The Shaintar: Justice and Life GM Memo, February 2014

Let Them Play! - Al Bear

Greetings to all of the wonderful folks who've stepped up to become Game Masters of the Shaintar: Justice and Life shared campaign. Whether you have been running for us for a while now or are just joining the ranks, I want to extend my personal thanks to each and every one of your for helping support this unique, hobby-changing effort.

After a few months of trying a number of things, we are making some rather sweeping changes to the entire process. Our most honored Al Bear has been advocating for much less structure and more openness to the participatory process of being involved in Shaintar, and we've come to greatly agree with his principles. To that end, the following major changes are now taking effect:

Obsidian Portal

This has been covered extensively in the recently-released “The Revised Online Presence of Shaintar” document, but I will cover it again here. All Campaign Management will be shifted to Obsidian Portal (https://www.obsidianportal.com). It's free for basic use for both GMs and players, handles the job excellently without us having to develop and perfect the tools on our own, and has a very good reputation within the gaming community. We also have a developing relationship with the folks running it, which helps tremendously.

In support of this move, Shawn Gore has developed a set of guidelines for each Game Master to follow in order to set up their campaigns. Following those instructions (and playing around a bit with the tools), GMs can create a fantastic campaign page that they and their players can use in any way they like to share information about their games. The following link takes you to the Forum entry with all that you need -

http://www.shaintar.com/?q=node/1054

Once you've created your Obsidian Portal presence, you'll want to use the revised form we are putting up on Shaintar.com to give us just the basic information. After that, it's all up to you how much or little you wish to do on the OP page you create for your game, which leads me to the next major point.

It's All Up To You

This isn't supposed to be homework. You and your players are not supposed to dread having to keep up with things. This is meant to be a fun way to participate in something bigger than just your table, as well as a means for folks to take their favorite Shaintar characters all around Shaintar (visiting other campaigns and convention tables) and having their story mean something.

To that end, we are diminishing the processes by which you manage your campaigns and how you share your information. It's pretty much on you to decide how much or how little you wish to contribute, and to what extent you want to follow along with the canon of the campaign and try to affect it.

There will be a reward system put into place by which Raven's Flock members will be awarding Bennies to Game Masters and Players for their extensive contributions. These Bennies will be usable to gain tangible rewards – discounts on Evil Beagle and other products; free products (if you save and use enough Bennies); major plot arc developments for you and your players; and so on.

Those who want to go all out, make extensive reports, and coordinate with the Raven's Flock and other GMs to create fluid and engaging content will be welcome and encouraged, but everyone else who is just along for the ride and doing their thing won't be made to feel like they are just left out. You will still be getting tons of support, major story arc information flowing out to you to use as you will, and the capacity for characters from your tables to travel and participate in other official J&L campaigns and events.

Players Manage Their Characters

Simple as that, we are no longer requiring you to post and update your characters in any official way. That is entirely up to you and your regular GM to work out.

Just understand that you are fully expected to not cheat, and when you bring a character to another GM's table, that person has the full right (and expectation) to ensure your character isn't broken and needlessly ruining the game for others.

We think it's a very good idea for you to have your character legitimately updated on the Obsidian Portal site somewhere. If you are not part of a standing campaign, we've created a Rangers at Large campaign presence you can add your character to and maintain. This will help keep the legitimacy of your character beyond question, and it also serves as a great place for you to earn bonus XP and Bennies for campaign contributions via narrative pieces, journals, reports, and even play-by-post style entries.

https://shaintar_j-l_rangers-at-large.obsidianportal.com/

You will also appreciate knowing that we are dropping XP caps for the Justice and Life campaign. Once again, we feel folks should just be able to play at the pace they want, and we expect people to just not cheat. However, GMs are being encouraged (below) to restrict games to a Within Two Ranks protocol; if a game is primarily for Novice characters, you shouldn't bring anyone who is above Veteran. Furthermore, Game Masters are thoroughly within their rights to further restrict how powerful a character should be for their individual game.

Game Masters, Run Your Games

As of this Memo, the following facts are in place:

  • No more Experience Point caps. There is no longer an enforced cap on how many XPs you are allowed to give your players within a month.
  • Award XPs as you feel appropriate. If you wish to always make sure your group's PCs are at the same XP level, go ahead. If a Player's character dies, feel free to bring the new character in at the same XP. It's your game. We do still recommend 2 XPs per session (3 for major events), and it is still campaign standard to give all new 0xp characters 5 XPs after their first session.
  • No more Level Up process for Game Masters. I'll be honest, we completely failed on this one. No one's been keeping up with it in any meaningful fashion, so we are just scrapping the entire thing. Instead, we are moving to a rewards-based approach.
  • Bennies for contributions. The Raven's Flock will be handing out specific Bennie that you can use for various rewards. The full structure of this process is still in development, but you will be allowed to save up your Bennies to attain the Rewards you want, which will include free products, discounts, and other things.
  • Claim and run your area. You still claim a piece of the Shaintar map, as you wish, and exert creative control over that area. The more you share, the more influence you have. Remember that you can literally invent a town or similar space and create a name for it. If you want an already-named space, you'll need to let us know and we can coordinate with you on that. If you want something bigger, there are ways to do that via the Shaintar Crowdfunding Page (http://www.savagemojo.com/shaintarCrowdfunder/shaintar.cfm). All places claimed will have a wiki entry on the official Shaintar.com wiki, updated primarily by what you share about your campaigns and experiences.
  • Roam the lands, have fun, be respectful. Those rules haven't changed. If you wish to keep your campaign within canon, you cannot go into other folks' areas and change stuff without their permission, and you cannot go into the Key Locations (see below) and do anything truly disruptive without coordinating with the Flock.

Now then, to actually exist at all as a Justice and Life campaign, you need to create an Obsidian Portal presence (see above) and get your campaign entered. You should get all of your players to put their characters on that campaign page as well.

From there, it's entirely up to you how much you wish to put into ongoing presentations of information to share with the rest of the J&L campaign folks. We will be endeavoring to share plenty of top-down information regarding plots, story arcs, and developments from campaigns and convention events that others go to the trouble of sharing with us.

Key Locations

The following locations are considered Key Locations. Game Masters and Players may not make major changes to these locations without specific permission from the Raven's Flock.

You can be from these Key Locations. You can have intricate story arcs that involve these places, and even have a back story where you have connections to important folks in the Key Locations. You just can do things like murder kings, destroy the west side entirely, or take over the white silver trade without first coordinating with the Flock.

This list is subject to change:

  • Kythros, the headquarters city of the Rangers.
  • Serenity, the city Ed Greenwood will be writing about.
  • Camden, also known as Snakes' Den.
  • Most other major cities; on the Shaintar map, this is any place indicated as a square or triangle. Many major cities may be selected as campaign locations, but you will definitely need to ask and coordinate first.
  • Towns that are indicated on the map with a big black dot may or may not be available; it hurts absolutely nothing to ask. You might discover an opportunity to fully flesh out an already-official location!
  • All locations marked in red on the map at this link (http://www.shaintar.com/?q=node/906) are established campaign sites and, thus, are not available for new campaigns without first checking with whoever is running there or the Flock. If you note that there are no current reports about a particular area that you are really interested in, feel free to contact us and we can see about removing that from the proscribed list.

This may seem like there is a lot that isn't available, but please understand that all of those open areas area many square miles of unused land that you can have major creative control over, thus adding to the canon of the official, published world of Shaintar.

The “3x5: Fifteen Facts” Report Protocol

One of my key goals for this revised approach to all things Shaintar: Justice and Life is to make things easy, streamlined, and effective for everyone. To that end, I've structured the following bullet-point approach to campaign session reports. If you can look at every event as something that can be broken down into fifteen key facts about what happened, you will discover it can be a quick-and-easy way to get the information established and shared without being an essay assignment for you or one of your players every time you play.

At the same time (and perhaps even more importantly), the information can be shared in a concise form that reaches everyone else without being a lengthy reading assignment.

Don't get me wrong; I believe the more elaborate narratives are still extremely valuable. They become a window into the many incredible adventures, stories, and backgrounds of countless characters. All of this should be shared, because there are those following along who consume every word and gain something from it. These efforts should continue, and they will be rewarded.

The following approach, however, is highly recommended as a foundation approach to sharing campaign and session information, ensuring the basic facts are out there for other Game Masters to work with and players to follow along with.

Who

  • Who are the Heroes? Which player characters and allied NPCs are featured in this session?
  • Who are the Foes? Which factions or nations were involved? What kinds of monsters or villains? Any key, named foes?
  • Who are the Affected? Any notable victims or other interested parties? They don't necessarily have to be neutral to be listed in this section.

What

  • What was the Goal of the Foes? This tends to be the driving element of most Shaintar: Justice and Life scenarios; a goal or scheme initiated by those wishing to change the Wildlands and other areas for the worse.
  • What was at Stake? If the villains were to have won, what would it mean for the region and beyond?
  • What was the Reward of Success? It may have been nothing more than preventing disaster, but often times, the Heroes find themselves with unexpected benefits for their efforts.

Where

  • Where were the Heroes starting out? Were they on patrol when it all went down? Were they hanging around the Outpost, or seeing to personal matters? Escorting a caravan? Establish the starting position of the Heroes.
  • Where were the Foes operating from or around? Were they in the town or city, or some remote location the Heroes had to travel to?
  • Where were the other Key Locations? If there was a lot of moving about from place to place, establish each location in sequence.

When

  • When on the Calendar? Establish the dates on the calendar the central events took place.
  • When did each Key Event take place? Day or night? During a special event, or just whenever?
  • When in Context? Are there Key Events elsewhere in the continuity timeline that fall before or after this one that should be noted?

Why

Why did the Foes do what they did? This ties to the Goal, but clarify the specific motives here.

Why did the Factions behind the Foes initiate/support this plot? This should get into the greater motivations of the elements and entities behind the scenes.

Why did things turn out the way they did? This would be the section to indicate any particular decisions or actions - especially on the part of individual Heroes, or the team as a whole - that served as turning points in the scenario. As well, any major outside influences and actions that helped turn the tide (the Silver Unicorn, Saiderin, the Ascended, Archanon, or even just major NPCs of allied factions) should be indicated here.