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Author Topic: The biggest problem I have with the system.  (Read 6534 times)
Aminar
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« on: August 24, 2012, 12:10:59 PM »

Mistborn is designed to fit within the story structure the novel uses.  That is a wonderful thing in many ways, but it isn't an easy story structure to run campaigns in.
The problems I have are as follows(and I'm looking for advice on how to get past this.)
A:  The characters are almost required to be heroic.  It's very hard to run a campaign as a party that is less than good because the only goal really given is Sweeping Social Change and The Final Empire can't get a whole lot worse.
B:  There is no way to accrue cool stuff.  Say one of my characters grabs a Koloss sword.  There is no reason he should have to lose it, but within the rules of the game it goes away at the next long breather.  The same principle applies to resources like Atium.  Characters can't stave off using these for long because if they do the bead will go away.  This causes parties to not want long breathers as by nature RPG gamers like having cool things.  The system doesn't allow for that. 
C:  Parties are organized as thieving crews but there is 0 benefit to stealing things.  They can't build up wealth beyond spending advancement on resources, which most characters want to spend advancement on their powers-the things that define their characters. 
What it really comes down to is that I don't write plots on the epic scope of Mistborn.  I write a variety of self contained stories with set goals that reveal bigger things as they go along.  This keeps campaigns going longer and allows each session to be something special.

Problem D:
Scadriel, while huge in theory, is tiny.  You have 1 major society spread across a continent.  There is 1 omnipresent and villainous government.  Your total enemy options are very limited in comparison to most other RPG's.

In Mistborn you have
The Final Empire/Obligators
Noble Houses
Other Gangs
Koloss
Kandra
Mistwraiths
Feruchemists
Insurrectionist groups.
Random Hemalurgical Creations...

Most of those are starkly ordinary and either vastly more powerful/well connected than you or not very intelligent.
I started DMing in the Dresden universe.  There I can draw on every mythology on earth without any trouble.  We've fought demons, werewolves, Celtic gods, Fetches disguised as Disney Villains(Mallificent was great), Nicodemus trying to stop the crucifixion, and a variety of other interesting things.
Mistborn doesn't have that variety to make every session something new and I really want it to.  I love making my sessions into events.  Food is made, sessions last 7 hours or more.  I can't write like that for Mistborn.  There isn't space left on Scadriel for it.  The world lacks the scope and diversity.

The best way I've found to manage is to set the party up as Obligators hunting down criminals CSI style, but even that feels wrong because frankly being an obligator sucks.  It gives them direction, something most players are just terrible at, but it puts you as a group of reprehensible people. 

Note that a large part of my problem comes from the fact I feel terribly wrong about writing AU sessions.  I want things to fit the original stories continuity.  I cannot get past this.  I've tried.  I can't even read fanfic that doesn't fit into continuity(Although I have problems reading most fanfic anyway.)
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« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2012, 01:12:16 PM »

My solution to this is to set the story 100 years before the books, in the time of the previous House war. The wild part is that, through happenstance, one of the PC's is Vin's great-great-grandmother.

My other thought was to run it after the trilogy, and deal with the upheaval.
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« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2012, 01:43:55 PM »

My solution to this is to set the story 100 years before the books, in the time of the previous House war. The wild part is that, through happenstance, one of the PC's is Vin's great-great-grandmother.

My other thought was to run it after the trilogy, and deal with the upheaval.

I did the 100 years before.  I felt constrained by needing to leave the society relatively unchanged...

As to right after, there are too many changes in genetics with twinborn and the like that don't have rules yet.

Both are great suggestions, just ones I've debated.  My current answer is floating around the 17th shard RPG sections Mistborn Homebrew thread.
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« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2012, 01:55:49 PM »

I'll just answer #2 right now, since I am about to fix that in our PBP game. As the narrator I use the powers given to my by Brandon Sanderson, and the Crafty-games peeps to say that my players won't loose object X. It does not become a PROP, but remains until it is used up or destroyed. Objects that are needed for the story, objects that might be needed for the story, or objects that are earned and too cool to get rid of. If it does not make sense to remove them, I won't. Not homebrew since the rules for Narrators include that option.
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« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2012, 03:09:53 PM »

A:  The characters are almost required to be heroic.  It's very hard to run a campaign as a party that is less than good because the only goal really given is Sweeping Social Change and The Final Empire can't get a whole lot worse.

I'm not seeing that at all, unless your intent is to replay the story (and especially the end game) set forth in the trilogy. For example, my brother and I are running a game in the style of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, conning noble women out of their wealth with the promise of adventure to excite their dull lives. Of course, the characters are also complicated by their interpersonal relationships, too. Even now, they are still not heroic. At least not by my sense of the word. Perhaps yours is different.

B:  There is no way to accrue cool stuff.  Say one of my characters grabs a Koloss sword.  There is no reason he should have to lose it, but within the rules of the game it goes away at the next long breather.  The same principle applies to resources like Atium.  Characters can't stave off using these for long because if they do the bead will go away.  This causes parties to not want long breathers as by nature RPG gamers like having cool things.  The system doesn't allow for that.

C:  Parties are organized as thieving crews but there is 0 benefit to stealing things.  They can't build up wealth beyond spending advancement on resources, which most characters want to spend advancement on their powers-the things that define their characters.

I think these two are related, so I'll address them together. I guess this is in how you look at "cool things." I would think a koloss sword would be worth an advancement, especially if I wasn't planning to trade it up for the next shiny to come along. Spending advancements on something, to me, says that this thing (whatever it happens to be) is important to my character. Is the character somebody who would hoard atium? It can be shown by investing in the Resources attribute. At that point, hoarding atium is flavor text for how the character describes his/her wealth. Because the Mistborn Adventure Game treats money in such a nebulous fashion, you can't (easily) track every last boxing and clip that passes through a players hands. Personally, I wouldn't want to, as I feel it would become unwieldy rather quickly. That said, I can understand the desire to do so.

What it really comes down to is that I don't write plots on the epic scope of Mistborn.  I write a variety of self contained stories with set goals that reveal bigger things as they go along.  This keeps campaigns going longer and allows each session to be something special.

I like epic stories. That said, I don't think they are required for a successful Mistborn game. In fact, I really like the idea of smaller scope adventures and making things matter on a personal, small scale level. Because there are no "levels" in this game (there are hardly even "tiers"), there is no reason why smaller scale adventures couldn't continue for as long as you or your players like.

D: Scadriel, while huge in theory, is tiny.  You have 1 major society spread across a continent.  There is 1 omnipresent and villainous government.  Your total enemy options are very limited in comparison to most other RPG's.

In Mistborn you have
The Final Empire/Obligators
Noble Houses
Other Gangs
Koloss
Kandra
Mistwraiths
Feruchemists
Insurrectionist groups.
Random Hemalurgical Creations...

Most of those are starkly ordinary and either vastly more powerful/well connected than you or not very intelligent.

Scadrial is as big or as small as you want it to be. And there is adventure everywhere! There is more than one society. Heck, there is more than one society in Luthadel, alone! There are different classes of people (nobles, skaa, terrismen, kandra), and then there are stratifications within each class. Societies are incredibly complex (in a good way), with lots of moving parts. Changes to one can and will affect another in unforeseen ways.

One omnipresent and villainous government? Maybe one head honcho/ruler, but he is certainly not omnipresent. He does have significant power (especially with his mind controlled super warriors and assassins), but he also grants a ridiculous amount of leeway in how the people are governed. Want less ministry influence in your game? Set it in the outer dominances. This can also tie in to the aforementioned scale issues. Small problems, small oversight.

As to your list of enemies, I think that you could get a lot of mileage out of several of those that you condensed into groups. House wars are the bread and butter of Scadrial politics. They may not be overt, but they are certainly present. I think that games set to house politics have a much better chance to see use of the social conflict rules. Blackmail, bribery, networking, seduction, and many other kinds of political posturing are encouraged.

Other gangs has so much potential. What are the motivations for the other gangs? What are their methods or modus operandi? Looking at modern gangs, what are their colors, signature clothes or recruitment methods? How do the gangs relate to one another? Why would they fight amongst themselves? Can they be united into a cartel? Stories involving gangs could include smuggling of contraband (including escaped slaves), recruiting from rivals, pickpocketing, vandalism, turf wars, and all kinds of other street crime.

Your last one, Random Hemalurgical Creations, has so much story potential, especially as they will all likely have Ruin feeding them ideas. The idea of a monster with a heart of gold comes immediately to mind. Another potential plot is RHCs begin appearing around [insert city of choice], terrorizing its citizens before dying at the hands of the city guard. The attacks are becoming more frequent and the creatures are becoming more powerful with each encounter. Why is it happening? Who is behind their creation? Lots of potential with that.

I felt constrained by needing to leave the society relatively unchanged...

That's understandable. That said, I think there are plenty of avenues available in Scadrial. Do your players share your aversion to breaking canon?
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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2012, 03:26:56 PM »

On your response to A:  There are no repercussions for being a villain unless you specifically target nobles.  The Skaa won't fight back much if random Skaa die.  they're used to it. 

The problems with B and C are more that those are things players expect.  Not having them as an option hurts the DM's ability to motivate players(who don't tend to care about bad guys unless the bad guys target them which only works if the party has a strong enough reputation to attract trouble.)

It's very hard to provide motivation to the players in this particular game.  They have a tendency to sit and squabble about not wanting to get caught and the dangers of drawing attention versus the gains of a job.

Part of this is tied down to the fact a house war is only interesting for so long.  Maybe two or three sessions.  Then it's just a drag.  There are lots of things that can be thrown at the players, but nothing with much novelty. 

As to the society thing-Sure there are lots of types, but in the end they are all under one banner.  There's more diversity in Wisconsin than there is in Scadriel.  We have people from every country in the world, a myriad of subcultures that are well defined, and far more accountability for our actions here than there is in Scadriel where unless you mess with the obligators or too many nobles odds are you'll get away.  On the other hand just breathing can get you killed if you're a misting.  There are alot of limitations in the system that are very hard to get past.  I think I've done so, but I had to go outside The Final Empire to do it.  The society doesn't mesh with the system in some uncomfortable ways.


That said, how do you motivate your thieves to steal when they get next to nothing from it past advancement(which comes very slowly and doesn't actually reflect their actions most of the time if they're thieves unless they always add to resources. 

(Last thing.  I adore this system.  It's great.  I just feel like it's very hard to write interesting and unique stories for.)
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« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2012, 04:05:29 PM »

On your response to A:  There are no repercussions for being a villain unless you specifically target nobles.  The Skaa won't fight back much if random Skaa die.  they're used to it.

A hero/villain dichotomy might be part of our disconnect here. Looking to the Mistborn novels for inspiration, I see an awful lot of gray, rather than black and white, especially at the start. Targeting nobles is what everybody does, even (especially?) other nobles! As to the skaa fighting back? They've been doing it (unsuccessfully) for centuries. Used to it or no, they do fight back; they have a history of it.

The problems with B and C are more that those are things players expect.  Not having them as an option hurts the DM's ability to motivate players(who don't tend to care about bad guys unless the bad guys target them which only works if the party has a strong enough reputation to attract trouble.)

It's very hard to provide motivation to the players in this particular game.  They have a tendency to sit and squabble about not wanting to get caught and the dangers of drawing attention versus the gains of a job.

Part of this is tied down to the fact a house war is only interesting for so long.  Maybe two or three sessions.  Then it's just a drag.  There are lots of things that can be thrown at the players, but nothing with much novelty.

Yeah, player expectations can make or break a session, no? I take it from your vernacular (DM) that your players are used to the tropes of D&D? I've tried to think of ways to help players used to a class and level system transition to something more narrative. I'll wrack my brain again and see if I can come up with something more useful than "unlearn what you have learned!" Wink

As to the society thing-Sure there are lots of types, but in the end they are all under one banner.  There's more diversity in Wisconsin than there is in Scadriel.  We have people from every country in the world, a myriad of subcultures that are well defined, and far more accountability for our actions here than there is in Scadriel where unless you mess with the obligators or too many nobles odds are you'll get away.  On the other hand just breathing can get you killed if you're a misting.  There are alot of limitations in the system that are very hard to get past.  I think I've done so, but I had to go outside The Final Empire to do it.

Well, define a few subcultures for your game! There are several cities that are just given a passing sentence or paragraph and are wide open to use. And that doesn't include the many towns and villages that dot the landscape. Are you looking for specific details about the subcultures of the setting so you don't have to worry about retconning if something else becomes official?

What limitations in the system are you seeing? Is it the nebulous money/atium/resources? Also, would you mind sharing how you've removed the limitations? Perhaps a sample of your setting outside of the Final Empire?

The society doesn't mesh with the system in some uncomfortable ways.

Society doesn't mesh with the system? Could you be more specific?

That said, how do you motivate your thieves to steal when they get next to nothing from it past advancement(which comes very slowly and doesn't actually reflect their actions most of the time if they're thieves unless they always add to resources.

Well for one, they aren't thieves in the traditional sense. They're confidence men/women. They convince the rich and gullible to part ways with their money or other forms of wealth. Land and property is particularly desirable (as it can continue to generate money), though paintings and other forms of artwork hold a special place in one character's heart. Usually, it isn't stuff that would be represented by a prop. I just make a note of it and the game goes on.

(Last thing.  I adore this system.  It's great.  I just feel like it's very hard to write interesting and unique stories for.)

Well, are you trying to do all of the work yourself? Have you used the Scheme Worksheet and Plan of Action forms with your players? I find them to be of tremendous help in coming up with ideas and stories that the players want to tell.
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« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2012, 05:52:28 PM »

Theres a paragraph, I forget which page its one but its says that something in the book doesnt fit in your game dont use it.  So, for your Koloss sword example, dont take it away after the next breather.  That paragraph can be used on any of the problems you mentioned.
But another one I will try and tackle.  All pcs have to be heroes, I personally dont think so.  The pregen character Beck isnt a hero, IMO.  He has no allomantic ability or anything special.  All he has is a tore which prolly fronts as a safe house for the crew.
Just my $.02  Wink
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« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2012, 07:17:53 PM »

I've just started (today) reading Mistborn (preordered the game just to support Crafty and seeing the good feedback on the books figured "why not?") and so far I can see where you're coming from with writing adventures, to a degree.  Brandon did an excellent job of give a real sense of grand scale to the novels that it's easy to feel you have to do the same.

My personal problem is when I say "I'm gonna run Dresden Files", I have half my group talking in ultra specific detail about the world the books are set in, and the other half looking kind of confused - it's led to the first half having both an upper hand, and a constant need to correct me.  So what I do now, and might be worth considering for yourself, is say that everything I run is "somewhat inspired by" or "at most, a total 'What if...' scenario" (concept stolen from Marvel Comics).  My current game (Stargate) opens after the first mission to Abydos - and it's all a "What if..." scenario in which the shows, movies and anything else my players might find has zero bearing.

In Mistborn terms, it could be "What if a gang of Skaa started a rebellion before the events of the trilogy?"

You've got plenty of varied fodder for that hypothetical - they can infiltrate and get involved in house politics (to weaken certain Skaa owner's positions), inter-gang rivalries, people trying to shut them down, not to mention the inquisition, obligators or any of Scadriel's other natural (and not so natural) hazards.  You can even change the scope - increasing it as they go.  If you're concerned about canon, then all they have to do is fail at the very end - the events of the trilogy are still ready to go.  That might seem harsh, but if I told my group going into a year long campaign that they would fail in an epic and heroic fashion well in advance I'm certain that only 1 or two of the guys I ever game with would have any problem (as long as it's not a year of failure - just the final bit, and I'd guarantee an awesome and heroic doom for them all).  It's also pretty in keeping with the general bleakness of the setting (so far, I had half an hour on the bus, so I've only read like first 5 chapters).

And that's just one of a heap of "What if..." ideas you could use as fodder.   It also stops your players correcting you, which is nice (because it bugs the heck outta me).
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« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2012, 08:21:29 PM »

I've just started (today) reading Mistborn (preordered the game just to support Crafty and seeing the good feedback on the books figured "why not?") and so far I can see where you're coming from with writing adventures, to a degree.  Brandon did an excellent job of give a real sense of grand scale to the novels that it's easy to feel you have to do the same.

My personal problem is when I say "I'm gonna run Dresden Files", I have half my group talking in ultra specific detail about the world the books are set in, and the other half looking kind of confused - it's led to the first half having both an upper hand, and a constant need to correct me.  So what I do now, and might be worth considering for yourself, is say that everything I run is "somewhat inspired by" or "at most, a total 'What if...' scenario" (concept stolen from Marvel Comics).  My current game (Stargate) opens after the first mission to Abydos - and it's all a "What if..." scenario in which the shows, movies and anything else my players might find has zero bearing.

In Mistborn terms, it could be "What if a gang of Skaa started a rebellion before the events of the trilogy?"

You've got plenty of varied fodder for that hypothetical - they can infiltrate and get involved in house politics (to weaken certain Skaa owner's positions), inter-gang rivalries, people trying to shut them down, not to mention the inquisition, obligators or any of Scadriel's other natural (and not so natural) hazards.  You can even change the scope - increasing it as they go.  If you're concerned about canon, then all they have to do is fail at the very end - the events of the trilogy are still ready to go.  That might seem harsh, but if I told my group going into a year long campaign that they would fail in an epic and heroic fashion well in advance I'm certain that only 1 or two of the guys I ever game with would have any problem (as long as it's not a year of failure - just the final bit, and I'd guarantee an awesome and heroic doom for them all).  It's also pretty in keeping with the general bleakness of the setting (so far, I had half an hour on the bus, so I've only read like first 5 chapters).

And that's just one of a heap of "What if..." ideas you could use as fodder.   It also stops your players correcting you, which is nice (because it bugs the heck outta me).

This is one problem with niche RPGs, like Dresden and Mistborn.  If you're not familiar with them, its somewhat difficult to get players to play.  Especially with the 'magic' system in Mistborn, its hard to describe.
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« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2012, 09:31:37 PM »

Tell me about it.  I picked a bunch of people who had never played Dresden just to avoid that.  The niche RPG's are so greta for being story focused and mechanics light...  But they can be so hard to get interest in, especially now that Ive finished college and moved away from my college friends.  I will get a Mistborn game started though.  I will!

The idea has never been getting ideas, it's working with players that don't have the what ifs running through their minds, the ones that don't know the world and thus need to be poked, prodded, and shoved in the right direction.  Progressive RPers are hard to find.
As for DM, I started RPing in D&D so its the term I use.  I loathe D&D though.  It's all sorts of too complicated while not feeling natural.

And I write quite a bit but I don't write like Brandon(plotwise at least).  It hurts my ability to shift into the setting more...  I'm just half complainign half looking for advice.  I just can't seem to find a good niche on Scadriel.  Partially because
Problem comes up
Players investigate
Players fight and solve problem
Hint at little bits of a bigger picture works brilliantley for Dresden but less so for Mistborn. 
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« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2012, 01:32:15 PM »

I too feel constrained by the canon, but have found a bit of a workaround.

The Lord Ruler has rewritten history, and as long as he survives, I can get away with anything, if I put it far enough in the past. so, I'm playing 231 years after the Lord Ruler's ascension. New metals are being discovered, new territories conquered (The lord Ruler claims he conquered the world by the second century of his rule. Not so, just good PR.).

I'm running a group of characters as a noble house tasked with subjugating the final three dominances (The final sacking of Khlennium, The Terris people, and the Farmost Dominance.). I also fiddled with the strength of their powers to reflect that these early mistings are stronger. (no powers is unheard of, misting is weak, mistborn or feruchemist is average, and for one very special character, I've given permission to be both mistborn and feruchemist. That's a major plot hook/snarl/tangled web right there to run players through.)

There are of course a few nasty hemalurgic threats, both allies (for now) and enemies to be wary of.

So far, It's been a blast and the team cooperation has been fantastic. They're deciding how to go about conquering... benevolently, trying to preserve the societies and follow the Lord Ruler's bidding. Eventually, though, because of their tragedies and destinies chosen, they're going to run themselves directly into the Steel ministry.

It's not too hard to deal with canon. In fact, we have found several ways to support it. In Khlenni, for instance, we found a book with paintings and drawings of nature, one particular page of it will make it to Mare's hands 770 years in the future.

To make things interesting and to give the world more allomancers, though, Race-mingling has only recently been outlawed. (TLR will rewrite the books to say it was always this way, but even he needed the allomantic armies for conquering the world.

So, yes, just remember  "The Lord Ruler rewrites history to suit his fancy" is not just handy, it's actually canon. things have been rewritten in the past. It is fact.
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« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2012, 02:36:01 PM »

Or you can use the method I always use which is the Screw the Canon™ method.  Using this method, once the players make their characters, the future is whatever they make it.

I've played in a Star Wars game where the Empire won the Battle of Endor and a Game of Thrones game where we managed to save King Robert.  When this happens, you are still grounded in the world but suddenly, no one knows what is going to happen in the future.  Its actually very liberating as both a PC and a GM.

Ultimately, if the canon is getting in the way have having fun, drop it.  It isn't as sacred as people seem to think it is.

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« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2012, 05:56:27 PM »

I've finished reading he bookd a couple of days ago, and was tnking on starting a thread about my impressions, but some of whats being said here feels a little bit related to my impressions, so i will do it here. Cheesy



I find canon in games based on books/tv shows/movies to be a great tool in order to give your stories bigger resonance...

My experience is based in a 6 year long star wars campaign as a player and a shorter Stargate campaing I as a gamemaster.

In the former the gm keep getting us in the middle of relevant moments of the original movies and the expaned universe, but creating stories that ran alongside them, It's very fun, and our story spanned around 20 years.

In stargate, i used the canon as a base to develop new stories for the pc, maybe rescuing some characters from the original show that weren't so relevant, or enemies that the SG1 had left behind. I took the canon as the foundation for my stories, not as a wall that limited them...

Right now I'm trying to get a mistborn game started. Today we sat and created the Crew, and I was a little worried because the original plan was to start playing  as well, and i had to find before character generation some kind that adventure that could be used whatever the kind of pc they created.

So i started digging a little bit in the canon. My main problem with the book, now that I've finished it, it's that the Setting info is ver very small. You get  pages at the beggining of the book and then around 10 pages in the Discovering the novels in the third book. But there's no real practical information.

I finished The Hero of Ages a week after it was published... almost 4 years ago... (it's been that long???) and I remember the world in general, mostly what the game already tells me... but i dont remember much more...

I found it lacking in that aspect. And it's a pity, especially with books like the FC Adventure Companion as an example... or the original Stargate rpg.. The adventure Companion makes a good example of how to introduce a setting in not many pages... The stargate RPG is very complete, with plenty of rules, yeah, but with a lot of practical information that's very useful.

I would have liked more information about the main Noble Houses status and resources, about the steel ministry inner workings, about luthandel and life in the city, about how the underworld works

I can find that information in other places (the coppermind and the mistborn rpg section in the 17th shard have turned out to be real treasures for that) but when this kind of thing is written with the game in mind it gives you a marvelous chance to insert seeds for possible stories for your own games. There are plenty of examples about how to use the rules, but these dont give enough fodder to develop them into stories. Back to SGRPG, I remember, when I was reading the Season synopsis included in the first chapters it felt like there was 1 or 2 adventure ideas in every paragraph.

And that's something that's missing from the game, I think. It's not a problem with the game system, as such, but with maybe the format. I can imagine that developing the setting that much would take a lot of space and make the book very very big, so much as to make impossible to keep the novel format. But before reading it i had the impression that it was a game designed to be light on rules... so i expected a little more of brackground...

I like the game system, a lot, and I'm really eager to start playing with it. I think the game is really good, and i like the way its written, how it tries to be very easy to understand for novice players. It's gonna do a great work getting mistborn fans that havent played before to try it. But I understand that it's difficult to know where to start...

Personally, after reading a bit about the setting in the Coppermind and the 17th shard to refresh my memories, as well as going back and start reading the annotations of the author for the original books, I've a few ideas to start with. I'm gonna start a few years before the first book, not sure how many yet, and I've created a corrupt Prelan that is gonna be behind a clandestine fight network, with Skaas fighting for their lives between themselves...  and against a few Koloss he got his hand on...
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« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2012, 07:45:38 PM »

I started a campaign last month, and that's the issue I keep running into. There's a lack of background info on the world itself, so I have to make everything up. I'll either come up with my own stuff or steal from other game systems. As a GM, though, that's my biggest issue. There's a real need for a sourcebook here...
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