Hello, all, :)
Oh, I am become happy. Happiness has occurred within me.*
Last night, we finally played our fifth session of TSoY. I should tell you right off the bat, every single moment was a high moment in the game, so it's gonna be hard to put forward some highlights, but I'm going to try to, anyway.
Here's good and wholesome Session Three (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19602.0).
Here's oddly frustrating Session Four (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19840.0).
So, highlights. Maybe it'll be a surprise, or maybe it won't, but all but one, they involved the purchasing of new keys. (There were no great buyoff moments, this time, but come to think of it, that double whammy from session three wasn't so much about buying off Key of the Coward, but rather purchasing Key of Unrequited Love.)
Highlight one: recall that my character was imprisoned by Ana's character's tribe leader. Recall that Ana's character has Key of Unrequited Love for mine. So, here's Ana breaking me from prison, and me looking at her and saying, "thank you so much for freeing me, I shall never forget this, my friend". I'm buying Key of Fraternity. Ana turns to me with a fake disgusted look and says, wait, you want us to be just friends? Everyone is looking at us and so seeing what is going on between our two characters. Very cool.
Highlight two: Of course, later, when we needed to refresh Instinct, that didn't stop my character from going behind the shrubbery with hers and going for a quickie. And now I'm thinking, wow, too real. My character loves her character, only "not in that way", except that, yeah, he can sleep with her if she wants. Cool!
Highlight three: that tribe leader from before decides to send some goons other than us to chase down Gerard. Said goons had previously announced loud and clear that the only good Ammenite is a dead Ammenite. Not surprising, as they are Khaleans and there's a war on, after all. Only, my character is an Ammenite, so that's not such a comfortable position for her, what with the unrequited love and all. Heated arguments ensue. Ana storms out of the hut vowing never to return. Key of the Outcast. Perfect. You know how sometimes in RPGs, characters go off on tirades and everyone thinks, cool, good acting, and that's it? Man, Key of the Outcast. She's storming off and she means it. Sweet.
Highlight four: Ana's character, still fuming, goes up to Isabel's character and recounts what has just happened. Isabel is all like "wait, you're gonna be on your own", and Ana goes "yeah, I know, it'll be rough, but I can't agree with where this is going", and Isabel goes, "don't worry, I'll protect you". Key of the Guardian. And we all look at her and nod heavy approval. And here's me thinking, what, D&D encourages party play, but does it really mean anything when characters stay together just because? Man, Unrequited Love, Fraternity, Guardian, these people are tight! You just know that they're going to stay together. These are actual human relationships on the table, on paper, for real! Oh, wait, I need to tell you about the GM's reaction. He sits back with a satisfied smile and says, "ah, cool, new flags", then he just nods to himself, leans forward again and takes notes on his little notebook.
Think PtA. You're supposed to do an adventure TV show about stuff, but in reality, the core story is all about the characters' inner issues and how resolving those transforms them, right? Well, guess what. In this TSoY arc, there's the rats and the Ammeni-Khale war and the traitor Gerard and all that stuff. Can you tell, though, that the core story is all about how these people are forming bonds? Can you tell that it's gonna be about how those bonds grow and mature and are put into pressure and how the characters are going to be transformed by that pressure. Wicked cool!
Some time during the session, we were all talking about exactly this stuff, discussing what was happening between our characters, and someone commented on how much fun this was all being. Here's the GM contribution: "I came to this session, today, eager to see what would happen. This hasn't happened to me in years, and it never happened to me as GM."
Ok, celebrating for its own sake is fun, but pause that, for a bit, while I make a point.
As GMs prepping for games like Sorcerer and all, may people ask here for advice on how to bang players. Many GMs post here in dismay on how they failed to bang their players, then ask for advice on how to improve. Here's something that's not often said in those threads: sometimes, it's the player's fault that he wasn't banged. Read back to my report on our fourth session and check out how the GM managed to hit all my flags and I still didn't get banged because my mind was just elsewhere. Now read back to the highlights above and notice how each and everyone sprang from the GM (or the rules themselves) banging us in some way, through the attitudes of that tribe leader NPC.
The difference is that this time, I already knew that I had to put myself in a frame of mind that would let me pay attention to what was going on at the table. It really is just a little minor detail, but it made for a world of difference in terms of session quality.
Being banged is like going to see a horror flick. You're not going to be scared unless you go in there with the frame of mind that you actively want to be scared. Wanna bang your players? You're not gonna do it unless they are receptive to that.
Right, now back to your regularly scheduled celebratory stuff. :)
You know that part of the Fun Now Manifesto where it says Fun Stuff Every Ten Minutes? You think that's a vague and unattainable goal? It isn't. I came out of the session filled with fulfilment and with a glow about me, and it all still lingers about, in the back of my mind. Ana's words, later at home: "I have as much fun in TSoY as in D&D, only without the pauses between the fun stuff."
This is what playing RPGs should be about! :)
(*) I first read the phrase "I am become happy. Happiness is happening to me." in Andrew Plotkin's review of the IF game Rameses. I've always wanted to feel that way and write about it. This was my chance. :)
I"m so jealous.
...that's it. That's all I have.