Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Week in Stories - June 16

There has not been a lot of gaming recently, and even when we did squeeze in a session of my Shakespeare, VA game, I had to leave for a conference a couple of days later and never ended up writing about it.

Miracle of miracles, though, I've actually gotten to game twice in the last four days. Both were first sittings of their respective games, both went pretty damn well. So, my thoughts....

Apocalypse World

In Apocalypse World, our post-apocalyptic setting is very Drowned Coast, and the psychic maelstrom not only howling and freaky, but also steals people's very ability to form language, most often in adolescence.  In that, I play a Driver named Gremlin. Gremlin's ride is a version of an old VW microbus mounted on huge monster truck wheels to get her through the watery flats of garbage that have fetched up alongside the Mother Road that runs from Mictlan out to the sea.

She's been burned before and has a hard time trusting, but also has a powerful desire to be close to people, which is difficult, to say the least. In the first session, after having ridden out a 10-day storm that came complete with the maelstrom shrieking in her (and everyone else's) head all by her lonesome, she got to Mother Jones' fiefdom desperately needing human contact, something physical to push all that psychic battering aside.

Of course, first she had to go tell Mother Jones to go fuck herself, on behalf of Mother May I, up the road. After she survived that, she went looking for company, and found herself at the makeshift home of Sandoval, a mechanic she'd hooked up with before. However, Sandoval had just lost his daughter to that same psychic storm, and was in the kind of emotional state that Gremlin both craves and is deeply leery of, the kind that wants more than just physical contact. She stayed the night, but the repercussions are as yet unknown. (Mechanically, for anyone who knows the system, Sandoval got a +1 on his Hx with her, while she took a -1 one on him.)

So, general thoughts about a new character? I'm liking her so far, and I'm really liking some of the ways the system is driving the story - the "hard choice" our GM gave one of the other players, to actually save one teenager's mind from the maelstom and lose the other, or to make it look like he'd saved both long enough to save his own skin, was really excellent.

I picked the Driver as my playbook because of that sex move, which is going to make it hard to get close to anyone. I wasn't sure how that was going to play out, but I'm liking it so far, particularly the insight that after all the shrieking the maelstrom does, she needs to touch someone.

The other thing is the toothpick. I was chewing on a pencil as the game started, and something about that felt right for the character, so I grabbed a toothpick and had that in my mouth the entire time I was playing scenes. I'm not sure how it looks, but what it does for me physically is cause me to keep my jaw a little clenched, to keep it in place, all the time, even when I'm talking. I'll have to think more about what that says about Gremlin, but for now, it's a promising place to start for a physical cue.

Superhero U

Then last night we had our first session of this GM-less, troupe-style game. There were a lot of really good scenes last night, although I think we're all still having some trouble differentiating each other's different characters, and were pushing to try to get everyone some screentime. With Paper Dolls, eventually we ended up focusing more (and somewhat randomly) on a smaller group of characters each night, whoever's story was most pressing.

That worked well, and I'm looking forward to that happening more with this game, as I was finding it impossible to juggle five different characters. One of them fell aside entirely, and we'll see if she gets picked back up.

I should also mention that I was trying my essential action idea last night, with a few ideas for most characters about what they wanted from the other characters they were most likely to interact with. This worked fairly well, although though now that things are more established, I think even more interesting wants will be available.

So, who am I playing? It's a mix of my PC and a bunch of NPCs, a couple of whom are fast becoming more like PCs. There's:

Ruth - twin to Ruby, the one who got all the powers, while her sister got all the burdens. Well, no, that's not true. Ruth also gets to randomly experience Ruby's senses, with no control. This makes many things awkward and hard. In the meantime, Ruby's a bit withdrawn, as she had to change all her plans to accommodate the fact that her sister keeps teleporting to her every time her concentration lapses.

Also, Ruth has a huge crush on Myriam, a friend from high school. Ruth went into the evening wanting Ruby to tell her that the way their powers worked out was okay, and in doing so, abstained from drinking at a party so her sister could let loose. That meant she was very distracted by rogue sensations all evening, and in the end, meant she tried to kiss Myriam and it did not go well.

Emily - oh, poor Emily. Perky blonde cheerleader, head over heels in love with her boyfriend Ethan, who is a genuinely nice guy. Excited by the ideas she has super powers, even though she doesn't know what they are. Friends with Kim, who she keeps pushing to declare her feelings - thinking that Kim has feelings for their mutual friend Kevin, not realizing that Kim's feelings are for Emily herself.

I gave her lots of essential actions related to Kim that were dangerous ones. Legitimate ones, from Emily's perspective - get her to tell the person she likes how she really feels, or arrange a girl's night out - but ones that were likely to backfire.

The sad part came at the end of the evening, when Emily and Ethan snuck away from some romancing, and then Ethan's power promptly kicked in, and it SUCKED. He can drain energy - and almost killed Emily in the process. Now they're crazy in love and can't touch each other and he feels so guilty you couldn't believe it. She didn't die thanks to...

Joseph - Joseph is a supervillain, but he's not a bad guy. He's someone else who got the shitty end of the superpowers stick - he can heal people, but at the cost of taking on their pain for an unpleasantly long period of time. This has not made him kindly towards humanity at large, and he tends towards the villain's side, recruiting a bunch of undergrads last year to join him. Including, he thought, his girlfriend at the time, Bethany. He assumed she'd come to, but she stood up to the villains, no matter the cost.

In theory they're broken up, but they keep sleeping together. And when Emily was hurt, Bethany brought her right to Joseph, and held him while he did his healing thing, and stayed after everyone else left.  Both of them know they still have feelings, but can't reconcile that with their differing allegiances. This relationship is turning out sweeter and sadly hurting than we expected.

Flora - and if that wasn't complicated enough, I also play Bethany's best friend, Flora, a child of hippies who wants to be an engineer. She has really good pot, a steady but nonmonogamous girlfriend, and really dislikes both Joseph and Bethany's current boyfriend. Surprisingly, she also started hitting on Kim last night, which I had actually jotted down as a possibility, but didn't think it would happen.

And then there's Madeleine, who sort of fell by the wayside. She has an unrequited crush on Kevin, and may become a supervillain. We'll see if I come back to her more, but I had so much to juggle last night, and characters I was really super invested in that I didn't call a scene for her, and no one else called for a scene with her, so she may fade into the background.

All in all? Some fun scenes, although the scattering of attention means I'm switching gears often enough that I'm finding it a little hard to sink deeply into a single character, even though I like all my characters a lot. Still missing having a GM a bit, but we have some things we want to try to try to drive the plot threads forward. I guess we'll see!

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