Getting Closer!

Posted: 27th August 2008 by Diamond Sutra in Uncategorized

GenCon came and went, and was a blur of constant action.  I ran two events of Tenra Bansho, one scheduled ( http://picasaweb.google.com/ziggurat/GenCon2008/photo#5236825831857653394 ) and one unscheduled.

These sessions convinced me that I needed to add a little more information to the game, for the GMs who will be running it for their groups.

Over running the game over 20 times, I’ve realized that I’ve relied on a lot of knowledge and experience built up from running one session after another: The best way to introduce the setting. The best way to introduce the players to the rules. Good ways to set up Zero-Act scenes. How to run the first combat. How to help ease the players into the Fate/Kiai/Karma rules without inundating them all at once.

What I’ve really hated in RPGs is that thing where you play a game for the first time, maybe with a GM really familiar with the game, or even the author: They run the game in a certain way, and you have an awesome time. You buy the game, read it to run with your gaming group… only to discover that all those tips and tricks that the GM was using were things that they made up themselves: None of that advice is in the actual game book itself.

In TBZ, the first supplement has a full “replay”, a real game session codified and written up like a screenplay, so you can follow exactly what happened and when, how play happens and the like. These are great in Japanese RPGs, because through them you can see how the rules work in actual play.

Since we won’t have the space in the core book to post a complete beginning-to-end replay, I’ve decided to go ahead and codify a “first game session of Tenra” into its own section. Basically, it’s a small handbook for the GM to read, and prepare for, their first session. It will describe a good methodology for breaking new players into the game: Matter-of-fact advice for running scenes, for introducing rules (and in what order, and what rules to ignore at first, etc). I’ve already written about 70% of it, and the tone is conversational enough that blocks of it (explaining to people how the rules work, and why) can simply be read out loud, almost as if it were “boxed text” in a module. We’ll see if it’s helpful, or if it’s dead weight. In any case, if someone has a problem understanding a rule or its purpose, they could look at this section to see how it should be introduced. This might shed light on those rules.

Also, in the process of writing this section, I was able to find a great spot to fold in a lot of the GM advice found in the Tenra Bansho supplement. I was hoping to do this anyway, but it was like finding a nice round hole to fit a peg into. So I’m hoping that no one will suffer through the text like some of us did, asking ourselves in the process:

“Why the heck do we roll to see what our characters think about other characters? Don’t we have full control over our own character’s feelings?”

“Why does the karma track go up to 108? Why not 100?”

“What is the point of raising my character’s fates or creating new fates? And why are we free to raise fates in between acts as much as we want, without having to pay any cost?”

“Fates can totally be min-maxed!  …is this a bad thing?”
etc. A lot of us suffered through trying to find out the purpose behind those rules: Some parts are explained in the designer’s notes in the game text. Other parts (the emotion matrix) are explained thoroughly in the supplement’s text. Yet others aren’t explained at all, hoping that the player will simply “get it” through play. We’re going to put enough information into the game so that there’s no confusion over how to use a rule, or why it exists.

Oh, and by Rule, I’m talking about the more RPG-esoteric stuff: Character’s beliefs and goals (“Fates”), ‘dark side’-points (“Karma”), influence over the game mechanics (“Kiai”), How PCs feel at first about other PCs and major NPCs (“Emotion Matrix”), etc.

We’re hoping that in doing so, we’re imporving upon the original text. Making it even easier to jump into play with fewer bumps!

-Andy