An upcoming Rogue Trader campaign, and the perils of GMing

(Art by Games Workshop & Fantasy Flight Games)

So, one thing I’ve recently decided to do on this blog is post summaries and anecdotes of RPG sessions I’ve been involved in. This decision comes too late for the last campaign I was in, sadly, because when I started the blog it was already a third of the way through, and I didn’t want to have to rely on my faulty memory to backtrack and explain who the characters were, what had happened so far, etc etc. Which is a pity, because the campaign in question was absolutely hilarious (essentially a Rifts campaign set in the multiverse of Rick and Morty).*

The next campaign for my group, however, is one I’m going to run. Now, I am no stranger to GMing: my first effort was several years ago, and was essentially using the Aberrant rules to the setting of the Marvel Universe (at the time I didn’t know of, or have access to, the official Marvel RPG rules, and unfortunately even if I wanted to switch over now it would screw over the legacy characters). The group was essentially “Omega Flight,” the Canadian government’s more hush-hush version of Alpha Flight, and I had them facing off against an ongoing conspiracy involving mutation-inducing flowers and extradimensional robots. It was a bit of a clunky mess, as it was my first time GMing, and often I found myself stumbling quite a bit in trying to get the players from plot point A to plot point B (especially at one point when the party obsessed minor detail that was of no relevance to the plot). It didn’t help that I found it difficult to create villains who could actually threaten the party, since one of my players had min-maxed his character to become a nigh-unstoppable battering ram.

Still, it was a fun experience, my party enjoyed themselves, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons about how to GM properly. This led to a sequel campaign a few years later, and while it had its own clunky moments, I like to think that, story-wise, it actually turned out a lot better. If there were any issues I had looking back at that campaign, it was that I found myself turning into a bit of a control freak and railroading players far too often– something that I have since tried to be aware of.

My last campaign, though, was about two years ago, and was a much more daring (and flawed) undertaking: a Rifts campaign set in the Fallout universe (in particular, in post-apocalyptic Canada). I had a blast setting up this campaign: I wanted the experience to emulate the Fallout games as much as possible, rather than just be another Rifts game, and to that end, I set about creating my own set of house rules that included rules for radiation, character/race rules for Super Mutants and Ghouls, and above all, perks. In addition, I spent a huge amount deciding what post-apocalyptic Southern Ontario was like.  Aside from the ruined city of Ronto (which is canon in Fallout), I had a blast renaming certain locations in Ontario (Markham and Huntsville became Arkham and Hunter’s Vale, for instance), and creating things like major environmental/geological hazards, new mutated creatures, and outlining the various factions and individuals vying for power in this region (including the Peacekeepers of Ronto, the Enclave remnants and the Ojibwe Confederacy). Above all, I tried to stick to as much of a pseudo-1960s feel as possible, even to the point of making a playlist of thematic 50s and 60s songs to play on Youtube while the party was travelling in-game.

Unfortunately, at this time, I was also studying for a major HR certification exam that was a major source of worry and stress for me. To make matters worse, work was a constant and time-consuming factor for me, and I would often arrive home too mentally and physically exhausted to devise things for the next weekend session. To make matters worse, I just could not figure out the Rifts rules, no matter how much I tried, and so frequently throughout the session I was faced with difficult questions and, even worse, annoyance from players who knew the system better than me. All of these factors resulted in the campaign becoming clunky and haphazard, and there was more than one occasion when I found myself getting frustrated in-session. It didn’t help that I had no clear idea of where I wanted the campaign to ultimately go, and soon my lack of direction and vision was becoming evident.

It was about midway through where I had originally wanted to end that we reached a good break point. At this point, my party suggested we end here for now, as my stress and anxiety were not only becoming evident, but were also having a visibly detrimental effect on the campaign. And so, my Fallout campaign came to an end as a clunky, poorly-executed mess, and to date, we still have not gone back to it. In part, this is because I no longer know how it will end, or indeed, what the major plot point of it is even supposed to be anymore. This campaign remains a major source of disappointment for me, as I had really wanted to do right by the setting, and feel that I ultimately was not able to do it justice or make it fun for my party.

It goes without saying that this time around, I am hoping to do much better. This time around I will be running a Rogue Trader campaign, and though this is another system that I had to learn from scratch, I am a little more confident this time. Partly, it is because my life feels a little less chaotic right now, but also it is because there were a huge number of player and GM aids printed for Rogue Trader before Games Workshop pulled its license away from Fantasy Flight Games (something that I am still annoyed about, because FFG’s 40k roleplaying books were amazing). More importantly, Warhammer 40k is a setting that I know the background of intimately, and Rogue Trader featured plenty of campaign books that I intend to borrow a lot of elements from. And best of all, Rogue Trader is a campaign where, if nothing else is coming to mind, I can simply trust my players to follow an endeavour, and see what randomness space decides to throw their way.

I hope to post more on my upcoming campaign soon– the characters, the background, and above all, the weekly sessions as soon as it begins. Wish me luck, internet!


*If anyone DOES want me to share what happened in Rifts and Morty (as the GM has called it), please let me know.

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