CPA: GM's Guide
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This page gives a simple and light guide to GMs wanting to run this system.
The CPA Core Priorities:
Core priorities are what all the players and GMs should focus on during the conversation of the game. Every other rule supports these.
- The player characters' lives should be exciting and interesting.
- The game should be full of interesting decisions for the players to make.
- The game should be about being immersed in exploring mysterious worlds, and changing them according to your goals.
- The players should occasionally surprise the GM and the GM should occasionally surprise the players.
- Everyone should have a good time.
Principles for playing CPA:
- -Players should be ambitious with big epic goals in-game. Overthrowing the government, achieving immortality, restoring ancient empires etc.
- -Players should keep aware of which players are engaged and who are not (not participating in the game or not paying attention), and help work to bring everyone into the game, often by addressing them in-character.
- -Players should spend time building in-character relationships between party members to encourage camaraderie.
- -Players should speak up OOC when the game isn't fun for any reason, and work with the group to address the issue with a specific solution.
- -Players should have one backup character created at all times in case their current character dies.
- -GMs should challenge the players, but never or almost never take away their agency. The GM should ensure that every player has freedom of choice for things they can try to do.
- -GMs should cheer for the players to overcome the challenges, and lean circumstances slightly into the players' favor.
- -GMs should generally avoid killing players, but should still kill them when the circumstances AND the dice make it the most logical outcome.
- -When a player dies, the GM should bring a new character in to the game as soon as possible (Generally, the next scene).
- -GMs should take players' skill levels as representations of professional competence, only calling for rolls in risky situations where failure is interesting.
- -GMs should rotate spotlight and attention to ensure each player gets a moment to be the focus of the story
- -GMs should ensure that challenges are all solvable in multiple ways, and avoid any linearity or 'railroading' unless agreed by everyone at the start.
- -GMs should create lots of interesting difficult decisions in each adventure.
- -GMs should ensure that magic, gods and spirits are always a mysterious force that defies full understanding or stability.
- -GMs should have fun building worlds and running the game. If they are not having fun, they should take time to assess, discuss and make changes to fix the issue.
How to run scenarios in CPA:
Starter Kit Scenarios
For several ready-to-play adventure modules that play well with this system, click here:
- Alien Apocalypse - 1 to 3 shot.
- The Wreck on Dark Planet - one to three sessions.
- Colonial Marines Search & Rescue - one to three sessions.
- Nightmare at Europa Ice Mine - one to three sessions.
- Aldar's Last Hope - 5 to 10-session campaign.
- Gangs of Nuradda - 5 to 10-session campaign.
Random Generators & Oracles:
When you need some inspiration for new content for your game, you can use my free Ancient Quests Random Generatorsto get ideas.
- Overall Missions and Quests:
- Create open-ended problems to be solved.
- Preparation is easier and faster, and the stories created by the game are more interesting and exciting, when you focus on preparing a situation as opposed to a linear story.
- If you simply designed a mission where "the party must assassinate the pirate king during the paradise island masquerade" then if the players skip the masquerade or ally with the pirate, you would have to rewrite a new plan.
- However, if instead you simply planned "The pirate king is making alliances with the sea witch, the fish people, and the leviathan to destroy Port Imperial", then you will easily be able to improvise a flow of scenes and quests regardless of players' actions or which side they take.
- Use competing factions to aid follow-up consequence improvisation.
- Having quests and missions flow from faction conflicts makes preparation much easier and helps establish various peoples' identities and allegiances in the world.
- If you had a mission to capture a lone murderer, then when it is complete, you would have to design a new mission from scratch.
- However, if you established that the murderer was secretly hired by the Chemical Research Corporation to kill an inspector from the Core Imperium Guard, then after the mission is resolved, you already have some ideas about what each faction will do next.
- Create open-ended problems to be solved.
- Exploration Scenes:
- Fun Exploration is defined by interesting problems and interesting decisions leading to interesting rewards. You need something but there are obstacles in the way.
- Come up with main hazards that could be addressed in multiple ways by various players' skills.
- The fighter, stealth, navigator or biologist player could help deal with the shark. The hacker, fighter, stealth or engineer character could help to disable the killbot, the scientist, engineer and navigator could help deal with the water, and the athlete and navigator could swim through the narrow tunnel.
- Along the way, as players succeed or fail, you can add more interesting discoveries.
- Searching for a land route could lead to an interesting volcanic cave filled with opaque toxic fog.
- Failing a navigation roll could lead to an interesting shipwreck with useful gear or potentially repairable vehicles.
- Following the robot could lead to an enemy outpost with people that can be negotiated with or intimidated.
- Travel scenes occur when the party is going from one place to another and the challenge is generally to do it quickly and safely.
- When you plan travel sequences, establish consequences for being late to the destination (increased enemy presence, lost opportunities), or various resources that could run out (oxygen, power, food, fuel).
- Before the players begin the journey, plan a few interesting decisions and interesting dead ends.
- A failed navigation roll in the wasteland might lead into territory infested by mutants that lair in ruins. They demand players by force to do something to help their ailing queen.
- A failed navigation roll in the haunted forest might lead to a witch's magically looped territory that players cannot escape without negotiating a deal with the witch.
- A failed navigation roll during a hyperspace jump might lead to a fuel explosion and crashing on a strange toxic planet, or going back or forwards in time.
- Browse the internet for random generators to get more idea of interesting things that could occur
- Keep an eye on player engagement as well. If players seem frustrated out of character, then skip ahead to the destination, with a single simple navigation roll and application of consequences.
- Fantasy campaigns rely more on familiar tropes and violent solutions, but variety can be good.
- A pair of elf and dwarf buddies that roam around killing goblins, ogres and dragons is a reliable formula.
- However, you can also make a very flavorful fantasy campaign about a grand diplomatic journey to negotiate an alliance versus the dark lord's army.
- Sci-fi campaigns really allow a wide variety of skills to be used because of the greater division of labor and power of technology.
- Interplanetary diplomats, hive city gangs, bold space-explorers, and apocalypse or alien invasion survivors all make for excellent sci-fi campaigns that can be violent or more subtle.