Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August Update

It’s been a busy August for me. This despite having a vacation from running Cthulhu, and skipping a session of Reverie due to player absence. So here is a short update of August happenings:

Fright Night
Fright Night, Wellington's one night of horror roleplaying, is looking for GM’s. If you’ve got a great idea for a scenario, drop Marcus a line right now. Time is running out!

As a tribute to the 30th Anniversary of Call of Cthulhu I’ll be running an original game (which I plan on writing up and publishing, in one form or other, later in the year), so I hope to see you there.

I recently attended the first 2 rounds of Confusion, a small one-day Wellington ‘con. You can read my report on Confusion 2010 here. This year Fiasco and Monster of the week were popular, and the con featured a pre-booked LARP in Round 3.

Round One – Infinite Porticos
I’ve always loved Elric/Strombringer and enjoyed many of Moorcock’s stories, and while I’ve run a few games of this some years back (indeed it is my preferred fantasy setting next to WFRP)– I always found that knowledge of the setting was a significant obstacle for full participation for other people. Unfortunately this game was over-booked and feel bad that Ivan was ‘voted off’ in the early elimination (actually, he fell on his sword) but that’s never a good way to start a ‘con.

In this game I was allocated a slave pit-fighter character, and did my best to bring a degree of bravado and pragmatism to the game without derailing things. The setup was solid, although perhaps a little linear. Marcus later told us this was intended as an ice-breaker for a campaign – a way of introducing and bonding a new party of heroes with diverse backgrounds – and in this role I think it is a strong offering. Marcus did a great job with the NPC’s and I have provided him with my feedback on the scenario (from a playtest perspective) as I understand he soon plans to publish it online.

Round Two - Invasive Procedures
I had decided to run the new adventure for Fear Itself titled Invasive Procedures. There were a lot of elements I liked about this scenario, and I had done my best to anticipate how some handouts and props might enhance the experience (and thus lift some of the load from my GM’ing performance).

The beauty, and major drawback, of this scenario is that it puts the players in a very un-empowered position (I give nothing away to say they are patients in a hospital with limited mobility). This might be fine with a crew of players who all really enjoy rich character experiences, and will embrace the powerlessness of the character – but when you are running at a ‘con for people you don’t know (or rarely run games for) there is a danger that one, or all of the players, may get rapidly alienated and dissatisfied by what they may perceive as a frivolous, or unfair, constraint. Needless to say this tension increases dramatically through the course of the scenario.

Before I ran the game I had an open conversation with the players about this element and asked if they’d be willing to work with this element of the scenario, to generate a more memorable experience (an element of EPOCH). I was very gratified when they agreed, and we began. The scenario itself ran well – thanks largely to the efforts of the players who all did a really impressive job of embracing the setup and characters. I improvised a few elements on the spot – the mannerisms of the NPC’s, opening and closing the curtains in the room to give a feeling of time passing etc.

I found the scenario itself not especially easy to navigate, which meant I was sometimes left scrambling to find things, and I think that that tension of powerlessness is perhaps stretched too far with the full scope of the scenario – I can easily see the players becoming unhappy if the GM is not extremely careful about the setup and execution. However, I think there were some really great elements, which played out exactly as I had hoped and with the right kind of effect.

As a further experiment into some of the techniques I want to incorporate into EPOCH I think the game was a strong success, and reinforced my thoughts about the kind of system that a game needs to deliver on the key points of my horror manifesto. I should say, however, I don’t think any of the players were actually scared at any point, but there were some strong character/player responses.

You can read other reviews of Confusion from Jenni and Marcus.