Make the game your own. Fuck parts of it up!

Dave Matthews Band – When the World Ends [Lyrics]

HH by dasTOK
“HH” by dasTOK

///An over-waist white tank-top worn over green, woolen leggings decorated with a pattern which looks suspiciously christmas like, in August. Short, almost cropped, blonde hair. Rimless glasses.///

Before we start, let me quote a short passage from the core rulebook of Dark Heresy 2nd Edition. Might be a weird choice, but bear with me here.

The single largest division of the Adeptus Terra present on Juno is the Adeptus Administratum, its headquarters located at the mighty Regis Chancellery near the centre of Vesuna Regis. This and numerous subsidiary locations house many millions of scribes, factors, and overseers, many of whom live out their lifetimes within a few metres of their ink-stained desks. Lord High Comptroller-General Avak Numinor leads the mission, and is responsible for cataloguing the sector’s resources so that proper tithe levels can be maintained for each world.

I’ll make it quick and painless: During the first sessions of play, blow that fucker up. The consequences for the sector will be immense, and it will create panic everywhere. But it will also create opportunities for your PCs.

So, how is this relevant to you, humble Urban, modern day, fantasy/horror GM?

Another quick and painless statement: Fuck something up, blow something up, muck something up in the world your game is set in, from the get go. Shake the whole world up to start with.

Why, though?
Well, many Urban Fantasy games have something along the lines of Vampire: The Masquerade’s… Masquerade.

Something that makes all the supernatural persons and beasties keep out of the eye of the mundane public. And, for 99% of gamepelay, this is utterly fine. Good, even. It gives a fig-leaf rationale for the whole “Why is the world like our real world even with all this supernatural stuff?” question.

But it also constrains many groups to keep their play at a lower level than might perhaps be preferred by the group. Don’t get me wrong, low-key games are great games. But being continuously punished and/or reprimanded for using the in-game powers of your characters can get annoying really damn quickly.

And sometimes, even GMs get into the “don’t rock the boat” mindset and can push the game towards a more mundane feel than they perhaps realize, through in and out of game, subtle and overt punitive actions against supernatural activities initiated by the PCs.

So, to break out of this, just wreck part of the setting. Perhaps don’t start with something connected to the central to the game’s premise, but chose something visible. Something with consequences and ramifications. The Dark Heresy example I posted is exactly this: It won’t end the setting, it won’t destroy the game’s premise (If you ask me, it will even enhance it.). But it’s something that’s visible. Something that your players will notice.

Here’s a warning, though. This WILL make the setting fully your own. Chances are, that you won’t be able to use further officially published setting material without some sort of re-tooling. But it will help you to get into the mindset of using the game as it was intended to be used: By you, for your group.

Let’s look at a specific example:
So, you’re running a game of Mage. You’ve talked about the premise and the scope of the game with your players, you’ve created characters and you know what will be important to them, later on. You cross all those things off the list of “stuff to blow up” and then look for something that will still resonate with your chronicle. Your game shall be one of dimensional travel and exploration of umbral realms. Mh. How about a large-scale, weird-effect explosion of the LHC? Let’s say that it was a Technocracy pet-project and that it went wrong with some sort of Paradox backlash. And the Paradox Spirit responsible was pissed off enough at the people doing it, that it decided to really piss in their cereal and let apparitions appear around it for a few weeks.

So now you have a major news report for the mundane population, something that is tearing down the veil which the Technocrats will have to work hard to fix, and something that has a good chance to come up in one of your sessions, from either side of the umbra. You just fucked with the setting. You shook up the status quo. And now your players come into it. And if you’re a good ST, they know that they too can, and are encouraged to!, change the setting if they can live with any consequences connected to it. And you yourself have a few less inhibitions to actually create world-affecting consequences. Because a setting should not be static. Your PCs should be able to change, affect, save, destroy or simply twist the world they live in. For new games, you will then be able to either start a new game in a yet un-fucked version of the setting, or start a new game in what has basically become a whole new setting for you all to play in. :)

Make the setting your own. Fuck parts of it up!

One thought on “Make the game your own. Fuck parts of it up!

  1. This goes hand-in-hand with one of the GM advice items for Apocalypse World: see everything through crosshairs. Kill NPCs, destroy Adventure Locations, and otherwise much things up. That’s in line with the core Agenda: “Be a fan of the player characters — Make their lives interesting — Ask questions and use the answers”

    Really, this is something everybody should be doing, to a greater or lesser extent, in every game!

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