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New to the game. Any tips for running a GURPS PD campaign?
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Mr_Tricorder
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Joined: 05 Aug 2011
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:03 am    Post subject: New to the game. Any tips for running a GURPS PD campaign? Reply with quote

Hello, I just started collecting books and materials for the GURPS version of Prime Directive and I think I have enough gamer friends who like TOS and Trek in general enough to be willing to start up a game. I've played some D&D but never as the DM, and I'm currently playing Traveller (with the previously mentioned group of gamer friends) and am loving it. That's pretty much the extent of my RP experience though and I've never actually run an adventure, let alone a campaign, but I'm getting really serious about wanting to give this game a try.

I'm just starting to familiarize myself with GURPS and getting my head wrapped around the mechanics, and I've downloaded most of the aid materials available on the website and printed some out to organize in a binder for easy reference (along with a free copy of GURPS Lite).

Also, I ordered the 1st edition PD book and Uprising adventure since they were so inexpensive and managed to snag the Franz Joseph Star Fleet Technical Manual for next to nothing on Amazon. Hopefully I can use them as additional reference material and inspiration for coming up with adventures.

I like to think I'm off to a good start, but I know I'm a newbie and would welcome any advice anyone has to offer. Is anyone willing to share some "tricks of the trade"? What are some potential situations and problems I should look out for? Lastly, did I make a severe blunder by choosing to go with the GURPS version instead of D20 Modern even though everyone in the group is familiar with D&D and only one person has ever played GURPS before?

I doubt my group will have trouble adjusting though. GURPS seemed to be the more economical solution and I've heard it does a better job of capturing that "Star Trek" feel (and yes, I know it's "Star Fleet" and technically not "Star Trek", but you know what I mean).
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leathernsteel
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Joined: 07 Jun 2011
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a bit of experience as a D&D DM, although, I'm an absolute noob when it comes to the SFU. As far as running the game, Pretend that you know all the rules, but accept the input and vibe of your gaming group. After all, it's the gaming group that makes a good game, not the DM(Dungeon Master). In my opinion, the SFU is a much richer environment to run a game in than the D&D world, so you have that going for you. Gurps vs D20 doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Use your own intuition to figure out what your group has the most fun with. As DM, you will control secretly the really important die rolls, (which you will have to lie about at times to make sure the story maintains it's integrity and everyone has fun).KEEP THE STORY as the main focus, and exert effort into playing as the NPC's(non playing characters) and make them interesting. Reward your group for whatever effort you see them making and "punish" them for the lack there off. Ambient music also makes a big difference in my experience. I hope these tips help you. I know that one day I will be FORCED to run a prime directive campaign.
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Mr_Tricorder
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice.

The more I think about it, the more I really want to go with GURPS instead of D20 since it will start everyone out (including me) on fairly even footing instead of running a game where I'm not as familiar with the system as my D&D-buff friends. You're right though, it really doesn't matter as long as I can figure out how to keep things fun and interesting.

I haven't come anywhere close to deciding on any kind of specifics for the campaign, but I'm playing around with a few ideas. The two that seem most appealing to me right now are:
1) Space station crew, like K-7 but maybe on the Romulan border or something like that.
2) Frigate crew, using the frigate deck plans included in the Federation source book that I just purchased from my local gaming store.
Of course I may just go a different direction entirely. Everything is sort of up in the air at the moment while I soak in as much information about this game as I can. I might just scrounge up some Star Trek comic books and such to find some ideas for various plot lines.

Are there any other sites out there for Prime Directive players and fans? Google doesn't give me much to go on besides various reviews, forum posts, and some source books available at a handful of online stores.
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Scoutdad
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can give you lots of advice aboutthe d20 version, but if I were you, I'd PM the forum member: jeffr0.

He ran the GURPS Prime Directive events at Origins and did an awesome job. I didn't get to participate in them, but from comments made by those who did - I really missed out.
All 3 of sessions were full and he was turning people away from the last two... all this through word-of-mouth by the participants in the first one! Players there were asking what other cons he'd be running GURPS PD at and will he be back at Origins next year?

That make him GURPS resource #1!
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Jeffr0
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Attempt to clear up some rumours here: I'm not sure there was time for word-of-mouth about my sessions to impact PD sales... and it was my first two sessions that I had to turn people away-- so I figure attendance there was more to do with convention early birds that really wanted to do sf role-playing and that were really chomping at the bit to game. Also... as to the 10% of players that were giving positive feedback... well... the negative people kept their opinions to themselves, so we'll never have an objective rating beyond my own overinflated views! I really think most of the "word of mouth" people are talking about originated with my own reports!)

Random advice:

1) The biggest time sink in GURPS is the character creation process. It took me about twelve hours to work up a set of six characters. (I hate learning new software, but I have to admit... the official char-gen software available on e23 is probably worth it.) However... once you are reasonable fluent in a few GURPSy things, you really do not have to crack the rule books during play!

2) The vast amounts of GURPS material can be daunting... but GPD already pulls out the relevant bits for trek gaming. The rules are pretty darn good, but there is a learning curve with them. In my experience, it is worth the effort-- just try to spread the learning across several sessions instead of all at once. Con-players really don't care about the rules, but a consistent approach will matter more the longer your local group plays.

3) Cliches are the way to go-- if your players don't know what to do, you're being too elaborate. Most rpg-plots can be adapted to any universe or premise... especially if you are running GURPS. Go with something that you are comfortable with and something that your players will think is cool. (However, don't expect your players to be able to articulate what they want-- if you don't already know their play styles, you will probably have to adapt what you're doing while you get a "read" on them.)

4) Game mastering is something that you can only learn by doing... and every group and GM will have their own style and approach. There is no textbook for this, so just jump in and start running games. As long as the players get to be "Big D*** Heroes" they will (hopefully) cut you some slack. Con games, regular gaming group games, play-by-post games, and games with kids all have different constraints and parameters.

5) Advice. There's a lot of expert gamers on the web... but their help can be a bit much... especially when they know too much about things that are irrelevant to running games. And face it... they wouldn't be spending so much time on the web if they had a regular group. If I were you, I'd banish the idea that you are somehow doing things wrong: you are the GM... you're right by definition as long as your players are entertained. Drinking from the fire-hose of gamer-opinion can be counter-productive if you're just starting out. (That said, answers to specific rules questions can be had in minutes over on the sjgames forums.)

At Origins, I told players, "if anything happens in this session that contradicts established continuity, it's... uh... because you're in a parallel universe that is slightly different from TOS and/or the official GPD setting."

Good luck with your game. Feel free to post any more questions you might have as this advice is extremely general....
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Last edited by Jeffr0 on Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:59 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Rich Stokes
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mr Tricorder!

RPGs are a very diverse hobby and there are plenty of ways to play. None of them are "right", so much as "right for the individuals involved". One man's meat is another man's poison and all that. So anyone's advice should be seen in that light: what works for them might not work for you.

With that in mind, and remembering that this is all stuff coming from my own perspective and as I say, might not work for you or the people you play with, I can give the following general advice for running rpgs.

1) Table > GM

A lot of games say that the GM is in charge and can do whatever he pleases. This isn't really true, because at the end of the day, if the GM does enough stuff the players don't like, they won't show up for the next session.

In this context, when I say "table" I mean "everyone at the table who's involved in the game", which is the players and the GM. Games are actually run by consensus of everyone there, and when you all agree that things are working well, that's when the game is most fun.

2) Talk!

You can just ask people things during the game. Don't, as GM, feel that you need to make everything run perfectly and seamlessly all the time. If you don't know a rule, don't panic. Suggest something which seems reasonable to you and see how the players react. A good example in Gurps is deciding which sis the right skill for an action. If you can't decide whether a specific task should require an Electronics or Engineering roll, ask everyone at the table what they think. It also gives people more to do and engages them with what's going on even when their character is not there.

3) Player =/= Character

I'm not a Federation captain, but I play one in a game. The guy I'm supposed to be controlling has done years of training and has years of experience. So do I... but in completely different things and in a different century!

Basically what I'm saying is that my character knows way, way more about the Federation, Star Fleet and starship systems and tactics than I ever will. So when I (the player) have my character (the starship captain) do something which is pretty stupid and a trained officer should know better, then TELL ME! If I still want to do it, that's fine (if I still think it's a good idea, or if I think it's good for making the plot interesting, or whatever) then I will, but if I'm missing basic stuff that would be general knowedge or instinct to my character, I need to know that.

4) Group character creation

Get everyone together for a preliminary session where you'll all discuss what game you'll play and who the characters will be. During this you need to decide where and when the game will be set, who the character will be and what the tone is. Once you're all agreed on the campaign frame ("Traders who own their own ship", "Prime team just at the start of the General War", "Crew of a Federation CA during Operation Unity") you need to figure out who everyone is playing. You don't have to do the number crunching or work out any stats at this point, just what the characters backgrounds and personalities and what their job is. This makes sure you get a well-rounded group of characters who will be compatible and will work together (not 4 people all turning up with emotionless Vulcan scientists!).

Basically, make sure everyone's happy with the campaign, and with everyone's character.

Sometimes, a few sessions down the line, a player will find that a character is just not as much fun to play as they first thought and they'll want to change it. Again, as long as everyone's happy with the new character, why not?

5) Engage the players

The most important thing really is to make sure everyone is having fun. If players aren't engaging, it's a good idea to get them to input stuff into the game. Especially at the start. Get them to describe what their character is doing and how they usually accomplish that.

"Engineer, it's 1100 hours. You're doing something in the engine room, what is it?"

"Chief medical officer, you're in sickbay and someone's been rushed in with a serious injury. Who is it and what happened?"

This sort of thing can really get players invested in what's going on. they're no longer passive participants, they're actively contributing the what's going on!

You might want to approach this with caution, if players throw you a curve-ball the important thing to do is not to panic. If they come uop with something you think is stupid, then discuss it as a table and until everyone's happy with what's going on.

Some Gurps-specific stuff:

The rules for playing Gurps are fairly simple, but character creation is a fairly complex undertaking. New players who're unfamiliar with it can be overwhelmed and at first it seems much more complex than it really is. To this end, I'd suggest that you do the number crunching for the players, at least at first. Take their idea for a character, create them using the gurps rules, give it to them for the first session (or before if there's time) and let them make changes as you go along.

I hope some of that helps!

Rich

(Edit - or basically, what Jeff said!)
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Jeffr0
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rich Stokes wrote:
(Edit - or basically, what Jeff said!)


(You know... we did seem to simultaneously post pretty much the same advice there....) Cool
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boneguard
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my case I usually follow this pattern with dealing with new games system.

1) Start small: Meaning a small group in a small environment and as the game progress the environment extendeds progressively. It allow the players to familiarize themselves with the setting.

2) Fewer rules: Start 'Lite', keep the basic mechanic and temporarely put aside some of the more complexe stuff -but inform the players they will be introduced later- this way you can reduce the learning curve and make it more progressive by adding small bits when the basic stuff is mostly mastered.

3) Check your rules before running an event: Especially if you know you will probbablyhave a major fight, check the again the combat rules and the character 'special abilities'. It helps make it go smoother.

4) DIY Cheat Sheet. Using Excel or Word, make youself (and for your player) a cheat sheet that you can all use to remember what ot do and how (and for the GM, put in page numbers for quick reference).

Hope it helps.


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Scoutdad
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
"if anything happens in this session that contradicts established continuity, it's... uh... because you're in a parallel universe that is slightly different from TOS and/or the official GPD setting."

Cool
I love this. Consider it "appropriated" for use in Tennessee!
Rolling Eyes
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Mr_Tricorder
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you all so much for your advice!

Much of this I already figured out through ovbservation, but it's great to have it reiterated here, and if/when things start to go wrong, I can refer back to this thread to see how I can get things back on track.

I'm planning on just working with GURPS Lite and whatever is included in the PD source material and staying away from the full-blown GURPS books. That should help keep the complexity down. I'll be talking things over with my group tonight when we get together to play Traveller. By the way, does anyone know how the Traveller version of PD is coming along?

Also, it looks like I can use Star Trek Online to create character portraits for most of the Federation PC races. I don't know about you all, but I always have an easier time getting into my character when I can see what he looks like.
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Jeffr0
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mr_Tricorder wrote:
I'm planning on just working with GURPS Lite and whatever is included in the PD source material and staying away from the full-blown GURPS books. That should help keep the complexity down. I'll be talking things over with my group tonight when we get together to play Traveller. By the way, does anyone know how the Traveller version of PD is coming along?


GURPS Rules I like and use regularly:

1) Skill and Attribute rolls-- it's always pretty clear which ones to use, even though you can end up with scads of stuff on the sheet. One tip: I eliminate skills and abilities that *everyone* has... so no "Spacer" skill and no Star Fleet immunization advantages in my game.

2) Social Skills-- if I recall, it's get an automatic "good" reaction if you win a quick contest... usually vs. Will, I think. Look it up. Love it!

3) ROF to-hit bonus and multiple hits for rolling under your target by multiples of your recoil rating. Sounds complex, but it's a really great rule. Then for dodge... each extra hit is an additional -1 to dodge... so getting hit with 3-4 shots can really ruin your day even if your dodge is a 10.

4) Tactical combat-- I really like to get out the map and figures.... It might seem daunting when you're starting out, but it really does work well, in my opinion. Either way... be sure to use appropriate fight-scene music.

5) The rules for knock-down and shock make a decent HT score essential for combat monster characters. The HT checks to keep standing when your hits are negative is also good.

6) The first aid and surgery and healing rules... with that crazy inter-species modifier chart that is in GPD. (I thought that last thing was kind of silly at first, but it actually works in game.)

If you mess up any of the above, but keep the story going smoothly in a session... then you did the right thing. If you read up on the nuances between sessions... then you also did the right thing. (Playing by the rules means that when something bad happens to the players, it isn't just your whim that's causing it. Actually... when the players overcome problems that emerge directly from their own mistakes... that's not only fun, but it is also very dramatic. Roll with it! I try to allow for some sort of "save" if the players mess up badly, but if they fail their recovery rolls... I let 'em suffer!)

Also:

"Learn by dying": don't be afraid to kill people in the first session. You don't have to be evil about it, but it can be a good way for players to learn that things are dangerous and they can't just stick their hands in a wood chipper for nothing. Have some extra characters handy to serve as stand-ins.

Also also:

I hate having a planning session before the games. If the players have never played, let 'em choose from pre-gens in a teaser session... THEN talk about what kind of character they want. (How can they talk about it if they don't know anything about the way the game works...?) On the other hand... GURPS can pretty much translate any character concept directly. But still... if the GM makes the pre-gens, he can rig the characters to fit the story he has in mind. Improvising a story for a weird random group of weirdos can be a real challenge!
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Mr_Tricorder
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks again.
I finally got my GPD core rulebook in the mail today, but it's the wrong edition. The description on Amazon didn't state which edition it was, but the picture was clearly of the fourth edition cover. I just made a claim and am waiting for a response, but I have a feeling I'm going to be stuck with this one and have to fork over some more money and wait another week to get the right edition.
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boneguard
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a shame...You always have this free product from SJ Games:
http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=SJG30-6024 that will help you convert from 3rd to 4th edition rules.

[Link and promotion deleted by J. Sexton. No web-only stores may be promoted on our Forums. We depend upon brick and mortar stores to expand our customer base. That is why our own webstore doesn't undercut "real" stores.]
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Mr_Tricorder
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the link. I really appreciate the help.

My Traveller group cancelled the other night, but I went over some things with a couple of friends in the group yesterday. We went over some of the basics of GURPS and some ideas for characters and adventures. We're probably going to do some sort of Romulan border story with possibly an early years setting, but I may move that to a later time period to make things work more easily.
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Jean
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't forget that our GURPS books are available online through e23.
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