Monday, December 8, 2008

Why I am doing it.

So I have decided to go back to the old world. The old World of Darkness that is. The first game I ran (for more than a session or two) was Vampire. In my high school and early college days, I ran a Vampire game almost every Friday for three years. I dabbled with the other games on and off later to various successes.

My second favorite oWOD game during this time was Changeling: the Dreaming. Not because it fit in with the other settings (IMHO) but because it was a beautiful game. Whenever I cracked open the book, I seemed to be filled with a sense of wonder. I really felt the magic of the game (no pun intended). I have tried over the years to start a number of Changeling games with little success, sometimes because of the players and other times because of me.

Well fast forward to the present. After graduating from college (many years later), I have started gaming on a semi-regular basis. I started a Deadlands: Reloaded campaign. After a solid summer of play, one of the players had to take a job over the road. Discussing the problem to the group yielded we should play another game while we were short a player, Changeling was that game.

I cracked open the book again and was filled with nostalgia and dread. Yes the players made characters and yes we played through a story arc I titled “The Thief of Yesterday”. But then I was stumped. I couldn’t think of anything. My inspiration was gone. I always had a knack of making the meta-plot, the grand story. Now… I had nothing and it made me sad. I had succumbed to the enemy of make-believe. I had grown up and left my wonder behind. “But you are running a game of Deadlands?” you say. True, but Changeling could always help me see past the reality of the world we live in and touch the myth of that same place. This was no longer happening, it was just a book. After a couple of weeks trying to decide what to do, I turned it over to the players. I asked them to tell me what they wanted to see from the game.

The comments they scribbled on paper made me realize they wanted the same thing I had lost, the ability of Changeling to aid us in touching the mystic. Not grand meta-plot but personal magic. Not great philosophical debates over good and evil but the greater power of childlike wonder. That is what I am going to try and give them with Changeling and its stories. The problems I was having even helped create the next story, “Space Ranger Lost.”

Now I know this may have seemed more dramatic than need be. And I am not saying every game I run from now on will be some great work of myth. I am saying (to my players), this is how I feel and what I want to add to our stories. And to the greater gaming community, there are always times when your dreams leave us, when we cannot touch the magic within us. But do not despair or think you are too old. The mystic reaches out everyday, just stand back and let it, both personally and with friends. Gaming is a social hobby. That’s nothing new, I know. ;)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Don't Rest Your Head [Session 1]

So here is the first play summary for my Don't Rest Your Head game. After I will have some thoughts on how it went.

The story started with a frantic Jonas destroying his college dorm room looking for his design project. He thinks it might have been thrown out by his roommate and runs to the door almost bumping into him. After a strained conversation and an invite to a local bar, Jonas runs to the dumpster. Rooting around in the filth of the dumpster and getting damp from the cold mist of winter, Jonas finds a lifelike wooden puppet about the size on a 5 to 8 year old child smiling up at him, but no project. Weird yes, relevant no. Jonas ran to the library. Not finding his project, he decided to use the bathroom. While washing, he met a wooden man in a 50s style brown suit with cords attached to him running through the ceiling. Um yeah, he ran.

Next we met Kesi who was placing her murdered child in a dumpster. Looking around she also finds a wooden child only slightly different from the one Jonas did. Taking the wooden child and leaving her's, Kesi searched out an all night clinic. She becomes very attached to the lifeless child.

Then Billie picked herself up from the ground shaken and hurt. She decided to drive to the police station to make a report. Running up to the front desk she screams for help with the only person there ignoring her. Finally the chair slowly turns and she glimpses a lifeless wooden policeman. Staring, Billie eventually ran to her car.

While Jonas was driving to the bar (he needed a drink), he spies three figures through the winter mist. One of them pointed to him and the other two started to move toward him. Jonas quickly made a u-turn to avoid them while Billie was driving the other way. Paying attention to Jonas, Billie hits the first figure. Jonas stops as Kesi enters the scene to see what happened. The women find a wooden man in a 50s brown suit and damaged cords coming out of his body sitting up. Kesi and Billie started to run to a nearby gas station with Kesi finding it empty and Billie falling before the wooden man. Jonas couldn't leave her so with his "god of architecture" realized if he hurried, the other two figures would be trapped under a faulty streetlamp. The lamp falls on the figures but also his car. He and Billie ran to the gas station. After finding an antique telephone and no help, Jonas takes a bat from behind the counter and goes to beat the ever-loving piss out of the wooden men. The men went down stating the protagonists had seen to much. He decides to bring a head of one of the men along to a pancake house. They just wanted to be around other people.

At the pancake house, the protagonists interrogate the head who will only revel the creator is through the looking glass. They also learn two other things. 1) It seems they are the only ones who can see the wooden parts and 2) there is a smelly sewer grate under the table. While deciding what to do next, 3 wooden figures with cords like puppets float down from the sky. Ok, the protagonists ran.

Billie drops Jonas off at his dorm and takes Kesi to her place. Jonas answers a knock at the door to reveal his roommate as a corded wooden man. He can't take it and runs to a closet. Opening the door to a crowded city street (the looking glass), he steps through. Walking down the strange city, Jonas sees antique cars, people and unpeople traveling the sidewalk. Getting off the street, he steps into a 50s style soda shop. Conversing with the soda jerk, he reveals the location of a toymaker down the street with a lot of "Hey Mack" and "What'll it be buddy?" in his speech.

Billie and Kesi discover a door placed in the middle of Billie's second floor patio. After some tentative experimentation, they go through the door and fall a couple feet onto a rooftop. They stood among the peaks of a great city with a bloated moon against a too close night sky.

That ends the first session leaving the protagonists just arriving in the Mad City. I think the players do not know what to make of the game yet but fun was had by all. We had a lot of stops and starts, mostly because I was having some trouble with the rules mechanics. The game also allows for player narration, so we were testing the waters on that. I think this added a lot to the game. A player stated there was no one in the gas station heightening the feeling of isolation in the scene and another came up with the streetlamp smashing Jonas' car after I was at a loss to figure how Pain would dominate the scene. I will add more about how I think the rules add or subtract from the game as we become more comfortable with them.

By the way, the main idea for the antagonist in the first story arc comes from an actual play podcast by The Game Master Show. Even though I am going a slightly different direction with it, I just wanted to give them some props.

Friday, December 5, 2008

DON'T REST YOUR HEAD! Really, it will be eaten.

I know I have not posted anything in a LONG time but nobody is reading this anyway. ;)

I have started a game of Don't Rest Your Head by Fred Hicks and published by Evil Hat Productions. I have had the game for awhile and have been really itching to play it. It is an "Indie" game with a very Dark City feel to it. So with a lot of "We have to try this game!!", my girlfriend and a couple friends created characters. Now the game is centered around a nightmare world where the characters are insomniacs that lose it and gain superpowers called Madness Talents (in a very small nutshell). Character creation is fairly simple with a player answering a number of questions and creating an Exhaustion (a real world ability you EXCEL at) and Madness Talent. Choosing a Madness Talent was by far the most difficult process in character creation for us. We did not know how much we should define at the start what a talent can do. We decided to go with a word or phrase and when discuss using the talent as the need arose in game. Also, the words in all capitals below are from the DRYH character sheet.

So without further ado, their creations...

MY NAME IS... Jonas Brice.
AND I AM .. an architectural student.
WHAT'S BEEN KEEPING ME AWAKE? The stresses of failing out of school. The approval of my father for my career choices.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO YOU? I just lost my senior design/architectural project.
WHAT'S ON THE SURFACE? A nervous, clean cut young man with a mostly sunny disposition.
WHAT LIES BENEATH? A deep hatred and fear of my father. A man hiding pent up frustrations.
WHAT'S YOUR PATH? To find my goddamn project before the end of the semester.
MADNESS TALENT: The God of Architecture.

MY NAME IS... Billie Fordeck.
AND I AM .. a law student.
WHAT'S BEEN KEEPING ME AWAKE? In order to keep up with my studies, I became addicted to meth to stay awake.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO YOU? A masked man assaulted me. He tried to rape me but ran away when a car passed by. I was left with a torn shirt and bruises everywhere.
WHAT'S ON THE SURFACE? A high strung overachiever; driven and physically pulled together. I have no time for dating so sometimes I come off as a bitch.
WHAT LIES BENEATH? A scared little girl wanting to prove herself to her parents and the world, but always finding herself lacking
WHAT'S YOUR PATH? Find who assaulted me and take revenge.
EXHAUSTION TALENT: Persuasive Speaking.
MADNESS TALENT: Belittle (by being condescending or insulting I can deflate others either physically or emotionally).
MY NAME IS... Kesi Mahgoor.
AND I AM .. a transient gypsy.
WHAT'S BEEN KEEPING ME AWAKE? The recent suicide of my father. I am now in "survival mode" trying to fend for myself while being homeless and alone.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO YOU? I was trying to console my wailing infant. The infant is suffering from a deficiency of birth (mental and physical). I just put my hand over its face to stop the crying. In shock I discard the tiny body.
WHAT'S ON THE SURFACE? A street smart girl. I am whimsical, exotic and kind.
WHAT LIES BENEATH? I am terrified of being sent back to Alexandria, Egypt. However, I am more afraid of spending the rest of my life alone and hungry. No apparent options or obvious solutions.
WHAT'S YOUR PATH? To make a real life for myself and come to grips with my father's death. To reconcile my guilt over the murder of my child.
MADNESS TALENT: The Darkness Within.

There they are in all their flaws (the characters, not the players). As of this post, we have played the first session so I will discuss it soon.