Saturday, March 29, 2014

Comparing two game sessions and the prep - Savage Worlds & Stormbringer

I've been thinking and writing a bit about my recent online game. One thing I was not really satisfied with that game was the flow and pacing, but it highlighted different ways to handle game prep. I thought it might be interesting to compare that game to a Savage Worlds/Agents of Oblivion I ran last year. That game was not online using Hangouts, so the issues I had with that format did not apply, of course. But, I realize that there are other interesting differences.

For those who are interested in how prep notes for a SW/AoO game can look like, check these notes. It's worth nothing that my Agents of Oblivion had a healthy dose of Cthulhu to it, and less James Bond.

Worthy about these notes is that I've listed the names of people, but very little about what they know or what they will do. I improvised that part as we played. Also, I had a vague plan that was basically using the look and feel of a small mining village like the one in the movie October Sky and the dramatic feel of a X-Files episode. Basically, I knew the place and the people, but except that the only thing clear was that the Fungi would mind wipe the characters. Then I just made sure weird shit happened.

I can tell you that they investigated the shit out of that place! They basically took Jackson's place apart and sawed out a bit of the floor with some odd scratches/markings which might have been a Mi-go claw mark! After a fight with the MIBs they totally freaked out when they turned to piles of sand! Some pretty cool roleplaying happened when the sheriff showed up and they had to fast talk her and cover up the weird shit. To say nothing of their trip down to the mines...

In my Stormbringer game on the other hand, I had figured out how they would be forced into the situation, how they would encounter some people who could show them the way and a clear end to their travels, and a final scene where they could do two things. Those was dependent on them either being convinced of the need to repair the world machine or to destroy it. While a con game has to be slightly linear, I can now see some additional problems with it.

While the Savage Worlds game was all centred on the mining village of Torchwood, the players could talk to anybody and go wherever they liked. Also, they could do it in any order. The other game was built on a trip by caravan, where things would unfold. Sure I had the feel and attitude nailed down as well. I wanted the freaky aspect and unreal quality of dream to play up. Moorcock usually introduce the outre into the mundane and I wanted that feel. Less fun with the travel, though. I'm more convinced than ever that trips in roleplaying games should be narrated in a sentence or be the whole point.

Trying to make travel be just part of a scenario never seem to work for me. This makes me think of the Call of Cthulhu scenario Blood on the Tracks from the excellent scenario collection Out of the Vault by Pagan Publishing. Running that worked excellent and it was all travel. In comparison I don't think I've really did any low technology fantasy wilderness adventure that worked well. Know what you're good at, and play to your strengths...
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