[Elfs] Stages as narrative bonus

Started by Ramlama, January 16, 2012, 11:34:04 AM

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My weekly gaming group just had to prematurely end a Dogs in the Vineyard game (one of the four players had to drop, and we'd missed a handful of sessions- it always feels artificial to rejuvenate a campaign after three or so weeks off in a row). Since we'd been pretty serious about the last campaign, we wanted something a little less Shakespearean in its drama.

The players took the roles of members of the Thieves Guild in a large metropolitan city. The middle-management of the guild had been arrested during the exposition, so the mysterious leader was holding tryouts for promotions: whichever teams stole the most loot earned the right to be move up the hierarchy. The session started out with their sponsor, a dark magician, offering to give them Adventurer's Guild badges if they managed to break his brother out of the stockades. Hijinks ensued, especially since every scene had the double motivation of robbing everyone blind.

Here's the part I was happiest with: I introduced two poker chips. Whoever had a chip got a +1 on their rolls. If a player had both chips, they'd have a total of +2.

How they earned the chips was this:
The Black Chip: If a player introduced a complication by saying "the worst thing that could happen right now would be...", and I was entertained enough to use the complication, they took control of the chip. I was very amused by how this turned out. One of the first things the players did was get into a bidding war: they went from having to rescue an eager brother under the watch of 3 guards, to prophesying that 30 guards would appear as soon as he was free... and that the brother would pick a fight with them immediately.

Later in the session, two of the players were robbing the office of a restaurant they were burning down. One of the players not there- he had seduced the waitress- interjected that it'd be terrible for the burglars if the ceiling collapsed, cutting off their only escape route from the office. I'd kinda hoped that the chip would encourage that sort of friendly backstabbing. Success! It also made my role as GM that much easier.

The Red Chip: I wanted a more proactive approach to the oral-anal-genital stage than tattling. Whoever had directly referenced their character's stage most recently took control of the red chip. I pointed out that they'd need to police themselves on it, since it'd likely be moving a lot. And boy did it! The players organically decided that the chip could be earned by making metagame jokes in line with their character's stage, so there were times when the chip changed hands three or four times without the characters actually doing anything. One of the more amusing applications of that was when the Anal stage character started singing nonsense, and it was decided that "scat" music was a sufficient pun to earn the chip.

The use of the two chips gave the players enough incentive to really focus on making immature jokes, as well as worming their way into absurdly terrible situations- and it seems like they really dug it. The red chip in particular gave them a feedback mechanism that molded the game experience and felt like a reward for amusing contributions. I'd literally been 45 minutes late to the game- I was outside in a car, basically trying to talk through some issues with a young lady, and all the players were sitting around in my living room wondering where I was... so I was pretty emotionally exhausted by the time I rolled in and started the session. The fact that it still managed to turn into one of the better sessions in a long time was rather impressive!