Monday, November 25, 2013

Playing to Empty Seats

Sunday was supposed to be the kick-off of an epic Warhammer campaign. But only two people showed.

I attribute this to a number of reasons. One is the holiday weekend. All the folks out there either leaving the area or hosting family members for the week may have just not been interested in dorking it up just now. Another is the game. Perhaps I didn't make it clear enough that my intent was to play Warhammer the role-playing game, not the more well-known miniatures game.

But, whatever. Two people showed, and that's what I had to work with. I didn't want to start Warhammer because the adventure is designed for at least three (plus, when the game inevitably starts, I would like character creation to be all at once, and not having half the group sitting around while the other half makes characters). So I decided to grab another game and run a quick-and-dirty one-shot, improv-style. Now, finally, after all these months, was the time to try tremulus.

Character creation was, as it often is in Apocalpyse World, Dungeon World, and all the like, quick. Maybe five minutes. We Father Finnigan, priest of the Ebon Eaves Catholic Church, and Nash Anderson, reporter for the local Ebon Eaves newspaper. They quickly created a backstory on their connection to one another: there was a scandal in the church, Nash was invesitgating, and Finnigan was one of the Vatican's "Diplomat" priests, sent to the little town to smooth things over with the populace. Putting all that within the context of Lovecraftian horror already had my mind buzzing.

But then came the playset. Of all the little tweaks and innovations that authors have added to Vincent Baker's game over the years, what Sean Preston has done with the playset and tremulus is, in my humble opinion, the coolest. Each player was given a questionaire with 12 statements on it, grouped into two sets of six. For each set of 6 statements, the player had to circle which three statements were true. I didn't allow the players to reveal their answers to each other. Once completed, I generated two three-letter codes from their answers. Consulting those codes in the back of the book gave me a complete setting and the openings of a mystery to for them to solve. Combined with their own backstory, I had what looked like a complete adventure ready in minutes.

I'm not going to get into the whole thing, but here are the main plot points, and where those points came from:

-Women and little girls were being abducted from the town. (Me, inspired by the players backstory).
-The children were being kept in a temple called the Order of the Silver Flame, a group ex-communicated from the Shriners for their allowing women to be members (This came purely from the playset).
-The players came to discover that Silver Flame were a cult devoted to birthing the children of the elder god Yig. They were inpregnating the women and girls, who would later give birth to snake-children of Yig (all me)
-The players fought their way out of the temple, burned it to the ground, and now struggle through the rest of the days with the haunted and horrifying images of the things they have seen.

It was a short (about an hour) adventure, and I was seriously impressed with it. Very, very rarely have I done an improv game with that level of polish, tension, and pacing right out of the gate like that. Turns out it was just what I needed. I've been so focused on delivering a full game experience with "crunchier" games like Warhammer that I had overlooked the simplistic grace and ingenuity of tremulus.

I have now started another meetup for tremulus next week. Let's see what the next batch of players brings to Ebon Eaves...

Friday, November 22, 2013

On the Docket Tonight...

Tonight, I'm going to get together with a few people at the Landing in Crystal City and play some boardgames. Personally, I'm bringing two: Ghost Stories, and Cards Against Humanity. I LOVE Ghost Stories. I don't actually own it; I'm hanging onto it for another boardgamer who forgot it when they came by a few weeks ago. So if I see him again, I'll give it back to him. Regardless, though, I hope to get in a game or two of it before giving it up. It's a cooperative game that, arguably, is even harder than Pandemic. That obviously makes it much more frustrating, but also much more exciting.

As for Cards Againgst Humanity, I have a new-found respect for the game after last weekend. My aunt died, and my cousins were understandably shaken over their sudden loss. I, desperate to make them smile and encourage some family support, broke out the game as a means to have fun. Some epic laughing insued. It was a very cathartic experience for my counsins, I think. So I'm going to throw it in the bag and bring it this evening, and see if anyone in a bad mood may need a pick-me-up. Including myself. Things have gotten a little sad in my house these days, so maybe I could even benefit from a little Cards Against Humanity...

I'm also going to try to drum up some interest for my Warhammer game this Sunday. If I can't lock down at least one more person, I'll probably cancel my event. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, as I could use the extra time to get some grad school homework done, but who wants to write some boring old papers when I could be playing role-playing games?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Breaking the Silence

It's been almost two months since my last blog post. I've weathered a government shutdown, a surge of grad school stuff, my aunt's funeral, and several other game-stopping things. But now, I'm looking to get back on track with my blogging and continue to document my travels through the mental corridors of my hobby.

There have been several boardgaming sessions in the past month+ I could talk about. Surprisingly, there has been little to say on the RPG side of things, though. The planning and the logisitics of tabletop role-playing have once again become an issue, as I haven't had the time or the inclination to pay either of those steep costs to get a game going.

The only steep cost I've been willing to pay lately are actual, monetary costs. I went "all in" on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying(WFRP) a few weeks ago. WFRP is probably the most premium RPG experience money can buy: the $100 core set contains hundreds of cards depicting every ability of every one of the game's 45 different careers. It also contains die-cut standies of the players and the enemies they'll fight; dozens and dozens of different tokens that can be used to track wounds, fatigue, time, or literally anything else you can think of; FOUR different books covering playing, game-mastering, and rules for magic and cleric stuff; custom-made character sheets complete with their own folded box for containing all the cards the comprise their arsenal; and, finally, 36 propietary dice that the game uses. This is NOT a game for the casual RPG gamer; this is a game that you show off to people.

Oh, and did I mention I ALSO got the Player's Vault, the GM's Toolkit, and The Gathering Storm campaign set?

Anyways, I bought all of that like three weeks ago. I've read it and I LOVE it. I am stoked to play it. Sadly, though, only two people have signed up for my event this Sunday. I want at least three to get started. I'm going to a boardgaming event tomorrow (Friday), and I'll see if I can recruit a third for Sunday.

I'll write more later about my various boardgaming endeavors, and more about my RPG future with Warhammer.

As for Numenera? I haven't forgotten about it. But, unfortunately, my inability to focus on any one game has left me adrift again. We'll see how long I can stick to Warhammer before I slink off to another game...

My Own Loser Path

"If you're a Sym main, please exit the stream," was the description yesterday of one of the Overwatch Twitch streams I follow....