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As the GM you immerse players in the world, provide story hooks, lay obstacles in their characters’ path, act as the NPCs and creatures the player characters interact with, and adjudicate rules and the outcome of skill rolls. You have final say in what happens in the story and what exists in the Olaxis Galaxy. Feel free to change any story information you like and to add your own planets, systems, organizations, and more to the game. Spots of the Olaxis map are left blank and pieces of the story (like the actual cause of the Burn) are left vague so you can customize the narrative to fit the needs of your group.
The entire story of one group of player characters is referred to as a campaign. Each campaign is broken into shorter story arcs called adventures. Each adventure can take several game sessions.
A campaign can be as short as a single-adventure or continue for as long as your players and you want. It seems for many groups the sweet spot for ending a campaign is after all the characters have completed five Story Paths. Every group is different, so do whatever is most fun for yours. You can always start a campaign with new characters if your group begins to tire of the story you’re telling.
Each adventure is a single story arc within a campaign. An adventure could be a single session or could be spread over the course of several. You can line up the characters’ Story Path completion with the completion of an adventure to help keep your campaign tidy (so each character’s Story Path ends as the adventure ends), but you don’t have to build your adventures this way. For more advice on building adventures see “Preparing Adventures” below.
Each session of the game could be one or more hours and could encompass a piece or all of an adventure or campaign.
The GM has many roles in Burn Bryte. You are the referee who adjudicates the outcome of rules and keeps the story going. When a situation arises that isn’t covered in the rules, it is your job to make the call about how to proceed and keep the story moving.
You are the narrator who presents challenges, story hooks, and scenes to the players. You describe what the galaxy of Olaxis looks like and how other people and creatures react to the player characters. In combat you control the NPCs, both allies and adversaries.
It is the GM’s job to include everyone in the game—think of the players’ characters as those in an ensemble television show; no single character is the star. If you find some players are not speaking up as often as others, engage them by asking what their characters are doing. You can also use Story Path events to engage characters.
It is also the GM’s job to make sure everyone playing is comfortable. If you’re playing on Roll20, you could be playing with strangers on the other side of the world. You don’t know everyone’s personal history, even the people you feel close to. The point of Burn Bryte is to have fun, but creating a story about the end of existence could be filled with all sorts of weighty things from violence to heavy emotions. If a topic makes one of your players uncomfortable, it’s your job to change the scene and move on, no questions asked, and not bring up the subject again unless the player wants to talk about it.
As the GM, you’re not the players’ adversary. Your goal is to facilitate the group in telling a story together. Present the challenges, but let players decide how their characters attempt to overcome them. The players should drive the story and make big decisions about where to go next.
Your most important job as the GM is to make sure the game is enjoyable for everyone, including yourself. You can change the rules and the story any time it makes the game more fun or interesting.
When your players get together to create characters, you should have a conversation with them about the kind of game they want to play. Do they want to be grim and gritty mercenaries who make a living doing what’s right? Do they want to play optimistic heroes laughing in the face of existence’s end? Do they want to craft a grand tale about saving the universe, or do they want to tell a more intimate story about a group of people who can’t stop the inevitable but are determined to live a good life despite that? Ask as many questions as you feel necessary of the players and have fun crafting the beginning of the story. Here are some starter questions to ask during character creation:
At the start of every session, review the player characters’ upcoming Story Path events. Make sure Character Sheets (including the shared ship sheet) on Roll20 are up-to-date.
At the end of every session, ask the players if their characters accomplished a Story Path event. Then ask each player what their character’s next Story Path event is and record them so you can plan for the next session.
If you feel a player is falling behind in character advancement, you can run a Flashback Vignette.
The typical goal and assumption for character advancement is that one character will accomplish a Story Path event during every 2 hours of gameplay. So during a 4-hour session, two player characters will complete one event each along their Story Paths. This is an average for a typical game. Sometimes character growth develops more rapidly. Other times it develops more slowly. The important thing is that all characters advance at about the same pace.
Toward the end of a session, the GM asks all players if they completed a Story Path event and what the next event in their paths are to prepare for the next session. If one or more player characters seem to be falling behind with advancement, that player character and the GM can work together to create one or more Flashback Vignettes. If a player is not ready for their character to accomplish their next event and wants to wait for a future session to do so, that’s fine too.
A Flashback Vignette is a scene that wasn’t covered during the game or a continuation of a scene that happened during the session. It focuses on one or more player characters who have not completed an event and shouldn’t change any of the story that has already played out but simply add to the overall narrative. The time and place of the vignette should make sense within the game’s story and the session the group just played.
The player who needs to complete an event suggests a scene to the GM that would be right for a Vignette. The GM then works with them to set the details of that scene. Then the GM and any player characters involved play it out. If a session ends with multiple player characters falling behind in advancement, there can be multiple Flashback Vignettes or the players can work together to create a single scene that allows them to all accomplish their Story Path events.
For instance, at the end of a session where the group rescued kith’uk refugees stuck in the Ghost Belt, James, the player, informs Darcy, the GM, that his ror-nan character, Linzlo, is falling behind in advancement. Darcy takes a look at all the player characters’ sheets and agrees. Linzlo is on the Student Story Path and must find a tutor or institution to teach them about diseases. Darcy and James quickly create a scene together. While the player characters transported the refugees to a safe place, Linzlo approached a rescued kith’uk who is a doctor. The grateful NPC agrees to teach the ror-nan about medicine, completing the “Find a Tutor or Institution” Student Story Path event for James’ character.