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Homecoming, Forming a Gaming Group, and Sorcerer

Started by Bret Gillan, June 27, 2005, 08:30:44 PM

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Bret Gillan

Hey folks.

I'm moving back to my hometown, and this last weekend I touched base with some old gaming buddies that I've kept in touch with and still live in the area. We talked over possible games. I gave them five choices: Sorcerer, HeroQuest, Puppetland, Orkworld, and a homebrew scifi/action/Cthulhu setting using the Story Engine. First, though, we talked about roleplaying and what we wanted out of games. I haven't gamed with these guys in 6 years, and my memories of the old gaming group are not-so-good. Games ending as a result of fights about in-game events, players intentionally sabotaging campaigns, and so on. Of course, these were high school games, and at least one of the players played with the intention of being disruptive. He's not one of the guys that I touched base with. I wanted to feel them out and get an idea of what they wanted out of the games. The discussion was awkward, full of a lot of pauses and coaxing on my part.

The Cast:
Bret - That's me. Just graduated from college and moving home. I left for college the "average gamer" who was struggling to run story-focused games in Shadowrun and WoD, and had an interest in more "obscure" games like FUDGE and Tribe 8. Eventually that led me here and to a lot of the independent games that I've fallen in love with. Now I'm returning home with some wacky ideas about roleplaying and trying to form a group. I prefer Narrativism, but I'm open to all types of games. My goals are to get a functional gaming group going and assure that everyone has fun.
Chad - When we were growing up, Chad was the pack omega. The butt of a lot of jokes and the one who would always make "dumb mistakes" during games. So eventually he ended up becoming a nonentity - avoided making important decisions during games and the like. I really want to draw him out and get him comfortable participating. I had a hard time getting clear game goals out of him and got nonanswers for what he wanted out of the game like "having fun" and "getting into it." I let it go since I didn't want to push him.
Josh - Josh is not going to be a problem at all. I felt like we were on the same wavelength during the discussion, and he expressed interest in what I thought would be the "hard sell" games - Puppetland and Story Engine.
Tom - Tom's a laid-back guy with a pretty twisted sense of humor. My memories of him involve him min-maxing characters in the most ridiculous of ways, but he seems to have calmed down about that since the "old days." When we talked about what he wanted out of the game he said that he enjoyed playing games where his character was good at something, whether it's being a master blacksmith or being the biggest asshole in the game.

I pitched the game choices being sure to emphasize the rules systems as well as the settings since it's easy to assume that they're all just like every other game out there in terms of system, but have different settings. After a long, akward conversation, we finally settled on Sorcerer. Puppetland and Story Engine were dismissed early on as being a little too "weird," and Tom said he'd be up for any game as long as I coax him into things easily. Orkworld and HeroQuest ended up getting dismissed because the players wanted something that wasn't fantasy. So, we're going to be playing a contemporary Sorcerer game. This week, I'm going to begin planning it. I think Kickers, non-"adventuring party" play, and Bang-based game structure will introduce them to some interesting new ideas while at the same time using a system that's intuitive to them.

So, overall I think things went well. The social chemistry of the group is really good, meaning we're comfortable hanging out and shooting the breeze. However, I did have a couple of concerns when the session was over.

Out of character discussion and kibitzing is also something I want to encourage, and I think the best way to do this will be to lead the charge. I've already located one of the problems with discussion in the first session was that I was trying to coax them into discussing the game and gameplay without doing it myself, leaving them in the spotlight and probably causing the awkwardness.

I worried that I came off as creepy-intense about the game. The meta-conversations were awkward and full of uncomfortable pauses, and you could tell the guys weren't used to talking about games like this. Usually, the GM tells them what the game's about and they make characters for it. Conversations about "what roleplaying's about" and discussion about different game possibilities and what sort of games they'd like to play are outside of their realm of experience. It probably didn't help that I presented them with choices that they weren't familiar with at all. I've noticed in the past that some people have averse reactions to meta-discussion, and I don't want to turn them off to my games by making them think that I take the game "too seriously." One of the goals of my game is to use some of the methods I learned here and elsewhere such as discussion of the Creative Agenda and protagonization to facilitate coherent play in the group, but to do it in away that's not intimidating to the group. I thought about linking them to this thread, but decided against so that I wouldn't intimidate them. So suggestions as to how I could do this would be good.

Finally, there's Chad. During this session Josh and Tom were talking but he wasn't saying a lot, and I told him that I didn't want him to get talked over. "I'm used to it," he said. I'm hoping that not putting his character and letting him choose a Kicker will help get him involved in play, and I want to encourage his involvement. At all costs I want to avoid "punishing" him at any point for his decisions.

One final note: A fourth player is interest, a girl I've met once or twice named Jen who's new to roleplaying. I'm torn between wanting to introduce a new player to gaming, and pushing the game past my "comfortable player threshold" which is three players. Also, I already know Chad, Tom, and Josh so there won't be so much pressure on me and the social situation will be smoother.

So yeah, feedback from you guys would be great, and I plan on posting about the game group and gameplay as the situation progresses.

Paul Czege

Hey Bret,

One final note: A fourth player is interest, a girl I've met once or twice named Jen who's new to roleplaying. I'm torn between wanting to introduce a new player to gaming, and pushing the game past my "comfortable player threshold" which is three players.

I agree, three players is just about perfect for Sorcerer. If you were a bit more confident in running a narrativist game, I'd say you absolutely shouldn't pass up the chance of having a female player. But here I'm not sure. Four players is eminently do-able. But I can see why you'd want to limit yourself to just three.

My own first attempt at running a narrativist game was Everway in early 2001, for four of my long time gaming buddies. At that point, Danielle and I had been dating for four months. And I had yet to assess her potential interest in playing. What we did do was talk about my plans for each game session as I was prepping, and then we'd talk after each session about how things actually went. At least twice we made bets on how the players would respond to stuff I was planning, when I thought for sure the players would take a certain course of action and she disagreed. (And she won the bets.)

So my recommendation is to do that. Enlist Jen in creative, collaborative conversations about potential bangs for the player characters, and in fun post-play conversation. If you do it right, she'll be way fired up to play your next game. And you'll be confident enough to run for four players.

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans