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> What Makes A Good GM, Thoughts and opinions
TinkerGnome
post Apr 10 2004, 03:50 PM
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QUOTE (Red Mage)
What makes a good GM? An intense hatred for other people and a desire to do them harm but tempered with a fear of not getting caught. Someone with a desk job where they can devote a lot of time to painting miniatures and designing campaigns, security officers fill these requirements perfectly.

I was reading some 8-bit theater and I checked to see if there were any Red Mage articles I hadn't read. There were and I found this line as an answer to the first question. It's obviously in jest, but it does bring to light the age old question of what does it take to be a good GM. I like to think that I'm at least a descent GM (not great by any stretch), but what qualities take someone from descent to good or even to great?

[edit] This goes for Shadowrun in particular and relates to the recent thread on powergamed starting characters. For instance, does a good GM keep the power level balance by limiting cyber and 'ware? Does he let in everything? How about during play, does he enforce real world consequences (the troll with the assault cannon walking down the street, for instance) or let a lot slide to make the player's lives easier? [/edit]

I'd make this a poll, but there are too many possible answers.
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Phaeton
post Apr 10 2004, 04:23 PM
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For one thing, not pissing off the players.

I'm not even gonna start with my GM. I just decided to leave. Plus, I don't want to name names.

Let me just say the experiences are unpleasant.
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Austere Emancipa...
post Apr 10 2004, 04:41 PM
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I have no idea. If I did, I wouldn't be as sucky a GM as I am.

Well, okay, I have an idea. Not being lazy, stupid, unimaginative and self-destructive.
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Apathy
post Apr 10 2004, 04:58 PM
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A good GM figures out what the players want to do, and builds a game that they can all enjoy.

Unfortunately, I'm not a good GM. Instead, I build the game that I think I'll enjoy, and just hope they like it too.
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Veracusse
post Apr 10 2004, 05:11 PM
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A GM that just plays what the players want to play all the time is not a good GM in my opinion. The GM is also playing the game, and if he is not enjoying the game then the players sure aren't going to be enjoying the game. So, unless the players are paying me to GM, I am going to play both how I want and how the players want. I guess the really good GM learns to compromise between himself and what the players want.

Veracusse
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L.D
post Apr 10 2004, 05:26 PM
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A good GM must do one major thing: Make sure that both he and the players are having fun. That's the most important thing. The other things that a GM does actually depends on his style of GM:ing and how the players want to play.
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Phaeton
post Apr 10 2004, 05:50 PM
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QUOTE (Apathy)
A good GM figures out what the players want to do, and builds a game that they can all enjoy.

Unfortunately, I'm not a good GM. Instead, I build the game that I think I'll enjoy, and just hope they like it too.

At least you're not as extremist in that regard as my former GM, most likely...

He is QUITE out of touch with people and reality, in my opinion.
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BishopMcQ
post Apr 10 2004, 05:56 PM
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I'll let my players decide, but I'd say I'm a good GM.

Though I don't think there's any major secret about being a "Good GM," there are a few guidelines that I follow:

I try to have a solid understanding of the general rules and research specific rules before the game starts. If the nursing staff at a Top Secret medical facility has dart rifles to use when the patients get unruly, than I look up the exact nature of the sedative they're using and how it's applied before I even write up the stats for the nurses.

I work with my players not against them. Yes, after runs went south I have slapped some of my players with Dark Secrets, Enemies, or the Hunted flaw--but in each occurrence, the players knew what they were getting into and didn't back down. (Ask Buddha about the "Fairlight Massacre")

After every session I get feedback. This is imperative when I start GMing for a new group, because each group has their own unique balance between "gritty street drama" and "hollywood heroes." I find that the interaction between players and GM is improved when everyone feels comfortable communicating--I've asked a player after a session is over how his Pistol Adept through 15 dice at a TN 2 without combat pool. Conversely, I've seen the same Pistol Adept stripped of his armor by a pack of Demon Rats and he asked me when rats started being the size of small dogs and spit acid.

As for a level of Reality--my players generally censure themselves. They know the legality of their ware and gear and where Lonestar will or will not prosecute them. That being said, when in Downtown Seattle going to the Lonestar processing center, I've had a character bring in his custom ceramic pistol with Hi-C rounds, but he made sure to also bring his permit for concealed carry and his Rt 12 fake SIN that showed him as a licensed "Security Specialist" (No, he wasn't caught.) I've also seen a pair of Trolls pull out their LMGs when they were escorting a team through Redmond to let the street trash know that there was easier prey to be found elsewhere.

I think the most important piece of reality is to remember that not every security guard is a cybered up tactical genius who moves in surgical precision against the team. Sure if the team breaks into the Arcology and starts blowing things up, they expect the Red Samurai to respond as an elite Special Forces unit and to be built in much the same way that the Runners are, but if they knock over a StufferShack or Ganger street trash, my players come to expect a much more limited resistance. That being said, I have players that experience a unique sense of terror when the Labtechs make their Willpower roll and come swinging with Stun batons, and others simply gun them down.

All that being said, I do agree with Veraccuse and Apathy--I have to enjoy the game that I'm running as much as my players are or else I get burned out. I do this through trying out new and unique methods for getting teams into the mission site. Parachuting into LA (My personal favorite) is tough, doing a HALO jump when defaulting is much tougher--but my players have always seemed to survive unscathed through forethought, magic and spirit powers. I also have a stable of NPC contacts that my players can choose from, if they don't want to make up their own. These contacts have their own unique personalities and allow me to interact with the runners and roleplay a broad range of different people which keeps me in synch and allows me to change the energy level of the group depending on the scenario.

I think this post has run long enough. Ciao!

--McQuillan
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blakkie
post Apr 10 2004, 06:01 PM
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Good taste in snackfood.
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A Clockwork Lime
post Apr 10 2004, 06:01 PM
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In my opinion, the only thing it takes to be a good GM is to 1) realize that it is not "his" game but a shared storytelling environment where you're little more than a narrator and judge to handle any conflicts, 2) be improvisational and creative instead of reciting some adventure you put together verbatim and then getting upset if things don't go according to plan, and 3) never think your goal is to "beat" let alone "kill" the characters.
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Talia Invierno
post Apr 10 2004, 06:54 PM
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I wish I could comment further on this, but as things currently stand, I'm not sure I have the qualifications. Maybe: just that players and GM alike agree on what constitutes a good game ... and actively try together to enact it?
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Zazen
post Apr 10 2004, 06:56 PM
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I see a good number of replies saying "don't do this or that" with the silent understanding that they personally hate those things when they're playing. That's kind of like saying that all it takes to make a good movie is to avoid plot holes, don't use bad actors, and write dialogue that doesn't sound like it came from a 4 year old. Yes, there are bad movies with those qualities, but there are also bad movies whose problems have nothing to do with that.

I really don't think this question can be answered in such a simple way.
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CountZero
post Apr 10 2004, 08:16 PM
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Don't over-nerf the characters, especially in Shadowrun.

My old SR game I was in was 1st edition, with the exception of the SR Companion, where the GM was using the Edges and Flaws (or whatever they were) from that book. And, well, my GM forgot to tell us during Character creation that if we did not take the literacy edge, then we were illiterate. It doesn' t matter if you're playing a decker, or a rigger, or a Street Sam, or what have you, you were illiterate.

So, I'm playing a Rigger, who is a decent driver and all that, but he can't read and write. This came into play with an idea I had of my character carrying, on his person, some form or ordinary household chemical (like laundry soap) that would be particularly dangerous if thrown in someone's eyes. My GM vetoed this for two reasons:
  • My character couldn't read the warning label, because he's illiterate.
  • Nobody put warning labels on their products anymore anyway.

Eventually, the game broke up due to Real Life getting in the way. I would have left, but that was the only SR game nearby.
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Veracusse
post Apr 10 2004, 08:31 PM
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I really agree with McQuillan, he seems to have a similar GM style as I do.

A few thoughts that can help and add to what you can do to be a good GM. First of all I try to be flexible when I GM. The way I do this is planning. The best way to plan for a run is to know the rules that you will be using in that run and to write down the stats of NPCs, vehicles, security, etc. That way in game you don't have to figure stats and rules during game. However, I know improvisation is important, and you can't know of every detail that will show up in game, but if you plan to improvise you can be a lot better prepared for your game. Plus when I improvise in my game, the last people I want to know I am improvising are my players. I want them to think that I have everything planned out exactly. :vegm:

However, I also want my players to think that the game is open to their own choices and decisions, and allow them to feel that they are free. So I need to make my plans very flexible, and in some ways reactive to what they are doing. However, don't forget that plot is important. A plot should develop with every run, or else you will end up with some bored players. What I do is give the major NPCs that are involved with the run an agenda. This agenda can be strict or can be loose. It can directly involve the pcs or only remotely involve them. It all depends on what the scenario at the time dictates. If you allow the pcs to interact with the NPCs agenda then a plot will happen that both the players and the GM both will enjoy (Hopefully). And of course allow the pcs to have agendas of their own, which will sometimes interact with the NPCs and their agendas. This will make for a real interesting game.

Also I strongly second McQuillan's suggestion of getting feedback. This is key to understanding what your players want. Also don't be afraid to tell them what you as a GM want and expect out of them. If your players know that you are serious about GMing, and that it is not just a way to waste a few hours on Friday nights, then your players will be serious about the game.

On a personal note. When I was in High School I played with my pals every Friday night, but it was more or less a way just to kill time. After HS I quit RPing for 8 years, but now that I am in Grad school I picked it up again. Funny thing is I have a lot less time to devote to gamming, but I feel that the gamming I get now is of a much superior quality. Likewise, I feel that my current players are also of a much superior quality too. :love:

I think this has to do with the fact that I take GMing a little more seriously now than I did then. I cannot stand showing up to a gamming session without having anything prepared before hand.

Sorry for my rambling on and on!!

Veracusse
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kerensky
post Apr 10 2004, 09:25 PM
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To start with, create a narrative depicting a world both fascinating enough so that the players want to take part in it and flexible enough so their characters can help shape it.

Second of all, I frequently remind the players that we're all on the same team, it's just that we have different functions.

Third, learn to do your narrative like in a novel, because most of the time, the players want to "see" with their imagination, not "know" with their number-crunching brains.
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TinkerGnome
post Apr 10 2004, 11:45 PM
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Interesting comments, guys. I've been thinking about this for a while today, and I remembered this article on a Wizards board about 10 basic assumptions you should iron out about a game before you start. It's mainly DnD, but there are some good ideas there.

I think one of the key aspects of a good GM is communication at the start. The GM needs to communicate what he expects from the players and, in reverse, what the players expect from him/her.

Here are those 10 basic assumptions here, and try to relate them to SR as best I can. Some aren't valid, and I'll to say so when that's the case. If you want the background on the questions, check the article.

QUOTE
1. Whether or not the world conspires to make the PCs heroes.
2. Whether or not the PCs can make mistakes.
3. Whether the game is static or active.
4. How much information the players are given.
5. Whether or not NPCs fight logically and in according with their backgrounds and mental ability scores.
6. Whether NPCs are just extensions of the DM's will or speak for themselves.
7. Whether or not the game is fair.
8. How much the players talk to each other.
9. How long players are allowed to argue.
10. What the intensity level of the game is.

In an ongoing group, most of these are obvious, but a few might not be.

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Phaeton
post Apr 10 2004, 11:52 PM
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QUOTE (TinkerGnome)
Interesting comments, guys. I've been thinking about this for a while today, and I remembered this article on a Wizards board about 10 basic assumptions you should iron out about a game before you start. It's mainly DnD, but there are some good ideas there.

I think one of the key aspects of a good GM is communication at the start. The GM needs to communicate what he expects from the players and, in reverse, what the players expect from him/her.

Here are those 10 basic assumptions here, and try to relate them to SR as best I can. Some aren't valid, and I'll to say so when that's the case. If you want the background on the questions, check the article.

QUOTE
1. Whether or not the world conspires to make the PCs heroes.
2. Whether or not the PCs can make mistakes.
3. Whether the game is static or active.
4. How much information the players are given.
5. Whether or not NPCs fight logically and in according with their backgrounds and mental ability scores.
6. Whether NPCs are just extensions of the DM's will or speak for themselves.
7. Whether or not the game is fair.
8. How much the players talk to each other.
9. How long players are allowed to argue.
10. What the intensity level of the game is.

In an ongoing group, most of these are obvious, but a few might not be.

And as for number 5...I believe in trying to RP PCs as fighting by their ability scores, also, along with NPCs. :) Although then you have a choice between living and dying, frequently...:( It's a tradeoff between what the player would do and what the PC would do.
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Sunday_Gamer
post Apr 11 2004, 03:59 AM
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I'm not big on blowing my own horn but since everyone and their mother has assailed me with a constant barage of requests to play in one of my games. (back in college, we never took classes on Thursday afternoons so I could GM shadowrun, I have 8 players and another 8 on the waiting list. all 16 of them would cram into the room and I'd have my players and 8 very silent observers known as "the peanut gallery"...at some point I have to admit I must of been doing SOMETHING right.)

So let me take a moment and try to figure out what it is I do. I'm just one of those people who can walk into a room of strangers and start talking to people and in short order I'll have everyone smiling... but I doubt they teach that anywhere so I guess first and foremost you HAVE to be comfortable being in charge of a conversation. I'm also pretty quick witted which really helps me GM since alot of it is improv and reacting quickly to your players is key... wow this isn't helping other than being a diatribe on "Why Sunday is so fragging full of himself".

Let me think... I know I know... I post in "stream of consciousness", sorry and no, I won't be going back and editing, live with it =)

1) Think of it as a movie. A movie in which your PCs are the heroes.

What does THAT mean?

a) There are a thousand things you can do to a PC without killing them. How cool can this movie be if my heroes die halfway through? However, this means I want involvment from my players, be your character, I want to see his mannerisms when he speaks, I want consistancy (who wants a movie where the main characters are just not very good "characters" from a storytelling pov?) If you want to be a background character, be warned, background characters often die in the movies =) The better your character, the more chances that when rolls don't go your way or you do something stupid, I will give you pain, failure and generally make you wish you really hadn't done that, but I probably won't kill you.

b) Don't be afraid to let your players succeed, that way if and when they fail, it's easier to swallow. Theatrics only bring color to a game. By this I mean if one of my PCs makes his climbing skill and his stealth skill to get into a second story window. and steps inside, gets shot at, dodges and then takes the guy out, I have no big problem is describing the scene as a total ninja fest with my player as the star, I mean, he made the rolls, he did the deed, his opponent has just soaked a good hit. Why not describe it as his scaling the wall with Jacky Chan skill, and rolling into the room only to break into spinning leaps across the room and come down on the baddy with a flying double kick? I mean, the end result is the same, why not make the star look good?

c) Don't run the story one roll at a time, you should be watching a movie, not looking at pictures. I'll let rolls stockpile so I can get a better idea of what's going on. Then I describe the scene, so the PCs are all aware of each other and how all the different elements relate. It's up to you as a GM to know when to take a step back and replay a longer chunk of the scene for your players.

d) Know your characters. Your hardest job as a GM is being able to change hats instantly and adjust your thought pattern to match. You have to instantly slip into the skin of NPC X and figure out based on who it is and what they're established personality is like how they would behave. You have to process everything the players say through your "what this person knows" filter which means you also have to keep track of who knows what, who thinks what...it can be dizzying at times, best write this shit down as you go =)

e) Know the big picture. Don't worry about what your players will do. That's the only thing yours NOT in charge of so really, worry about your shit and let them worry about theirs. You are the one who knows what's going on, if you know what events are unfolding and you keep it straight in your head, you can better deal with what your players will do. They go see contact X or call up corporate contact B, you just stop and think about how that NPC fits if at all into the situation, and that'll tell you what they already know, what they can find out and how they feel about the whole thing in general.

f) It builds continuity. Your PCs will grow to understand the movie feel and they'll start working with you, which eliminates some peoples mistaken belief that it's a players vs GM even instead of a cooperative storytelling effort.

I think that's about it... I guess it's all about the movie, in the end... least for me.

Sunday
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Phaeton
post Apr 11 2004, 06:24 PM
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QUOTE (Sunday_Gamer)
I'm not big on blowing my own horn but since everyone and their mother has assailed me with a constant barage of requests to play in one of my games. (back in college, we never took classes on Thursday afternoons so I could GM shadowrun, I have 8 players and another 8 on the waiting list. all 16 of them would cram into the room and I'd have my players and 8 very silent observers known as "the peanut gallery"...at some point I have to admit I must of been doing SOMETHING right.)

So let me take a moment and try to figure out what it is I do. I'm just one of those people who can walk into a room of strangers and start talking to people and in short order I'll have everyone smiling... but I doubt they teach that anywhere so I guess first and foremost you HAVE to be comfortable being in charge of a conversation. I'm also pretty quick witted which really helps me GM since alot of it is improv and reacting quickly to your players is key... wow this isn't helping other than being a diatribe on "Why Sunday is so fragging full of himself".

Let me think... I know I know... I post in "stream of consciousness", sorry and no, I won't be going back and editing, live with it =)

1) Think of it as a movie. A movie in which your PCs are the heroes.

What does THAT mean?

a) There are a thousand things you can do to a PC without killing them. How cool can this movie be if my heroes die halfway through? However, this means I want involvment from my players, be your character, I want to see his mannerisms when he speaks, I want consistancy (who wants a movie where the main characters are just not very good "characters" from a storytelling pov?) If you want to be a background character, be warned, background characters often die in the movies =) The better your character, the more chances that when rolls don't go your way or you do something stupid, I will give you pain, failure and generally make you wish you really hadn't done that, but I probably won't kill you.

b) Don't be afraid to let your players succeed, that way if and when they fail, it's easier to swallow. Theatrics only bring color to a game. By this I mean if one of my PCs makes his climbing skill and his stealth skill to get into a second story window. and steps inside, gets shot at, dodges and then takes the guy out, I have no big problem is describing the scene as a total ninja fest with my player as the star, I mean, he made the rolls, he did the deed, his opponent has just soaked a good hit. Why not describe it as his scaling the wall with Jacky Chan skill, and rolling into the room only to break into spinning leaps across the room and come down on the baddy with a flying double kick? I mean, the end result is the same, why not make the star look good?

c) Don't run the story one roll at a time, you should be watching a movie, not looking at pictures. I'll let rolls stockpile so I can get a better idea of what's going on. Then I describe the scene, so the PCs are all aware of each other and how all the different elements relate. It's up to you as a GM to know when to take a step back and replay a longer chunk of the scene for your players.

d) Know your characters. Your hardest job as a GM is being able to change hats instantly and adjust your thought pattern to match. You have to instantly slip into the skin of NPC X and figure out based on who it is and what they're established personality is like how they would behave. You have to process everything the players say through your "what this person knows" filter which means you also have to keep track of who knows what, who thinks what...it can be dizzying at times, best write this shit down as you go =)

e) Know the big picture. Don't worry about what your players will do. That's the only thing yours NOT in charge of so really, worry about your shit and let them worry about theirs. You are the one who knows what's going on, if you know what events are unfolding and you keep it straight in your head, you can better deal with what your players will do. They go see contact X or call up corporate contact B, you just stop and think about how that NPC fits if at all into the situation, and that'll tell you what they already know, what they can find out and how they feel about the whole thing in general.

f) It builds continuity. Your PCs will grow to understand the movie feel and they'll start working with you, which eliminates some peoples mistaken belief that it's a players vs GM even instead of a cooperative storytelling effort.

I think that's about it... I guess it's all about the movie, in the end... least for me.

Sunday

:notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy:
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Zazen
post Apr 12 2004, 04:04 AM
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QUOTE (Sunday_Gamer @ Apr 10 2004, 10:59 PM)
You have to process everything the players say through your "what this person knows" filter which means you also have to keep track of who knows what, who thinks what...it can be dizzying at times, best write this shit down as you go =)

Do you have any tips for how, specifically, you write that shit down? I occasionally jumble up an NPCs perspective or knowledge of the situation. I'm such a shitty note taker that I don't even bother trying to organize it on paper, but it might help if I knew an effective method.
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mfb
post Apr 12 2004, 04:19 AM
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me. i make a good GM. if you're not me, make it easy on yourself and quit.
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Stumps
post Apr 12 2004, 06:39 AM
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QUOTE
What Makes A Good GM

Sex. Sex makes people. The more people, the better chance of more good GM's.
So...sex makes good GM's.

(original post read "Being Jesus Christ")
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Arethusa
post Apr 12 2004, 06:41 AM
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Man, so many jokes about 'Jesus saves...'
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Sunday_Gamer
post Apr 12 2004, 07:10 AM
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In terms of note taking, I feel your pain.

I've found that the best thing to do is group my notes by story thread.

I won't have NPC X's notes in one place and then have to remember who's involved with what. I have a quick summary of the thread, when the thread begins.

I list who's invovled and what they know along with what the PCs know.

That was, when a player suddenly starts asking questions about a chip they found 3 runs ago that they've done nothing with, instead of suddenly pacnicking and trying to remember who was involved, I just flip over to my : Mystery Chip thread page I jotted down 3 runs ago and I quickly see what it was and who was involved.

I don't know if that helps, works for me.

Sunday

PS: I am touched by your worship Phaeton, but let's keep the shrine to something small, tasteful, perhaps inlaid with supermodels? =)
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Zazen
post Apr 12 2004, 07:39 AM
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Hmm, can you give me an example of a thread-based note sheet? I sort of understand what you're saying, but it'd be really helpful (and I'd be really grateful :) ) if I could see it in action.
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RSS Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 25th July 2024 - 07:12 PM

Topps, Inc has sole ownership of the names, logo, artwork, marks, photographs, sounds, audio, video and/or any proprietary material used in connection with the game Shadowrun. Topps, Inc has granted permission to the Dumpshock Forums to use such names, logos, artwork, marks and/or any proprietary materials for promotional and informational purposes on its website but does not endorse, and is not affiliated with the Dumpshock Forums in any official capacity whatsoever.