Sunday, December 22, 2013

Clearinghouse Post #1: The Three Os of GM'ing

As I near my 500th post in the next week or so, and in an effort to get rid of a few draft posts that will give me an inaccurate count of published posts (which I'd rather not count in that 500), I'm running a quick series of blog posts as attempt to "clean house." These posts may not be fully formed, or even make total sense, but did not want to delete/dismiss them entirely.

The Three O's of GM'ing: Obstacles, Opponents, and Objects

Back in the mid-90s, during my anime fascination period, I was working on an Anime RPG originally entitled Gokko (the Japanese word for a game of make believe). I believe that, since that time, there actually might have been a manga produced with the same title, but having lost my interest in the genre, I really wouldn't know. I've written about Gokko before, only it was called by its new title, StoryCode AG. I actually shared the Gokko character generation tables, as well as some sketches for the interior art.

One of the things I was particularly proud of in Gokko (which could still one day see the light of day as the StoryCode AG RPG) was boiling the GM information down into small digestible "chunks." This includes "The Three Os."

The following is from a draft edition...

For the most part, anything a normal-sized character will come up against will be able to be detailed within the characteristics described by the basic GOKKO rules. These things will usually fall into one of three categories: Obstacles, Opponents and Objects.

Obstacles are typically inanimate, or autonimically animate, items that operate of their own accord. Some examples of Obstacles are a slimy wall that has to be climbed, a giant razor trap to be detected and disarmed and an ice-covered lake that must be crossed. (This section goes on to talk about appearance, interaction, and resolution.)

While Opponents take slightly more effort to create than Obstacles, they should seem slightly more familiar. After all, Opponents are simply NPCs that are specifically enemies of the PCs. Opponents fall into three categories that not only describe their importance to the story, but also the relative threat they present to the PCs. The three Opponent types are: Disposables, Baddies and Supreme MVs. (This section goes on to talk about the different types, the challenge level they should present, and the number of each that should appear. BTW, "Supreme MV" stands for "Supreme Master Villain"; I took pride in creating several anime-isms throughout the rulebook... you know... just putting the pussy on the chain wax.)

Objects, as a category, encompasses a number of different types of items that all have one thing in common – Objects are physical items that respond to the commands, or are used by, a character. This ranges from a magic wand to a suit of body armor. (The content in this section is short, but features two examples of constructing mecha; an entirely separate book for mecha and mecha combat was planned.)

So here's the question for discussion...
"Does a modified form of this cover everything that one might find in an adventure on the way to achieving one's goal (apart from the actual environment, which is the meta "container" for the three Os)?"


  1. Secrets: The campaigns in my group seem to center a lot (!) around secrets that have to be uncovered and pieced together.
    ... could be secrets from the past, could be secrets about the here and now.
    ... but I would concede that not all stories/adventures need to have an element of mystery

    1. I really see secrets as an extension of the 20 or so "master" plot devices identified by Roger Tobias (specifically, #17-Discovery). The things above are challenges which the character must overcome in furtherance of plot.