[Misery Bubblegum] two games in a row

Started by Nocker, June 20, 2010, 08:59:38 PM

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We have a game of Misery Bubblegum (a game by Tony Lower-Basch, from Muse of Fire Studio) last saturday. The first thing that amazed me and above all the other players (not used to Indie Games) is the short time needed to play an entire narrative arc, even with people who didn't yet know the rules. In 4 hours, we played two narrative arcs, in two differents settings.

I was the GM, with four players, and we rapidly decided to play in the USSR, in a uchrony (to have freedom over the personalities and historic events), and follow the life of four 16 y.o. teens that know each other since childhood. The goal was to avoid fantastic and adventure setting, for a first game. So normal teens and normal world, but in a problematic setting.
In the Introduction phase, Sergueï, a Roguish Hustler steals a purse he saw falling from an old lady's pocket. He then go at the drugstore the father of Piotr (Naive Coach) owns, to see him, Milena (Brooding Bookworm) and Dimitri (Frantic Dreamer). Piotr lets Sergueï buy a bottle of vodka with the stolen money, although he's too young, and they go to the park to celebrate and drink it.
I haven't prepared any plot or kickers, because I didn't want to decide a setting alone. So I tried to quickly launch a hook, in the person of Sacha, a bully who often extort stuffs to the district youngsters. And I made him surround them as they walk to the park and demand the bottle, threatening. After a little violence, the four teens leave, frustrated by the withdrawn treasure.
I then push the tension a little by introducing a younger girl, Igorevna, who comes to them, crying, and says Sacha and his dudes clobbered her brother, and now he's bedridden. But she's afraid to tell her parents or the police, in case Sacha comes to retaliate. So she asks for help the four of them. Sergueï proposes to scare him with the gun of Piotr's father, ex-military. But what he has in mind is making Dimitri shoot him. He doesn't trust Piotr, because the boy is a fanatic Party member who believes anybody can change to the good, if the Party help them. So only Dimitri is informed of the plan.
After an incident caused by Sergueï at the Party HQ (reinforcing his anti-authority character) and a successfully stolen gun in Piotr house by Dimitri, they go to find Sacha.
During all the story, Dimitri tries to seduce Milena, who sees in him only a friend. But Sergueï plays the devil, cheating Milena into kissing Dimitri, or making him pawing her butt. Dimitri thinks that by killing Sacha, he will earn her love.
So they arrive to Sacha's spot, and Sergueï point the gun at him, forcing him to sexually humiliate himself. The Climax card comes at this perfect moment. Boris, his lieutenant, can't stand such a softy as a leader and takes the head, kicking the old boss. The bullies attack and after two shots in the night by Dimitri, Sacha and Boris are dead, leaving a bunch of crying gangers. Suddently, the police sirens resonate, and all but Sergueï and Piotr (who trusts the police) flee. The roguish boy tries to kill himslef in the name of liberty, but Piotr prevents him, and the police arrests Sergueï, who surely will be transformed in a Party-loving vegetable.

It was a pretty tragic end, and when I proposed another game, we chose a Harry Potter setting, with Gryffindor students to have a lighter tone story.
To explore a bit more the game rules, I wanted to use the Story Hooks and Character Hooks. So I present them to the players, but no one really wanted to take one, because they felt it artificial, and would rather come with problematics in the course of the game. My explanations on the cards being only advices and guides didn't convinced them. So without a clue on what to do, I tried to make situation, as in the first story.
This second game went well, but it didn't feel as powerful as the first, because I didn't succeed in creating a big Kicker, one which present a single issue and could lead to a great Climax. So we explored different situations, loosely connected. But it was satisfying enough, because they enjoyed playing their character.

A few remarks :
1) Next time, I'll explain the Character Hooks and the Story Hooks cards at the beginning of the game if I am to make an initiation again, because they are great tools, when used, to create focused issues and leading topics, which lack in the second game. I think they provide what a preparation give in other games.

2) When the characters are in a situation without NPCs, the GM has nothing he can do (as players not present in the scene, but this one is normal in every mainstrem RPG) because all conflicts are between characters, and the cards have to apply to characters.
I didn't find it harmful, and in fact it was relaxing, because it lets the players discuss and develop their relations.

3) The players, used to mainstream games for the most part, had trouble understanding that anything they want can happen, if nobody oppose them. So if they want to catch the Golden Snitch in a flamboyant way at a Quidditch match, all they have to do is say this. Often, when a player recognized a case where another game would have ask for a die roll (as the flamboyant Golden Snitch catch), he said what he wanted to do while playing a high-value card, though nobody opposed him yet. I explained several times that in such a situation you keep your card and use it only to defend against other players proposals if ever. Indie techniques are hard to implant...

In a nutshell, Misery Bubblegum is terrific, and I will try to play it again at any cost !
My name is Guillaume, I'm french.