You are here

The Dealer

This section is all about The Story and by extension The Dealer. Since a role-playing game is about the story and the player's role in moving that story forward it is the Dealer's role to create the plot and the other characters that the player-characters might deal with during their adventures. In no way is this section authoritative: Some people can keep a story rolling with what seems like simple ease while others need as much help as they can get.
Rule #1: Know the Rules
The first rule is pretty much the only hard and fast rule. If you don't know the rules and your players know the rules they will try to take advantage of you. Players are devious, malicious, and evil. They want what is best for them and have no idea that the minor setback you've carefully set up is leading to long term rewards that will make the whole experience far more fun. So know the rules! If you know the rules you can tune situations to be just difficult enough to offer a challenge while not being completely frustrating.
Suggestion #2: Create a Character
Or better yet, create three. This will help you learn how the rules work (see Rule #1) as well as provide useful characters for you to use in your game. Is there a rich cattle baron who will play a central and repeated role? Create a character sheet for them. The same with the saloon owner who is constantly helping the players out. Just like creating and personalizing their characters creates an investment and continuing interest for the players, creating your own characters gives you an investment in the game.
Suggestion #3: Plan Ahead
Planning ahead is critical. The easiest way to start is to take a look at the player-character's Traits and see if they selected any background traits that you could tie into your existing plans. Certainly that rich cattle baron is going to offer the players a job hunting down rustlers but why would the character who is Wanted by the Law ride off to help out? Perhaps the cattle baron could casually drop the name of 'the real criminal' as the suspected rustler. Perhaps the cattle baron isn't the kindly old gentleman he appears to be and will turn the character (and his new gang) in after they've done the dirty work for him.

Once you have a basic plan in place do a little more planning. Suppose barbarians are nosing around the edge of the cattle baron's land looking to make off with some of his herd. Having them detailed out as both opponents and potential allies might be useful. Even if the players don't fall for the obvious ambush in the box canyon you might just need another group of barbarians further along in the story. The same goes with the rustlers themselves. Sure you plan to have the story revolve around a long chase that leads to a final confrontation but sometimes events and clever players conspire against you.
Suggestion #4: Create an Outline
In your ideal situation, what will happen when? The cliche says that no plan survives first contact with the enemy (or your players), but the guy who goes in with a plan is often better off than the guy who goes in with nothing at all. Then, after a session is over, you can take your outline and re-work it to deal with what happened during the previous session.
Suggestion #5: Missing Something?
Were you missing something during the last session that would have saved you a lot of time? Do you have an idea for a modification or rule that would save a lot of time and make play faster and easier? Write it down! Send it in! Remember: It doesn't have to be just you versus your players. Ask for help and look for ideas online and in your circle of friends.
Suggestion #6: Describe It!
Role-playing is very much a game of imagination. Describing what is going on will help both you and your players set the tone for an encounter, underscore the bravery of their actions, or emphasis just how desperate a situation really is. If you've got a plan for where the Players are going to be write out some descriptions or even some brief notes so you don't have to make it up on the fly. Don't be afraid to recycle your descriptions as well but throw in that one little twist to make the next area more interesting.
Suggestion #7: Don't be Afraid to Fudge It.
Sometimes when there isn't a rule to cover a particular circumstance or the Players are heading for inevitable defeat because they missed something that would be, to you, obvious you might need to fudge things a little. Having a player die immediately in a minor fight before they even reach the villainous mastermind isn't very fun for either the player or for you. Don't be afraid to fudge it.
Suggestion #8: Humor Covers a Multitude of Sins!
Pretty simple. Humor can keep a potentially game-ruining situation from boiling over. Keeping it light, keeping it silly, and maybe fudging things a bit to be funny can keep the Players happy and your job easier.
Using Resilience
The Resilience concept is, potentially, one of the most flexible options the Dealer has when dealing with an unexpected situation. Here are a number of examples...
Traps
By giving a trap Resilience you can turn it into an Encounter quickly and easily. This is potentially useful with more complicated traps where a number of Skill Rolls might be needed to defeat the trap.

For Example: A classic trap is the crushing garbage unit from Star Wars IV. The Dealer could make the encounter timed by ruling that if the Characters do not overcome the trap's Resilience during one Initiative series then the Characters are doomed. They would then need to use their Skills - Perception, Craftsman, Pistols, Radio, etc - to disable the trap. For each Skill used the Dealer would need to set an appropriate difficulty: For instance trying to call the droids and get them to shut down the trap might be a 'Hard' target while blocking the crushing walls might be a 'Very Hard' target.
Large Scale Battles
In a large scale battle Players can find any number of uses for their Skills aside from front line combat. Doctors could use their skills to keep the men in fighting shape and tend the wounded, craftsmen could help prepare the battlefield beforehand, leaders could rally their troops to feats of courage, and any number of other possible options. There are several ways to determine the Resilience of both sides but here are a few general suggestions:

Simple: Take the 'Officer' Trait of the highest ranked officer and multiple the Rank by itself. Thus a Rank 2 Trait 'army' might have a Resilience of 4, etc. This might be most appropriate when the Players find themselves suddenly in the middle of a battle and must contribute in order to affect the outcome and their own fortunes.

Complex: The previous method could also be used as a baseline and then the Resilience of both sides or even multiple 'armies' could be tracked from battle to battle as the Players attempt to guide the course of an entire war. In this case a single Initiative might be used so as to keep things from dragging out and to represent a beaten army withdrawing before it is destroyed. After a battle players, acting as officers, could make Skill rolls to help an army recover Resilience. Useful Skills might be Doctor, Strategy, Logistics, Craftsman, and some Professions as well.

Determining what happens to the Players during the course of a battle might be particularly tricky. Since there are no 'saving throws' one could simply have a 'failed' Skill Roll (and any 'Scaling Failures') reduce the Character's own Resilience representing poor choices and poor luck during the course of the battle. A failing Tactics Roll could mean the Player was out-maneuvered by another unit and wounded or that they were cut off from the rest of the army by advancing enemy forces. Failing a 'Doctor' Roll could mean the Doctor ends up getting sick from exposure to their patients or similar.
Sports and Games
Team sports could also be played using Resilience by taking the best player's Skill in that sport and using that as their Resilience. For something like a baseball game each Initiative could represent a whole inning, or a single Initiative could represent a whole game. A more complex way to handle it would allow the Players to use one Skill during the break between Innings to deliver a pep talk or keep tired athletes working at their best.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer