First time as Gamemaster. HELP!

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Chris F
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First time as Gamemaster. HELP!

Postby Chris F » Thu Apr 17, 2014 6:52 am

I will begin running a Mutants and Masterminds series within the next month or so. We'll be starting off with the Emerald City Knights adventure path. This is my first time as Gamemaster. Not just as an M&M GM, but first time running any game system. As much as I like RPGs, I don't get to play them very often. As a result, I don't even have a model I can emulate. I'm confident that I can get everyone through character creation, but actually running an adventure could be problematic. Any advice from experienced GMs would be very welcome.

I also have some specific questions:
  • What makes a challenge or combat encounter "balanced?"
  • Would playing without a minis or a battlemap be very difficult? When using a battlemap, does the choice of grid type (squares or hexes) affect gameplay much?
  • How do I handle plot derailment without railroading the players?

Thanks a lot!

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Re: First time as Gamemaster. HELP!

Postby FuzzyBoots » Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:02 am

General advice:
* Read the basic manual and all of the adventure
* Read them again, and take notes. Anything which confused you at first is a good candidate here. Also handy is to break out all of the NPCs onto something like index cards so that you can quickly check that Joe Blogger has black hair and blue eyes, and a Will save of +8. Keep a few index cards handy for when you need to invent a PC.
* Until you're much more familiar with the system, I recommend getting a cheat sheet (Hero Lab exports one, and someone posted one to the General M&M forum) so that you have technical answers at your fingertips.
* Don't be afraid to say no, but also always consider saying yes, or "Yes, but..." when your players suggest something off the wall. General rule of thumb, power stunts cost Extra Effort. Extra Effort fatigue can be paid off with Hero Points. A sufficiently cool stunt may net the player a Hero Point (two if their target needs Fiat to survive it). General environmental effects (yanking the rug out from under someone, tying the target up in a ship's rigging, picking up a telephone pole to get a reach attack) are free, but my general feeling is that the first time is free. If the player is always picking up spare items, they should either pay for them as Equipment or face in-game complications from the City billing them for parking meters torn up, people suing them because the car used to hit the bad guy was their only form of transportation, etc.

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Re: First time as Gamemaster. HELP!

Postby saint_matthew » Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:40 am

Chris F wrote:I will begin running a Mutants and Masterminds series within the next month or so. We'll be starting off with the Emerald City Knights adventure path. This is my first time as Gamemaster. Not just as an M&M GM, but first time running any game system. As much as I like RPGs, I don't get to play them very often. As a result, I don't even have a model I can emulate. I'm confident that I can get everyone through character creation, but actually running an adventure could be problematic. Any advice from experienced GMs would be very welcome.

I also have some specific questions:
  • What makes a challenge or combat encounter "balanced?"
  • Would playing without a minis or a battlemap be very difficult? When using a battlemap, does the choice of grid type (squares or hexes) affect gameplay much?
  • How do I handle plot derailment without railroading the players?

Thanks a lot!


Lets see what we can do about that... Well lets start with your lack of experience: The following list of links are for M&M 3E actual play podcasts.

GAMER HAVEN
http://gamershavenpodcast.com/category/ ... /mnm3ecoa/ (tolerable)
http://gamershavenpodcast.com/category/ ... ty-united/ (terrible story telling but passable system usage)

GREEN LANTERN ACTUAL PLAY
http://mikelaff.podbean.com/2011/06/22/ ... ay-part-1/ (part 1)
http://mikelaff.podbean.com/2011/07/13/ ... ay-part-2/ (part 2)

AGE OF MASKS
technically this one is 2E, but its frankly the best example of the style of a campaign, rather than just a one off.
http://slangdesign.com/rppr/2009/07/act ... f-masks-1/
http://slangdesign.com/rppr/2009/08/act ... f-masks-2/
http://slangdesign.com/rppr/2009/09/act ... f-masks-3/

BAMF & VIGILANCE
Good podcasts, but unfortunately listed on podbean, so almost impossible to navigate unless you know what you are looking for & even then it only becomes NEARLY impossible. Darn website needs a better navigation system & by better I mean better than none.
http://mikelaff.podbean.com/2011/03/09/ ... tual-play/
http://mikelaff.podbean.com/2010/09/08/ ... play-demo/

Okay, that should do you for now, at the very least it should give you some material for you to sink your teeth into. I'd start the BAMF/Vigiliance stuff, then go into the Age of Masks stuff, that way you go from simple design stuff, to slightly more complicated. Then if time permits the Green Lantern stuff which story wise is less interesting & finally the Gamer Haven stuff which is a..... um.... acquired taste.

Okay, moving on to your specific questions & queries.

What makes a challenge or combat encounter "balanced?"


How long is a piece of string? How many roads does a man have to walk? Many games have a game mechanic to determine what is or is not a balanced encounter, but M&M isn't one of them. Generally speaking, by player/GM consensus it's power level plus 2 or 3. However this mechanic is just a ball park figure since anything & everything can throw those numbers out. For instance if you have a martial artist with no ranged attacks versus a flying blaster the martial artist is probably going to get hosed.... But on the other end of the equation if you throw an ice villain up against a team that has a fire blaster chances are good that the ice villain is going home in a bucket of water.

I personally design my villains with a specific set of exploitable flaws. That way players get to be smart & not just win every encounter by beating everything into submission. Some times they can utilise a specific power flaw like hosing a fire villain with the fire hose, but other times its mental flaws like playing on the vanity of a character, or pandering to the psychotic need for respect.

As for non combat challenges players don't really care how challenging they are as long as they get a chance to use there brawns & there skills in an interesting fashion. But make sure failure has a consequence.

Would playing without a minis or a battlemap be very difficult? When using a battlemap, does the choice of grid type (squares or hexes) affect gameplay much?


You an play with or without one: I personally use a gridded tactical map because I think it enhances the game, but its not necessary, or even vital if you don't have one.

How do I handle plot derailment without railroading the players?


With grace & style. :lol:

All you need to worry about is figuring out what the villain is doing, why he is doing it & where he is doing it at.... Once you've got that, there is pretty much nothing players can throw at you that you aren't ready for. You'll only trip up if you become so invested in scenes playing out in a very VERY specific way.

If you have anymore questions don't hesitate to ask & I hope the answers I've provided help you in your caped travels. :D
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Re: First time as Gamemaster. HELP!

Postby mrdent12 » Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:06 pm

As a general rule, the game should be fun. I usually use the system as more of a guide than exact letter of what to do. It is sort of like the vague term of following the spirit instead of the letter of the rules. However, you shouldn't be inconsistent with the rules and change how you interpret them constantly.

Chris F wrote:What makes a challenge or combat encounter "balanced?"


This all depends on your players and their PC's. Tossing a legion of air blasters at martial art experts isn't very fun for the players as they have little recourse. On the same token always making the bad guys pigs that can be killed in one hit is boring. You need to look at your players and tailor the enemies and challenges such that they allow players to use their skills and abilities while still facing some threat level. For example, a jock power house PC vs a chemistry challenge is a mismatch, but giving them a challenge where they need to break through a wall while evading buzz saws gives them a real threat and a decent chance of beating it.

Chris F wrote:Would playing without a minis or a battlemap be very difficult? When using a battlemap, does the choice of grid type (squares or hexes) affect gameplay much?


I have found that for me a grid or battle map with minis works well for encounters so I can focus on cool stuff my PC will do instead of tracking all the other characters locations.

Chris F wrote:How do I handle plot derailment without railroading the players?


I am going to echo saint_matthew on this one and say know your NPC's. Knowing their motivations, personalities, etc will allow you to treat them as GM PCs instead of NPC's. So if the players go off on a side plot of their own making and ignore the bad guy, let the bad guys plan go into effect resulting in some undesirable consequence. If the PC's blow up the city to stop the villain who manages to escape somehow, roll with it and have everyone in the city view them as reckless vigilantes. My most successful games have started with a collections of NPC's working towards a goal with the plan changing based on the players actions. The first adventure is usually players reacting, but after that it is back and forth.


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