Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Changeling Lost Vegas: Session Thirteen: Coffeehousing

The video for Session Thirteen:
This Episode:
The PC Motley briefly went over outstanding business at their haven: repairs, redecorating, hedge gathering, and so on. They’d opted to take a short break between tasks, especially after the mysterious treatment they’d received at the hands of the Summer Court. Andi maintained her silence about the prophecy she'd given. Reading in the cafĂ©, she took a phone call from Simon Maggots, Prince of the Winter Court. He had a potential new member for their motley and wished to bring him over to meet the group. Andi agreed and went back to reading. An hour later, Teodoro found Amber and told her that someone was at the gate. She told him to open it while she waited in the shadows. Probably nothing would happen…

Simon arrived with the Beast Changeling Kah in tow. After some confusion, the Prince introduced Kah and explained the situation. He'd come out of the Hedge and been quietly taken in by a member of the Freehold. That had been outside normal channels, something Simon was trying to fix. Given that Kah shared elements of his escape with the motley members, it made sense to bring him to them. The group quickly agreed- throwing Simon off a little with their unhesitating approach. He thanked them and said he would look into getting some of the other problems squared away.

Kah and the motley members spoke and introduced themselves. Kah had escaped from the Hedge at the same time as they, but had missed them. He too had come across the strange Fairest, Regardless. She made the same bargain with the Beast as she had with the motley. In exchange for aid in reaching the real world, he would agree to kill her when she returned. She’d also given Kah a mark of their meeting- a color photograph with six people in it. The players recognized Kappachani Leather Swan’s Mask in the picture. As well, Morsoa knew one of the other women as Mrs. Pang. The photo seemed to be of the five members of the Winter Court, plus who they assumed was Regardless. The group shared that John had read Regardless’ greatest fear: being forgotten, and that no one in the Freehold they’d mentioned her to seemed to know her. They also shared knowledge of the two homemade Tarot cards and note pages they’d found- a calculated risk given that the notes suggested an unknown danger in talking about them. To complete the bond, they added Kah to their motley pledge. They then gave him a tour of the grounds and the Hollow, offering a room to crash.

In order to help get Kah acclimated to the Freehold and Courts, the group decided to call on the Spring Court to request their final task. Abbysinian Max, the Lost Resources Manager, treated them to a grand meal before taking them see Beckoncall. This time they met in a formal office. Beckoncall’s assistant, Darling Pitch, glared at Andi through the conversation. The Prince asked them to locate a missing changeling, Cantorian Wolf. A minor player in the freehold and not associated with a particular Court, Wolf had stolen something from Beckoncall. The problem was that Beckoncall didn’t know what had be stolen, only that Wolf had taken it from him.

Last night raised the issue of bringing in a new player to an existing campaign. I’ve considered it a little, but I hadn’t really tried to come up with an organized set of best practices. Here’s some of my thinking on that. Some of this is how I do it and some offers untested concepts.
  • New players should come in at rough parity with the existing players- points, experience, levels or whatever. They don’t need to be exactly the same, but reasonably close so they don’t feel like they're starting even more behind things. Depending on the game, new characters may be more or less optimal. Games where the PCs have picked up magical equipment and loot beyond their “build,” make this more difficult to measure (through as I understand it, 4e has some formula for that). On the other hand, starting new PCs with cool magical equipment can dilute the players’ experience of having fought for the stuff. In the other direction, new PCs in point-based games may have a leg up. IMHO, there’s a distinct difference in power and optimization between a character who began at 250 points and is now 350, and one who started at 350. Part of my job as a GM is to distract players from their buys, to offer cool new options, to drive them down side paths when they spend experience. “Really you don’t have a specialty in tree-climbing….remember how useful that would have been last session?”
  • I didn’t start the recording until after we did this, but at the start of the session I had each player introduce themselves. As important, I had each player mention which Contracts they’d bought and which they were planning on investing heavily in. I also asked them to mention which skills they’d sunk a chunk of points in. I want to be sure everyone’s on the same page regarding who focuses on what in the game. It gives the new player a chance to see both a player's stated concept, and their behind the scenes mechanical choices. I’ve witnessed frustrations before when new players come into a game and either step on someone toes or find that an existing player  already invested deeply in the same unique abilities. Generally I don’t require an incoming player to have their character finished completely when they come in, especially in a point-buy game. I give new players the same opportunity to shuffle their points after the third session.
  • That “meta” introduction also prepares the players for the new PCs actually “in-play” introduction. It gives everyone a sense of what’s important about their characters. Everyone’s better prepared for play, some of the small talk can be hand-waved, and you can get more out of the scene. On the other hand, it does reduce the shock of throwing the new character into the mix- and the fish out of water fun that can result from that. If I were doing a rowdier, more comedic game, I’d probably go for a cold open approach. But where there’s some complexity- in social relations and existing story details- ideally I should have smoothed the rough edges.
  • Coming into an existing campaign can be tough. Even after a few sessions, the existing players have already developed shared experiences, lingo, and inside jokes. The GM needs to be prepared to explain past experiences- and that’s also an opportunity to restate and refocus the themes of a game. You can focus on the elements you see as important. (As a side note, for players it is a good chance to see what the GM thinks is crucial for the players to know). Trade off with the players- narrate some of the stories and call on different PCs to explain others. That gives everyone a chance to share their character’s bias and approach. On a related note, consider the plight of the new player in an existing campaign world everyone else has played in. That’s been an issue a couple of times for me. Everyone has new characters, but most of the table knows the world really well.
  • Ideally the new player should be given some kind of hook, patron, and or reference to help them fit with the group. They have something the group should find useful- but that shouldn’t be too vital to the session or you run the risk of the existing players just taking it from the new player because they know better. I’ve seen that happen. I imagine two solid approaches to the first session with a new player. A) The new player triggers the adventure. They light the match and we’re thrown quickly into the shared action. The teamwork of the chase/fight/whatever joins them. It makes the introduction secondary and gives the new player something to do. B) The new player comes in at a time when the group has a discrete and open-ended mission (quest, dungeon, whatever) they can take on. The group does the introduction and then moves to that adventure. That’s the way we handled things last night- and ended up more an accident than a planned approach. Even if you have a sandbox game, you need to provide some impetus and direction for that first session with a new PC.