Initial GM prep work

I’m new to the boards but I’ve been lurking for a few weeks, so hello everyone - my name is Esteban.

Before I get to my question, I’d like to congratulate Luke, Chris and company for making such an enthralling game. I’ve read most of the forum posts and I’ve been re-reading much of the book (it’s quite a lot to internalize, but oh so fun) and I can’t get enough of it. Now I’m anxiously waiting for my group to wrap up a CoC campaign we’re on. Which brings me to my question:
(1) Which parts of the brick should I focus on before our first game?

The World Burner seems fairly straight forward, pick and choose from the list. The DoW and Firefight mechanics aren’t trivial but they are intuitive and can be streamlined into play. Besides, they won’t be used immediately. Infection mechanics are fairly straightforward and are easy enough to explain.

Character burning (with the vast number of skills, wises and traits) seems like a possible problem area. Some of my players might switch off if character burning is too complicated. Starting backwards and picking lifepaths in reverse might help, but I don’t want them to feel disconnected.

I was thinking we could start building one character as a group effort so everyone can partake in the process and learn about the stats, skills and traits together, as I guide them through it. Then go around the table until the process has sunk in. (2) Would that be a viable approach?

I’m tempted to just start with World Burning which is simple and would tie the players into the world. This would help ease over any difficulties during character burning. I could just be over-thinking things, but I want to make sure it’s smooth sailing for us. :slight_smile:

Finally, I’ve read about running the Fires Over Omac as a one-shot prior to a campaign, but (3) how likely is it to run it in the estimated 4 hours? None of my players will have much knowledge about the setting, and I can see how explaining the setting itself will take some time in and of itself (Anvil? Kerrn? Hammer? Vaylen?) Our group has little to no experience running scenarios, we mostly do long campaigns. (4) What have people’s experiences been with running the scenario?

ps. I’d like to thank forum members like Paul B, Sydney and several others whose posts helped me better understand BE through the archived discussions.

You might try running Omac for your group. It’s one night of play and it’ll help everyone understand how the game works.

Omac is perfect for this. What we did in our group was to make sure everyone had access to a copy of the book. Skipping the world/character burner chapters (because everything is ready in Omac), we divided the rest among us, so each player got two huge chunks to read and digest. Can’t remember precisely, but one got fx Scenes, Conflicts, Tests + Advancement pp 287 - 323, etc. This way we shared the understanding and remembering of the rules. I was GM and had read the lot a couple of times before, but got two chunks assigned as well.

It looks like we’ll be giving Omac a run before the main game.

Splitting the book up sounds plausible, maybe not amongst all the players (as some are notoriously bad at completing such “homework” assignments). I’ll discuss it amongst the players to see who volunteers.

Hi Esteban, I’m running a campaign right now with four other guys. I proposed running Omac (and in retrospect, it would probably have been a good idea), but my boys wanted to jump right into the world burning and eat the whole tamale. The character burning went fine, actually. Download the character creation sheets off the wiki, and burn up a couple of guys yourself first so that you can walk everyone through it. Everyone in our group had a book, so I just walked around the table like a middle-school teacher, leaning over people’s shoulders and giving advice.

We had some sub-optimal characters at the end of the process, but we tweaked them as we went along, and it wasn’t terribly disruptive. At this point, everyone’s characters have stabilized, and they’re using downtime and the advancement rules to make whatever changes they feel they need.

As for the play itself, give it a few sessions to shake down, I know it’s intimidating. As for GM session prep, I find if I don’t map out what I want my GM FoN’s to shoot for ahead of time, I’m lost and the night lacks a sense of urgency.

Good luck!


Hi Esteban!

Ad.1 You should read about Scenes, Tests (Tasks, Intents, ForKs, Help), Artha, then look at Duel of Wits (i suggest for first session use “Not a big deal mode”) and Firefight (i strongly advise to use mini-FF mode or even versus tests with stakes, which dont slow the game). Finally read about NPCs and running the game on last pages of book - its one of the best helpful things, which i have ever read in rpg rulebooks.

And, like all says, read and play Fires Over Omac.

Ad.2 - When we have played for the first time, we had 3 rulebooks, then we played with two (including one pdf on my pc). BE is so big and detailed, that you should use at least two books - one for GM and one for players. The best thing what i can do it is to share my two “golden rules of running BE” with you:

  1. As GM you should start first scene and show your players how to create it, what`s the difference between color scenes and building scenes and how you make tests. Building scenes are the best for that, so i advise start session with one of them.

  2. In my view one of major differences between BE and other classic games is conflict resolution system - all this stuff with positive/negative stakes, tasks and others can stun players, who never heard about this. Again - best thing you can do is to show players how it works, and help them in their scenes with that. If you have never played in indie-like-game (Dogs in the vineyard, Shock, Burning wheel - most of them use conflict resolution instead classical task resolution from d20, Shadowrun, nWoD), you must be patient, beacause players will asks or even annoying until they will catch it.

When ive runned Omac, two from my four players had a problems with conflict res and one of them didnt catch it - it happens, but you must be prepared.

Ad. 3 & 4 - We have played in Omac at Polcon 07, when three of five player dont have any idea about BE setting, rules and other. However one of them have contact with conflict resolution and this kind of stuff. I began with small, 15-minutes introduction in setting, then i described characters (FoNs for players and mine), and after that i start with my first GM-building scene, when i shown how works tests, advancement and how to play with Beliefs.


Chris and Deckard thanks for your comments!

Just an update, I’ve decided to follow up on having the players read sections of the book and explain them to the group. In the past we (the other GM and I) have had abysmal results in getting our players to read handouts/homework, but figured I could at least give it a try. So I ordered another BE book (mine was from the first run so I don’t think it’ll take the abuse of 5 people) so I can have at least two books for the players to share.

Now its just a matter of waiting for the CoC campaign to wrap up. Who knows maybe we all get murdered in the next session. But funnily enough after talking with our CoC GM about some of our mutual gripes with game play I suggested a tighter scene economy (inspired on BE’s tight scene economy) to speed up and focus gameplay, which vibed pretty well with him. And in our last session I started introducing the concept of scene intent to better focus our investigative efforts: “What are you trying to do with this scene, so we can better aid you?” So it’ll be an interesting experiment to introduce BE concepts ahead of time so they can be familiarized with some of them when we get to Omac.

And in our last session I started introducing the concept of scene intent to better focus our investigative efforts

Smart idea!

Hoho, I’ve actually done the same exact thing.

During christmas we played Vampire: Victorian Era (Focus on London) with BW like scene economy and Beliefs + Instincts. (Traits being part of Merits of whitewolf)

Scene economy works fantastically well for any setting which lets player play potent and power hungry (often social) creatures.