Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Week in Stories - April 14

I'm not really feeling like my tiny little recaps of TV shows are turning out the way I wanted - I'm not sure how to write reviews of TV shows the same way I do of books. On the other hand, having a space to discuss the roleplaying of the previous week has given me some food for thought.

So, I think I'm going to make that the focus of this weekly post. Feel free to skip Tuesdays if you couldn't care less what I'm doing around the table (or on the couch, as the case may be.)

Paper Dolls

We sat down last week, knowing we were drawing near the end of this story, but not expecting it to wrap up that very night. However, a couple of major relationships resolved, and it became apparent that if we pushed a little, we could reach end points for pretty much every relationship on the table. So, weirdly, we're done our little three-alternate-worlds game.

In the long view, this was all about relationships. There wasn't much of a plot, and that was what it was. We're trying to think of ways we can put more plot drive (for contrast if nothing else) into the next game, while still retaining the GM-less style. I'll let you know how that turns out! We batted around ideas at the end of the evening a bit, and came up with an idea that we'll explore the next few sessions - each take a week as the spotlight character, filling out backstory for each one, with the other two people taking on NPCs. If we all find ideas we're enthusiastic to play, then we take those three characters, and throw them together (as superheroes at university) and see what happens from there. If it doesn't work, we go back to the drawing board.

But back to Paper Dolls. In the long run, it wasn't just about relationships, it ended up being about taking troubled relationships and trying to figure out ways to make them work that were adult and healthy. Some didn't work, but strangely, most did.

Of my three characters, my damaged hippie character worked through her tendency to run when she feared being abandoned, and settled down into stable relationships with her husband and her girlfriend.

My more cyberpunk character and her girlfriend worked through some pretty intense issues around cheating and possessiveness. I'm not sure they're ultimately going to be okay, but they're working on it.

And my very rich, head of the Censor Board, mostly complete bitch, got given an ultimatum by her best friend about what she needed to do to stay in her best friend's life, and couldn't do it. That was one of the only relationships that utterly crumbled, but she still couldn't admit that her values were screwed up, or that she was wrong. Or that she was drinking too much. That was definitely the saddest of my three endings.

Monster of the Week

My husband was too sick to run the end of our pulp game, so I decided to run a one-shot of Monster of the Week, which is a *-World variant about monster hunters, in the tone of Buffy, Supernatural, or the X-Files. My players got sent to a small town in the Pacific Northwest where people were showing up drained of blood. When they found the evil demon fungus that was behind it all, the picture was disturbing enough that I got vocal reactions, so go me.

All in all, I think it worked pretty well as a one-shot. Having worked through the rules for developing a mystery, I like them. However, the sheer number and kinds of Hard Moves available when people rolled failures kept me feeling like I was missing major parts of the system - I just couldn't keep it all in my head.

I'm pleased with how it went. From my perspective, it was fun, but would be more fun once I knew the rules better and wasn't trying to remember which bloody table I should be looking at (I'm not really a tables-heavy sort of GM anyway). Also, once I knew the characters, I could easily see how future mysteries could be tailored to hit their buttons specifically, and yield some interesting arcs to play.

On the other hand, Monster of the Week pretty much abandons what I think is one of the biggest selling points of the *-World games - that the GM has very little prep to do. In most of them (and certainly in Monster Hearts, which is the only one I've run,) the GM is very reactive, and can't do much work ahead of time. Instead, you play as a fan of the characters finding interesting and intense things to do to them based on what's happening RIGHT. NOW. Monster of the Week gives you good tools to be flexible, but there are so many of them, and the mystery demands so much prep that it gets away from that sweet spot in favour of a more traditional GM role. In my book, that's too bad.

Still, it was fun, and the giant bleeding tooth fungus was burned to the ground, so I guess I can't ask for a whole lot more from a one-shot.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I for one like the gaming stories. One of your earlier posts about Seven Stars really made something click into place for me about Su Li and Margot. Very eager to get back to that game. And that is interesting what you say about MOTW abandoning the low GM prep. Like I said on Saturday, it was reminiscent of many Call of Cthulhu / mystery type games I've played, and I meant that in a good way - but the hours of prep those games often require is something I remember much less fondly.

    But it was a swell game. I liked how, more than once, you essentially had NPCs (the police, the fiance) say to us, "No, I'm not going to enable your shenanigans the way NPCs usually treat PCs in roleplaying games - I'm going to react like real people in real life do!"

    And that fungus! Eeagh!