My GM-ing Style
As an intro I wanted to give a little spiel about how I GM and the history of how Xenos Hunters came about.
History: While I have done a few one-shots or quickly dying campaigns in the past from various settings, Xenos Hunters was the first proper campaign I ran that lasted for a considerable amount of time. It was spawned from the desire to outlet all the cool ideas that were floating around my head after reading the core rule book. I had a slowly forming idea of a year long campaign that would reach the xp/Renown limit of the Deathwatch System (the renown/xp hand outs were planned from the beginning to achieve this, only broken when I provided large rewards for some of the incredibly awesome achievements the Kill Team managed.
On the way back to Australia after studying in Sweden and traveling through Europe and the USA I decided to go to /tg/ and try to rustle up some players. Sitting the outdoor common area in a Honolulu hostel I threw up the request for players and soon had a solid amount of interest. With almost all the players located in the USA though time zones would be a factor and after I returned to Australia I arranged for us to play on their Saturday nights/My Sunday mornings.
The game took off and while we lost a few people along the way, by the mid-point onwards we had a solid core (including 2 of the original 5) playing 6 hours every weekend. It was a lot of fun but also as you will soon learn, very taxing. It lasted a little over a year and I hope managed to create something of a unified story and a fun experience for the most part for my players. The Summaries are the logs put into a more digestible format and given 3rd person perspective, however I am sure I will have missed a few words here and there so if the story suddenly starts talking directly to you then imagine it is referencing the Kill Team.
GM Style: My Style is low prep, high improv. I have a very general idea of where the campaign is going (sometimes little more than, adversary and location) but I don’t become to attached because things change and you cannot rely on players to go where you expect them to.
On an per mission/story arc basis it is made easier by the mission system. I have to create the mission objectives before it starts so it forces a modicum of planning but most of how those objectives will be achieved is left unsaid to let the players do their thing.
On an individual session basis I think up some cool scenes that I would like to play out eg: “Last Stands against overwhelming odds” or “Unseen killer stalking the Kill Team”. Then the core of the session is just improv. The general campaign ideas, mission creation, the night’s ideas and my knowledge of 40k’s fluff informs me in such a way that I can generally manage to keep everything flowing.
I have a few key things I try to remember in a game:
Fun. If people are not having fun I will stop everything and re-evaluate. This only really happened once or twice and I hope that is a credit to not only me but the players who put so much in.
Always say, ‘Sure’. Whenever a player suggests something or wants to do something I always try immediately reply ‘Sure’ and then figure out how to make it happen within the constraints of the system being used. If it is totally nonsensical or would break the physics/cheat I will (usually) turn it down but as you will see Sinbad manages to do some pretty quirky stuff due to this mantra of mine.
Keep things moving. With 5-6 players I am using up a net 30-36 hours of other people’s time. I don’t want to waste that so I am in a constant rush to move things forward and keep the game rolling. Combat in the 40k RPG’s is notoriously slow and keeping the virtual dice and dialog rolling is a key objective for me.
However I am limited by the timing of the sessions. As stated before they are in the morning. I wake up, have breakfast and then immediately plunge into a fatigue addled typing spree as I try to keep the game moving as fast as possible. This is exacerbated when the team splits, so much so that ‘threatening’ to split up the Kill Team is a common in-joke for the group. This is also why the raw logs and probably the mission summaries as well are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, for those I can only apologize.
This leads to the ever present threat that loomed over me during the year+ long campaign; burn out. Burn out was the key reason I did not extend the campaign and keep it going after the 1 year/xp cap was reached. Fatigue and burn out were also the key factors in the quality of my work. Reflecting I can see the sessions that were the best/worst were directly correlated with those fatigue/burn out levels.
Finally, I have very rare type of personality (while I place relatively little stock in the classifying found in the pseudo science of personality profiling I do have a semblance of self awareness) that if one needed an analogy from the 40k universe to describe, it would be a lot like a logic/Meme virus. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a brain that is constantly working in overdrive. This fed into my rapid-fire GM style but it still was not enough, to keep my brain occupied I have a tendency to insert foreshadowing, references, unusual words and hidden plots into the game. Partly to give a insightful player/character an advantage if they spot them but mainly just to keep my brain satisfied.
Thus you may spot many of these throughout the campaign, if you do then Kudos to you otherwise strap in to your drop pod harness and enjoy the ride. I certainly did.