Here’s a quick tip for Game Masters and Players alike. First, let’s look in on an all too familiar gaming scenario…
Gathered around the table for a night of Star Wars D20, the heroes find themselves cornered by advanced assassin droids. The combat has been quick and intense, it may be it for the heroes. But wait! One of the heroes has been saving something for just this occasion! Eagerly waiting until his turn, the Scoundrel proclaims, “I leap out from behind the crates and throw my EMP grenade!” The heroes cheer, the GM gives him a thumbs up…and then…silence.
Our Scoundrel quickly loses confidence, looks to the GM and asks, “umm…what’s the effect of an EMP grenade?” The GM shrugs, “I don’t know. Is it in one of the new sourcebooks?” The scoundrel isn’t sure, he’s been hanging on to that expensive grenade for two levels now. The GM does some page flipping. It’s not in the Core Book. They start checking out all the source books from Scum and Villainy to the Force Unleashed. Finally half the players are searching through books, and the other half are talking on cell phones or rummaging in the fridge. By the time they discover that EMP grenades are found in the Clone Wars Campaign Guide, the tension of the moment is far gone.
This is by no means only a Player problem. GMs are just as, if not more guilty of having to page flip in the middle of a battle (though their burden tends to be heavier). One solution, though not a very good one in my opinion, is to write the book and page number next to the item or ability on your character sheet. A far better solution is to write the basics down on a 3×5 card.
For GMs, this can be a bit trickier, since they have so many NPCs to manage. What I find works best with my own GMing, is to not overload a single encounter with different weapons and abilities. Perhaps only choose one or two unique things to throw at the heroes. If they’ve been fighting Stormtroopers with blaster rifles, next encounter throw in a Stormtrooper with a flamethrower. This one single change has a profound effect on how the PCs will approach the situation. If the PCs have been doing a lot of hiding behind boxes every encounter, it’s easy to toss in a mercenary with some grenades and the Angled Throw Feat to shake things up and get them moving! Simple changes to your game will keep things easier to keep track of, and so smoother and more fun for everyone.
The basic gist of this tip is to be personally responsible for the rules that your character(s) will use during the game.
Here’s hoping for fast-paced encounters.