In my last post, I noted that the Velvet Edge game was probably my favorite campaign I’ve played in. As a sometime-GM, it’s useful to look at what made it good, and what I can take from that in any games I run.
The very first thing, and by far the most important, is the people in the game. It’s not just that everyone in the game was a friend, or a good gamer (although both those things were true), but that, looking back, everyone was really on the same page about the game in a way that doesn’t always happen, and that can’t really be forced. I’m still friends with, and game with, nearly everyone in that campaign. It certainly helped that we were all 15 years younger, and it was much easier to meet on a more regular basis – it’s much easier to get into a good groove playing weekly, rather than monthly (or more sporadically than that).
OK, find good people who are looking for the same kind of game you are, and make time to play regularly. Those are both pretty obvious. Was there anything else about the game that made it click so well?
The setting. For me, at least, the near-future setting was great, as was the “urban fantasy” nature of it, with vampires, spirits and other beasties roaming the world and secretly fighting for power behind the scenes of the mortal world. But there was also the fact that, because it included NPCs and elements from previous games Tim had run, the world of Velvet Edge felt a little bit more solid – and at the same time, he did a great job making sure that those elements didn’t take over the game. They were a part of the game world, but only a part – it felt, to me at least, like we were playing in the same game that others had played in previously, but not playing in someone else’s game. That’s a tricky line for a GM to alk, and Tim did an excellent job with it.
The actual adventures were largely player-driven, and really character-driven, as well, and that definitely made it a more enjoyable game for me. As noted in the previous post, Tim requested several NPCs and a bit of character history from each player, and everyone’s NPCs and history was used in the game, and led to adventures focused on each of the players over the course of the campaign. Again, it’s a tough balancing act for a GM, to take the widely varying backstories of each character, and the plot hooks that they suggest, and weave them into a game that works for everyone at the table. I’ll have more to say about that in the future, as it’s a challenge for any GM.
The least important factor, to my mind, was the game system. We used GURPS, 3rd edition for Velvet Edge. Personally, I’m very fond of GURPS (although I’m interested in some less crunchy and more narrative game systems these days), but don’t think it made the game, and I don’t think the game would have suffered using another system (within reason, of course; even with the best players and GM, a system that’s really wrong for the game you’r elooking to play can ruin things).