GM/Player balance

I really like Burning Empires and particular enjoy the cooperative story telling element that has been added.

Our group has found with these types of games (such as Primetime Adventures and With Great Power) we tend to favour having the GM manage the overall direction of the overarching plot (often done simply by using great villains) whilst the players focus on creating PC stories and developing these into that overarching plot. One of the reasons is that our GM tends to have more time in real life to prepare before the session and so this helps smooth out the story (though the GM always goes with great new ideas introduced by the players).

Unfortnately, some cooperative RPGs really struggle with this slight shift of balance and leave little room for prep outside of the gaming session, relying on the group to get everything together through play. BE seems to more flexible in this regard as it contains a number of traditional RPG elements.

Anyway, I would be keen to hear from people running BE what it has been like running it. How has the cooperative element fared and have some groups found any impact with a slight shift in the story responsibilities.

I’m currently running a game, where we do a maneuver a night. We’ve gotten through two maneuvers. (It’s on the wiki)

Anyway, I can say that currently we’re trying to get use to the scene currency in the game. I think it’s throwing us off a lot, since we’ve never played a game this structured before (having never played PTA or WGP). I actually have quite a few questions about handling scenes (particularly building scenes) but I assume the crew’s at Gen Con, so I’ll wait. I think we’re getting there, as far as making that scene currency work for us, but its happening in fits and starts.

So I’ll see how things go next week at the game.

As for the cooperative story-telling element that is actually working fairly well. A lot of the players seem to have a good idea of where they are heading for their stories. I’ve been largely allowing the players free-range with their scenes, interjecting here and there, but I’ll be leaning more heavily on calling for tests in the game.

Unfortunately, none of the PCs are on the same page, and all seem to be working at cross-purposes to each other. So I think it’s very convoluted story, and likely to be getting even more so.

I have played a number of games of PTA and WGP. We really like the cooperative approach. However, we found PTA to be easier at it has less rules, making the cooperative thing really work. WGP is also good and is similar to BE. It has a GM whose main purpose to act as opposition. However, we found WGP was very hard on the GM, more so than a traditional RPG, as it required them to be cooperative, run several villains, keep track of the overall plot as well as a multitude of character narratives. All without any real ability to prep.

BE seems to be a less difficult on the GM and I am interested to see how the greater traditional RPG elements play out in this structure. Though it seems similar, the GM is explictly authorised to create Figures of Note after the first session, hide the maneuver from the players, have as many scenes as the players combined and act as a traditional Gm in some scenes. This added with the flexibility in the system i.e. the Infection results don’t automatically effect character action and vice versa, it encoruages the GM (as well as the players) to narrate the story, without restricting it too much.