Having just finished running the Mage: the Ascension game mentioned previously, I have some reflections concerning what I learned over the course of it, including helpful comments and feedback after the fact.
The main issue that I see is with providing information. I think I fall into the trap of seeing information as something I should make the players earn through effort, which leads to a problem whenever there is a difference between they think it should require and what I think it should require. This comes out of previous experiences, perhaps, where I have had players who are rampant and obsessive in following up every possible lead. It is also just part of a fundamental hoarding instinct – I want goodies for me, I suppose.
What this information should be is a way to drive the story forward. Sure, it shouldn’t be lying on the ground, but any significant effort should probably be enough to get what the players are after.
(This brings me to briefly reflect on reasons why I like Burning Wheel. With the way the game is written, any Skills test involves making clear what is at stake. So if you go to research something, the GM makes clear what’s at stake, so when you succeed, you know what you’re in for. This is a meta-game process that I’m at first a little uncomfortable with, but I do see the value in limiting red-herrings and useless searching, as well as preventing misunderstandings at crucial points.)
The second major issue is one that was clear early on but there was nothing I could do because it occurred to me after the game had already begun – that is the issue of group template. In short, the group template for this game wasn’t strong at all, and throughout the game it got in the way. It also led to opportunities for humor and development and character interaction, but at least some of this was motivated by frustration, which isn’t a good thing in a game. Ideally, there would be room for the interaction, but with more cohesion and a clear idea of why this group is in this story together, I think this interaction would be more driven and would make more sense to everyone.