Quick Draw GMing

So here’s a thing that happened yesterday. As usual on a Wednesday with our group, the e-mails start doing the rounds about what game we will be playing that night. We usually have something on the front burner for when everyone’s available, and a stock of other games for when we’re a man down. But on this occasion there was just myself, Steve and Dan. It turns out we don’t have much in the way of 3 person games to simply pull off the shelf!

I suggested we play an RPG, as we’ve been in board game land for a while, so why not just to freshen things up? (spoiler alert: in the end we went with a side mission from our main game of Imperial Assault. Which ruled.) I had the afternoon off, so if the guys wanted I could rustle up something for two players. No problem. While I waited for their answer, I went out for a run, which is where I do my primo game thinking. Which is when I realised just how hard this project might actually be.

See, I have dozens, if not hundreds of RPGs. Out of all of those, how many could I run without refreshing myself on the rules? a handful. If I was to generate a couple of characters as well? fewer again. At that point I wouldn’t have scenario either. Yes, I have hundreds of adventures, but in a totally ready to play state? Not so many.So I’m running along, getting increasingly annoyed with myself for not having a selection of totally ready to plug and play RPGs from a few genres with characters ready to rock.

Too much to ask?

My candidates were: Fate, specifically Fate Accelerated, where if i could get a couple of character sheets printed I was fairly confident I could get something going with no prep. I’d probably riff off the idea of Marvel Team Up and ask the guys to stat out a hero from fiction and see what came from their Trouble aspects. Not bad!

D&D. Now, there were still choices to be made. Anything from the Basic era and we could do characters on notepads and still be playing in 15 mins. Fahfyrd and the Grey Mouser? Tempting! Still need a sceneario though and Keep on the Borderlands is right there on the shelf. Or, having just digested Whitehack I could use that to improv our way through something, though it’s leaving a lot to inspiration on the night. Even 5e was a possibility, but I’d have snagged the starter PCs from the Beginner Box and then needed a scenario as Phandelver has already been done.

Apocalypse World. Again, just read it, and I liked the idea of printing off the playsheets and going for it. I don’t know if it flies with two players? I imagine it’s better with more people to build conflicted relationships out of. Too new and untested really.

In a similar vein, Blades in the Dark, again, just read with the latest updates. Haven’t internalised the rules in any real way yet, so perhaps not the easy ride I was looking for.

Of course there are loads of quality candidates out there with resources already available. Things like Savage Worlds and One Sheets. But crucially that would have involved me doing some book pulling or downloading and some frantic reacquainting myself with some material. And I had two or three hours at best.

In the end it wasn’t an issue, but the thought has stayed with me all day. If you get a snap chance at a game for a couple of guys in a couple of hours for a couple of hours, what would you do?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Quick Draw GMing

  1. I’d cheat. From various conventions I have a stack of one-shots, and I could run one of those which isn’t too dependent on all the characters being present, rescaling on the fly for a smaller group.

    Less cheaty, I wonder if Beat to Quarters or Duty and Honour would work well. Still in the Neil Gow camp, ERA is exactly designed for that sort of thing.

  2. I concur with the honourable Doctor. Over the years I’ve built up a reasonable number of scenarios I’ve run at conventions over the years, each with their own pre-generated characters. Most for Savage Worlds but a couple of others if needed. I’d also look to ERA as well – it’s perfect for solo or a couple of players. If you’re willing to go a little off-piste a little then Primetime Adventures could be a good gamble.

  3. MrNewt

    Dungeon World – its pick up and play even with people who have never rpged before.

    For the younger crowd (12+) I would definitely go with the new Lone Wolf RPG from Cubicle 7. Six pregens,with rules on sheets and beautiful art by Jonny Hodgson. Simple but evocative rules, strong game concept (fantasy Jedi vs Darklord and his forces). Scenario book with two straightforward scenarios ready to play, followed by strong advice on how to create your own….all in a rock hard box. I’ve only had the game since hometime today and I love it already 🙂

  4. Good suggestions all, though none work for me at short notice! Lots of stuff relies on you having already internalised it well enough in advance. Lone Wolf for example, I’m sure it’s brilliant for all the reasons Newt states, but I haven’t read it so I wouldn’t be able to pick it up and play it! I have read Dungeon World, and it might have been a possibility (just like Apoc World).
    Seems to me the answer is to have stuff on stand by, characters and scenarios, for games you already know well. I just surprised myself with the realisation that I don’t have much on the shelf ready to play at short notice!

  5. Rich

    We did do the Fate charge and setgen thing at yours and it went fairly well, generating a lot of campaign ideas if I remember right. However, I also recall that that was the whole of that first session, which isn’t much good if you want to actually game it that night too.

    I’m thinking that having something in a state of readiness, whether it be a one sheet adventure or a couple of characters, is probably the way to go if you want to get to the game on the night. If I were in your position I’d probably have the characters ready to go and just riff from there; let’s face it, you know those guys really, really well and you know their likes and preferences. Give them the characters and you can just launch a Fate, Savage Worlds or 5e game straight off the bat I reckon. You probably don’t even need to look up any stat blocks for any adversaries in those three either so it’ll probably be book free and informal.

    I think what I’m getting at here is; to get your game on, don’t give the player’s much, or anything, in the way of decisions to make about characters. Here they are, rock ’em.

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