Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Origins 2009 - A GM's Report Card, Part 3

Right, moving on. Friday!

Friday, we got up and grabbed some breakfast. Michelle and I had a 10AM game of 7th Sea to play.

Now, I'd never played 7th Sea before, and I don't own a copy. I know about the game in a vague sort of way; it's about swashbuckling and sailing and pirates and Musketeers and that sort of thing. Since several of my other games this year leaned toward pulp, I figured this wasn't too far off the mark.

Promising start! The GM was there before we were, had character sheets and drama dice spread out, had his screen and his books and whatnot set up. Michelle and I grabbed characters. I always grab a character at random for con games, if I can. That forces me away from playing to my usual standbys (whatever those are - jumpy/flippy characters, going by my chargen project) and makes me flex my improv muscles a bit. This time, I got Felix. We were all Musketeer-types, fighting on the side of the Emperor of Montaigne (which is "France" in the same way that "Rokugan" in Legend of the Five Rings is "Japan," I suppose). Felix was a gun-fighter, in a setting where guns aren't terribly accurate and have one usuable shot before you have to spend an hour reloading them. And that's fine; some gun-fu is never inappropriate.

The rest of the players showed up and picked characters, and we got our set-up: There's an assassin on a boat coming from "England," we need to intercept it and stop him. That means getting to the coast and getting a ship. Most of the scenario was the "getting to the coast" part, and that wasn't bad, though I do think that the GM could benefit from considering Chekov's Gun a bit. That is, if you see a gun on the mantle in Act One, it needs to go off in Act Three. Our "Act One" was taking horses to the river and then sailing up the river to the coast, and we got jumped by some highwaymen.

While I was happy to have a chance to try out the combat system, I had two problems with this set-up. First, they highwaymen fought like orcs.

OK, a slight digression here. One thing that annoys me in RPGs is when the bad guys fight until they're all dead, even after it becomes clear that they're going to lose. That reminds me of old school Dungeons and Dragons, where the enemies were "monsters," even when they were supposedly intelligent. I once threw a DM for a loop in a D&D game by pointing my bow at the last surviving kobold or goblin or orc or spee-lunker or whatever we were fighting and yelling "Surrender!" See, my character didn't see the monster as just a vehicle for XP, and this being, y'know, a role-playing game, I figured I'd play the role.

And yes, I know there's a place for beer-n-pretzels gaming. That's why we have Kobolds Ate My Baby and HoL. Anyway.

So, the highwaymen didn't exactly fight to the death, but pretty close. And then it turns out that they were just...highwaymen. They weren't in on the plot, they weren't trying to stop us from finding the assassin, they had no connection to the story at large. Just a random encounter. Bad form, GM.

Well, we made it to the coast, chartered a boat (and that scene went on way too long, which wasn't entirely the GM's fault; we were making it harder than it needed to be), got out to sea, boarded the assassin's boat, and killed him pretty handily. In most systems, I find, five dudes vs. one dude means a quick fight. Which is fine, incidentally; I have no problem with the final fight of a game being not much of a fight, provided that solving the mystery or otherwise getting to the fight is satisfying. This...was kind of a foregone conclusion.

My thoughts on the game: Now, for all that, the game was actually pretty fun. I didn't find myself looking at my watch (well, I did, but because I had a game to run at 2PM and I didn't want to be late), and I enjoyed the game and the system and even the story set-up. Some of the other players spent a little too much time boozing and whoring (all together now: "If there are girls there, I wanna do them!") and ignoring the fact that, hello, there was an actual woman sitting at the table, but not everyone in our little hobby has figured out that a little decorum is not a bad thing. I just wish the story had been a little tighter, and our choices would have influenced said story a little more. My grade: B-

And then, zoooom! Across the hall to run Geist: The Sin-Eaters. Now, Geist is the next World of Darkness game from good old White Wolf. They weren't actually at the convention, however, and my game was the only Geist game being run. They sent me some copies of the quickstart (which you can download here) to hand out, and I had a copy of the pdf of the book (which I'm not linking, obviously) so I could run the game.

I made up characters ahead of time, and did my usual blurb + six questions routine. The characters were all people who wound up on a bus in NYC for various reasons, and then "died" when the driver got distracted and drove them into the river. They bonded with geists, became Sin-Eaters and formed a krewe (which is not a mispelling of the word "crew," by the way). This particular story saw them investigating a warehouse in which ghosts dressed in fashions of the last 50 years were partying away, but there was no evidence that they'd actually died at that warehouse (if you know how the World of Darkness treats ghosts, that makes a little more sense).

The players got into it well, even considering the massive info-dump that's involved in playing a new World of Darkness game. I run investigation-heavy games, and the characters did well with splitting up (which allows me to cross-cut, which allows players to get food or do potty breaks without wasting too much game time) and using their powers in interesting ways. They tracked down the blood bather who was killing lots of people every decade and took her down; again, it's not about the final fight, it's about getting to that fight.

I'm not grading myself, but I'm happy with the way the game went. There are some tweaks I'd make if I run it again, but mostly just so the story flows a little better.

Following Geist, Michelle and I headed to the Big Bar on Two and sang karaoke a bit. I didn't do anything challenging; "Zoot Suit Riot" and "Fortunate Son," both of which I'm familiar with and I sound pretty good doing, I think. I did, however, come to a conclusion:

If you are putting in your slip for karaoke, and you think "Turn the Page" is a good song? You are already drunk, and should not be allowed to make decisions.

Last post coming soon.