John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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Gaming! Gaming Gaming Gaming Gaming Gaming...

laurie_robey ran the third of her three-session foray into the Star Wars roleplaying game Saturday night.[1] This time, as we were headed back to the Alliance with the munitions we bought off the Hutt crimelord in the last session, Frisk's Force Adept and my Jedi Knight detected a disturbance in the force from a system "nearby" (in as much as anything is "nearby" in hyperspace), and decided to check it out.

Upon landing, we found the crypt of a would be Sith Lord, with a Dark Side artifact that needed chopping up with a lightsaber. ;) Like the other games she ran, this scenario was a freebie off the WotC site, and is so far the only time I've really felt like the d20 version of Star Wars fell into the "D&D with lightsabers" trap that so many of its critics decry. By the time the session was over, I kept thinking, "Ack! It's Darth Tavyani!" -- which will probably make sense to the other members of the group, if not to anyone else. ;) [2]

Playing in a new game has been an interesting study in GM styles, for me. I've been running games since 1983, and as such I have a pretty developed style. Nevertheless, there's always something new to be learned from watching other people do it. Here are some observations...

...loves the world. He loves to create metaplots, or come up with out-there ideas about settings. One of his projects, for instance, is a setting that is essentially a giant cavern underground, where the entirety of the known world is what is illuminated by a large crack in the ceiling. A neat idea, but definitely weird. He loves to come up with a strong "campaign," where there is a large arcing story that individual adventures are just a chapter of. This took me quite a while to get used to, as a player -- I tend to make characters who have an agenda of their own and want to follow that agenda aggressively, but this just ended up making Frisk and I butt heads. The campaign was over here and my characters always wanted to go over there. Fortunately, with his current game, he has endeavored to make the overall plot more flexible, and I have endeavored to make my character's destiny more open to what comes, and the mutual compromise seems to be working.

Something I've learned from his games is the value of starting from a good foundation and building up from there. I have a tendency to start games with a single scenario idea and a sketchy background, figuring that I'll fill in the rest later. And while that is a good practice to a certain extent, it often leads to a lot of revisionism -- "Remember I said the neighboring nation is called X? Well, I changed my mind, it's actually called Y." Frisk's games tend to be a lot more internally consistent in the long run than mine do, because he works out more stuff beforehand.

It's not news to me, that Laurie is a plot fiend. When reading a book, watching a story, or playing in an RPG, she gets an insane gleam in her eye and sits muttering quietly, "And then what happens? And then what happens? And THEN what happens?" So it wasn't much of a surprise to me that we quickly blazed through the scenarios she ran. Considering the convoluted nature of the Hutt-intrigue scenarios, she did a good job of economizing the storyline and keeping it on track. And combat sure went fast! Part of that was probably because my Jedi is such a combat monster, but part of it was because Laurie sees a fight as just another obstacle to get past and so when we come up with a good idea to get past it says, "Okay, that works" and the fight is over.

As she's still getting the hang of it, a lot of the game was pretty sketchy -- we were sent on this mission by somebody in the Alliance, but we have no idea who. Laurie just referred to them as "your superiors." We have a ship, but it hasn't been specified what type, what it looks like, or even if it has a name. I think we've all been assuming it was some kind of old tramp freighter, set up more or less like a giant shoebox with a hyperdrive. This isn't real surprising -- GMing is a big task to take on, and given that she's run a grand total of maybe five RPG sessions in her life, she did a fine job. :)

I like to think of myself as a pretty well-rounded GM (although I'd love to get critiques from the players). I seem to have an easier time with game mechanics than the other players do -- I'm the group's reigning Rules Wonk by a large margin, although I don't do anything more extraordinary than "read the manual." I guess it's because I enjoy the tactical element of play more than the others seem to under most circumstances. (Frisk does get into it in D&D/fantasy, but seems to have difficulty translating it into other genres.) I like the "game within the game" of playing the system, I suppose.

One other thing that I particularly like to do is to create a "texture" in the game; I like to provide the players with "corroborative detail" to make a place or NPC stand out in their mind. For example, in my own Star Wars game of long, long ago, there was a particular Imperial Officer ("Customs Inspector Gaddrit") that the characters encountered again and again. He was little more than a nuisance, and he never could get what he needed to bust the heroes, but his constant muttering of "Very suspicious!" became a running catchphrase in the campaign. That's the kind of little thing that I'm always proud of when it works.

What are my weaknesses? Honestly, I don't know. If I had to guess, I'd probably pick my flightiness -- too many false starts, or "man, I'm tired of this game, I want to change it and start over" campaign reboots. It's difficult to get worked up about a character when you can't be sure you'll play them more than twice in a row, I realize. That's one reason that I resurrected my current D&D game for 3.5e, but shifted it to Greyhawk from the rather weak homebrew it was in, instead of going with "yet another weak homebrew and new characters" as I had been. Setting the game in Greyhawk gives it a strong foundation to work with, a la my comments about Frisk's GMing style above, and bringing back the previous group of characters keeps a continuity going. I hope it'll be successful ... I've come up with some nice long-term story arcs, and the game has already developed some catchphrases ("Dragor the Tent-Peg," and "Bad day! Bad day!")...

*rereads post*

Wow, this is a ramble, isn't it? 0.o

Well, I guess I'll sum it up by saying, "Gaming good! Weekend being over, bad!"

-The Gneech

[1] Since camstone was off painting Scotland red for the past couple of weeks, the group's regular games were on hold. Now that he's back, we'll probably be picking up jamesbarrett's D&D game next week. Laurie is interested in running more SW tho, and I'm hoping it'll become part of the group's regular rotation.

[2] The last scenario of my D&D game was the characters exploring the crypt of "Dorl Tavyani," a self-aggrandizing illusionist who had a shrine built to himself in an effort to attain godhood. The shrine was cursed and Tavyani himself became a spectre. The would-be Sith Lord in the scenario Laurie ran was very similar. Thus, Darth Tavyani.
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