Thursday, April 23, 2015

[Rob's RPG Rambles] Lessons Learned From Running Firefly

The Firefly campaign is finally over, so I thought it was time to look back and think about what I've learned as a GM over the past seven months of running the game.

Ask for Roses and Thorns
The advice in the Firefly RPG for getting feedback from players at the end of each session was really valuable. I've always asked my players for feedback after sessions, but usually the most response was 'it was good' or 'it went well'. Structuring the end-of-session feedback in the form of roses and thorns pushes people to be more specific about what they thought was good and what (if anything) could use some improvement. A lot of the other lessons listed below came from feedback given by players during the campaign as a result of my using the roses and thorns method.

Learn When To Roll and When Not To
Something I seem to have a habit of doing is handwaving certain actions where I should really call for a roll to resolve them. But at times I also do the opposite and ask for rolls to resolve things that, in hindsight, probably weren't important enough to warrant it. So I need to get better at recognising when to handwave situations and when to call for rolls to resolve them.

Describe Things Better
I have never been terribly good at describing characters or locations, either as a GM or as a writer. A thorn that came up more than once in this campaign was that my descriptions were occasionally bland and/or vague. It wasn't every time, but I definitely need to put a bit more thought during prep to writing descriptions of scenes and NPCs in order to make things clearer and add more flavour to my sessions as a whole.

Rein the Players When They Get Rowdy
When things really heat up, players can get excitable and start talking all at once. I need to get better at reining my group in when this happens, because it's happened several times during this campaign and has been commented on a couple of times.

Handle Character Arcs Better
I tried to give each player's character their own spotlight 'episode', but I think a lot of the campaign's focus ended up being on the captain and the ship's resident gunslinger. One of the other players got a half-decent spotlight episode when she returned for one session, but with the other two I kinda mushed their spotlight episodes into one, and even then they were more like side-stories in a plot-focused episode. Part of it was bad character arc planning on my part, the other part was that I struggled to come up with character arcs for the other three players based on the information they'd given me about their characters. I need to get better at identifying character arcs for PCs early on in a campaign, so that I'm not shoehorning stuff in during the latter half.

Roleplay NPCs More
One or two times it was mentioned that the players would have liked to get some more roleplay interaction with the characters. On the plus side, my players were interested enough in the NPCs to actually want to roleplay with them, so I must have done something right when I did roleplay them. I'll need to pay better attention to interest levels during NPC conversations in future and stay in-character as long as the players themselves seem interested in continuing.

Stop Giving Players Hints
Another GM I know has a terrible habit of giving away what he's got planned before it happens in-game. I have the same problem to a certain extent, but something I'm much worse at is giving players hints about what they could do in some situations. That might not be a bad thing if the players are really stuck (and maybe I'd get them to roll the equivalent of a CoC Idea roll at that point), but otherwise I should just butt out and let them figure it out themselves. Otherwise, I'm getting pretty close to railroading territory. If there's one thing I hate as a player, it's being railroaded, so that's the last thing I want to do to my own players as a GM.

Try and Get Quieter Players Involved
I think I got better about this as the campaign went on, but in earlier sessions the less confident or sociable players wound up not having much to do. Over time though, I got better at calling on them and asking what their characters were doing, even if they weren't part of the main action. I need to be more careful about this when starting future campaigns with new players; try to encourage them to get more involved in events, and help them figure out some way their character can be doing something even if their skillset doesn't seem particularly useful under the circumstances.

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