Pickup Games

Problems in Pickup Games

The More You Know Bitmoji. Problems in pickup games happen.
A public service announcement presented by Voivode Kohoutek

So far, I’ve had several pickup games that I consider unqualified successes. However, a few that have not gone so well. I’m going to review those games for what went well and what didn’t. To be clear, I’m not expressing a negative judgement or review of the game. Spotting potential issues and figure out if they can be addressed to make the game work well in a 4 hour one-shot pickup game. I want to address the problems in pickup games as I see them.

The first game that has really gone wrong for me was the revised free version of Stars Without Numbers. Actual game play itself was fine. I think most of the players had a good time (many returned to play again). We raided an unidentified alien space station. The party found an abandoned group of human test subjects, and then abandoned them again. Good times.


The real problems cropped up in two areas. The first was in communicating with the group about the rule set we ere playing by. Since I didn’t realize that the free version had been updated and chose the old character sheets. As a result, players who wanted to get in early and create their characters were confused. Additionally, character creation seemed more challenging in the revised edition. We burned an hour of our limited play time on this process alone.

The problem with getting the player materials wrong was a big error on my part. It damaged the trust that is important between player and GM, and caused unnecessary confusion. It also raised the question, “what do I do about play materials that are not available for free”. I’m not willing to violate copyrighted material. However, I do need to be able to give players access to the materials during the game.


The best solution I came up with was giving people access to an embedded PDF. It was provided through a password protected we page for the duration of the game. I don’t think this should run me into any copyright issues.

Character generation in stars without number is time consuming. I don’t know that there’s any way to get around it. A friend suggested using pregenerated character sheets. It’s a great suggestion, but it’s not the type of game I want to play. I won’t be running this game as a one-shot until I come up with a solution.

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