This weekend, I ran I game for a pretty experienced group of players, and I have to say... I was not pleased. Not with the players, and not with the other JM; the fault falls squarely on my shoulders. That isn't to say the players didn't have a good time - as far as I could tell, they did. But, I was aware of a ton of issues with my session, and I thought it would be interesting to air them here and discuss what I did and what I should've been doing.
Before going into that, I want to talk about the other JM who ran a Jump during the Session. She is relatively new to the world of Gamemastering, so she had some trepidations about running a Jump, and then had concerns about the Jump after it was over. Strangely, I thought the Jump was simple and elegant, and a helluva lot of fun - and the exact opposite of what I ran earlier in the session. So, let's start with her Jump first, discuss what she was doing right, and then discuss what I was doing wrong.
The Jump itself was very simple - the Party Pops into a lightly wooded area just a few hundred yards from a small, medieval looking town. On closer inspection, the Party discovers the town is (apparently) an actual medieval town that has been styled like a touristy medieval town, which is being visited by a bunch of folks in modern clothing - although that clothing is not actually modern, but an archaic, home-sewn representation of what these patrons THINK modern clothing would look like. It was almost like the world existed hundreds of years in the future, and everyone was in costume: some in medieval garb, representing the folks who worked at the faire, and some in 'modern' garb, representing the visitors to that faire. Very 'Inception', but ultimately very cool.
The big thing about which the new JM was concerned was that one of the members of the Party, while dancing to impress a local patron, lost all of his gear when we Faded. She was carrying some guilt about Jumping everyone out, and wanted to know if there was such a thing as 'JMs Guilt'. My response, to both the Jump and the question of 'guilt', are as follows:
Sure, there is such a thing as 'JM guilt'. It will pass. You know that sci-fi and fantasy don't work unless there are rules. And, the number rule of good sci-fi is 'Don't violate your own rules'. In turn, Rule #1 of Jumping is 'what you are touching comes with you; what you aren't, doesn't'. And, Rule #2 is 'Jumping is random - you don't know when it is going to happen.' Allowing the player to make a last grab for his bag as he was fading, or something of the sort, would break Rule #1 and Rule #2 of Jumpers, thus breaking Rule #1 of sci-fi - breaking a grand total of three rules. That would not have been good.
The thing is, a JM has to be able to separate how the player feels from how the PC feels. For the most part, the player doesn't care; while it sucks, it's a game, and a good player will typically be cool with it, as long as the JM was following the rules when the player lost their stuff (and the player gets some cool stuff at some point to replace his already lost cool stuff.) If you had broken one of the rules, or you break one of the rules for someone else in the future, then the player will start to get peeved. The PC, on the other hand, is a different story. He is pissed, and probably will be for a while. Plus, he is going to have to figure out how to deal without all of the cool stuff he had, as well as without some necessities, which could prove interesting. However, he is keeping those feelings separate, because he is a good player. As long as you follow the rules, and you are aware of the difference between player and PC, you will be fine.
Additionally, I enjoyed your Jump immensely, for a number of reasons:
1) Mystery. You didn't reveal anything, really, but you revealed enough to keep us thinking without ever truly 'getting it'. I love that kind of stuff in Jumpers - as a life-long GM, I love NOT knowing what is going on, but having enough to keep me thinking.
2) Detail. Yeah, it was based on a place that you knew fairly well. But, the detail is what really did it. You had the sounds, the smells, the way everyone talked. You even had detail of the clothing, and how it was handmade to look modern. Very neat.
3) Simplicity. You didn't bog the Jump down with unnecessary detail, or too much fluff. You kept it simple, and you let us discover at our own pace. When I run a Jump, 90% of the game is determined, directly or indirectly, by the actions of the players. Keeping it simple lets the game progress organically, allowing the players to feel they have just that much more control over what is going on.
4) And, the aforementioned 'following the rules'.
As a bit of insight, here is why I thought my Jump (the garbage scow thing) was rubbish (heh):
1) I had a plan, and I veered off course. While I do improvise a great deal of my game, a general outline is always nice to work from. I had one, and then for some reason, I scrapped that outline, and moved on to something MUCH more complex. The original plan was to have a man and a dog as owners of a space scow. They were moving it through space from point A to point B, and you guys were going to be there for a LONG time (22 days). That was it - normally, that is all I need. But, someone said something in your discussions of what was going on (remember, 90% of the game is driven by player decisions), and I said "yeah, let's follow that up and see where it leads." Unfortunately, it lead to an exceedingly complex history of the scow, the introduction of a mega-corporation, a gun battle, jump suppression. It was simply too much in comparison to what I had prepared, so it got away from me.
2) It was WAY too long. I had a whole other Jump I wanted to run, but we spent 2 1/2 hours playing out a Jump that only took 5 hours in game. Should have been much more concise than it was - too much talk, not enough action (not 'gunfight' action, just 'things happening' action.)
3) Besides everyone being covered in garbage, there was nothing really intriguing. Again, had something in the original outline, but once I switched ideas, that hook was lost, and I couldn't find anything I found nearly as interesting.
I think the takeaway from this is to always remember the most important element of any game is fun. Follow the rules, go with the flow, stick to the script - those suggestions are all fine and dandy. But, none of this matters if the players aren't having fun. And, in both my and your Jumps, the players did enjoy themselves. So even though both JMs had concerns about the Session, everything turned out for the best in the end.
Til next time... have fun, and play games,