Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Week in Stories - July 7

Have I really gamed twice in the past week? Well, technically, once was a little more than a week ago, but I was incredibly stressed last week, and missed writing this post. So, let's check in.

Superhero U

We had our second sitting of this, and I think it went pretty well. The three of us sat down earlier in the week and talked a bit more about what the supervillains want, to give our heroes something to fight against. I also pushed people to come up with "What If"s - starting points that do not decide an end point, but give us some plot to push towards. Because otherwise, it's just relationship scenes, and while those are fun, they're best mixed with other things.

For example, my character who is a twin who can feel her sister's senses, there was a What If a situation came up where the way to deal with it was to put my twin in danger? (Hasn't happened yet, is probably on tap for next episode.)

Or for one of Melissa's characters, the de facto leader of these new superheroes, it was a what if I'm threatened with losing another one of these heroes who trust me?

We had some loose ideas for how those might get underway, and some of the plot lines got started, some are in abeyance, but it felt like it gave us a tiny more drive. Some were more personal, like my cheerleader who almost got killed by her boyfriend (accidentally) the time before having a What If I'm afraid to touch him. It was so sad, and ended up with them holding hands by each holding on to part of a teddy bear.

It's not a perfect answer, but it also felt fruitful.

What happened to my characters? Ruth kept feeling her twin's senses as her twin went on a first date, and had the woman she has a huge crush on turn her down flat, but ask if they could still be friends. She's not up for that.

Emily was afraid to touch her boyfriend again, and took her troubles to the woman she didn't realize has a huge crush on her. That came out in a big way, and left both feeling lonely.  In this case, they maybe still can be friends. Or not. We'll see.

Joseph got orders to try to suborn more of the newbies, by the bigger supervillain, who was also revealed to be his brother. He and his ex-girlfriend, Bethany, struggled to stay away from each other. They were only successful because they were interrupted.

Madelyn is on track to become a supervillain, one of the first the organized supervillains will target to join them. She's pissed off at the world, and at yet another request to just be friends. (There were a lot of those this episode!)

Flora...well, she's just Flora. There doesn't seem to be a main plotline of her own right now, as her relationship is going fine, and she's mostly just worried about her best friend, the leader of the group. She's trying to set Bethany up on a blind date. That's pretty much it.

Shakespeare, VA

Oh hey, and then I got to run a game! I was not feeling at the top of my game on Friday, as the week preceding it had been so stressful that it almost left me comatose. On the other hand, this game has been getting cancelled all over the place, so I was determined to at least get a session in. So I talked to the guy who was supposed to be getting his character episode. We switched weeks for that, as I want prep time before a character episode, and had had none.

Then I warned my players that I wasn't going to be at my best, and had nothing planned, but let's see where it goes from there. And it went not badly. There were some good character scenes, and that was satisfying. What wasn't there was that prep I do so I know what the NPCs want very badly out of the PCs, and so can throw in something interesting or to progress the plot when the occasion arises. I was mostly there to be the NPCs and react, and so we were missing that GM light hand that I've been talking about wanting more in Superhero U.

Fine for one evening, but hopefully something I can change going forward and (please) am not as stressed as I was.

There was also a clash between players over game system, and where to go when someone didn't get what they wanted. Also sort of about the same thing, how to push a scene forward when the character moment has been there, but something else needs to happen to make it truly satisfying. Which is mostly my job to help provide those moments, but...running on empty.

On the other hand, it made me think about the new PTA 3rd ed. resolution mechanic, and decide that I don't like it very much, and want to go back to 2nd ed. 3rd ed is feeling too constrained in the kind of outcomes that can happen, and requires us looking up a table every time a conflict hits. Which is what playing PTA is supposed to avoid. So I think I'm going back to "most red cards wins the conflict, highest card gets narrative control for how that happens." I'm more comfortable sharing outcomes with the players than I am trying to find ways to break out of this fairly narrow impulse-provoking mechanic.

It does raise the slight problem of players sometimes losing control over their characters, sometimes to another player, when narrative control is passed around, but that's an ongoing issue of negotiation. May have to sit down and talk about what's kosher and what's not in having narrative control. (As in, avoid ascribing emotions to the other characters. You can tell them they do something, but they need to be able to make up the story about why it happened that way. And you can't use it as an excuse to make them do something out of character.)

PTA was never designed to deal with intercharacter conflict, and we've hacked it to do that, but it means that the players need to use narrative control sensitively. (Well, so does the GM, but I flatter myself that I'm not bad at it.)

What happened in the game?

Well, the director disappeared, getting Matthew (new director and playing MacBeth) a visit from the police looking into his disappearance. Tetra (stagehand) is starting to think she might actually leave this little town, except a cold wind is blowing through that might have designs on keeping her. Arthur (Banquo) had a showdown with the local goth leader about what happened to his sister, and while she didn't give him precise answers, she said a lot of provocative things that might or might not be true. And Trevor (MacDuff) rescued a hawk hatchling from a burned-out tree, and was followed by other things through the woods.

It was a messy episode, but not an unsatisfying one. I just need to get back to doing prep to make these sing a little bit more.

1 comment:

  1. So, I thought you handled that scene really well. I was surprised that the rest of the table had such a strong reaction to (what I felt) was a really fun scene. I felt like you gave me plenty to work with, too.

    I completely agree about 2nd edition vs. 3rd edition. Both systems have issues, but I feel like you've always been very good at negotiating the issues of narrative control. You have good instincts around how much to ask for, and when to back off when a player is uncomfortable with what you're asking for. I'd rather deal with an issue we know how to finesse, than an issue we don't.