"DayTrippers GameMaster Guide" by Tod Foley

An Impressive Book Furthering the Art of the RPG

I recently picked up DayTrippers GameMasters Guide (DayTrippers: GMG 📖) by Tod Foley, and paint me impressed. It’s a toolkit that helps facilitate running DayTrippers (DayTrippers 📖), but holy crap is it so much more.

Let’s look at the Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Running DayTrippers
  • Action Resolution
  • Fiction Management
  • The World of Day Trippers
  • Mission Generator
  • Star Generator
  • Planet Generator
  • Location Generator
  • Lifeform Generator
  • Society Generator
  • Drama Generator
  • Character Generator
  • Alternate Earth Generator
  • Dream World Generator
  • Multiversal Chao Generator
  • Time Travel Generator
  • Creating DayTrips
  • Inspirational Media
  • System Conversion

There is so much in this book.

Setting the Hook with the Cyber-GM Essay

I read this section a few times, and think it is perhaps one of the most useful bits of instruction for a game’s facilitator. Take a look:

There are two sides to your relationship with the system. One is Mechanical and the other is Aesthetic.

The DayTrippers mechanics are deliberately simple. They are designed to stay out of the way while the collective imagination of the group propels the Story. For any type of Action, for any weird idea, there is a Stat that can be used to determine the base odds of success. Whenever a dramatic uncertainty arises in play - not just any uncertainty, but stuff of enough import to potentially affect the Story - you go into Resolution Mode. In this mode you’re the “data inputter” who plugs values into the rules (stats, mods, etc), you’re the “operator” who runs the “action resolution program” and interprets the results, and you’re the “narrator” who communicates those results to the Players in evocative and suggestive ways. These duties must be exercised fairly and consistently. With practice they will become second-nature, like a musician melding with their instrument, or a pro driver with their car.

But you’re also operating aesthetically, and the aesthetic concerns completely encompass the mechanical ones. The aesthetic side of the Cyber-GM is the human part, the one who knows that its purpose is Art, and its method is Meaning.

Because GMing is a social and interactive artform, not mere expressionism, we must understand Meaning as seen through the eyes of the Players, not ourselves. To put it another way: The Meaning of everything in the emerging story will be interpreted by the Players, not by you, so the better a job you do of portraying and reincorporating elements your Players find Meaningful, the more Meaning they will find in the resulting experience.

You’re not just an output for rule determinations, you’re a dedicated processor for The Human Stuff: meaningful symbolism, unconscious motivations (either on the character level or In Real Life (IRL 📖), preferably both), and unseen connections between events in the gameworld and things the Players say. Even when opposing them, you’re playing with them, not against them.

Your Players’ goals are more important than your own; in fact you really shouldn’t have any goals besides serving theirs. This means you should be ready to switch gears or jump rails if something you come up with isn’t working for your Players, or if the Players begin pursuing different goals than those you had foreseen. This isn’t bad news; this is great news. Adjust your elements, add something, drop something, go with the flow.

Trust your Players. Help them make their ideas real. Don’t get precious over your story elements; they’re reusable. Don’t get offended. Your ego has nothing to do with this, and is not invited to the hermaphroditic union. Your purpose is Art, your Method is Meaning, the System is your Instrument, and the Stars are your Players. Let’s talk about them.

This brings into clarity what I have felt regarding running games; when I “help make their ideas real” I feel the joy of sharing in the creation of something.

Of that ancient art of storyteller and audience riffing off of each other to craft something epic. In a role-playing game, each participant is a bit storyteller and a bit audience.

Session Management

The Running DayTrippers section provides some universal advice, looking at both session management as well as scene management.

Later it provides a quick over-view of narrative beats and even downtime events; ones that don’t necessarily spawn a new adventure but add flavor to your character’s life. Such as “Flurry of online attention” or “Subject of Scandal” or “Approached by a Sponsor.”

The fundamental goal of DayTrippers is to craft meaningful one session adventures that, in their experiencing, create the larger narrative meaning of a campaign.

Generators

Below is an even more exhaustive list of the generators; the purpose to help the Game Master (GM 📖) create a session of adventure. Not all of the generators are used.

Generators for DayTrippers
  • Missions
    • Mission Type
    • Node Type
    • Mission Details
    • Maguffins
    • Complications
    • Perks
    • Obstacles
    • Rewards
  • Stars
    • Star Size
    • Star Color
    • Special Stars
  • Planets
    • Planet Size
    • Gravity
    • Atmosphere
    • Atmospheric Pressure
    • Water
    • Climate
    • Biosphere
  • Locations
    • Surrounding Area
    • Local Condition
    • Terrain
    • Weather
    • Biodiversity
    • Predominant Colors
    • Unusual Wilderness Features
    • Weird Qualities
    • Nearby Objects
    • What Is This Place Used For?
  • Lifeforms
    • Body Shape
    • Body Surface
    • Symmetry
    • Sustenance
    • Appendages
    • Manipulators
    • Size
    • Locomotion
    • Senses
    • Sensory Apparatus
    • Reproduction
    • Other Characteristics
    • Social Group Size
  • Societies
    • Societal Values
    • Societal Problems
    • Levels of Technology What Is Tech Used For?
    • Available Resources
    • Understanding of Reality
  • Drama
    • Dramatic Themes
    • Plot Twists
    • The Whole Drama
  • Characters
    • Attitudes & Reactions
    • What Are They Feeling?
    • What Are They Doing?
    • What Does This NPC Want?
    • What Is This NPC’s Archetype?
    • What Is This NPC’s Problem?
    • Monsters and Evil People
  • Alternate Earths
    • The Pivotal Event
    • Scope of Change
    • When It Happened
  • Dream Worlds
    • Type of Divergence
    • Scope of Divergence
    • Form of Reality
    • Stability of Reality
    • What’s this Dream About?
    • Character Tweaks
    • Natural World Tweaks
    • Constructed World Tweaks
  • The Multiversal Chao
    • Brainstorming Techniques
    • Transformations
    • Temporary Tableaus
    • Pure Objects
  • Time Travels
    • Time Period
    • Social Strata
    • Field of Interest
    • What’s Going On?
    • Historical Maguffins
    • Attitudes & Reactions

Where the generators provide you with the “raw tools” this diagram helps you plan out the mission.

PlotFields and RunSheets

The above generators are the soil and fertilizer for a mission; DayTrippers: GMG provides another tool: the PlotField and RunSheet.

A Plotfield is a collection of Narrative Objects designed to cause a meaningful Story to emerge through Player Actions. The PlotField is not the Story; it is the fertile soil from which a Story will grow like a flower, obtaining its water and sunlight from the attentions of the GM and the actions of the Players.

The book describes Location-Dominant, Character-Dominant, Event-Dominant, or Mixed Plotfields; and how those fields impact the type of story.

To help manage these Plotfields, DayTrippers: GMG provides a Runsheet for helping consolidate the Plotfield elements into a structured document that you can quickly reference while playing.

To provide insight into what this looks like, DayTrippers: GMG provides Runsheets for Romeo and Juliet and War of the Worlds. The RunSheet examples and the bits of information regarding Narrative Structure reminds me of Robin D. Law’s Hamlet’s Hitpoints.

Conclusion

For anyone looking to level-up their GM skills, grab DayTrippers: GMG and give it a read; take notes as this is a talented game designer who thinks deeply about these games of ours. Both from the “mechanical” and the “social” stand-point of furthering the Art of Role-Playing.

And if essays aren’t your thing, those generators and the runsheets are spectacular tech for crafting unique adventures.

Furthermore, this stuff is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License 3.0.