Hey everyone, today we’re looking at the GMing advice chapters of Mindjammer: Scenarios & Campaigns, and Themes, Genre and Styles.
I’ve always had a soft spot for these kind of chapters as even after so many years of running games, you’ll always find some nugget of wisdom that will come in handy not just in one game, but in others. In Mindjammer’s case, we’re looking at a gold mine of ideas, especially for FATE newbies like myself.
Mindjammer offers a framework for building scenarios to a new GM, a step-by-step process to help guide a GM’s efforts to come up with a thought-out scenario that will withstand the scrutiny of their players.
There’s a lot of good stuff here, and it would be a disservice to the book if I echoed them here, but I’ll call out a few that really came off as brilliant.
One example is the use of the game or character’s Aspects to generate hooks. It might seem like common sense to most veteran GMs, but this is the kind of approach that I like to see in other RPGs. Advice that assumes that the players are new, enthusiastic, and might need guidance.
In addition to hooks, there’s also discussion on the setting, the situation and the opposition, and advice on how to structure it so that the players are involved.
Moving past just scenario creation, the book also goes into detail on campaign creation. There’s a meta-subsystem here about Plot Stress, a neat mechanic to help in GM pacing that I find to be an elegant way of keeping track of escalation. I’ve always done escalation in my games based on gut feel, but having a system like this is definitely something to try out.
After the structure and mechanics of Scenarios and Campaigns, Mindjammer takes the time to tackle the daunting topic of Themes, Genre and Styles of Play. This chapter is perhaps the best evidence that Mindjammer is as much a universal sci-fi game as much as it is a specific setting.
It has been mentioned earlier on in the book, but by the time you get to this point in Mindjammer, you’ll likely be thinking of a dozen different sci-fi worlds you could run with the rules as presented, and Mindjammer embraces that.
The chapter opens up with a discussion of Themes, including Transhumanism and Cultural Conflict. Each one is given a short description and a handful of Aspects that help drive the theme home.
Styles of Play are also given attention, with the express permission for GMs to go out and make Mindjammer into the game they want to play. This tackles everything from Gritty to Epic and segues nicely to talking about the Tone of the game, which ranges from optimistic to symbolic / allegorical.
Genres and Tropes are also given a thorough treatment, with more than a few examples to help GMs cement the kind of game they’d like to run, and a few key tropes to help them with iconic scenes that players will associate with a given type of game.
One thing here that seems to be out of place though is the discussion on Posthuman character options. It feels like it had no other place in the book so they decided to put it here instead. The options are very interesting though and certainly advanced enough to give me pause.
Mindjammer’s GMing sections are beefy and full of good advice. The framework for building scenarios is a brilliant adition that many GMs will find useful in any game, and the discussion of Themes and Genres makes Mindjammer more than just a self-contained game as much as a handy resource for anyone playing a sci-fi game.
Tomorrow we’ll wrap up the Let’s Study series of Mindjammer with my conclusions and a review.