GM Course- Part 4

Posted Sept. 24, 2018, 9:24 p.m. by Rear Admiral Lindsay Bayes (Gamemaster Director/Senior Gamemaster) (Lindsay Bayes)

[continued from part 3:]

Common Problems When Starting Out

Three GMMs got together and brainstormed a list of things that can go wrong during a sim. The aim was to list things that go wrong for trainees, but they quickly realised that no matter how much experience you have the same things go wrong for all GMs. You just get better at figuring out how to get out of difficulty.

If you attend a creative writing course, there is a lot of discussion about pace. Short stories require a fast pace; novels require different levels of pace depending on the action or where you are in the book. The same is true of a sim. Probably the most common problem trainees have is that the sim just won’t start. Trainees are on a deadline, they need to get started and show what they can do so that they can shake off the GMM. Sometimes the crew just won’t play along, how do you fix this?

Then there is the other problem with pace: the sim seems to grind to a halt, Houston we have no pace. Things were sailing along nicely and then it all goes awry. Causes of this can be as simple as people are getting confused or key crew members going AWOL/ LOA. Maybe the command staff aren’t providing good leadership in character. As GM it’s your job to keep the momentum going, but how?

You need to tailor your sim to the pace of the crew and ship. Looking back at your outline can assist with pace modifications.

We see no mission
Sometimes you’ll find a crew totally ignoring part of the mission, or the crew won’t participate in the sim. The clues may be too subtle, and the crew heads off at a tangent on a side sim ignoring your sim. This is when you need to sit back and evaluate your own posting, your sim idea.

“Something important has to be at stake, something that the characters on the ship will care about and something the PLAYERS will care about.”

Can you fix your sim? Maybe this is one of those times where being flexible and following the players will pay off.

First rule when you encounter problems, just take another look at the options you’ve been offering. Are you really giving them something reasonable to do? If you are and they still continue to moan, then ask the Captain and First Officer for their input or assistance. Sometimes it just takes one person saying, “See the sick people? Heal the sick people!”

Much better if this comes from the CO or XO- it’s their job, and they may be able to help you figure out why your brilliant ideas are being ignored.

This is where flexibility comes in, but also patience and a bit of ingenuity help. Failing that a private email to one of the crew giving them a big tip off is not frowned upon. Just don’t use this method too often.

Why simplify, when you can overcomplicate?
At first you may think, why would this be a problem? If the crew want to make life harder who am I to object? But when the moment comes in a sim, you’ll understand.

Maybe the crew has decided that all GMs and therefore all GM characters are evil and will not believe anything a GM character tells them. You may have set up a very helpful character to act as a voice for you in the sim. You have given this character excellent references, down to being a relation to Mother Theresa no less. Yet still the crew treat every word that she says as suspicious. Is there a solution to this? How can you make the crew believe you?

You may need to engineer some emergency where this character saves the crew, something to gain their trust. Chances are you won’t be able to, and will have to instead change tack and find a new way to communicate.

Overly complex responses to a situation can be unreasonable, but you can’t cut someone off mid-post! Sometimes you might just have to do that. But how you do it is the key to keeping everyone happy.

Sometimes the best option with this type of player is to talk to the CO and XO. Then if you still have a problem you might have to start voiding posts. Better still, get more imaginative and come up with something to shake them out of it.

This, leads nicely to some of the golden rules of GMing that you will run up against…

Voiding Posts
There are paragraphs of rules about this in OGRE, and you can void away as long as you keep within those rules. However, void too often, or void without thinking and you may upset not only the player but the whole crew. When voiding a post sometimes you have to weigh the pros and cons, talk to the CO, try talking to the player. A good GM can often write their way out of having to void a post, and fix the situation. Golden rule, don’t void unless you absolutely have to and then make sure you follow the rules to the letter.

Thou shalt not kill
A player may have driven you mad beyond belief but you cannot kill his character off, nor can you put him in a situation where there is no way out. While this is a genuine possibility in the real world, in STF respect for other people’s creations is given, thus we do not kill another person’s character. Of course like all rules there are exceptions to this: you can use death warnings. To find out more read up on this in OGRE.

Nor destroy the ship
So it’s fun to blow up a ship, all GMs understand this, but to save on the paperwork and so forth STF has rules about this. Many GMs delight in hull breaches, failed shields, and sparking bridge consoles. Before you lose matter/antimatter containment on that warp core, however, make sure you have the blessing of both the captain and fleet commander. You’ll find the up to date rules in OGRE.

Star Trek Canon
In STF we have a set list of references that are considered canon. You can find them in Engineering: References.

Honor Star Trek canon and keep it holy. Always anchor your storyline with plausibility. It’s true that the universe in which we play is one of science fiction, but that’s no excuse to create things that don’t mesh with Trek physics. If you’re not sure about the plausibility of a plot point, research it. Here, ignorance is not bliss. By the same token, do not rewrite that which has been written. You cannot rewrite Trek history.

Show respect for your fellow players
Creative roleplayers often have little side sims going in addition to their participation in the main sim. If you see a way to incorporate their story into yours, be sure to ask them before you take over. Often a little word in the ear or email of another player can go a long way to making your sim so much better. Don’t underestimate the value of outside input.


You’re now armed with all the GM theory you’re going to need to get started as a GM, or improve upon your GMing skills. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any more to learn. Even the most experienced GM is still learning. Like life, GMing always changes.

If you’ve paid attention to what was said in this course and if you thought about the advice the other GMs provided, you’re building on a solid foundation. Enjoy the journey. Now go take the exam. The sooner you take it, the sooner you’ll be GMing. Good luck!


Past contributors:
Deanne Ashton, Chris Ashley, Steve Ashton, Mike Bourdaa, Stuart Coll, Jeremy Friedman, Larry Garfield, Brian Moss, Owen Townes, Moe Younis, Colin Wyers, Sarah Hemenway, Alex Verdusco and Amanda Noon.

*Presently rewritten by Krys McLean and Matthew Bernardin with contributions from Gene Gibbs and Lindsay Bayes.

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