Sunday, November 30, 2008

I ate a grenade!

Friday night and way into early Saturday morning me and my high school friends played some Paranoia. (XP edition, Classic style.) We used pre-made characters, the DM ran an adventure that came in the book, and it ended up being a lot of fun. I ran a REGISTERED MUTANT with the "Matter Eater" mutation and a habit of randomly chewing on things. We'll probably play again when we get together over winter break.

And with any luck, when we do play again, we'll get a little more actual "paranoia" in. I almost shot the Team Leader after she reprogrammed a robot to do something weird and wouldn't let the Hygiene Officer look at her stuff (I was the Loyalty Officer, figured that was my job) but that was the only actual accusation of treason in the game. Even that ended up getting dropped, when we went off to finish--well, what we'd decided was the mission, since we were never properly briefed.

The rest of the time we functioned as a team. I wasn't too clear on how, exactly, accusations of treason worked--was it something I should yell about and then start shooting, or wait until the team debrief and then unload?--so I mostly stuck to keeping a record of all of my Team Leader's "treasonous" actions. And the rest of the team kept focusing on "completely the mission," rather than blaming the complete failure of the mission on the rest of the team.

The near complete lack of treachery ended up not being a problem. The mission was a complete fiasco, but the guy debriefing us was responsible for it being a fiasco and wanted to keep the whole thing quiet, and it was a one-shot anyway so none of us got into any trouble. And by the time the debrief came around, I was too tired to care about reporting the treason list I'd assembled. Debrief anyway ended up being really short, because everyone was tired.

Still, the name of the game is Paranoia, so a little more backstabbing wouldn't have hurt. The big issue was just that we didn't have a good idea of why backstabbing was so crucial. I suspect that the player section of the book has some information on how you actual go about reporting treason to the computer, and on exactly how badly you can get screwed over if management decides you're responsible for the mission failure.

That wasn't the only factor: The Team Leader's player was under the impression that "there were cameras everywhere," which I don't think was true, but it would have helped if we or the game master had been more familiar with the material. It also might have helped if our secret society missions had been in more direct opposition. But basically, since we didn't know why backstabbing our teammates was a such good idea, our natural instincts took over, and we're all pretty veteran roleplayers, especially with each other. Completing the mission and working with the rest of the party come pretty naturally.

Oh yeah, and I ate a grenade, saving everyone. It was a grenade that one of my team mates had thrown, but still.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

On Players

I've been lucky, as a game master. I've had good players. I had a good group of players when I started running games, and I've continued, with a few minor exceptions, to have good groups since.

I've had players who wrote positively epic character journals. Players who gave their characters family members and mentors and nemeses, not to mention goals that screamed adventure. I've had players who had players who happily moved on to the next idea when I told them no, that combo really is too ridiculous.

And most importantly for me, a GM who improvises a lot of her games, I've had players who come up with dumb ideas and then run with them. Who tell me what they're planning, so I don't have to guess what they're trying to do and can focus on coming up with my own crazy ideas. Who have that perfect mix of confidence, enthusiasm, and crazy inspiration that I will never be able to do without, no matter how good at game mastering I get.

I've had good players. I couldn't have run games that were as fun as they were without them.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Flying Blind

My novel is going surprisingly well, considering I have no idea what I'm doing. My last two NaNoWriMo novels, and most of the successful writing I've done in the past, have all been planned to some degree, even if it's just a general sketch of the starting situation and a rough idea of what I want the climax to look like. This time, I mostly intentionally decided I wanted to do something different, and see if I could write my novel without any idea of what I was doing or where I was going. (I was also really busy this October and working on other things, but that's beside the point.)

I shouldn't be surprised, really, that it's working (at least so far, we're not out of week one yet so there's still time for it to all go to hell) because I do stuff like this all the time when I GM. One of the best single sessions I ever ran was almost completely improvised: a one-shot, Gnome Town. I'd sketched out a little dungeon in the hour before I ran it, but I ditched that half-way through and just started riffing on whatever bizarre thing popped into my head and whatever crazy plan the players came up with. The players were pretty hot that night, so it worked out well.

That's the only session I've ever run completely on the spot, though I did improvise most of my one session of Feng Shui. More often, I'll have a general idea of the situation, but little or no idea what the players are going to do. That tends to be my default play style, and it can range anywhere from reasonable responses to character actions based on the pre-defined scenario, to completely making up major details of the game on the spot just because it would be cool.

When it works, it works. Going into the Infamous Wedding Incident, I didn't have a clear idea of what was going to happen, figuring that the players would come up with something. They didn't have a clear plan, because they figured something weird would happen that they could riff off of. My solution? Faen ninja terrorists. In hot air balloons, with long-spears and flaming catapults. The players grabbed hold of it and started doing their crazy thing, and pretty soon we were jamming. It was great.

Of course, the session could have been even better if I'd had better floor plans for the wedding, and a better map of the city, and a better idea of the "normal" order of events, what would have happened if the wedding hadn't been disrupted by a four foot tall version of the IRA and a cross between Mr. Freeze and Jack Sparrow. And part of why it turned out as well as it did was that I knew who a fair amount about the other people who ended up involved--the town guard and the main villain--and what their tactics and motivations were. Because the faen just got the fight started; what made that fight great was the combination of Faen, the villain's attempts to take advantage of the disruption, one of the player's attempts to take advantage of the disruption, and the rest of the party's efforts to keep order along with the city guard.

But being willing to make stuff up as I go along? Being confident in my ability to make stuff up as I go along? It's been key to whatever success I've had as a GM. And it's fun. Part of the reason I count those sessions among my major successes is what I great time I had during them. Which isn't everything, because the fun has to be there for the whole table, but it's important.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

National Novel Writing Month

I don't have a plot. Or more than the vaguest sketches of characters. I don't even have that much of a setting.

But I've got enough. "College. In space. With pirates."

That should be enough for anyone. We'll see how this goes.

Oh, and I'm Oddysey on the NaNo website too. NaNo madness is better together.