“So we wake up in a barn…with Isaac Newton.”
That’s the quote that wrapped up last Friday’s Witch Hunter game. It marked the end of a pretty tense adventure that found our heroes on the losing side of a blossoming Hell Point in northern France and the forces of a Duke Unchained who had been summoned there. Things probably would have been more tense had we not played in nearly two months, what with conflicting schedules. Still, in the end, it felt like a satisfactory “season finale.”
And that’s what its going to be. The last Witch Hunter game until at least July.
Maybe it’s the two month hiatus, the kids’ schedules, or the fact that we’ve been at this campaign for three years. But my Witch Hunter take is feeling a bit dried up. It’s been coming. I felt it back in the early part of the year. There are still plenty of stories to tell, and I really want to see how they shake out. But I feel like, as a GM, I’m at the line between phoning it in and running an inspired game. And my players deserve the latter.
So a month ago I proposed a finite break from Witch Hunter to try out one of a couple of new games sitting on the shelf. By a very thin margin, we settled on the new 7th Sea.
I’m excited about the change for a whole host of reasons. For one, as I’ve stated here and elsewhere, I really feel parts of the new 7th Sea are outside of my comfort zone as a GM: the way the core mechanic is structured, the removal of roadblocks, and just the sheer level of improvisation the game really steers towards. And while I’m very familiar with the world of Théah, I feel like the game is going to be a real challenge to run.
It also makes a great opportunity to shake some old habits. After all, what’s the point of taking a break from an old game if you are going to do everything the same way you did before? I’m looking to push myself in new directions and new challenges as much as recharge my creative batteries.
The biggest change I’m making is with prep! Since my D&D 3e days, my prep has become steadily more heavy. If you look at my adventure notes, they can get quite elaborate sometimes. I look back at my games pre-3e and see that most of my session plans took maybe a page or two. Post-3e, I average about 4-5 pages of prep for 2 sessions worth of play (mostly due to over prepping).
Because of the game’s emphasis on improvisation, I’m going to try something new: the Index Card method. I’ve shied away from this method in the past because putting 5 pages of historical detail on index cards just doesn’t seem very practical. In fact, the Index Card approach is almost the polar opposite of how I prep. What fun! Let’s give it a whirl!
Another technique I’m hoping to try out is Floyd Wesel’s 3x3x3 method. In short, rather than request a detailed character background from the players, or have them fill out a questionnaire, I’m going to ask them to provide a number of contacts, allies, and rivals for their heroes. Nothing too taxing: a name and a sentence or two should do. Coupled with 7th Sea’s Story mechanic, these should provide plenty of grist for the mill.
So there you have it. The next couple of months are going to be full of experimentation. Hopefully, I can bring some of it back to our Witch Hunter game when we resume later in the year. Hopefully I’ll learn some tricks to improve the game experience and make myself a better GM. And you can bet I’ll be discussing all of it here.
In other news, for those of you who haven’t wandered through the downloads section lately, advanced prep work for 7th Sea is already well underway. You’ll find an updated version of the Ship Manifest (with a corrected “death spiral”) and a Villain character sheet (both a simple and advanced version). I’m working on a few more cheat sheets and references for the game which I hope to have in place before we launch in January.
So hey, that’s what I’ve got. How about you? Have you ever done a total audit of your GMing and prep style? What did you learn about yourself? What did you keep and what did you pitch? Share your story in the comments section, please.