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View Full Version : What's a good game system for a n00b gm?



happyturtle
2008-02-01, 04:25 PM
The DM for our regular gaming group gets grumpy when he doesn't get to sometimes be a player, and so I'm considering running a game. I have almost no gm-ing experience. Until I joined my current group 6 months ago, I hadn't even gamed for a decade or so. So not only do I have no idea what kind of game I might want to run, I don't even know much about what games are out there.

If I have a genre preference, it would be space opera, but I'm not set on that. Our current game is Forgotten Realms, so I'd want something that isn't too similar. The DM has requested steampunk, but I don't know if I could pull that off. I've read zillions of science fiction books, but steampunk fiction isn't as ubiquitous.

What is a good gaming system that is kind to a newbie gm? I want something that won't cost a small fortune to get started, that has pre-written adventures and campaigns to ease me in, and isn't too difficult to learn. If you have negative recommendations (ie: For the love of god, don't run Champions!) that is welcome as well.

shadow_archmagi
2008-02-01, 04:30 PM
I'd recommend All Flesh Must Be Eaten, its a loose set of (completely free) rules for a zombie themed game. I only bring it up because I'm playing it with a COMPLETE noob GM, and he's going fine with it.

Irreverent Fool
2008-02-01, 04:42 PM
The Iron Kingdoms has a nice steampunk feel to it, though it tilts a little further into the magic-powered technology than I'd like. It uses the d20 system, so if you're familiar with D&D 3.x, you'll be familiar with it.

The Serenity RPG has a much more reliable system than d20 and there's a nice campaign called 'Into the Black' so you don't have to go through the effort of making up your own (always a plus for beginning or returning GMs). The Serenity/Firefly universe is well established so you won't have to blow too much time on exposition. Just make your players watch the TV show and/or the movie to get feel for it. Old west meets space ships.

My favorite system and universe of all time has got to be Cyberpunk 2020 (not to be confused with the GURPS version). The system is fast, character cration is pretty simple, and there are TONS of materials out there for a GM. My only complaints with it is that the 'classes' differ very little (each only has one ability that is unique from the others) and a GM who gives out the game's equivalent of xp too fast will find characters able to accomplish IMPOSSIBLE tasks quite easily.

happyturtle
2008-02-01, 05:13 PM
Iron Kingdoms looks interesting. What books would I need to get started if I went with it?

horseboy
2008-02-01, 05:25 PM
Call of Cthulthu: The mechanics are simple, you just need to be able to spin a good scary story.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mt2OYpiuhY
Fun setting:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spKBO8LndmM
Publish campaign:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqsCmfm5UsM&feature=related

Space game, someone's going to mention Serenity anyway.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtAP2jKLdCo

Or, just go through his reviews until you find something you like. He's pretty spot on for new DM's.

Saph
2008-02-01, 05:37 PM
If you want a simple, fun, cheap space opera system, I'd recommend West End Games Star Wars.

It's very easy to learn, all you need to play is a copy of the main rulebook, and it's as space-opera-y as they get.

- Saph

Rutee
2008-02-01, 05:40 PM
Fudge (http://www.fudgerpg.com/files/pdf/fudge_1995.pdf) Is free, simple, and easy to grasp. I happen to like using it for small games if I don't plan on cobbling something together myself.

It's genre-free, really. And in point of fact, I use it for a very small, 2 person Space Opera myself. But there are going to be systems better equipped to handle Space Opera, I'm sure.

comicshorse
2008-02-01, 10:01 PM
WARHAMMER has a simple percintle based system and easily understandable world.
While I love Cyberpunk avoid Cyberpunk 3rd edition like the rotting piece of whale sputum it is

Lord Tataraus
2008-02-01, 10:13 PM
My favorite system and universe of all time has got to be Cyberpunk 2020 (not to be confused with the GURPS version). The system is fast, character cration is pretty simple, and there are TONS of materials out there for a GM. My only complaints with it is that the 'classes' differ very little (each only has one ability that is unique from the others) and a GM who gives out the game's equivalent of xp too fast will find characters able to accomplish IMPOSSIBLE tasks quite easily.

YES!!! I love Cyberpunk 2020, the best game ever! If you can come up with just some sort of black ops or other mission thing it is pretty easy. CP2020 has easy mechanics and the most realistic combat system I've found, though I do house rule it a bit to be a bit more realistic. I would highly recommend it even though its the futuristic version of steampunk.

As comicshorse said, don't get CP3v, 2020 has a lot more matter and is (in my mind) perfect as is.

Darn, now I need to run a CP2020 game....hm, I do have the books with me...

BRC
2008-02-01, 10:16 PM
Paranoia IMO, it's designed for Lazy GM's, and your players arn't allowed to know the rules anyway so you can make them up on the spot.

Attilargh
2008-02-02, 02:03 AM
Iron Kingdoms looks interesting. What books would I need to get started if I went with it?
At least the Iron Kingdoms Character Guide. Then, if you feel like wanting to know everything about Western Immoren, you can pick up the Iron Kingdoms World Guide. For monsters there are two books called Monsternomicon, with the first containing many of the more common monsters while the second has the really cool stuff.

As much as I love the setting, however, I would not recommend it to a novice GM. It's rather different from basic D&D, despite being just a campaign setting. This means that you'll need the System Reference Document (http://www.d20srd.org/) which you then run the Kingdoms with, after chopping off the unnecessary bits. IK removes much of iconic D&D stuff such as orcs, kobolds, color-coded dragons and pretty much all the other monsters from the Monster Manual, as well as easy resurrection and healing magic. It introduces a system for making mechanika, a sort of industrialised way of making magic items, which can be a bit difficult to understand. And the books are kinda expensive, too.

On the other hand, the pre-written adventure series, the Witchfire Trilogy is damn good, I've heard. If I recall, you can - in theory - pull it off even without the Character Guide, but the book definitely adds a layer of sweet stuff onto it.


Personally, I'd recommend Mutants & Masterminds. The basic system is a really streamlined, classless version of D20, and the game is so flexible that although it is meant for superhero games, using it for space opera instead wouldn't be a hassle at all.

Mark Hall
2008-02-02, 02:09 AM
If you can get it, d6 Star Wars by WEG is very out of print, but VERY newbie friendly and very fun. However, I'll say what I say to every player about to become a GM:

Whatever system you are most comfortable in is the best one to start in.

Get the mechanics of running a game down first, without worrying about the mechanics of the roleplaying game. Worry about pacing the story, keeping people on task, etc., and do that by playing what you're familiar and comfortable with, rather than something that's going to make you uncomfortable by taking you off your favored terrain.

Wraith
2008-02-03, 08:50 AM
I second Paranoia.

From an easy-to-GM point of view, there is NOTHING better than a game where the Players know only one rule: "Entertain the GM or he will kill you". Hell, in theory you're allowed to use them as Reactor Shielding for knowing even that much of the rules, because knowing the rules implies that they have read the book.

And we all know what reading the book is, don't we boys and girls...?

Reading The Book Is
TREASON!

:smallwink:

BardicDuelist
2008-02-03, 09:10 AM
If your used to playing D&D, then why don't you just play D&D? Create a campaign that is different from the one that your in and run with it. At least for your first time.

I think GURPS is a great system, but can be a huge pain (like any universal system) for new DMs.

Guancyto
2008-02-03, 09:56 AM
Never got to use it too much myself, but I heard Window (http://www.mimgames.com/window/rules/) takes a lot of die types, but is a useful system for starting off because it's extremely simplistic. The downside is that you have to trust your players and yourself not to go off the deep end with uber-powerful characters (unless that's the point), since there's no limitation on anything.

Aside from the ruleset above (free, free, oh so free), a review (http://www.gamegrene.com/node/98) that covers the strengths of the system better than I can.

Stiz
2008-02-03, 10:15 AM
I would highly recommend Serenity and Mutants & masterminds. Both are good systems that are easy to learn. M&M has a lot of extra material for you to get adventure ideas from too.

Another option. Have you considered sticking with he same system? If it's the one that you know already then it might be a good place to start. You could pick anything from the past games that you have really enjoyed and use that as a starting point for this other game.
Where there any city's or NPC's that really got your attention and you would enjoy fleshing out?

Just some thoughts.

Doberler
2008-02-03, 11:01 AM
I'm going to throw this out here... There is a system that has a very lax set of rules... In my IRL gaming group, all of us who want to take a stab at DMing are required to run at least one instance of this system.

The game is BESM d20.

Now... The REASON that we run a game of this system is because of the simple fact that there are very few limits placed within the game. The first page of the book pretty much tells you that if you are DMing and you don't know the answer, then you have to make it up. This can be a very taxing experience but if it does anything it teaches new DM's how to make rulings, houserules, and "sure... why not" decisions when a player asks about some over powered character they just made...

The main bonus is that it taught us DM's how to just say "No."

The system itself isn't as complex as its simply... badly worded... there are entirely too many loopholes. But... As I said earlier... It's a wonderful learning experience.

That being said... If you know DnD and want a space-opera/steampunk style game... I'd go with d20 modern and one of its supplements... Its almost impossible for players to minmax, and most supplements (Urban Arcana, Apocalpyse, Future etc.) have some really decent and easily modified campaign templates.

/opinion

Gorbash
2008-02-03, 11:02 AM
Just run a pregenerated afventure in Forgotten Realms... Savage Tide, for example. It has conversion notes for running it in FR (although it requires almost none), it's a fun and long adventure (lvl 1-20), and pregenerated adventures are always a good start for a noob DM. I'm in same position as you are, although I know rules pretty well, since we've been playing various campaigns with a same DM for 5 years, and he's kinda sick of it :P So I decided to give it a shot with Savage tide. :)

horseboy
2008-02-03, 06:51 PM
The engine to the old Star Wards d6 game was rereleased as SADIS, it's free.

DeathQuaker
2008-02-03, 10:05 PM
Don't run a system you've never played in before yourself, if you can help it. Inevitably there will be some crazy rules issue that will come up and drive you crazy. Run a system you know well and enjoy playing. Trying to learn a new system and be the adjudicator for everyone else at the same time is a nightmare.

If it's a matter of people wanting to try something different, what I'd do is offer to run a few one shots in a more "Standard" game you are familiar with before you alter the system for the new thing.

For example, if you want to do Iron Kingdoms, but you've never run a d20/D&D game before, I'd run a basic D&D one-shot (or two-shot) first to get a feel for it, THEN start your Iron Kingdoms campaign.

Oracle_Hunter
2008-02-03, 10:19 PM
You know what's great for lazy DM's?

Cooperative storytelling games.

These are generally made by indie RPG types so the books are cheap, and they're great for "pick up groups" - you literally make the adventure while you play.

Bliss Stage (http://swingpad.com/dustyboots/wordpress/?page_id=229) is a favorite of mine, and is a dedicated sci-fi setting. Think of it as "Neon Genesis Evangelion the RPG" :smallbiggrin:

Another good one is Shock: Social Science Fiction (http://glyphpress.com/shock/).

Now, these types of games might be different from the ones you're used to playing, and they require more input from the players, but they can be quite fun and easy to set up.

Premier
2008-02-04, 05:41 AM
If you can get it, d6 Star Wars by WEG is very out of print, but VERY newbie friendly and very fun.

I totally second... err, I think third that recommendation. Note that there are more recent, AFAIK slightly more complex versions of the same system specifically tailored for sci-fi and fantasy. But the old incarnation is perfectly fine, too.
Also, if youre comfortable with something a bit more zany and highly simplistic (but fun), Risus might be worth a look.


The engine to the old Star Wards d6 game was rereleased as SADIS, it's free.

A quick google didn't turn up anything, but I'd love to take a peek. A link would be greatly appreciated.

Charity
2008-02-04, 06:27 AM
If you want a simple, fun, cheap space opera system, I'd recommend West End Games Star Wars.

It's very easy to learn, all you need to play is a copy of the main rulebook, and it's as space-opera-y as they get.

- Saph

What she say..


If you can get it, d6 Star Wars by WEG is very out of print, but VERY newbie friendly and very fun. However, I'll say what I say to every player about to become a GM:

Whatever system you are most comfortable in is the best one to start in.

Get the mechanics of running a game down first, without worrying about the mechanics of the roleplaying game. Worry about pacing the story, keeping people on task, etc., and do that by playing what you're familiar and comfortable with, rather than something that's going to make you uncomfortable by taking you off your favored terrain.

What he say...

Yeah and ^.

To all you exponants of Paranoia, I would suggest that it is very genre specific, and can be difficult on a GM unfamiliar with its creedo.

Serenity iss worth a look, but it is quite a big burdon on a new GM to have so much canon material fresh in the players minds. I would avoid it personally on the first outing.

daggaz
2008-02-04, 07:06 AM
Run DnD 3.5, but make sure you use monsters from 3.0 and do all the conversions yourself. Make sure the wizard uses polymorph, the druid shape changes all day long, everybody casts non-damage AOE spells, and try to get in as much grappling actions as you can.. in fact, ALL of your monsters should grapple, preferably as a team action, nothing like the group hug for simplicity and ease of mechanics. Unless they are summoning other grapple monsters, or trying to figure out how to use their natural attacks with the BaB iterative attack routine.. Finally, include as much Turn Undead checks as you can, and sprinkle it off with a plentiful dose of caster level checks and heavily modified opposed spot and hide checks.

And above all else, keep track of encumberance at EVERY point in the game.