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[13 Chapters in 13 Weeks] Chapter 9 — Game Master Advice

July 8, 2009

Eight chapters down. Five to go.

This week I talk about Chapter 9 which holds the distinction of marking the start of the GM section of the book. Though this section is geared to the GM, that does not mean that only GMs read it. What I wanted to do with Colonial Gothic Revised was make sure that everyone — player and GM — could pick up the book and use it. There are no GM Only secrets, and the advice found in the later chapters help in both running and playing Colonial Gothic.

Colonial Gothic is a strange mix, in that it is historical, but not “historical.” This is a key point to keep in mind. History is the inspiration and is stayed true to as much as possible. When it diverges, as it does with the secret history, the focus settles on events taking place in the shadows.

Colonial Gothic works under the same assumption for its time period. Everything you learned in school, or read in books about American history leading up to the Revolutionary War is correct – on the surface. Where Colonial Gothic departs from the real world is in what happens behind the scenes, where conspiratorial groups and supernatural powers work in the dark, struggling for supremacy. Secret histories are very attractive for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that you can use the knowledge of history you already possess. You do not have to learn an entirely new,imaginary history. Secret histories play off of real world people and events, casting them in a new light by imputing different motives or introducing hidden forces manipulating the outcomes we read about in books. (Colonial Gothic Revised, page 224)

I have talked about this before, but what I wanted to do with Colonial Gothic was explain this better, and put into writing how a GM should run Colonial Gothic. I soon realized, that in order to do this chapter justice, I needed some help. That help came in the form of James.

James, besides being the co-Rogue and friend, has the keen ability to write practical advice and put into clear terms how to do things. Those, who only know of him through his work on Thousand Suns, his other writings, as well as Grognardia, know that James is a great writer. This chapter, I feel is some of his best writing. James, took the rambling phone conversations we had, and as well as the copious notes and drafts, and put together, one of the best chapters of GM advice I have read. He gave structure to my thoughts, and together, we created a great chapter.

No. This is not hyperbole.

The chapter explains how history can be used to run a game. One of things you notice while reading this chapter is we never tell you how you should run Colonial Gothic. This, for us, is a very important thing. As James stated in Thousand Suns, and I state in this chapter:

Colonial Gothic is ultimately your game and you are encouraged to take whatever approach to history that best suits you and your players (225).

With that said, we go into the advice on how to use history and how to mix it and match it to create the games you want. The topics covered range from alternate history (what if the siege of Boston was not lifted) to real history (the revolution happens as we know). The advice in this chapter should be enough to answer the question I always get: “How do you use history?”
Another section of the chapter is one that I also like, and it deals with creating villains and antagonists. This is important to any game, and James in a few short paragraphs gives you all you need to create villains which have a lasting impact. You will find the nuts and bolts of how to create them, but the topics and discussions are more than that. James talks about one shot villains and their use, as well as requiring villains which you can use to build a series of adventures around.
The chapter finishes up with a discussion and advice on running horror games. Again, like the rest of the chapter, this section deals with practical advice.
Next week, is a short entry, and that is due to Chapter 10 being a short chapter. It is an important chapter, in that it is a table setter. By that, i give you the “secret” right off the bat.
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