Confessions of New GM: Reflections from Acadecon 2016

By John Neary on


It happened! Acadecon happened and it was amazing! This year I decided to expand my experience by running three games over three different systems. Building off my previous article, I wanted focus on giving a bit more information on the preparation that led to the eventual running of the games, and of course, how I feel all of that went. Let’s start with the running of the games shall we? No? Nah, you’re right, let’s keep it linear and start with the prep-steps.


Game prep! The adventures I used were of my own design… well, they were inspired by each settings own material I should say, but I would like to point out that there was NO REASON for me to have done that. There are plenty of great adventures out there that I could have used. I was trying to challenge myself, so I was going to live, or die, by that choice. I’ll focus on 7th Sea as that seems to be defining my approach to GMing lately. This was the only game that I made my own pre-generated characters for. My intention was to create characters for the adventure that embodied a little something from as much of the character creation options that I could. In focusing so much on trying to give a broad range to choose from, in the end, I think I may have limited a couple of the characters. 7th Sea’s game mechanics approaches social interaction and physical combat pretty much the same way. I dipped into that a little in the previous article (declare approach, produce raises, spend raises to change scene), so I tried to make certain characters stronger with social interaction and others stronger in the physical interactions.


What I believe I neglected to consider was that the adventure I wrote sort of slanted toward physical combat more often than not. So here’s a lesson that I’m sure many of you know, but just in case there is anyone like me out there, listen well! When you’re making original characters for an adventure you have written, make sure you take the tone and direction of action into account when you make the characters. There should be some purpose behind the characters abilities based on what they are most likely to encounter. I’m not saying make a party of soldiers if it’s a combat heavy game, but maybe give the negotiator type character a few more ranks in that weaponry skill so they are not sitting there with 2 raises in the final boss battle. So I set out my materials, took a deep breath, and then these beautiful people sat down at my table. You might recognize one…or two…or ALL of the players; which was thrilling and frightening to me. After a quick little spiel about the setting and the basic walkthrough of the rules, we were set to begin!


Photo credit: Danielle Neary @imperialscum — LOOK! It’s Tressa and Gwynn! Also, Brad from RPGAcademy Faculty and Kendall and Jacob from Redemption Podcast.. I mean.. HOW did I get so lucky!?!?

Like many of us, or most of us, I would love to be struck with pure inspiration and be able to write a novel or something worthy of public consumption. For now, though, I’ve found it pretty satisfying to write short little adventures for roleplaying games. Just little stories that follow a general flow that is dictated by the players’ actions that then have to be put into perspective relative to the adventure. I found something addicting about this process at Acadecon. It came out almost immediately in the 7th Sea game. With convention games you probably want to get straight to the meat of why you all are there at the table – to tell an exciting story. Right off the bat these beautiful players started interacting with the world; asking questions and wanting to speak with the NPCs that I placed in front of them. Something that became evident to me was that when players get the idea that they can affect the world around them and the world will push back and react, they almost always seem to want more and to continue to push and prod at the story until something cool emerges-which is GREAT! As GMs, it’s sort of our responsibility to facilitate and most importantly ENCOURAGE this behavior through our own role play of the world around them. This was a big realization for me, and whether or not I pulled it off as well as I would have liked, I think everyone had a good time. This, in my opinion, and especially at a convention is the most important thing and actually brings me to a point for the players out there. You paid money to go to a con, then signed up to commit your time to a game you wanted to play in. Have fun, dig into the adventure, and challenge the GM in turn to bring his or her story to life. My games all ended with different outcomes than I expected and I embraced every second of it. Why? Because the players brought us there with their immersed role play, so put the conductor hat-thing down and just let it flow.


I guess it can be total honesty time now. I am well aware that I leave a lot to be desired as a well rounded GM, but one thing I try harder at than anything else is to keep things moving. I try to make rulings for each situation and not to look up rules at the table. Most of the players I ran for at Acadecon were unfamiliar with the games I was running and I loved that. I love introducing people to the games I enjoy playing as well as GMing. I try to bring that enthusiasm with me and give the players something to chew on roleplay wise. To accomplish this I try to make my NPCs as memorable as possible. I try to give them quirks with my own body language. I stand up when I GM so it’s easier, but try and do something the players can latch onto and draw them into the scenes. Look, I’m not that great at any of this, but I learned in those three games that my attempts at achieving steady story momentum combined with NPCs bringing the setting and scenes to life, go farther to produce a memorable experience then trying to make sure I was following all the rules the whole time. My always humble opinion is that if a con game should be anything, it should be memorable and exciting. I’d like to think that I took a big step in that direction at Acadecon 2016. As always, I’m willing to go deeper into this experience if anyone is interested or curious. Thanks for reading!

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