Moving from Pre-Gen to Making It Up

Whenever I’ve attempted to be the game master for a group of players in a tabletop roleplaying game, I’ve almost always decided to try to create my own adventures for them. I thought that resorting to pre-generated adventures, ones you can buy in books or download off the web, wasn’t being a real game master; that if I wanted to be good, I had to come up with my own stuff.

With me pouring all that pressure upon myself (see my last memory about attempting to come up with a series pitch for Primetime Adventures), is it any wonder that I kept quitting the hobby?

When i decided to try the hobby again last year after seeing D&Diesel (can I share this enough? Vin Diesel playing Dungeons & Dragons!) which led me to Critical Role, and then encountering Happy Jack’s RPG Podcast (thank you Kimi for hipping me to it, Lauren for kipping me to Kimi, Bernadette for hipping me to Lauren, Bernadette’s dad for hipping me to Bernadette, the Podcast Discovery Center for the opportunity to connect with Bernadette’s dad, Ross Barber-Smith for inviting me into the PDC, and myself for doing such a good podcast as to get Ross Barber-Smith’s attention), I decided that this time, I wasn’t going to stress about coming up with my own stuff. This time, I’d give pre-gens a go while we all got used to the rules and world of the game and then go from there.

The first attempt wasn’t stellar, but it was instructive. My purchase of the Pathfinder Humble Bundle led me to trying the first mission in the “Year of the Sky Key” series of Pathfinder Society adventures.

The problem? It was an almost straight-up dungeon crawl, all checking for traps and colourless combat with emotionless robots; by the time they met a genuine NPC (who himself was a semi-emotionless android), my players had spent a couple of sessions making measured, cautioned, risk-minimising progress through the corridors of the Red Redoubt (aside from one glorious instance where the centaur lanced a robot into a nearby wall).

And I’d got thoroughly bored.

My next and current attempt started with purchasing the Star Wars: Force and Destiny Beginner Game. I’ve been GMing it for three sessions now, with a group mostly comprised of new players. We started with the adventure included in the game, then moved onto the downloadable adventure, Lure of the Lost.

I love the fact that it’s got some key NPCs who are front and centre and pretty full of character, like the Curator, the wizened Jedi spirit who lives inside a data archive. I try to do my best Ian McKellen-as-Gandalf when playing him, although I think it comes across more as David Attenborough. Plus I brought my best Scots accent for a village the players explored and for the crime lord of a nearby city.

Now I’ve got another game using a pre-generated scenario on the go, and this time it’s good old Deathwatch, the official Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine RPG. I’m planning on running the Final Sanction and Oblivion’s Edge adventure duet for two mates in Canada and two in the UK. This one’s going to be something of a challenge as these adventures consist mostly of connected combat scenarios (and fair enough; the players will be playing Space Marines, the best warriors humanity has to offer in a very dark future) that initially offer little in the way of interpersonal interaction.

Nonetheless, I think there’s something freeing about playing such overt combat-wombats as Space Marines; the players can comfortably bring a bit of grand swagger to their characters. I’ve been making notes on the sorts of people the players could encounter in the city of Lordsholm and fleshing out the descriptions of some of the other characters.

But there’s around one more session worth of content left in Lure of the Lost, and while Final Sanction and Oblivion’s Edge look like they have enough of a skeleton to hang several sessions worth of play off, the material will sooner or later have to run out.

And then the pressure will be back on…