Where no DM has gone before

Sometimes I think that I like things when they are new and different.  In between game sessions, I think about all the other games that are out there that I would like to try.  When it comes to the actual game session, I have such a good time that I realize that the important thing is getting together and the system matters little.

We actually talked about this with the group last session.  One of the players had tried Pathfinder, and another had a look at Savage Worlds.  I mentioned wanting to do a one shot to demonstrate GURPS to the group.

That got me thinking about what I would run in GURPS if I get the chance for the group.  I first thought about a Zombie game in a modern setting.  Certainly, that would be easy in GURPS, but zombies are kind of over-used at this point, and the setting doesn’t really showcase much of what GURPS can do.

Then I had the idea of doing something with Star Trek.  I had watched the Enterprise show not too long ago, so that was still in my mind.  I wanted to do something other than the “bridge crew”, so I had the idea that after reviewing what the Enterprise has done, Star Fleet has some new ideas for the second NX class ship, Columbia.  They decided that maybe it’s not a good idea to have the entire bridge crew step off the ship to investigate all matters.

This helps with creating the GURPS characters because you don’t have to spend all those skill points on “Bridge” skills and you could focus on “Away team” skills.

It didn’t take me too long to come up with a decent away team.  There’s the leader, an lieutenant Operations and Communications officer, a junior Doctor, the (obvious) Vulcan science officer, a pilot for the shuttle the team uses, and the “red shirt”, a security officer.  That security officer would actually be pretty useful since he has the most combat skills.

I then thought about the “Episode” that we would run and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Introduction:

On board the NX-02 Columbia, Captain Hernandez sits comfortably in her quarters.

“Captain’s log, February 12, 2156.  We’re en-route to the Mitor system for a schedulede diplomatic mission.  I’m excited about -” she’s interrupted by a call over the intercom.

“Windsor to Hernandez, we’re picking up a distress call… you probably will want to hear this for yourself.”

Hernandez, “I’m on my way”.  A minute later, and Hernandez is on the bridge, standing next to her first officer, Commander Quentin Windsor.  “What is it Quentin?”

Windsor pushes a few buttons. “Listen to this.”

“This is Michael Fergus, captain of the Columbia.  Our systems have been overloaded and we are attempting an emergency landing on the 7th planet in this system.  Are coordinates are 127.689, mark 368.013, mark 731.067, in relation to Earth, in the Sol system. — MESSAGE REPEAT, SEQUENCE 20,972,803”

“Captain, according to my calculations, the beacon has been broadcasting for 19 years.  It’s coming from Veresel 7.  It’s on our Vulcan star charts, but they have never investigated it.”

“Bad timing for this.  Ready the away team and their shuttlecraft.  You go with them and investigate if there are any survivors.  We’ll swing back around after our mission and should be back within a week.  Think you can handle it?”

“Of course we can!  This is exactly the kind of mission we’re here for.  I’ll get the team together.”

Sandbox

Sandbox roleplaying is a type of game that has been around since the earliest days of the happy.  In briefly, the action of the game is directed by the players as they explore the campaign world.  The contrast to this would be an adventure path based game.  In this type of game, the scenario for the adventures is laid out from the start.  The players are expected to follow this path.  This type of game is also called a railroad, meaning that the players are just along for a ride that has already been pre-planned.

 

I think both types of games have their place and can be fun.  The most important element that I have found is the people that sit around the table.  If everyone comes to with the basic notion that everyone is there to have fun, then fun will be had.  Adventure paths are good for DM’s that don’t have a lot of time to prepare.  They can just read the part of the adventure that is expected to be covered, and then they are good to go for the session.

 

On the other hand, a sandbox can be a lot of work up front.  But when that work is done, the actual preparation for a session could be minimal.   I’ll talk about this in more detail in the future, but the basic idea is that a local region is created with many adventuring opportunities and an ecosystem that works on it’s own.  The players are then set loose, do what they want, and then the world reacts to them.  It can be a lot of fun if properly executed, and that’s what I hope to accomplish!

The Pathfinder Beginner Box

I wanted to post a small review of what you get with the Beginner Box.  This page will probably be used for reference for future posts.
Here’s a few pictures:

 

The inside materials.  You can see the “Pawns”, the Hero and Game Master handbooks, pregenerated characters, blank character sheets and the flip map.  More on that below.

 

The pawns.  They also come with plastic clips that hold them up on the board.  Very handy.  I have a large number of miniatures already, so these will probably be used just for back up.

 

Pregenerated characters.  Actually one part I’m not a fan of.  It’s a mix of a pregen and an explanation of how to make a character.  I think that combination makes it confusing for new players to just jump in to playing.

 

The plastic flip map.  Very nice.  Can be written on with dry or wet erase markers.  You can also see the included dice.

 

The reverse of the flip map.  Very handy to have the blank side!  Though, I’m not sure why it’s colored.  I think either white or a lighter color would be easier to use.

Why not D&D next?

I’ve played a bit of the D&D next / 5e playtest.  I tried the first packet that came out publicly and played it for three solid sessions, exploring much of the Caves of Chaos.  From what I saw of it, I think it was a good start, but it’s still far away from being a real playable game.  The balance, between characters and between PC’s and monsters, was far out of whack.  That means that creating and choosing a challenge for players would be difficult.

 

I did consider playing D&D Next for my next campaign, even in playtest mode.  I think conversion from the Pathfinder Beginner Box to D&D Next would be relatively simple in the future – especially if I keep only the basic races and classes, so I believe there is that option for the future.

 

I am hopeful for D&D Next.  I’m intrigued by the modularity promised by the system, so a Basic/Beginner Box version should be easy to come by.  I’ll keep my eyes open!

How did I get to here?

A little bit of personal history:

I have been primarily a 4th Edition D&D player.  I pretty much skipped 3rd edition and before that I had a bit of experience with 1st and 2nd editions.
I played 4th Edition when it first came out and had a great time.  I had a great DM who put a lot of time in to the campaign and developing a fun sandbox for us to play in.

For about a year now I have been DM’ing 4th edition.  I started with the Dark Sun campaign setting.  I had an interest in exploring the world with my group, but found that 4th edition did not fit the “feel” that I had expected for Dark Sun.  We tried to house rule around this (namely using the limited magic items rules), but I felt that the 4th edition rules just didn’t fit the setting.  Characters were powerful and creating a challenging encounter was, in a word, challenging!  It was hard to create the deadly feel that I think the setting needs.
From the Dark Sun campaign, we have moved on to the Zeitgeist adventure path from Enworld.  I think that these adventures and 4th edition fit perfectly.  They are high adventure and action packed, with an interesting backdrop and characters.  At this point, we are about to start the 3rd adventure of the series.  I am looking forward to it, and enjoy running these games.  I am writing this blog and working on a new campaign in the background.  In a month we will probably be done with that adventure, and then on to the 4th.  So in about 2 months, I hope to be ready and introduce this to my group.

Welcome!

Here I go again!

What’s this blog about?  Well, I am planning on starting up a new RPG campaign.  A few key points: It’s going to be Pathfinder, it’s going to be a “sandbox” and it’s going to an E6 campaign based on the beginner box.

I will go in to more detail about each of these points in future posts.  For now, let me say that I’ve played 4th edition D&D since it came out and have DM’ed it for over a year now.  I like the system, but I would like to try something else now.  Something simpler and something different.  I think that Pathfinder fits the bill – especially how I intend to use it.

Stay tuned for more!