Running the Game


To run the game effectively you, as the GM, must be aware of several factors that extend beyond the rules of the game. These are decisions that you and the players must decide upon as the game develops. The tone of the game is something that all players should have input on since the tone determines the flavor and atmosphere of the game.

You must also run the game sessions and role play the encounters as they occur. For a new GM this can be a daunting task. Start slow and don't feel bad about making mistakes. Make sure that the players also know that you might make mistakes and will, on occasion, be forced to change something

A final point, as the GM you are the final arbiter for the game. You are not only the actor playing the parts of all non-player characters, you are the referee for handling disputes and the director of all that happens.

Game Tone

The first major question is, "What sort of game do the players want?" Should it be a serious game of epoch proportions? Or should it be a modest game dealing with individuals in their daily lives? Discuss this with the players and see what they are interested in.

  1. Scale: Do you want a game that takes place in a small area? A whole world? A universe? More?
  2. Scope: Will you be following the lives of the characters in detail? Will the game entail the broad strokes of the character's lives where the adventures appear as episodes?
  3. Flavor: Should the game be deadly serious, comic, something in between?

Having identified these parameters you will have a good idea of what the players want.

Preparing for the Game

The first step is to choose a place to play the game. This can be as simple as a living room or a kitchen table. It can be as sophisticated as a table with model terrain and miniatures or a computer projector.

Make sure your players are as comfortable as possible. Have sufficient lighting, sufficient chairs, and make sure you have all of the game materials you might reasonably need.

Agree on game parameters. How long will a game session last? What is the policy about breaks? About food and drinks? Smoking? Do you allow players whose characters are not present where an action is occurring to make suggestions?

Running a Game Session

The first task in running a game session is to ask if players have any business before they get started. It is unlikely to be the case for the first session, but thereafter players may want to spend HP acquired from the previous game session. Have each player explain their choices of how to spend their HP and either approve it or not, if not have a good reason for not approving it. Be prepared to rule on any special additions to the definition of their skills due to level increases. It is possible for major revisions of skills to be acquired in this way, the best idea is to require a multiple of five to be attained as the new level before such major specials are required, if they are extremely powerful you might require a multiple of ten or even more. If someone has gone past this level you might want to allow them to gain one such increase before the next multiple of five, ten, or whatever is reached, but only that one time.

The second task is to ask for hunteds, bounties, curses, friends, enemies or other similar conditions for each character. Total up the levels of hunteds, friends, bounties, or enemies from the whole party if they are from the same source (common foes). Roll a d10 and treat it just like a skill roll. You can modify with the fame of the characters involved. If the result is positive you should have that hunted, friend, enemy, or bounty interfere with the characters at some point during the game session. It is possible for such complications to take over one or many game sessions. Be sure to be clever about their use, not everyone is openly confrontational; subtle influences and manipulations can be more devastating than an open attack.

Once that is done you should establish the scene for each character. Give a recap of where the previous game session ended. Then poll the players. Where are their characters? What are they experiencing? Who is nearby? Then poll each player to find out what their character's goals for the next scene are.

From that point on it becomes a play. The players take on the role of their characters and you switch between being in charge and playing the roles of non-player characters. Whenever a character attempts to do something that has a chance of failure, or where the actual result is important, they must make an ability roll. If these are not important, then rule on whether the character could likely accomplish their task, usually in their favor (assuming they have suitable abilities).

One thing that happens often is that the players will do something you hadn't planned for. If that happens think fast about the ramifications of their actions. What would they be likely to encounter on their new path? What are the likely consequences of their actions. Improvise if you have nothing set up.

Running the Adventure

Once you begin running the game it is up to you to maintain the atmosphere of the game. You must learn to pace the story so that the tone is maintained. This takes practice, but it is worth the effort. You must keep attention focused on the game; do not allow digressions to interfere. Conversations about movies, or the weather, or home life are fine before or after the game, but must not interfere with the game.

There will also be times when the players have gone off on their own and you feel lost and out of touch with what you originally developed. Do not show it, but keep on improvising as if you had planned for this all along. It is important to allow the game to evolve as it will.

Rewards for Play and the Endgame

When a game session ends you must hand out rewards for that game session. If the game session results in the end of an adventure, then the HP for that adventure are given out.

For any game session you should reward good role playing skills. Any time that a player does a particularly good bit of role playing (when their character seems to come alive in the game setting) you should make a note of it since this constitutes an exceptional action. Remember that this should be given out only for exceptional role-play (the kind of acting you expect to see in a good movie, for example). It is assumed that all players will be doing a reasonable job of playing their characters, so normal play should not count. This should be rewarded by the grant of a History Point.

Whenever a character achieves a specified personal goal an exceptional action has been accomplished. A goal must consist of a specific act to be performed (travel to a lake to find a particular type of moss for making a potion, getting revenge on the bandits who killed the character's parents, etc.). These are major accomplishments which direct the course of the character's life. When NPCs achieve such goals, note them too. As the GM you should award 1 HP for achieving a personal goal.

Whenever the character is involved in destroying, thwarting, or overcoming a hostile encounter (a ravaging creature, a band of criminals, a local tyrant, a natural disaster, etc.) they have performed an exceptional action.

One HP must be spent on the basic condition Fame for every ten HP accumulated.

A Note About Character Death

There will be times that a character dies. That can't be helped. It is up to you, as GM, to see to it that such deaths are meaningful and are not simply the result of random chance. If an encounter is beyond the ability of the characters either ignor it or allow the characters to escape (with suitable suspense). There is nothing worse than having a character you have spent a lot of time on get wiped out for no reason. The main point of the game is for everyone to have fun. After that it is to tell a good story. Do not allow the dice to run the game for you.

On the other hand, there will be times that the characters insist on doing things that you have warned them not to do. If you cannot disuade them from doing such things, even after coming right out and telling them that what they are doing will get them killed, then they deserve what they get.

Luck Rolls

Sometimes something happens for which you are totally unprepared. Or something happens that must be decided by random chance. In these cases you can resort to a "Luck Roll". Both you and the player(s) must roll percentile dice. The rolls closest to you are luckiest. You might decide that to be lucky someone must roll within a certain percent of your roll. For example, there is a severe storm and you need to find out if anyone is injured by the hail, high winds, and lightning. You decide that if anyone rolls within 10% of you they are uneffected, if they roll within 40% of you they have had some equipment lightly damaged, if they roll within 75% of you they have sustained a Pain 3 wound to a random location, if they roll higher than that they have received a Hit in a random location.

Character Design

When a player is setting up a character try to help them become integrated into the game by providing details about their character's life and environments as they grow up. Make sure you know enough about what is happening in your game world to know the sorts of things you will want the character to get involved with and develop background information that will give them motives for being involved.

If a player wants to play an alien race, make sure to be certain that they can handle the suspicion that may be attached to that choice. Make them understand that their character will be an outsider, maybe enven feared or even, in extreme cases, attacked. If they insist, allow them to make up the character, but also make sure that their isolation and consequences are felt. One way to make this happen is to give them 1-3 extra HP in return for the condition mistrusted (either basic, difficult, or extreme depending on how many HP you gave them).

If a character has a destiny then the powers that be have touched them in some way. Of them the Legendary Destiny has the power to throw your game into dissarray. Understand that this means that a divine power has a direct interest in the character and has bequethed a divine power to them. In essence the character is a demigod in waiting.

Abilities and Specials

Allow your players to invent new abilities as required, but think about their natures. Not only do you need to rate their grades (basic, difficult, or extreme), but you need to determine how long it will take for the character to invent the ability and any other requirements (such as research materials, equipment, etc.) Allow the player to assist in this by asking their opinion on these matters from the point of view of a story.

One aspect of abilities that people have trouble with is specials for level increases. Some people are great at coming up with them, some people are not. Try to explain it like this, "How would you modify the description of this ability, given the chance?"

Here are some notes on specific listed abilities:

Battle Fury: This is a dangerous skill, since it may result in a character attacking a friend. Do what you can to avoid killing off player characters.

Jack-of-all-Trades: These skills give the character a natural talent that can be used to generate reasonable skills with reasonable practice. A level increase is always suitable practice, and can be used to invent a new skill. Instead of duplicating an effect, it can be used to generate an entire skill, though no special can be chosen for that level.

Craft: This skill allows a character to make a living. Each week you can make a skill roll to determine how many coins are earned.

Instruction: Allow the success of the instructor to reduce the number of days spent in training.

Survival: Any skill in survival gives you a chance to live off the land anywhere, the closer to your chosen environment, the better the modifier.

IU-based skills should be allowed to be learned and used quickly, intuitively. IN-based skills should take time to be used, they require thought.

Conditions: Any existing skill can be had as a condition, it just starts at 1.

Good Student: Allow the success of the student to reduce the number of days spent in training.


Any ability roll of a 10 results in an acccident of one form or another. A second roll must then be made.

A second result of 1 is an accidental success. This can be an amazing result that would otherwise be impossible. You have accidentally done exactly the right thing. New skills could result, new special added to skills, and so on.

A second result of a 2 or 3 is an accidental success that is not directly related to what you are doing. This is often an increase in skill by 1 level with no corresponding specials. Take the lowest level skill being used in the skill attempt and then raise it by 1, ties are determined by the GM.

A second result of 4 through 7 results in a delay. An alternative is an increase in power detriments or the acquisition of the condition Fatigue (b): A detriment to all skill attempts caused by exhaustion, This detriment can be reduced by one pip per hour of rest taken.

A second result of 8 or 9 is an unfortunate accident. This often results in a loss in skill, take the highest ability being used and reduce it by one level, not removing any specials, unless the skill is completely eliminated.

A second result of 10 is a catastrophic accident. This is something bad, but it should be interesting. Do not just kill off everyone unless it is important to the story. Look for a way to connect it to the story, give an opponent an unseen opportunity.

Psychic Powers

Always stress the weirdness of psychic powers. These are not mundane skills zipped up by power. Use the imagery of psychic forms; automatons that inhabit the psychic world. Instead of saying that something is perceived, begin by having the psychic reach out and find a form that carries the information to them. The psychic may need to sift through a number of available forms to find the correct one.

An alternative view is that of visions. When using a psychic power of thought, perception, or dream you could have them neter a trance state and receive visions.

It is important to decide if the psychic world is a part of the everyday world, or if it is some other place. You need not explain, or even know, exactly how this occurs. It is better if you develop some scheme for this, as the search for it may become a source of adventures.

The Guardians of the Dead are mentioned under Medium. These are spiritual servants of the God of the Dead, whomever that is in your game (and it may be multiple Gods if you so wish).

Be sure to always make the psychic work for the required psychic form, include the modifier required.

The Magical World and Magical Beings

If your world has a magical component, you need to decide if that is a part of the physical world, or a separate place. If it is a part of your world, then some magical effects will be visible. If there is a separate magical world, then magical effects will be invisible unless they directly effect the physical world.

Make sure that when people use magical pwers they realize that they are entering, and operating in, a distant and alien world. It is never mundane, it is always unexpected, and it is always dangerous.

Always be sure to allow modifiers due to the laws of magic to apply only to uses of magical power. Anyone with Knowledge (Magic) knows the laws of magic, they just do not have enough expertise to use those laws to gains specific magical modifications.

Make sure that powerful spells are noticed by those in power. Have those who cast such spells become hunted by those of magical power, not necessarily a bad hunted; they are just curious about finding those who are casting powerful spells. Have a powerful spell-casting NPC cast a powerful spell every once in a while to give the players something to detect.

If a spirit manifests physically there is a chance that anyone with Magical Senses will know it is there. The same is true for possessed beings. A spirit might watch something from the stral, those with magical senses might be able to tell, but any attempt will be at -10.

Low Magic

In games with magical powers, this is the most common type of power. It ranges from simple folk magic to advanced and complicated rituals. Make sure to play up the requirements for basic and difficult powers. Do not be surprised by the large numbers that can be generated by magical rituals. All rituals use spirits as the basic for the magic being cast. The spirit is working through an astral manifestation, and uses only a fraction of its power.

When someone uses Beast Master or Beast Companion to summon an animal, determine how far the animal has to travel to reach the magician. This can change is the magician moves. There is also a chance that something bad happens to the animal on the way. Have then make a luck roll to determine if any animal within range will answer their call. If the animal is common there should be a good chance, if the animal is rare and not too powerful then the chance should be lower.

Spirit Magic

Unlike low magic, spirit magic takes place in the spirit realm and is at the full scale of the spirit. Most spirit magic thus goes without detection in the physical world. All workings involving spirit magic must stress the alien nature of the "feel" of the spirit world.

Spirits can manifest in the astral plane without cost and in any numbers they want. Binding spirit in no way incomveniences the spirit.

Banishment of a spirit can only be in the physical or astral realms.

Spirits cannot be killed. They can be destroyed, but not on the physical or astral plane; they must be destroyed in the spirit realm.

High Magic

High magic takes place in the divine world and does not manifest in the physical world. High magic is at the full divine scale.

High magic is understood by those who practice it, as the true style of magic and all others are viewed as a stepping stone to High Magic.

All High Magic involves the deepest mysteries of magic and the connection of the magician to the magical, spirit, and divine worlds.

Religious Magic

Religious magic takes place in the divine world, just like High Magic does. Religious magic is at the whim of the gods.

Gods can know and do anything for which they are unopposed. Opposition will have to match divine power (800 or more + the modifier for divine level magic against whatever kind of magic is in opposition). This is also modified by the number of worshippers, five times the number of shrines, and twenty times the number of temples in the world. This is one reason why the gonds want worshippers, to increase their strength in the world.

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