GM’s Corner 02: Red Markets Episodes 3-5

If the first set of episodes (Big Trouble in Little Pittsburg)  was a good test of improvisation and role play, the second set (Crying Over Spilled Ink) was a good showing of pushing through failures.

This has nothing to do with the system, the players, or the mission concept and story. I totally messed up the role of the GM in Red Markets, which is mostly as a storyteller and rule keeper, by actively rolling for the Vectors in Episode 4. Caleb joked in an episode of his podcast that there were times that he nearly drove off the highway to take down notes on things that players got wrong in the playtest, and I have no doubt this episode nearly killed the man who created our game. If I had played correctly, Ethan’s character would have almost certainly died and the campaign would’ve turned out very differently.

To say nothing of Episode 5 and the repeated technical difficulties that inspired me to suggest that as a possible name for our podcast. Microphones wouldn’t work, Google Hangouts would drop, the internet would slow down so badly I couldn’t hear my players, etc. The night was pretty much a disaster that could have easily turned us off of playing and derailed the campaign.

The important lesson I learned those two nights is perseverance. It’s part of my nature to feel guilty for failing, and the guilt of ruining Caleb’s system and the internet causing problems was palpable. But ultimately, those failures did not affect our fun or our ability to play. Mistakes will happen while learning a new system. When we are forced to play using technology, we are allowing failure points into the system that can break down our ability to play. What matters is pushing forward and continuing to play. None of my players were upset that we kept having problems, and I realized that the failure to keep the rules straight is, in its own way, helpful to the game designer in showing what is confusing about the system. In the end, even the failures have their own way of helping.

Ultimately, we did have a good time. It was a lot of expressive fun to design the warehouse, in that I made a shipping manifest of different goods for the players to find. The backstory given to Anton was a good arc that fleshed out his character and made him real to the players. Laura made her own score by raiding a Planned Parenthood location which challenged me to think of what to find on the fly. There were multiple thrilling close calls where the zombies could have easily overtaken our heroes. This adventure in stealing ink for printers was the important first step in the overarching plot of my campaign.

When things don’t go right, keep pushing forward. These issues will hopefully be speed bumps in the overall fun of a game session or campaign.