Don’t Think Too Big!

For a while I have been struggling with a long-time dream of mine: a homebrew cyberpunk setting. I always loved the genre but I am not 100% happy with the cyberpunk games commercially available. Either I don’t like the rules attached to the setting or the setting itself has some elements I dislike. But creating a whole near-future scifi setting from scratch is not an easy task.

As usual I made the mistake of starting with a big picture. Don’t get me wrong, the outside-in approach of campaign design works great, but it takes a lot of work. For some reason when designing campaigns I follow this approach, even though I know deep down that it’s the main reason most of my campaign projects failed.

Instead of focusing on the big picture I should think smaller, focus on the place where I want the players to have their first adventures. In cyberpunk the action usually takes places in a bustling metroplex, a huge city housing millions of people. Having an elaborate background for other places in the world is nice, but how much impact will it have on your game anyway? If the players are freelance operatives working for the highest bidder, is it really important what happened in the Eurowars 25 years ago?

Instead of trying to come up with every little detail I want to use a different approach in the future. For the cyberpunk campaign setting I have been struggling with I want to focus on a single city first and just create some broad-strokes background for the rest of the world. If these places become more important in the campaign I can still flesh them out. But with focusing on just one city things get much easier. For starters I can use the same approach for the city itself. Perhaps the action will focus on a certain city district first. So why bother to write up many pages of background information on the rest of the city if you don’t use it?

This approach is pretty common in fantasy settings. You start out with a small place and then the world slowly opens up. But for some reason doing it this way feels wrong in a scifi game. In a fantasy game travel is slow and dangerous and information about faraway lands is hard to come by and often inaccurate. So it’s easy to focus on the “starting area” first and then add details to the rest of the world when needed. But in a near-future cyberpunk setting you can easily charter a flight to any place in the world (perhaps even the solar system) and getting information about the most obscure places is just a click, a touch, or a thought away. But in most cases you don’t need to know everything – not even as the GM. A broad-strokes setting is often even easier to work anyway. Too much information often feels like a burden to the creative GM who likes to wing things during the game.

Long story short, I think sometimes it’s better to think smaller not bigger when it comes to campaign design. In the end nobody is having fun if the campaign never sees the light of day because the GM is still working on some obscure details just to appease his or her inner completionist.

RPG a Day 2015 Challenge – Day 31

And so we come to the end of #RPGaDay2015, this has been a great month, I’ve gotten back to blogging, reconnected with a lot of people, and I’ve pondered lots of interesting bits about RPGs I don’t usually think about. A big thanks to David F. Chapman for coming up with the idea, also to Michael Wolf, our very own Stargazer, for keeping the door open to me here in the blog, even when I disappeared for a long time, and most of all, a HUGE thanks to all our readers who turned up to read my ramblings, especially to Johnkzin who’s been a regular poster on the comments.

I hope to keep on posting after I untie Michael and let him out of the basement. Any particular topic you’d like to me to cover or write about? Are you interested in reviews, more background information about my campaigns, like I’ve posted before? Feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments. Now, to the final topic for 2015…

Day 31 – Favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGs

The big picture well thought out rational response would be RPG computer, console and MMO games, tabletop games sowed the seed and to this day you can see the influence of the tabletop hobby in the electronic medium. But in a way that is an RPG thing.

Second choice would be the Knights of the Dinner Table comic. KotD started in gaming magazine, but became its own comic. Yet again this is somewhat RPG related. I was wracking my brain thinking about this topic, and then the answer was so clear…

My favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGs has been life-long friendships!

(Warning, this is where I get a little sappy! I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again…)

Through RPGs I’ve met some of my longest lasting friends. Gaming I’ve met people with whom I share far more than the game. RPGs keep me in contact with friends with whom I might have drifted apart due to real life. Having that one day where we meet to roll dice and tell stories means we have one day a week where we see each other and get to know what’s happening in each other’s lives. I’ve gamed before important events, after tragic events, it’s the glue that’s kept some friendships going.

Thanks to RPGs I’ve been involved with Puerto Rico Role Players and shared my love for role-playing games with many people who I would not have met were it not for this group. I’ve been lucky enough to write about my hobby here in the blog and to become friends with a person I’ve never met in person, but whom I consider one of my dearest friends in the world, thanks Michael.

That’s my favorite non-RPG thing to come out of playing RPG games for almost 30 years, and I hope I will be able to make many new friends and share my love of gaming with many more people. Thanks for reading, may you also meet lasting friends at the table!

PS – This post is dedicated (again) to all the people who’ve played at my table, with whom I’ve been lucky enough to game, and to my current players. That’s them in the blurry picture down below. Have a great week!

Gaming Group 2015

RPG a Day 2015 Challenge – Day 30

The next to last post for #RPGaDay2015, I’m already sad it’s ending; hopefully we can do this again in 2016. Here’s the final Sunday post…

Day 30 – Favorite RPG playing celebrity

Celebrity is such a charged word… What makes you a celebrity? The modern concept of celebrity is so often maligned. In the context of the hobby many of the artists and writers would be celebrities for us, but not outside the industry. I went with the more general concept of celebrity in my pick.

My favorite RPG playing celebrity is Mark Sinclair, aka Vin Diesel! Let me tell you why. He is a very well know celebrity, open and honest about his love for D&D, while at the same time being very guarded about his private life.

Vin Diesel 1 Continue reading RPG a Day 2015 Challenge — Day 30

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