After nine months of dancing around the idea, I finally got a chance to run a game for the ‘geeks’ out in NYC. It came about in a funny way.
Their main GM has been gone (theatre work out of town) for awhile and has just returned. Talks as to what to play/run have commenced, and Kate mentioned that Keeley was wondering if I had any thoughts on the subject, and if I’d bring em along to share at a game-day thing on Sunday while I was in town.
The method of conveying this information left me thinking “I should run something.” I prepared to run something. (Specifically a run of the Freebooters scenario I’ve run before, using The Shadow of Yesterday, which I love, but haven’t touched since the last time I ran Freebooters.)
I chatted a bit with Keeley, and got that it was more of an informational chatting thing over card and board games. Ahh. Okay. I emailed myself my prep (to have for some other time) and unpacked all but one printed-out copy of the rules, ostensibly to leave with Keeley or Jay (their main GM) to check out.
Conversations over the weekend led me to say “Hey, I want to run something: pirates and zombies — who’s in?”
Response was good. Too good, maybe: six people showed up to play for a game where I had 4 pregens. Keeley and Kate made up their own people, of which I think Kate’s was more successful, just because I had more time to think about how to include her character in the scenario.
Everyone showed up. We played.
The Good:
Lots of fun. I laughed really hard. There were some funny scenes, and some REALLY funny scenes.
Several folks noticed parts of the system they really liked. Jay dug the Harm mechanic, and Timothy really got it well. Everyone seemed to dig Keys and Pools and Gift Dice and how they all worked. (I particularly liked Matt’s decision to give me a LOT of Gift Dice to use against Rob in a conflict, just because he thought it would be really cool if the witch of Rope Hill got what she wanted in the conflict. That is a can of awesome — player’s diving in and saying “This story would kick ass. I’m going to invest in making that happen.”)
It seems like a small thing, but everyone got the rules. Within the time it took to run the session (6:30 to 10:30) we’d done normal conflicts, multiple Bringing Down the Pain exchanges, bought new abilities, pools, and Secrets, taken Harm, used up Pools… even Kate (who does not usually think in terms of System stuff) pointed out a logic-error I was making in a major conflict; and observation that really helped straighten the whole thing out.
The Bad
I hadn’t touched the rules in awhile, and didn’t want to reference them much at the table (only did one time), and as a result I messed up a couple scenes a bit, notably the one with the Witch of Rope Hill, which was funny, but a bit confused and didn’t get straightened out until near the end. That shouldn’t have happened.
The group was too big. Five would have been okay. Six was too many.
The Ugly:
I didn’t have time, with everyone there, to give equal attention to al the players, and those at the far end of the table suffered for it. Apologies to Jay and Keeley and Matt, specifically. 🙁 With that many folks, I would rather have played without a table. I think it would have worked better.
The new-ness of the system didn’t give me a chance to work some of the characters Keys into the scenes well enough. In other runs, folks have hit 3 or 4 advances in a night — in this run, only about half the people at the table even got one advance, even though they covered just as much ground. Part of that was…
“Don’t Split the Party.” This is a die-hard, carved-in-stone tenet of that particular gaming group (due to the fairly bloody nature of most of the game systems they play normally). The group’s normal GM went to great lengths to come up with IC reasons to get everyone working together, and within a few minutes of leaving the ship, five of the six characters were ganging up on various challenges that were meant to be fairly tough for one guy and reasonably challenging for two. They steamrolled pretty much everyone — the Witch of Rope Hill was the only thing that took them more than a few minutes of game play to crush. Interestingly, the grouping up ALSO cut into amount of XP the people were getting from hitting their keys, simply because people didn’t have a chance to hit them — Key of the Wanted Man is hard to make ‘important’ when you’re in a big group, for example. Very interesting.
All in all: A fun time. I’ve already played with most of these guys before, and I had a great time, found some fun moments, and basically walked away with a big grin and a strong desire to try it all again, but with more prep and a more personalized set up.