Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Think Less, Do More

(The subject of this post is stolen from Mike Mearls, and it pretty accurately sums up the direction I'm heading in my gaming.)

Last night's Primetime Adventures session was, in my mind, the best yet. I think there were three things that made it awesome. First, we're in the payoff section of the game. The groundwork has already been laid, and now we're reaping what we've sown. (Reviewing the unresolved plotlines at the beginning certainly helped.) Second, it was a Spotlight episode for Christina's character, and we really took advantage of that. Even scenes that she wasn't in were about her, and that helped tie the episode together into a nice, tight bundle. (Way to go, Ted and Roy, for making that happen.) Third, we made things happen. We never shied away from conflict, and we didn't worry about what the choices we made would do to the overall game. We just played our characters honestly and to the hilt, and we trusted that we'd figure out later how it would work out. We were helped, of course, by the end of the season approaching, but it can still be a hard thing to do. Fortunately, we seem to have gotten pretty good at it.

This makes me realize an odd thing: I'm good at starting and ending games, but middles give me trouble. Clearly, I need to play without middles. I should play every session like it's both the first and last.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Backstabbing? In A Spy Game?

There were lots of fun twists and in the finale of our Covenant game last night, but we had a bit of trouble in the climatic scene, with the villain coming out ahead in the multi-way conflict. In a way, he seemed too powerful, due to the game’s affect-a-die-or-bow-out mechanics. He just kept invoking the PCs’ Consequences to keep his Edges in reserve. Thinking about it, I can come up with three ways within the system to deal with it, though there may be more.

  1. Resolve Truisms. These give you the ammo to keep going. Behold, mechanical incentive to address Premise!
  2. Set up preliminary conflicts. Use these to put Consequences on the Big Bad before the final showdown. You run the risk of taking them yourself, but in that case you might choose to sit out the showdown. Or not. Which leads to. . .
  3. Invoke Consequences for people on your own side. So far as I can tell, there's no reason why you have to limit yourself to using the other side's Consequences. And in a game that focuses so much on betrayal and hidden agendas, I think that's a good thing. (This occurred to me literally five minutes after people left last night.)

I need to think more on this. . .

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Back From Mid-Season Break

With Roy finally returned from Madagascar, we resumed our Primetime Adventures game last night. This was a fairly low-key episode, though it was obvious to me that improv work is clearly leaching over into my gaming headspace. I’ve been working on “finding the danger” in scenes, and I certainly felt like I was doing it here, as Bacchus just showed up in the first post-titles scene to cause trouble. I did wimp out in one scene, though, and I’m not quite sure how to fix it. (Roy, Christina, Ted: For reference, this was the scene between Jack and Andy.) We’ve got three episodes left, and I’m not quite sure how to pace the remaining plot points I’ve got in mind.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

One Of These Games Is Not Like The Others

Tom threw a boardgaming event yesterday, and despite the length of it, I only got to play two games. The first was quick two-player game of Caylus - or shall I say a quick dismantling of me. I’m really not a good Caylus player (I swear that every Caylus session report I make includes this phrase), but I still enjoy the game, especially when it’s played quickly. I really should check out Caylus Magna Carta.

The second game was where the time went: We broke out a four-player game of War of the Ring. I’d wanted to try this for a while, and while I think it would probably be better with only two players, I still had a great time. It was a long game, mostly due to the rules explanation and unfamiliarity, but for me it was worth it. The Free Peoples managed to pull of a Ring-related victory, but only because the Shadow forces were completely unable to roll sixes on their Hunt dice. I’m going to be tracking this one down and playing it again.

Today, Gwen and I opened up the copy of Notre Dame I brought back from Gamex. We’d both played the prototype last fall at BGG.CON, and Gwen had played it on Saturday, so I was happy to finally get another shot at it. I was pleased at how well it works as a two-player game, the only real issue being that the cathedral itself tends to become a wash. I was also surprised at how well my carriage strategy worked, though that was due primarily to a board setup that gave me a significant first mover advantage. I’m just as excited about this game now as I was last fall, and given how quickly it plays, I know it will be hitting the table a lot in the coming months.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Make No Secret Of It

I quite like Covenant. The system doesn't force the central conceit of the game down your throat, but the back-and-forth nature of conflicts, the tight focus on relationships, and the inevitability of Consequences makes it a solid espionage game in the Le Carre/Sandbaggers mode (though it could probably do Alias/Mission: Impossible/James Bond just as well).

Which is to say: last night's session went really well. I actually felt good about my GMing. Inspired by Jesse's Sorcerer & Sword game last weekend, I hit the ground running by very aggressively framing a scene for each player and then letting them take it from there. Everyone seemed to respond well to me hosing their characters from the get-go. And I had no idea that it was going to end up how it did. Story Now, baby. Story Now. We'll do one more session next week.