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Fatemaster Friday - Ships that pass in the night


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Heya Breachers!

It seems I’m starting 2020 as a casualty of the Piper’s Plague. I hope to heal up soon, and that my urge to climb into the sewers subsides!

Now, every Fatemaster, GM, DM or ST runs into the same problem, no matter the system. You’ve got all your notes for the session, snacks on the table and an appropriately atmospheric soundtrack, when the messages start coming in. 

“I can’t go out tonight.” 

“My dog’s sick.” 

“I’ve been eaten by a Grue.”

Or, in the case of my household currently, a series of moans and wails the devolve into coughing fits.

Getting a group together for a game session can be rough to manage, and there’s the worry that after a while, interest will fade, or the storyline recap will be half the next session as your players ask “What were we doing again?” 

Personally, I’ve found that if schedules are conflicting, there are a few tactics to keep player engagement and excitement high. One method I use is asking my players between sessions what their Fated is up to. Have they been studying their profession or perfecting their craft? Have they been going on drunken benders and causing mayhem? Is a romance starting to blossom, or a rivalry heating up? Not only does this method help with player excitement and interest, it provides me with additional tie-ins, complications, or benefits to use in my sessions.

If things are rough and physically getting together is the problem, sometimes a virtual play space can help. Afterall, if Mitchell has a new schedule and the hour drive it takes for him to get home from the session is too much, I bet he’d be able to play from the comfort of his home, in his pajamas. Sites like Roll20 and ObsidianPortal can be helpful in bridging distance gaps, or online communication platforms like Discord or Skype. Find what works best for you and your group, and get to adventuring!

That’s all I have for this week folks, the strange pipe music I keep hearing is growing louder. Do you think Hamelin takes bribes of baked goods?

How do you manage the tricky business of game scheduling? What tools or methods help keeps players engaged and ready for that next session?

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Mostly our group is pretty good about gathering on the scheduled day each week. If we have a period where too many are going to be missing (the holidays), we might try to play online. But we usually don't have a gap of more than a week. 


When it does happen I use a mix of Obsidian portal for the players' journals, Realm Works for my world structure and notes and a camera over my tabletop for minis. I have been spending a lot of time on Realm Works organizing the Campaign. But the time spent definitely makes my life easier. I hope to wrap up the campaign input for the next few campaigns soon and move to Campaign Cartographer to start fleshing out the maps of Malifaux City and the other major landmarks to give me some adventure graphics. 

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Scheduling and regularity were by far the biggest obstacles I’ve faced when trying to start a Through the Breach campaign (or other RPGs for that matter). I’ve tried playing online but I always miss the tactile feel of measuring minis and flipping cards and what not. A solution that worked for my friends and me was to do less of an epic campaign and more of a string of one-shots. I created a secret organization that they all worked for that would send them random jobs  in exchange for food, lodging, and not causing the runes carved on their backs to liquify their innards; imagine a Malifaux Suicide Squad. When players can’t make a session, we simply say their handler assigned them to a different task then come up with a short description of what happened so they can still “level up.” If we want to play but someone new will be around, we can throw in a new character and say the handler had to call in a extra help for this mission. While it lacks some of the cliffhanger drama of an epic campaign, it’s helped my group remain consistent in playing, which is what I think matters most.

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For me, it's GM consistency on top of simple open communication and respect of people's time. If a player is going to make the time to clear their timetable and show up for a game every week/fortnight then the GM should be doing all they can to do the same.

Sounds obvious but when a player is excited for a game but the GM makes a habit of not being in the mood or hasn't had the time to prep anything; it kills a person's enthusiasm.

Story telling is another factor for keeping a stable player base, keep the shared story interesting, having player choices matter and the world react to those choices and so on and so forth. Being able to hear "I can't wait to see what happens next session" is the best reward a GM can get.

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I have a very "show must go on" attitude towards running my campaigns.  As long as at least two players show up, I will run game that evening.  I design all of my encounters so that they can be scaled to whatever PCs are present, and I try to have a means to explain  PCs coming and going (or just handwave it).  For Through the Breach, I additionally write all stories involving Destiny Steps to be modular and time-independent so that I'm not derailed by a particular player's absence.  

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