February 28, 2012

A New Campaign (or My Players are Super Patient)

My 4E 'The Children' campaign has come to a close (but I am still running my 4E Farstead sandbox campaign). After a hiatus due to an attempt to sell our house, and subsequent packing and unpacking, my enthusiasm was at a low point for the campaign. In addition, two of the players had dropped out during this time due to work related time issues.

I called everyone together and asked them what they wanted to do; continue the current campaign or move onto a new one. In the end they decided to start a new campaign, likely due to the fact two of the characters would be missing and it was a very story and character driven campaign. From there we had to decide what to run next.

Instead of leaving the topic of what system/genre to run next completely open, I presented my players with several options. One thing I have found is that if I am not invested and excited about a campaign it will die quickly. A few years ago I ran a Shadowrun campaign because that is what my players wanted to do. Personally, I love the Shadowrun system as a player, but hate it as a GM. Sure enough, the campaign ran into many of the problems I despise about the system as GM and it died soon thereafter.

Therefore, I made sure to present campaign concepts that I was personally interested in running. I gave them...

-4E Evil Drow Underdark campaign full of political intrigue.
-Super-heroes with my custom 4E rule set.
-TORG.
-Stargate with the SpaceMaster rule set.
-7th Sea (to be run by my wife).

In the end they decided to go with the super-hero campaign. I had been working on a 4E super-hero system for some time and they already knew 4E, so I told them that would be the system in use. With two weeks between games I had time to start the prep. I was going to run the Necessary Evil supers campaign for Savage Worlds but with my custom 4E rule set. And I discovered I still had a lot of work to do...too much.

In my 4E super-hero system I write up each power as a "class". And I only had 4 classes and 12 Background Templates done. Not even remotely enough to provide any sort of choices for the players during character generation. Unfortunately, it takes me about a week to write up a "class" with all of its powers, so there was simply not enough time to run a 4E super-hero game that would have allowed the players to create characters of their choice. So I changed systems.

I decided to go with a custom super-hero system for the Masterbook rule set. Masterbook is a "generic" system based on the old TORG system. It has always been my favorite game system of all time (and still is). I sent out some emails before the first night (which was billed as a character generation and sample fight night) detailing the change in game systems. They were all fine with the change.

On that first night they all showed up, including two new players, which brought the player size up to 6. And they made characters. All night long. Because it was a custom system for a rule set none of them was 100% familiar with (two of my players had played TORG over 10 years before) it was a slow process. And some of my custom work didn't exactly mesh well, so I had to do a lot of tweaking.

On the second night we all got together, I started with a sample combat with the characters they had mostly finished (some of the characters were not 100% finished at this point). This was to allow the players to see how the system and combat ran. The plan was to allow the players to make some alterations to their characters once they understood some of the mechanics better and to follow that up with the the start of the first adventure. The combat took most of the night and then they finished their characters, so we didn't get to start the first adventure.

And then I changed systems again. Seeing the characters they had made, especially some of the abuses the power-gamer had committed, I was not happy with the overall outcome of the system. My custom super-hero system was not up to the job of providing a good time. So I decided to simply use the Savage Worlds system as outlined in the core rule book, along with the Necessary Evil book. The system is lightweight and fast enough to handle the style of game play I wanted and I wouldn't have to convert the "monsters" from the Necessary Evil book into the rule set I was running. Despite my misgivings on the system itself, I think it will end up working out just fine.

My players have been super-patient with all of my flip-flopping. The next game night, when they were supposed to be starting the campaign with their previously made characters, they instead converted/created new characters using the new rule set. Fortunately, they are players who are there to game and have a good time and what system they use is of little matter to them. Next week we start with the first adventure as they managed to complete their characters in one night (except the power-gamer who "needs extra time" to build his character).

Should be some fun times ahead.


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