Monday, September 28, 2015

Pre-EOW post and taking a break

Author's note: EOW is the annual three-day gathering of my friends where we spend those days doing three independent day-long gaming scenarios using a homegrown ruleset.  You can learn more about EOW by clicking on the EOW tag on the right-hand menu bar of the blog.

This year for EOW I'm doing a Star Trek scenario taking place in the middle of the Deep Space 9 series around the early part of the war with the Dominion.  I have no less than nine players, so I decided the best thing to do would be to break them up into two groups: a Federation crew and a Klingon crew, each with their own (underpowered) ship.  It is a complicated session for me.  For one thing, I'm not that familiar with DS9.  Two, there's the number of players, although they are used to being in a big group.  Three, the scenario is long and complicated in order to fill an entire day, but I'm worried because you never know when something will go off the rails and the whole thing grinds to an early stop.

In the meantime, I'm taking a little break from the D&D game for the month of October.  While that is happening largely because of calendar issues, I also just felt like I needed the break.  The game has been steaming along nicely, with the players continually engaged in a plot that seems to be going places,  But I have been running this campaign three times a month since January, and the pace is a little exhausting.  Moreover there comes a point where you just need to do something different in terms of genre.  Hopefully EOW will scratch that itch, either between my running Star Trek, playing in the "Traveller" game on Sunday, or whatever is happening Friday.

I keep thinking there should be some sort of "endgame" to the campaign coming up in the near future.  I can see two major plot points that need resolution:

  1. The stabilization of Grimfest.  PC's as rulers, PC's as merchant princes, whatever.  That's for them to decide.  The players have made it clear their intention to wipe out three out of four of the known gangs in Grimfest, while setting up the fourth as part of the rebuilding of the city.
  2. Rescuing their lost assassin, Sign.  Sign died outright two sessions ago, but after consultation with the player I realized that her seemingly irrational actions were the result of not understanding what was going on in gameplay.  As such, I felt like I could give the PC and character a bit of a reprieve, but still hang a plot on it.  In the process, however, I ended up opening a potentially long and complicated quest to recover her from drow slavers.  So on this thread I have three options: go with the campaign for a few more months than I would have otherwise, compress the quest down, or just have Sign never be recovered.  That last one would leave the group dissatisfied, however.
The group, for whatever it is worth, is still really enjoying the campaign, so that's good at least.  I'm just trying to figure out how long I have until it switches to something else.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Moment in a Campaign

If you ask me why the Claremont era of the X-Men was so damn good, I would have to say that it wasn't the whole "Dark Phoenix" saga, or even "Days of Future Past" (although that was very good), it is the in-between moments in the series.  I'm talking about the moments between the fights where you would see the X-Men hanging around in their 70's turtlenecks and mod dresses shooting the breeze about being an unloved mutant superhero or who they have a crush on or whatever.  It was a moment when they were people and not just powers, and you the reader had the chance to actually experience the fullness of their lives.

The X-Men have since lost this.  Just look at any comic book and see how infrequently the X-Men are out of costume.  Our appetites now reflect a stronger desire to more action, more splash pages, and bigger conflicts.  And in my opinion, the comics books are less interesting as a result.  You can see this in other genres, that question of pacing and taking the odd break to allow the viewer/reader/consumer to take a breath and get to know people.

Now, this isn't a comic book blog (because God knows there are plenty of those), it's an RPG blog.  So what does this have to do with roleplaying games?  Because a while back my friend Adam made a comment about moments like this.  For him, it was the moment where the players are just hanging out in the repair bay of the space station waiting for work to get done, or lounging around the base discussing whether Rainbow Archer was a superheroine or villain.  (The answer is villain, by the way.  She's in "Classic Villains" after all, and that book is chock full of pro-establishment politics.)

And what's up with those boot cuffs?

The way I see it, getting any RPG campaign to that moment means that finally the players have stopped looking at the campaign as quests to be solved or villains to be beat down but are now actually living in the world.  They are thinking about how their PC's act outside of conflict.  But most importantly, they are investing in a profound way in the shared imaginary reality of the world at a level that transcends die rolling and the like.

I feel like this should be some of sort of "GM Achievement" like when you accomplish something in a video game.  If you GM a campaign in such a manner than eventually this happens, it should be celebrated.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Fruit Bat of Frustration (MHR)

For Adam....

The Fruit Bat of Frustration (real name unknown)
Affiliations: Solo d8, Buddy d4, Team d6
Distinctions: Annoying Little Twat, Relentless, Ambiguous Identity

Flight d6
Claws d6
Enhanced Reflexes d8
Emotional Control d10
SFX: Sapping Your Mojo.  When creating a "In a Funk" complication, add a d6 and step up the effect die.
SFX: Right Where I Want You.  When the GM is trying to alter an Affiliation status of a PC in an encounter with the Fruit Bat of Frustration, step down the effect die necessary to do so, reflecting either effectively isolating the PC from contact with friends, or putting him in an unsatisfying gaming group.

Covert Expert
Menace Expert
Psych Master
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