Monday, January 23, 2006

RPG - My Big Weekend


Over two days, I ran 12 hours worth of games (and played for another 3) and in every single one of them, there were hour-long stretches where I was just rapt at the stories emerging – unpredictable, intense. My goal for this year was to get the most player input I could in my sessions & I totally achieved it. Mostly that input came as a result of the games I selected, but also it was because I focused over and over again on being a facilitator (except in Universalis).

Big lesson from this bout of gaming is ‘never be afraid to increase the adversity’. My game, Lucky Jones, is entirely designed around that principle – but seeing it play out in Inspectres and – especially – in Universalis … and OMG, that Universalis game should live in freaking legend.

Adversity forces people to be creative, it makes them stand up for what they really want, to say what they value and what’s worth fighting for … and adversity makes you feel like you’ve earned survival or success or – in the case of one AWESOME Lucky Jones subplot – the respect of your family.

I’m not talking about being a jerk; introducing adversity is not about rough-riding over the other players. I’m talking about everyone being totally upfront, saying this is “what I want to do to your character and why” and asking whether you’re up for it.

Plus, adversity creates a situation. Stories need conflict; focusing on the right conflict at the right time creates a throughline for your story. See this colourful diagram for a better explanation. Plus, all the systems I ran can totally handle adversity: in Lucky Jones, you can’t die you can only fail (plus in the next draft, those failures will give you cool goodies), InSpectres allows you to narrate your way out of anything & Universalis thrives on conflict – as one player (I think it was Jonathan) said, because you don’t have a character of your own, you feel fine about screwing yourself over.

And, yeah, I had some adversity of my own at Kapcon.

I couldn’t believe how nervous I was on Saturday. Totally nervous. First con game ever, for people I mostly don’t know & it’s my own untested re-edited game design as well. But Lucky Jones went done well. I pulled in Giffy as an extra player at the last minute & so got to sit outside the game a little bit and observe (while still taking my turn as the Cast Member).

Oh, basic explanation. Each game of Lucky Jones = an episode of a sitcom. In any given scene, one player’s the star of the show while everyone else hurts and helps them.

I describe that first game as Family Guy meets American Beauty. What I loved about the game was a) Giffy’s adorable portrayal of River Jones, Andrew’s succession of sly patriarchal bastards (and doomed attempts to escape his family), Uncle Ivan, the ultimate fate of the remote controlled car … just a succession of inspired moments and characters whose sole goal was to add to the lunacy. I think the system really inspires people to contribute that sort of ephemeral comedy & b) …

Well, we played 2 episodes and the amount of reincorporation and character development was just incredible. Favourite characters from the previous ep reappearing, Wants being developed & (in Giffy’s case) Wants staying the same – which lead to the development of the insane trash-talking forbidden tree in the backyard.

Inspectres, Lucky Jones 2, that session of Universalis & a sweet sweet game of Badass Space Marines followed. You can find Mike’s write-up of the BSM game here.

But I have to say: so impressed by the quality of the players who sat down at the table with me & their willingness to throw themselves into the game. In all 4 sessions – like I said at the top – I was riveted. I was running games where I could actually leave the room (for water, toilet breaks, etc) and the story would continue … and not only was I always reluctant to leave cos’ I wanted to see what’d happen next, but I’d then rush back in and breathlessly ask what I’d missed.

That’s some serious story.

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