Era is a series of games from Shades of Vengeance. There are titles like Era: Hitman, the post-apocalyptic Era: Survival, the soon to be launched horror Era: The Chosen, to name a few. Their flagship Era is Era: The Consortium, a sci-fi, in which 500 years of exploration, civilisation and war ends in a fight for survival.
Here’s the Kickstarter introduction to Era: The Consortium.
With so many games, options and rules, it might be a bit daunting approaching the Era series. Thankfully, here’s Shades of Vengeance’s own Fred Harvey with seven tips to help GMs.
7 “Dos and Don’ts” for running Era Games!
Learning a new system can always be difficult. Whether it’s gripping the mechanics, the lore or just running the session in general, challenges can spring from many places. I have been lucky enough to play quite a lot of Era D10 games and hone my skills as a GM with them.
So here are my seven do’s and don’ts of running Era games.
#1 – Don’t be afraid to mix and match Attribute/Skill combinations.
The core mechanic of Era d10 is its “Attribute plus Skill” method for solving skill checks. The Core Rulebooks provide a host of example checks, but of course this can’t cover everything. For example, Intelligence + Investigation nets you a standard investigation check, whereas Wits + Investigation is a standard perception check.
Simple enough, but let’s say you want to give that character the best chance of spotting that movement out of the corner of their eye and you see that character has a high Dexterity score, why not justify Dexterity + Investigation, the speed at which the character can react to what their eyes are picking up.
It will make a world of difference in your games as you learn to loosen up and mould the system to you.
#2 – Embrace the Lethality.
Era games have an automatic kill and an automatic knockout feature. Now, coming from various other systems, I gave this feature a long hard study before running a session, simply because it seems so brutal and, frankly, it is.
But that’s what makes it such a useful tool in the GM arsenal. We have all created encounters where we want to have 30 potential threats but we really REALLY don’t want to deal with 30 separate characters. Instant kills definitely fix that for you. Watching the look on your players face when they read out their rolls and you start ticking off bad guys is priceless. But remember it works both ways, make the players consider the dangers their characters face entering combat, a fire fight isn’t a place for the faint hearted and the instant kill really amplifies that, so use it!
#3 – Allow your players to make the exact characters they want.
Now, this may sound like an obvious suggestion, but hear me out. Era d10 removes the class-based levelling system that we have all grown so used to over the years, replacing it with a Concept. These concepts aren’t pulled from a list or a book, they are what you picture allowing you to build a character that fits.
The reason I put this as a tip to the GMs is that you can tailor your encounters to the characters your players make. If they all create scientists, don’t throw them into constant combat encounters, give them some puzzles to solve, let them use whatever character they created.
At the same time, allow the Lethal rules mentioned in my above point to do all your punctuation, if they are playing scientists, just how long are they going to live on a battlefield? Make these considerations part of your standard routine and I promise your players will grow to love the game have you made for them.
The next three tips are specific to Era: The Consortium games.
#4 – Shields!
I mentioned above how lethal these games can be. Era The Consortium gives us a slight saving grace in the form of Shields. It is likely your players will all equip their players with them, so do the same for your NPC’s!
A shield can be the difference between that BBEG losing his head to a sniper, or taking the hit and starting his campaign to hunt down and destroy the assassin. I overlooked shields in my first game and I can confirm people die… a lot.
#5 – Ship/Space Combat is a great breather from the norm.
So we have all played countless RPG’s where our characters have been the Luke Skywalker fighting their way through the evil empire in epic gunfights and duels, but we often overlook that iconic scene from the Millenium Falcon of Luke and Han manning the turrets.
Space combat in Era: The Consortium puts your players into those hotseats, whether it’s the pilot trying to keep the ship steady for a shot or deciding the fly evasively, or the engineer keeping the ship from falling apart or squeezing every last drop of power out of her no matter the cost.
Ship to ship combat provides a thrilling break from standard combat, so don’t let space travel between planets be trivial, get down and dirty and blow up some ships!
#6 – Political intrigue is king.
In a world like the Consortium you are missing out if you don’t involve the various shady activities of the governing companies. Whether you are running games focussing on the conflict between the Resistance and The Consortium or whether you have players represent one of the Big 8 Companies trying to undermine another company, the political structure can be extremely immersive.
Across the various systems I have used, one of my favourite ways to bring the world to life is through its politics… and the Consortium is no different.
My final point relates to my personal favourite of the Era games, Era: Survival!
#7 – Keep track of Durability.
In the world of Era: Survival, everything is against you, even your equipment.
That moment in the middle of a fight when the characters are locked in a life or death struggle and the one firearm the party has malfunctions… is glorious.
Again, as all things should be, the NPC’s face the same dilemmas as the party – one of the most tense encounters I have run came down to a player character having a gun held to his head, the bandit squeezed the trigger and the weapon malfunctioned giving the character enough time to react and ultimately survive. We all thought we’d be saying goodbye to a character there, but fate intervened and it will be remembered!
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