Sunday, May 2, 2010

The State of the Game 2010 Part One

So, while I blog about other things (and will in the future again), I mostly blog about gaming. So after a break, I thought I'd begin with a little review of the state of the games currently: what's going on now; what I see as the span for that; and what I'm thinking about for the future. Also some general thoughts about rpgs and those I'm interested in.

Right now I'm running five games. That's one more than I'm really comfortable with, but the extra one is an experimental short-run game. I don't mind doing those atop my normal schedule, especially if the group is not my usual one. I'm also doing some part time (effectively full time) temp work which has changed up my schedule. And I haven't smoked since mid-Feb.

Libri Vidicos
The Steampunk Fantasy Harry Potter-inspired campaign continues one. I believe we have been playing that campaign for three years now. We've just come into Year Three of the campaign, of a planning five school years. So we're at the mid-point of the series in some ways: the Empire Strikes Back or Goblet of Fire moment. Now normal narrative arcs would suggest that this is the lowest point for the characters. They have some successes, but the general level of things gets worse and darker. I don't think that holds as true for a role-playing game. For one thing the experience, while it fits into a structure, is heavily subdivided and drawn out. A campaign chapter is closer to the experience of a television show in that there's strong variability to the tone and story approaches from episode to episode. If you watched a dramatic show that stayed in the same mode for the whole season it would get boring-- and if it tried to maintain the darkness of a middle chapter for the entire season you'd become mentally exhausted. Accordingly, while there a little more struggle to be had in this third year of the game/narrative I don't want to dishearten anyone.

On the other hand, the characters are evolving-- moving from simply being children or teens to having some adult considerations and worries. I don't believe that arc will complete over the course of the campaign, but there will be and have been some evolutionary changes. We had an interesting session a few weeks back where the group slipped into a more classic paranoid gaming approach, rather than a more genre appropriate cinematic approach. I was notable and we talked about that the following week, figuring out some reasons why that might have happened. This week we had Gene sit in to run his regular NPC, Leather Blunt. It was a tricky session that I'll do a heavier post-game analysis of somewhere in the future.

My plan remains to have five campaign years for the game. How long that will take in real time is an open question. I'd like to have them take around a real year: 24-26 sessions, but that may not be possible given schedules and the amount of stuff we have to cover. What comes after LV? I have no idea and won't begin thinking or worrying about that for at least another couple of years.

Sunday Third Continent

This game is bi-weekly, as are the rest of my games. The modified version of the Action Cards system continues to work pretty well. I made some modifications to the magic system that make it easier. The dice based damage system still works decently well. There's an interesting tension in the system between the low-detail, high trust of the basic game engine and the detail most associated with the high fantasy adventure genre. I've added new profession track options recently that opened up a number of things, and I hope to have more of that (hybrid class tracks) relatively soon.

We had some player changeover and got Scott slotted into the game quite easily and well. He had a great concept that both fit with the group and gave him an easily excuse to join. The last several sessions have been more focused on life in the city rather than some of the classic questing and dungeon adventuring we've been doing. That's been a nice change of pace. We've have a number of great scenes of late where the players have completely shifted to course of things based on clever choices, great use of abilities and thematically appropriate draw results. Literally once per session recently the direction I'd generally imagined/anticipated got completely taken over. It is nice to see some thoughtful reactions from a diverse group and people stepping up to the plate to overcome obstacles. I hope I've been able to provide them with enough challenge and some interesting NPCs.

Originally I'd picture the game as lasting about a year in real time. However now I suspect it will last longer than that. At a guess I bet we've done 14-16 sessions. I'd guess we have at least that many more to go. I want to make sure I give Scott a decent chance to develop his character. The problem, of course, is that such a time frame would put the end of the campaign close to the end of the year holidays, when schedules get thrown up in the air. I'll either need to close it out before then or extend it a little further to keep satisfying momentum to the campaign. I don't like having too big a break before running the last several session of a campaign-- I've had to do that before any it really weakens things.

Once the Sunday game wraps up I have two ideas. I ran a Scion short-campaign with this group. I'm thinking I'd like to return to that. I'd like to run another chapter in a different city. With the first part, I tried to play out the themes and tropes of Las Vegas. I think another chapter could explore the kinds of stories of another city, in another part of the country. On the other hand I've also been thinking about the Exalted Dragonblooded campaign I ran set in Crux. We've held off on playing that campaign again because we lost Brady, whose character Lupita played a crucial and important role. On the one hand, I don't love the idea of running that campaign without her, but on the other hand, it is a setting I really like and one I put a good deal of effort into. I would like to return to it in some form and a number of the Sunday group played in the earlier version of Crux. I'm not sure if I would just continue on; do a partial reboot or do a full reboot-- there are arguments to be made for each approach. Sherri asked if I'd go back to Storyteller and I might. On the other hand, I've told her that if I do run that again and she wanted to play it using Action Cards, she'd have to come up with the adaptation rules and mechanics.

Next Post: Wushu, Changeling, Star Wars and others.