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Stepping Out from the Shadows: Making a New Game Stand Out
Posted By Guest Author On April 3, 2012 @ 1:00 am In GMing Advice | 5 Comments
Today’s guest article was written by reader Andrew Bell. He’s about to swap places with the GM of a long-running successful campaign, and he’s got some excellent ideas to share about making sure his game is every bit as good — but different, too. Thanks, Andrew!
In a few short weeks, the game in which I currently play is coming to an end after seven years. Loose threads are being tied up, plots are coming to fruition, and the universe needs saving thrice over. Seven years of epic battles and subtle intrigue are behind us. Seven years! How can our next game match that? How can any GM step into that breach without being swamped by the past? Who would be foolish enough to volunteer for such a thankless task?
Look, wisdom was my dump stat, okay?
The transition from one campaign to another is always going to be jarring, but when you are following a long-running, particularly successful campaign then it is that much harder to escape from the previous game’s shadow. What I’m going to talk about here are the ideas I’m hoping to use to make my campaign, Interregnum, stand out. They break down into three simple groups: similarities, differences, and additions.
If you’re picking up the reins after a long-running game -– or you were the long-running GM but are now starting over with a new game –- chances are there was something right about that game. Take the time to watch the GM at work in the closing stages and, perhaps more importantly, watch your fellow players too. (Obviously don’t get so involved in this that you TPK the party one session before the end of the campaign!) Know thy players and cater to their tastes. For me this means:
Once you’ve worked out what’s important to your group, take everything else about the current campaign and think about how to do the opposite! Make sure you play to your strengths here. There’s no point in doing something you’re no good at just to be different, but there’s still a lot of room to manoeuvre here. For example, looking again at Interregnum, I’m going to be changing:
Lastly, season well with whatever floats your boat (now there’s a mixed metaphor). Is there something you’ve never done in your current campaign but always fancied doing? Now’s the time! That amazing set-piece from the latest blockbuster? Throw it in! It’s your campaign, don’t be afraid to try new things. If they don’t work, you can always blame the previous game for casting a long shadow. For me, this is going to be:
I’m in the situation where I’m taking over from a long-running game, but the ideas I’m suggesting can apply to any situation where you’ve got, or had, an established game. Running a backup game that you don’t want to be overshadowed by the main game, but don’t want to steal its thunder either? Flip the combat/social balance. Campaign crashed and burned? Rescue what worked and alter the rest.
Making a new campaign feel different might seem intimidating, but it’s not hard to do. Just remember to think “What do I need to keep, what can I flip, and what extras will I have?” Similarities, differences, and additions. Simple!
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