Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Setting up your own Tabletop RPG: Getting the game to start

To go alongside my older post, I think today especially highlights a few points to get out on this.

Last time I covered points to planning on making a game. This time we'll be figuring out how to use these materials on getting a game started. Next tiime, we'll get into keeping it going. It's harder then it sounds and this is probably the busiest stage, and it gets into my most favorite the single worst part of games as a major subject, so lets get into it and start with this horrible, horrible subject;

Do note, none of these steps necessarily come in any single order, they should be referred to roughly simultaneously.

Also known as Children, Monsters, Zubats. If it weren't for these things games would be perfect if only it weren't for these things. I suppose since my own players read this blog I'm not referring to anyone specific and they should take no offense, I'm only pointing out how they are as a collective whole a unified group of greedy self centered psychic plot avoiding beasts born solely to unmake one's magnum opus. In the years to come I'll probably rant about them without end, in more detailed ways, so don't worry, my views aren't new or secret.

Unfortunately, until we get to the stages before AI and/or Aliens supplants humanity as the dominant force on the planet and kill us all, you need a few to run a game. Typically between 3 to 5. Most games expect around 4 but two a passable minimum. I've had little luck playing with over 5 but multitasking was never my thing.

Recruiting them may or may not be a problem. The most reliable pool is your friends. They should be involved in just picking the game. These can be real life friends for real games, or online ones for the online games. Don't forget to offer if they have any friends who would be interested, you'd be fine with speaking with them too. Don't worry about collusion, your players were conspiring to murder you before before they burst from their hosts chest.

For this same reason, its never a bad thing to recruit from online people none of you know, sometimes. Players are all terrible, you'll either find one no better then alternatives, or so spectacularly bad it could be interesting. If you've ever played a Massively Multiplayer Online game, you know the horrors of Pick Up Groups and I can see why you'd be worried about this, but just like sometimes you find a group that's competent and wind up becoming a regular group or friends, you'll find players that could be considered something close to friends this way. Its how I've got my regular group now. There are many RPG sites out there, with forums. I'll link none, regular ones google may not like are amoung them, but the best place to look if you have something in mind already is the forums for whichever game you're looking at playing, they'll often have recruitment forums. List times, places (using IRC or dedicated game programs like Maptools, or if you're in popular places like america, I suppose meeting up in real life, like always, I'd not do this personally, and don't recommend it.) The endless amounts of nerd conventions could also work, as they often have tabletop game areas.

Once your players are agreed on a time and place you'll meet up for 2-4 hours every week or two, a game you'll play, congratulations, you've stumbled into hell, and are truly on their way.

  • Make the players do their job
Having decided on what you'll go for, its time to make sure the players are at least familiar with the system we'll be using, and have them create characters. They'll probably already be lost so make sure you explain things. If you have house rules or use some less standard rule from what's in the books, tell them. Twice. Then write it down and tell it to them that way. Eventually, players will start coming up with things. Try to encourage they come up with interesting ideas.

A very important thing is to avoid characters "being made in a vacuum", a term meaning they're made by the players with no communication between each other. I find at least getting them in contact occasionally. Set a time that the game is going to start and before that time they can meet up to talk. Encourage them to both discuss with each other so they wind up a varied lot, able to cover each others weaknesses and remain unique and individual, and with you, to come up with motivation, side reasons for being involved and personal motivation.

  • Plan the exacts of the game you want:
While last time I highly praised the fact that  picking your system has real demand for practice, this is the counter point of that and I must stress that every single specific game does. If this is your very first time running a game, trying more then a very simple set up for your very first attempt, make something simple. Every game out there I've seen has a in book produced starter scenario, and that's a good way to start. Often these are only a room or two big stopping a bank robbery, killing the goblins or de-haunting a house, contain completely average enemies and are hard to fail. That's a good thing. Start small. Plan a plot to fit around these beginning things and only very slowly start to introduce varriety in the opening sessions. Make sure you don't get in over your head. Though don't be afraid to experiment. if an encounter seems just a tad too strong, present it with the players having an ambush like ambushing it, or having an easier way to escape or stop fighting. Let your influence come as you beecome not just sure of what you should be doing, but of what you are doing.

This is all strictly limited to mechanics, though. In plot? Purely the reasoning behind things, what people say, what political powers are being aided and destroyed, go nuts. Make it as developed as you feel.

I've mentioned in the past I think the end of games is the highest priority but for your very first game, it may be better to fudge it and get a feel. Try and consider at least ways you consider the directions it'll likely head for though as you try to come up with the path to that point.

For this same reason, a major theme is to warn the players. It's fine to expect an amount of violence, risk of death and so on. But if you have a game that's gonna have amounts of the questionable things, mainly encouraging they get violent with each other or sex, it's important to warn them. If you know these people it'll be easy enough to predict, but better safe then sure.

  • Finally, try running the game:
The biggest, toughest step, probably. Make sure that as many of the players are going to be there, as will you. A lot will go wrong, but don't let it get to you. Tiny mistakes can be easily forgiven, especially if you can fix it. The wisest move will be something short sweet and simple, one or two tiny little adventures. But, as you get experience, or if you're brave enough, it'll be time for learning how to KEEP a game going, for the next time in this series of posts.

Again, I'm of fairly limited experience, but I hope this was helpful information. I once again I'm sure this is not nearly complete. Any suggestions people have, or comments or further questions, I hugely recommend people comment to do such.


  1. whow man this is really----- unspoken---- nice blog + following

  2. nice nice. keep them coming dude!
    also, supporting so support back please~

  3. This post gave me a bit of a flash back to when I tried to make my own games. They never progressed even slightly.

  4. They're always a hard thing to set up. So muhc work for something kinda fragile.