When you are the GM
First off I would say that you need to extract the most important part of the rules and keep them handy. I've spent too much time searching through the rules in the middle of play simply because I'm unfamiliar with the system and the tables are spread out all over the document. Even multiple tabs has made it hard to find in a hurry. Print out the most used parts, or copy them to a notebook/sheet of paper for reference.
What I've found the most useful to keep close at hand as a GM:
- The basic stats for the player characters (especially if you also calculate their damage bonuses and such before you begin play)
- Weapons section (to quickly check damage values, reload cost, and special effects)
- Hit location section (to see if you should apply armor or not)
- Combat actions section (for when someone wants to use Called Shot or Wrestle or something and you forget what that actually does)
- A few notes about what you planned to do this session (so you can quickly get back on track after you and your players inevitably break all expectations)
- A crude map of the location you are in, in case the player's ask about details.
Messing with stats
Then, we need to look at what these rules actually do, and how we can add to them or change them for the purposes of having a good time. I will link to some stuff I've written about this later.
The short version is that Takuma's system places more focus on avoiding damage than on being able to take many hits. Player characters have a lot of damage resistance straight off the bat, and this makes them incredibly hard to hurt at all. If you wish to challenge the players more: Add some bonus damage to your enemies, or use special powers that have poison/stun, or have them threaten NPCs instead of the players, etc.
I have also doubled the Strength stat of some of the weaker Rahi when we play, so that they have the ability to at least deal scratch damage every now and then.
Enemies in return have weaker defenses, so that player characters may deal with more of them without taking too much damage. Adjust number of enemies and their stats/weapons according to how your group of players perform in the first few play sessions.
A grand plot is always good. BIONICLE is about heroes going out there and overcoming great odds. Having an idea of where you want the game to go - from start to finish - is very helpful. Don't make it too detailed, though. Just the outline will do.
Lay plans for how to progress the game, but do not expect players to always follow them to the letter. They don't know what the GM does about the plot or upcoming events. I've found it best to just think of a few general locations they might choose to go, and then make the plot fit into any of those locations in case we go too off track.
Some people like to play with a map of the area, others don't feel like they need visuals at all. Figure out what works for you and your players. I use Roll20.net to keep track of everything, and it provides a nice playing field window where you can draw maps/illustrations and place tokens representing characters.
Sometimes the game might feel slow, when you don't understand a rule or you have to look up five different stat modifiers to apply to your villain's melee attack. Sometimes things feel unfair - both for and against the players.
Sometimes you could save the day by stopping your friend falling from a cliff with a Gravity power, but you are missing 1 energy point plus your Ranged stat sucks. If this happens, don't be afraid to play fast and loose with the rules for the sake of enjoyment. Allow that Gravity power to be used without combat rolls, and allow that last energy point to be ignored. Eyeball a +4 damage to a melee attack. Make the Rahi run away if you have defeated half of them and the rest of the fight seems like it would just get tedious.
It takes 1000 XP for a character to reach level 2. With the XP amounts listed in the Bestiary, this means you need to defeat a lot of them. Combat is probably the slowest part of the game, however. Therefore, I would instead focus on rewarding XP for completing other tasks.
If a character uses their power effectively or in a clever way, that's a reward. Advancing the plot: XP reward. Saving a Matoran village or negotiating a deal with a Skakdi warlord: XP reward. Also, make sure that when combat happens, it rewards an appropriate amount of XP based on how challenging it was. Defeating a Burnak can stay as 10 XP, but defeating a Skakdi of equivalent level to your Toa should be worth far more.
Try to pace it so that player characters stay on each level for a while, but still feel like they are creeping a bit closer to the next level every time you play. This makes them feel like they are progressing their characters even when the plot development may be going slow.
I also added a "play of the game" bonus XP reward after sessions where a character did something exceptional, even if it was partly by accident. I have also awarded some XP simply for putting effort into RP'ing characters well.
I always reward XP at the end of a play session, not during. I feel it breaks the flow a bit if you treat enemies and NPCs conversations as point rewards while you are still in them.
Stuff I have introduced to my campaign
(that I'll be sharing once I write them up pretty)
- Some small adjustments to how armor and other stats work.
- Elemental Iron and Magnetism powers
- Some custom Kanohi powers
- A way to use Exo-Toa in-game
- Elemental Kanoka disks
- Suggestions for things to make with the Alchemy skill
- Simple weapon upgrades (Forging skill, merchants)
- A few custom weapons for player characters
- Skakdi Warlord, as well as their elite warriors and horde of regular Skakdi.
- A few custom Dark Hunters
- Burnak variations
- Tame Burnak (Has rules for leveling up, in case your player wants a tamed Rahi. Rules can also be used for most other basic Rahi)
- Personal Nektann (robot version of a pet/tamed Rahi)