Saturday the 9th I rode down to Lee and De’s new place about an hour and a half away with Dave and Margie in tow. I’ve been trying to get our gaming quotient up a bit, and I walked in the door with five games prepped (in the sense that I had sufficient supplies to run each of them) — Jungle Speed (which I dropped on the table with a sticky note that read ‘not optional’), PTA, Shadow of Yesterday, Mortal Coil, and the Shab al-Hiri Roach. I just pulled every game out and set them out on the table to see what folks were interested in. I was pretty much open to anything, but if I was going to lay odds, I’d have guessed that we’d end up playing a one-shot of the Roach and that De would want to borrow Mortal Coil and angle for an ongoing game of same.
I would have been right.
So, after general visiting and getting the two young girls running around, I pulled out Jungle Speed and we played a round of that just to get the friendly-animosity flowing, and then got into starting the Roach game up.
Wait, what’s the Roach? Lemme quote:
The Shab-al-Hiri Roach is a dark comedy of manners, lampooning academia and asking players to answer a difficult question – are you willing to swallow a soul-eating telepathic insect bent on destroying human civilization?
Even if it will get you tenure?
It’s… Lovecraft meets the Marx Brothers. It’s… 1919 academia (“Go, Pemberton Panthercats! Beat those ‘pods!”), doing horrible things to each other in the quest for petty power, and THEN you add an ancient telepathic Sumerian God/Bug with 4000 unhatched young to the mix… it’s just pretty damn fun.
Okay, back to prep. This was kind of a challenge, because I’d literally gotten the game the night before, read it once that morning, printed out character sheets and cheat sheets, and jumped into Dave and Margie’s car for the ride down. And *I* was the “expert” on the game.
We started in and Lee asked, “So… what are we … doing? Like… what’s the point of the whole thing?”
That’s when I realized I needed to be answer guy. I think I managed a fairly good job of that, explaining the breakdown of play. I’m going to be summarizing, because I don’t have the rules OR character sheets with me, but this is who we ended up with on the Faculty of Pemberton U.
* De played… A female full professor of Chemistry whose Enthusiasms were… deceit and… something like sadism or the like. I don’t recall her ‘real’ name, but her nickname was Kitty, and I remember that she had a litany of ailments — hard of hearing, etc. etc.
* Dave played… in his words, “a marvelously decadent Botany professor nicknamed Pansy whose raison d’etre is seduction of undergrads (and not the co-eds) and backstabbing (figuratively, to date) his fellow academics.” It’s very against type for Dave in some ways, and watching him pull it off flawlessly was a delight.
* Margie played… an assistant? No, a full professor of Geology. Can’t remember what his name is, or his enthusiasms. 🙁 Hmm. Help?
* Lee played secretly hermaphroditic assistant professor in the Art Department. His Enthusiasms were, unsurprisingly, identical to De’s. 🙂
* I was playing Douglas Dean (Double-D) Blackburn, assistant professor of Poetry and Theatre Arts, the Faculty Advisor for the rowing team whose enthusiasms were Debauchery (he’s a bit of an opiate and alcohol user) and … something with athletics? Sports? Something like that.
Right. We got the characters set up, drew the card that would give us a possible ‘cool move’ (or horrible unwilling possession by a Shab al-Hiri Roach that had gotten loose on campus) for the first Event in the Fall Semester, and set to work.
I sort of bit the bullet on the first Event of the Semester (Welcoming the Students to Campus) and volunteered to narrate the first Scene. At that point, no one else really had a solid idea of what that even meant, and I figured that leading by example would encourage at least one other person toward an idea for a following scene. Honestly, I didn’t really have much in the way of solid ideas yet either, so I basically cribbed from the examples in the game text.
To whit: my character started out with a hate-on for Lee’s character (who had screwed the Theatre Department out of funding for the upcoming year… quite literally, in fact). I knew that Lee’s guy was rampantly bi-sexual (the hermaphrodite thing hadn’t come up yet), and that Dave’s botanist was into the Lads, so I introduced a Scene where the guy-who-calls-the-strokes-on-the-rowing-team (I think he’s the coxman? Funny if so.) stormed into the lobby before the welcoming ceremony would begin and accused both Lee and Dave’s guys, in front of the Chancellor of the College, of taking lascivious advantage of him during his Freshman year. My goal was to discredit the both of them (Dave was pretty much just a target of opportunity that I was pulling into the fray in the hopes of attracting Margie to my banner, but no dice on that front). I staged it the way I did to demonstrate how things would be laid out, how you’d call in other player’s characters, how to involve the Pembertonian NPCs by handing them off to other players, and that I didn’t even have to be IN the scene to be the mover and shaker behind it — the narration indicated that I’d managed to work the poor kid into a froth over his former … ahem… mentors, and then aimed him at them for maximum damage.
Sides were chosen, dice were tossed, and I was destroyed by combined weight of three other players’ dice, losing all my starting Reputation (which I’d bet all in, again as a demonstration of how that worked.)
Price of being the teacher, I guess.
This scene took a LONG time to play out, as everyone tried to figure out how MY reputation was even on line in this, when to bring in enthusiasms and how, yadda yadda.
In the end, Dave had high-dice for narration and brilliantly demonstrated how I could have my Reputation at risk in a scene like that — the student, after fleeing the lobby in tearful shame in the face of the calmly snide expressions of those within, ran to Double-D’s house and, finding no one there, scrawled a note reading “You’ve ruined me!” and blew his brains out my front porch. The Scandal was tremendous.
First death: in the first scene, to Dave. Nice.
I THINK the next scene was actually BEFORE my scene, chronologically, and involved Dave’s attempts to woo, backstage, before the Ceremony, a new ‘student teacher’ for the Semester… or something. I believe he was thwarted by De and Margie, and I just stayed out of it. 🙂
After that, we cut to the after-party for the Faculty, where Margie was trying to get De’s character —
GOSSIP — one of Margie’s Geologist-character’s enthusiasms was GOSSIP — MAN that was annoying! 🙂
— to Dance. This was when Margie revealed to me that she’d been Roached with her first card draw and was playing to her Roach-born command. “Dance in joy.” or something like that. I ended up falling on Margie’s side in this conflict, trying to get ol’ Kitty to loosen up, and got a bit of Reputation back from that (good thing, too, since that student was messing up my front door at that exact moment.)
De had some kind of scene in the Chancellor’s office the next day… something about ‘where did your student assistant for the summer go? He’s missing.” and he revealing to the players that he’d been annoying and not-too-competent and she’d left him in a lime-pit in Greece during a summer field trip. I think she won that one pretty handily, as SHE was also Roached and playing to her master’s command (which I can’t remember).
Finally, Lee jumped us back in time to just after the dancing scene with Margie, out in the garden, trying to seduce Double-D — whom he was quite fond of (and no, he didn’t have the MURUB command — he was just playing his ‘normal’ non-Roached hedonist artist.) I managed to avoid this with the help of fellow-jock Bantam Whaley, who drifted by, interrupting Lee’s guy taking advantage of DD’s drunken stupor, and suggested he and I go looking for coeds “because there’s a lot of fruits around here.”
Word, Bantam. Word.
Thus went the events surrounding the start of Fall Semester. It took us a long long time to get going, so that was the only Event we got through, but we’re playing this Saturday again, and things should move along quite a bit faster, now that everyone has a handle on the rules — Margie fairly cackled with glee at Scene ideas for the next event, the Wine and Cheese Social, and I confess I’ve got a few ideas for my dissolute actor/athlete… his may be a tragic tale of Woe. 🙂
Also, I’ve commenced Wiki-worship of the Roach here.