the famed Atlas Society, Dr. Conrad Greyjoy, has put out a call for those intrepid adventurers seeking one final journey for himself into the unknown. This is more of an episodic sort of game, whos some loose arcs, but mostly connecting some classic adventure tropes with exploration. Again, did some research and have been reading the Spirit of the Century Fate core setting, and like it, but there is also Hollow Earth.
    1. Concepts and Ideas: Classic stories such as El Dorado, Shangri La, The Hollow Earth, Atlantis, and even perhaps some classic science-defying monsters (The Mummy, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein's Monster, etc.). High in exploration, but also threats from cult groups and the like.
    2. Concepts I am Struggling With: It is the same as above if I am using Fate Core. Hollow Earth only because it seemed made for the setting, but I have never played nor ran it, so I am heavily leaning towards Fate Core.
  4. EvolutioCon - Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Ed: Static Shock meets X-Men, an unknown event at the largest convention of the year leads to a widespread leap in evolutionary abilities, creating the first superhumans. The world doesn't know how to react, and while there are some gifted with great power, there was also other monstrosities created. Now, the characters find themselves as some of the few taking on the roles they have wished for their entire lives, but the danger is also now very real as well.
    1. Concepts and Ideas: The crazy new world of superheroes. Both ridiculous and terrifying villains. Managing real life and the need to help. The desire for fame and the discipline to remain a force of good.
    2. Concepts I am struggling with: Hero management, quickly creating villains and encounters. Getting that "Comic book" feel while still having mechanics to keep it reasonable. I have played in a few M&M games and sadly they almost always end up getting so outlandish it is impossible to control. Also, leveling up and awarding XP.
The Encounters Dilemma: I had a GM I played with who was brilliant at making encounters memorable and still is. He made a DND encounter that was hilarious because it reversed AC, so people were intentionally falling prone to be easier to hit which meant a miss. I guess I want to make it memorable for them, and I doubt my ability to mechanically do that.

Anyway, I think that is everything up in my head. Thank you all, it is Very much appreciated. You are wonderful.

Ducky4u2
 

Shattercrack

Great Sage Equal of Heaven
Validated User
For my first campaign like this I'd consider what system would be easiest to run and generate content for the campaign world with? Particularly good, solid encounters? Assuming you want to write all original stories, I'd suggest Fate Core (particularly if you or group of have experience with). I found I needed Hero Lab to make M&M worthwhile (as I could print off templates), and D&D5 requires picking monsters and tactics. As these systems can be fiddly to manage, I'd go for something streamlined and simple. From your list, I'd suggest Fate Core.

Adversaries in Fate Core could be easy to model. Encounters would just require fun with aspects, which just words or phrases you right down that can influence the scene.

Why not The Ozius Loop - your favourite of these ideas - in Fate Core? Monsters and villains can be statted out more easily than D&D and there's more reason to improvise. If you have trouble organising your notes and encounters, I've been using World Anvil as a way to keep track of concepts, villains and monsters.
 

csyphrett

Registered User
Validated User
I agree with Shattercrack. The first game you set up should be in a system that you are familiar with and know how to consult if you need to do that.

Secondly ask your players which campaign they want to play. That will cut down a lot there. There's no point in building a space campaign when they want to go dungeoneering. Then you can put the other ideas on the shelf and narrow your focus on what you need.

Then get the characters together, point out things you don't want to deal with because of the complexity in the build, any house rule, any background they might want to include.

Settle with them how you want them to get together.

The hardest and easiest thing to do next is setting up your campaign setting. You're going to need a base of operations, some npcs, and a primary goal for the heroes and the villains. Don't be afraid to improvise because at some point you're going to have to do it unless your campaign is on rails.

When you have what you think is a basic conflict and start, take notes. Remember the villain is going to want to get his goal while the heroes try to stop him. Write down anything important as you go.

An example is barry is fighter. meets local cleric, shondra. gifts money to be healed when hurt, or even shorter B+S=preferred treatment.

Also after you end a session write down what you think the villain will do for the next session, and things that the heroes have to overcome if they run into them.

I hope this is okay for you to use. I tend to improvise a lot which means all my plans depend on what the heroes do.
CES
 

Sage Genesis

Two
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I say this as someone who's not a fan of D&D 5e: go with your first idea and play D&D 5e.

As it's your most developed idea, it should be easiest to implement. The game also has a big monster book which in my experience really, really helps when it comes to prep work. Nothing quite like having to stat out challenges by yourself over and over again to turn a fun hobby into a chore. It's one of the great strengths of D&D.

As for how to create fun challenges, start simple. There's an encounter building system in the DMG, start by using that and start out conservatively until you get a better feel for the system and the capabilities of the party. I can recommend a thread I made a few years ago, Code Red Monsters. This lists monsters which can be surprisingly dangerous, and should be handled with some care. I suggest avoiding such monsters for a while.

The real crazy off-the-chain stuff can come later. Learn to walk before you try to run.
 

Ducky4u2

Registered User
Validated User
Hey all!

Sorry for the delayed response. I work as a teacher and I have a second job so sometimes my free time is limited. Thank you for all the advice, I really appreciate it. I got the players together and talked through the ideas, and they seemed to prefer The Ozius Loop. However, I ran into a hitch when I asked them what they would like to see in the game. They unanimously said,

"Whatever you want, it's your world."

How do I get them to give feedback? I agree they should have an investment, and I want them to feel like they have some say in the game, but when I tried to explain I was just looking for some feedback so I could make a game they want to play, they said they just wanted me to run because they are excited I am making my own thing. Now, I am flattered by their trust, and I love their willingness to let me just go with it, but I guess this means I need to come up with the starting point. I have a general idea, but maybe you all would be able to give me feedback:

The party members are coming from a series of training houses to man what is called "The Border", which is a magical barrier created to section off a nation that tried to invade and conquer all the other nations. This nation was also responsible for twisting and mutating creatures into monstrosities. The Border isn't perfect, and every now and then gaps form, and people had to stand watch to make sure nothing came through. For that reason, training houses were built, offering free training for those who were accepted, with the addendum they serve a mandatory time manning the outposts along The Border. After that time, they are free to go and seek their fortunes elsewhere as every nation has its own issues too.

I was thinking the party was sent to an outpost, where they continue their training and man the border, including patrols, gaps, mysteries of the local area, and maybe a forgotten ruin, before the next big arc starts. Do you think that is too much? too little?
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
First advice on building a campaign world; Start Small! Decide where the characters' home base is, detail that. Detail a couple fo possible adventures early, stat up some major NPCs and a couple of creature lairs. Most of the word can be left in very broad strokes. As you get an idea of where the players want to head you can detail those parts of the world. There is no need to worry about detailing North and South America if the players want to stay in Africa. An area the size of the British Isles may to seem very big, but it can contain years worth of adventures.

An outpost at the Border sounds like a great start. Several possible adventures there. Forgotten ruins, strange creatures leaking through the Border, patrols, politics with NPCs at the outpost and nearby towns. Exploring these will give you time to build the next arc.

As for adventures, I steal ruthlessly. I did an adaptation of Fritz Leiber's "The Howling Tower" that went over well with my gang. One of them had read the story before but didn't recognize it until well into it. Movies, TV shows, books, fiction and non-fiction can provide great inspiration. The Matese Falcon is a classic hunt for a McGuffin. The Road to Ubar or Lost City of Z give ideas for searching for lost cities. King Solomon's Mines is a great adventure.

The Beyond the Wall sourcebook "Further Afield" has a fun, interactive system for building a campaign setting. With guided prompts players take it in turns to add locations to the campaign map that their characters know something about, either from rumors or visiting them. Step two is for other players to add a new piece of information about the location. The GM finally, in secret, determines how accurate the information provided by the players is. It gives a sense of buy in for the players, assures locations that think are interesting, and takes some of the work of the gM's shoulders.
 

ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
You could always solicit some feedback from them by asking them questions built into their character concepts. "What would you like to see in the game?" might be too broad a question, but there are others. For example, for a game that starts with PCs all members of an organization or from a town, you could ask each player something like "Describe one NPC in the organization/town/outpost that you like. Why do you like them? Now describe one NPC that you dislike. Why do you dislike them?" This can give you some hints about the sort of relationships and rivalries the players find interesting. Plus, they're helping you stock your game with NPCs -- the cute quartermaster's assistant, the martinet lieutenant, and so on.
 

Kagejin

Registered User
Validated User
Sometimes, getting players to provide feedback can be like proverbially pulling teeth.

I've found the best way to get player feedback is to ask for their preference among limited options. Broad, general questions such as "what kind of game are you interested in?" are met by chirping crickets, or "Whatever you want to run." But more narrow questions such as "Out of these three options, which do you prefer?" or asking my players to list them in order of preference, will get me responses, and feedback.

The same comes with game play, I've found. Pure, open world exploration leaves one of my groups paralyzed by indecision, but if I dangle some obvious choices in front of them, they'll pick and choose just fine.

Of course, choice paralysis is a thing IRL also, and the usual treatment is to narrow down the options.

So, frame your questions in terms of a handful of options, and narrow down to the specific information you're looking for.
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
"Describe a location in town" can also be a helpful prompt. The location can be anything. A pub or tavern, the horse stables, the creepy ld house that is reputed to be haunted, the fishing hole on the river.

Little things to make the world seem a bit more real and familiar to them. Sometimes they also provide ideas for adventure seeds.
 

soltakss

Simon Phipp - RQ Fogey
Validated User
So I was directed here, and I wanted to get some advice. I have been playing RPGs for 20+ years, but have been running pregens the entire time. My players have been encouraging me to try my hand at creating my own content, though I think they vastly overestimate my abilities. I love them though, so I thought I would give it a try. What I find is I am getting stuck on where to start and how to develop the ideas into the mechanics of the game. I can run a story, but get lost when developing out the ideas an applying the mechanics. It is a form of creativity I struggle with. So, I thought I would reach out to others. I have four ideas currently running through my head, with the possibility of three systems. I have done some research into them, but the more I do the more lost I become.
Well, the good news is that your Players trust you enough as a GM to think that you can come up with a setting that they will enjoy. That is a very good start.

Advice on the system in question (Two of them I have played, but never ran, so pitfalls to avoid, concepts to keep in mind, advice on maintaining the pace, etc.).
I have zero knowledge of FATE and haven't played D&D in years, but I am sure other people will weigh in on the system side.

However, pick something you know and are comfortable with, as it makes things so much easier.

Advice on how to go about developing the mechanics of the world (I will have some more specific questions with each idea).
I would really not care about the mechanics of the world.

All you need to know is a general feel of the world, more information about the area the PCs start in, even more information about the town/suburb/whatever they start in and that is it. Some PCs will hang around where they start and never go elsewhere, others will hop on board a starship at the first opportunity and leave your lovingly crafted home area behind.

Find out during character generation what the PCs want to do, where they want to go and build from that. Maybe the first few scenarios will give you an idea.

What kind of world mechanics are you concerned about? That might help with the advice that we can give.

Advice on creating encounters, including battle, puzzle, and social (This is in general, creative ways to make the experience fun for the players, I will provide an example from a great GM I played with).
You already know your Players and know what they like and don't like, which is a start. Some might love puzzle solving, some might find it a bore. Some might love exploration, others might find it tedious. Learn what your group likes and tailor scenarios to that. Some GMs like to "challenge" groups, bu taking them out of their comfort zones and making them play in scenarios that they really don't like, but this has the risk of alienating Players and GMs, as neither could have fun. Don't get me wrong, it sometimes works, but usually doesn't.

The Encounters Dilemma: I had a GM I played with who was brilliant at making encounters memorable and still is. He made a DND encounter that was hilarious because it reversed AC, so people were intentionally falling prone to be easier to hit which meant a miss. I guess I want to make it memorable for them, and I doubt my ability to mechanically do that.
First rule of being a GM - Don't compare yourself to other GMs.

I have run things that I thought didn't go well, but some Players thought were fantastic. I have also prepared scenarios that I thought would be a blast, but which didn't work well at all.
 
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