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[Pool Scape] Roleplaying introduction for two new players

Started by Christoph Boeckle, October 13, 2005, 11:02:41 PM

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Christoph Boeckle

Hello all!

This afternoon I threw together the Planescape setting (originally for AD&D 2) and the Pool rules, so as to make an introduction to roleplaying for two classmates.

I presented them with a choice of 5 ready-made characters, a rapid introduction to the planar cosmography and gave them a notion of what interplanar portals are and how one can use them. Oh yes, the rules of course. 5 minutes, with an example and they both were ready to go.

I had just a few notes to start off the game and was a bit anxious that the players would just sit back and wait for me to throw stuff at them. I was really happy to find out that I had no reason to be anxious at all.

A few highlights:

  • One player chose his character partly because of the arrogant attitude she had (and traits to support that). He was delighted to use it in play.
    I've hardly ever seen anyone do that before, since usually arrogance is seen as a handicap in negotiations.

  • The same character played a beautiful tune on a magic flute, so as to make the Lady of Sorrows notice her. And lo! Here she comes deeply moved by the music (that's MoV for you). After having sent them on an errand as a test, the Lady smiles at the female PC. (Unbelievable, why did I have her do that? It was appropriate! This situation would not have been possible in D&D I think. The synergy of MoVs and GM input just beats any GM plan, imho.)

  • The two characters decide to free a burning human bound in chains to the floor in the middle of a tavern (making a very hype attraction for that bar). What they didn't know was that this guy had been punished by the Lady... So anyway Ignus (ripped off the Planescape Torment CRPG) runs off. The Lady appears, tells them to get the guy back asap. They could have run off with the guy and let down the Lady of Sorrow (with the Pool you can!), but no, they took risks to stay in good terms with the Lady.

  • Lots of plane walking was happening all over the place. The players had a good time inventing keys to use the portals to other planes (just roll a "1" and be off!)
    Never saw so much plane visiting when playing with the D&D rules, that's for sure. But what's planescape without it?

  • Not one single combat scene was played. One character was an excellent archer, the other was an ice wizard. I mean, you can kill tons with that combination.
    They used the archery skill to shoot Eros's arrows at the server and a girl in a bar so that the young man wouldn't notice them freeing Ignus. The ice magic was used to protect or help the characters at various times.
    Knowing the two guys I would have bet on at least one fight, but no, they even chose to ignore a tavern brawl at the beginning of the game. I don't know what to think of that, but I was surprised the way I like to be.

  • Often, the players would limit their character's actions to maintaint coherence, even though the Pool allowed them to attempt anything.

  • One had already played an RPG once in what seemed to be a pretty railroaded manner, and he was absolutely delighted by the amount of input he could give and how it affected play (both players took more MoVs than dice).

  • As the GM, I just had to flex my "connect two unrelated things to continue play" muscle a few times and each time it gave rise to unexpected but interesting situations.

To finish off, this was one of my better planescape (and even rpg) experiences, and the guys didn't have a clue about what the game was before showing up!

Ah, I'm hyped again thanks to this marvelous system!
Friday evening there will be another Poolscape session, but with my regular players. Some serious Planescape-frustration exorcism is on its way!

Mike Holmes

Hey Christoph,

What experience did the players have before this game? Gamingwise.

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Christoph Boeckle


Well both had heard about roleplaying, they knew that participants played characters, except one who was the gm, supposed to provide the background.

One of them had never actually played, the other had played once some kind of homebrew anime game (a mix of Dragonball Z and Saint Seya) that seemed to have been quite poor on the player input side.

They do have a background concerning fantasy (they would have read or seen LotR, read comics, probably played some computer games like Zelda, etc.) that  probably helped them grasp the setting a bit faster than someone without.

Mike Holmes

QuoteOften, the players would limit their character's actions to maintaint coherence,
How would you define coherence here (no, I'm not trying to enforce the Forge meaning of the term)? Can you give an example? Basically were there ever points at which it would have made sense for the players to have "done anything?" such that it would have voided "coherence?"

My theory is that it's only experienced RPG players who have been trained to try to take advantage of other systems that would ever have a problem with this. That the system, played by newbs, doesn't have this problem because it simply doesn't have any part of it that tells the players that it would in any way make sense to "abuse" it in this way. Does that match your observations?

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Christoph Boeckle

The sorceress of ice was a member of the society of sensations. I said I wouldn't play too much on this aspect in this game, but the player still took the general idea clearly into account on a number of occasions.
For example, they stumbled upon a leprechaun smoking a pipe atop an ivory mushroom. The player of the ice sorceress took up the cue and had his character ask the leprechaun if she could taste the pipe. The player then decided that it was some kind of pot and he played the next half hour with his character completely stoned, at one point even renouncing on doing something sensible, just because it didn't feel right to him. I don't remember what exactly it was, it was definitely not central to our story.

So what I thought was great was that the player used the background of his character to bring some element into the game that actually handicapped his character in one sense. Of course, the player was still having lots of fun with this contraint and he was certainly not handicapped in his ability to affect the game.

I rarely see new players deliberately do things that hinder the effectiveness of their character. Now I don't know if it's just the player who is like that, but I guess that the fact that the rules allowed him to succeed in any way he'd like afterwards to "catch up", gave him the assurance needed to make his character vulnerable for a while.
In D&D (the game I played intensively a few years back), there would have been negative roll modifiers, and just because of that, the players would usually not even think about it.

So this could actually precisely match your last question. With me being the more experienced gamers importing old ideas and habits of gaming and projecting them on the new players, then being completely amazed at their attitude when it's me who is stuck with old patterns, not they!

Thanks for bringing up this interesting idea.


QuoteAs the GM, I just had to flex my "connect two unrelated things to continue play" muscle a few times and each time it gave rise to unexpected but interesting situations.
Can you expand on these a bit? My curiosity is piqued, I guess...
- Joshua Wehner

Christoph Boeckle

Sorry for the late reply!

Just a quick example: the players wanted to play some more. On one hand their characters were in "good" terms with the Lady of Sorrow, on the other, they wanted to go have a drink.
Okay... how about introducing a situation where quenching the thirst will lead to an event that will put the first statement in difficulty?
That's where they freed Ignus, who had been punished by the Lady... (I refer to that a few times in my first post).

But the point is, I had to do that a lot more before using the Pool. Now the players nearly resolve these problems by themselves all the time (as the Cthulhu game is supposed to show on the next paragraph), thanks to creative use of MoVs. It works far smoother than before and often I don't really realize it happened. That's why I mentioned that I only had to flex the "connect two unrelated things to continue play" muscle a few times.
Even now, when the players need the direct GM input, they can freely bounce off of it and start improvising again. That's the "unexpected but interesting situations".
I love this collaborative creation.

Here's the Cthulhu example:
The characters had to find a meteorite. Stumbling across the backcountry, the players introduced, quite by chance and by adding each a bit, that this region had known an ancient native-american tribe, proficient in astronomy and constructing monuments. Thanks to a few MoVs, we quickly found a particular configuration of stone circles.
At this point, we had completely lost focus with the meteorite thing, right?
But we came back to it by establishing that this ancient tribe could predict the fall of a particular type of meteorite thanks to their stone circles. Mix in Cthulhu Mythos, growing madness, cultists, and we were back on track with a plot more complex than what was initially planned by the GM!
(Actually, as the game played out, our characters didn't get the chance to check how close the connection between the stone circles and the meteorite had a role with the cult. They died too early, but that's another issue! More on that game here.)

Hum, I should make an effort to be clearer about what I say. I realize that the sentence you quoted doesn't really mean anything by itself. Does this expansion make sense of the idea, now?

Feel free to ask more if you find other cryptic statements!