Monday, October 11, 2010

The End of the World, Day Three

As you might imagine, the third day of a three-day gaming stretch can be the toughest one.  Two years ago I ran the game the third day and people got pretty slap-happy during the session.  Thankfully the scenario was a little over-the-top so it really didn't matter.

This time around it was another story.  Some roleplaying games are more tactical than others, but a lot depends on the style of the judge and the scenario involved.  The third day's game was set in the near future and the PC's were part of a large military unit stranded in Iran.

Side note: one thing that comes up somewhat regularly at EOW is judges ripping off lesser-known books for story ideas.  Saturday's game was apparently set in the universe from the book "Earthfall" while this day's session was set in the book "The Last Centurion."  There are perils to doing this, as you'll see later.

The PC's unit was tasked with protecting a large stockpile of supplies with the hopes that, at some undisclosed point in the future, the unit would be relieved.  In the meantime, the unit was hassled by local refugees desperate for food and medicine as well as petty warlords looking to acquire the military material left on the base.

There were several problems with the set-up, few of which were the judge's fault.  One, by day three few people were not really thrilled with roleplaying the military/political quagmire of the modern Middle East.  Two, if we followed the plot of The Last Centurion we should have packed up our bags and marched our way across Iraq towards the Meditteranean.  But we didn't do that, we hunked down, fortified ourselves, and wondered how the hell the gaming scenario was supposed to end.

It was also, as I mentioned earlier, a more tactical gaming scenario, almost to the point of being a wargaming one.  Hours were spent discussing what kinds of weapons and vehicles were available, how many months of supplies we had that could be sent out to refugees, etc.  It also went very, very long, almost twelve hours, and by the end the judge had been forced to invent an ending (being told that we needed to secure an airfield so a commercial plane could land and fly us out) and we found ourselves being accosted by one bazooka-armed insurgent after another.

Much like the second session, the game felt like a campaign than a single session.  I could see people doing the whole world-building storyline (a staple of Morrow Project campaigns) in this universe, but when you only have a limited period of time, it is often a good idea to set a pretty distinct goal.  Also, if you want your gaming group to cross Iraq, tell them to cross Iraq, either through the stick or the carrot.  Simple as that.

I fear I'm sounding too critical.  There was a lot of problem-solving to be done in the adventure and having to do day three is like drawing the short straw.

It is also worth mentioning, just for people who wonder "how does a gaming group hold an annual gaming event for twenty one years?" that at the end of the last full day the whole group sits down and does a critique of the weekend.  This is a pretty honest evaluation of things where people really can share their likes and dislikes.  One factor that came up was that people liked eating out for meals (although it is pricey for some) because it created breaks in the gaming where people could visit and catch up, etc.  This kind of attention to people's impressions and comfort is a big clue to the group's longevity.

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