How to Overcome a Lack of System Knowledge.

Fear the Con 5 was the first convention that I have ever attended. I am not sure when the next opportunity would be for me to attend a convention (as much as Caleb keeps tempting me to go to PaizoCon). I am not getting more vacation time until after most of con season.  For Fear the Con, I wanted to run a game, but not just any game.  I have run Dungeons and Dragons in the past.  I wanted to run a game I have never run before, since d&d and it’s spinoffs are pretty easy games to sell since all you would need to say is ” Hey, you want to kill Dragons.” There are a couple of different systems that I own that I have never gotten a chance to run or play.  One of those was Savage Worlds. When choosing to run a system you are not familiar with, and that you’re going to run at a con, my first recommendation would be one  that has a light rule system. More rules and crunch can work against you, especially since you haven’t run it before. Nothing causes me to disconnect me more from a game like constantly checking rules in the books.

Next was to determine a setting, since one of the advantages of the Savage Worlds system is that it can be applied to wide variety of settings.  I had just started Mass Effect 3 at the time and something during the plot bothered me.  At what point in the timeline was Cerberus corrupted by the reapers?  Then I saw an opportunity to tell a meaningful story in the Mass Effect Universe. I needed to have an endpoint in mind to start off with.  I knew the goal of the players was going  to be to stop Cerberus from obtaining reaper tech. This goal wasn’t going to fully be successful, and thus setting up the events of Mass Effect 3. Another reason I choose an established setting like Mass Effect, that it would help the players understand the rules of the world, as they should already be familiar with them if they played the game. The video bellow is a cut scene I made to start the game.

Now in past Fear the Cons I know that most of the games are  Savage worlds, Fate system, World of Darkness,  and Dread.  Savage Worlds being one of the more popular systems, I could hope that at least one of the players at the table would be familiar with system and could have them assist me with rules.

When designing my game I planned for the party to have options to get out of combat, since I knew that once combat would start that the game would slow down a little bit.  If I started off right away with combat it would eat a large chunk of time out of  the game.  The adventure started off on the space station Omega, and they needed to get information about an Missing Alliance research vessel on it’s way home from a abandoned  collector ship.  They needed to network in Omega to find out what happened. So very little combat was actually needed. If the players weren’t careful and failed on their plans they could find themselves in combat. The second Stage would make up for the lack of combat, since they were scouting a hostile planet seeking a mercenary base. Since I was uncomfortable with the combat rules, I decided to avoid combat during the first part of the of the adventure to get further in the plot.

Lastly once you sit down to actually start the game, talk with the players and set proper expectations. ” I have not run a game  in this system, if you feel like I’m doing anything not in the rules bare with  me”.  Also find out which of your players are not familiar with ether your system or your setting.  Luckily when I sat down all of my players were familiar with Mass Effect,  and all but one of my players hadn’t played Savage Worlds before the convention. Since there was a player that very comfortable with the rules, I wasn’t scared to ask that player about rules I wasn’t sure about. This kept my nose out of a book and let the action continue.

Now just to sum up everything…

  • Find a rules light or well understood system
  • Pick setting that is very familiar to your player base
  • What is the end point or goal of your game
  • Avoid areas that your are uncomfortable
  • Set clear expectations.
  • Ask experienced players about rules to keep the action rolling.

The game session went as well as I expect despite never running that system.  The fellow players had fun because I took the time shift the importance away from the system and focused on the setting and the story. This creed allowed me to engage with my players without being buried in book. What is stopping you from running a game with an unfamiliar system? Have had to do this before what else helped you out?


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One response to “How to Overcome a Lack of System Knowledge.”

  1. calebtgordan says :

    You should totally go to PaizoCon.

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