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Author Topic: Playing Games Drunk  (Read 2447 times)
Steve Dustin
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« on: February 25, 2003, 01:03:30 PM »

or

Tri-Stat: Ken Hite's Black Rome

or

How Sorceror Ruined 90% of RPGs For Me

So my new litmus test for RPGs is "Can I play this game drunk, and still get a great story?" I'm not talking bombed-out drunk (which would be an interesting story in itself, probably titled: "The Day We Threw Steve Out of Our Group") but inebriated enough that you can only get by on the bare minimum of your GM skills, yet the game still produces a kick-ass asskicking story.

Previous Saturday--I'm tapped to GM a one-shot based on a blurb in Ken Hite's Suppressed Transmission (p.20). The gist: Imperial Rome is overtaken by demons. We are to start at 6 pm.

At 2 pm my wife and I have a massive fight. At 3 pm we put our grins on, and go to a rich friend's house in the West Hills. The friend is throwing my wife a birthday party, and proceeds to fill me with margaritas, and my wife with wine and pot. We stumble out at 7 pm. We profess our love for each other at 7:30 pm. I don't make it to the game until 8 pm.

That's right. The GM arrives to his own game both two hours late and drunk.

So we jump through character creation. Of course, I could go into great detail about the characters but what's the point? They were literally stereotypes: the centurion, the senator, the diviner/magician, and the barbarian. They had names that I can't remember now.

They start in Germania. A messenger informs everyone that Heliogabalus has ascended as Emperor and brought the vile religon of Cybele and her Black Monolith to Rome. Legions have been dispatched to take out his enemies. Total debauchery, cats living with dogs, etc.

Ok, so you can see tonight's mission: Destroy the Black Monolith! PCs dutifully head down to Rome. First, they stop at exiled Senator Marcus Persius, who informs them about the specifics. Next they go to Darius's villa just north of Rome. The villa's been abandoned and infested with succubi. Big fight. PCs get some magic items. Continue on their way.

Giant 2-headed vulture attacks them by the roadside. The countryside is littered with the corpses of Heliogabalus's purges. Big fight. Continue on their way.

PCs sneak into Rome, and go bother one of Heliogabalus's henchmen, Gaius Nasica. Get into Big Fight with him and a bunch of legionaires. Continue on their way to the Imperial Palace.

Sneak inside the Imperial Palace through the slave tunnels below the vomitorium. Head down to the dungeon, kill the guard with the buttfloss leather G-string in a Big Fight. Free naked slaves.

Continue on their way. Fight some undead legionaires protecting the pit with the Black Monolith inside. Black Monolith is electrified. Giant 2-headed wolf with tentacles attacks. Big Fight. Heliogabalus shows up and raises more undead in the pit. Centurion climbs side of the pit, and attacks Heliogabalus, throws him on the Monolith. Barbarian travels down some tunnels and meets the true power behind the throne, Cybele. Big fight. Centurion joins him. Senator and diviner find occult scroll to destroy Monolith. Cybele explodes. Senator rules Rome.

All done in less than 4 hours. Include lots of jokes about AC/DC, sign of the "devil horns", butt-floss, and naked slave girls.

As you can see, as a drunk GM, I can do a pretty good impersonation of a video game. But that's not the game I wanted to play. I wanted Roman intrigue. Vile magics. Dark subject matter. What went so horribly wrong?

Warning!: my whacked-out analysis of RPGs follows.

Tri-Stat didn't make it personal for my players. The players weren't connected to the game, and the whole thing was really just a time-killer. Now, most of you will say, GM's fault. But I was loaded. It couldn't have been my fault.

I asked myself in the morning, with a throbbing headache, what if I had run this in Sorceror?

Sorceror would have been closer to the experience I wanted. And I think I would have had that experience even though I was drunk.

First off, here's an actual play of Sorceror I did in December:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=4538

What would Sorceror had done that most other RPGs wouldn't have?

1) It would have involved the players by the Kicker.

Kickers are Sorceror's answer to the question, "How does everyone have equal screen-time in a game?" Because the players want to know what happens next they stay involved. This chucks the "video game" mentality out the window. Game-play now isn't about "accomplishing GM-prescribed mission," but about resolving their own kickers.

2) Rolls are all conflict-based. When you roll dice, something is going to happen. It's not about success/failure, its about outcome.

3) Dramatic tension is provided by putting the PCs power in the hands of  people who don't have their best interests at heart ("demons"). Not only do the players have kickers they're trying to resolve, but now they've got someone they need but who actively opposes them. Tension with a big "T".

4) Sorceror's big advantage over most other RPGs is in the "prep" and "game-play" department. It's a focused part of the game, not some meaningless filler in the "campaigns" chapter. My Sorceror prep was developing a relationship map involving all the NPCs, which PCs plugged into by their kickers. My Tri-Stat prep (or any prep I've ever done for 90% of RPGs) was statting NPCs. Nothing in that prep really gives my game-play direction. This isn't Tri-Stat's fault really -- almost all RPGs suffer from this.

Sorceror knows what it wants to do and how to get there. What do you do with Tri-Stat? D20? GURPS? The answer: "Anything you want!" doesn't help the alcohol-impaired.

So, is this some kind of raving asshole's post about Sorceror? Not really -- most of this stuff I like about Sorceror can be ported easily to other games. What it is, is to point out that most RPGs are this amorphous blob that require a lot of noodling around with to get you "somewhere." D&D3e is a good example of a game that gets you "somewhere" and fast --- hack and slash. That's not saying that it only does that, but expect a lot of "noodling" if you want to get somewhere else. But if you're playing a game that's not gear to get you "somewhere," that needs a lot of noodling, expect inept GMs to give you inept games.

(note: Now, that I've written this up, I guess it  doesn't really say anything ground-breaking for this forum. Still, its probably worthwhile to point out, once again, that system does matter. I'm cross-posting this to RPGnet also)

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=36500

Steve Dustin
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2003, 02:34:59 PM »

Hi Steve,

It took me a little bit to figure out how to respond to the thread, because, ultimately, being drunk or not isn't what you're posting about. You're posting about having "story" emerge (1) from GM-input (whether through prep or improvisation) or (2) from player-input regarding the protagonists (Kickers) plus GM-input regarding stress-points in the setting (relationship map, or rather, one way to do it out of many). The point about the drunkenness, I think, is that #2 does not rely solely on the GM, hence the GM doesn't have to be Mr. Brilliant Knows-How-it-Goes Man during play.

So I agree with you, in full. I don't really know what else to say, actually, except that I reviewed your awesome thread about the Puritan whacked-out hell & brimstone Sorcerer game you ran, and kinda wish you'd run another, more long-term Sorcerer game some time, because I think you and those players certainly showed a taste for it.

Best,
Ron
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2003, 07:15:16 PM »

Sorry about causing you consternation, Ron.

The title was meant as an attention grabber. Poorly thought out.

I've been running these monthly one-shots, and wanted to get it out on record for the people who get my "monthly" e-mails about the game.  This month's one-shot was so dissatisfying to me, I had to figure out why. I wasn't truly drunk, just a little tipsy, but didn't have the faculties to push the game where I wanted it to go.

When I ran the Sorceror game, it was just so effortless.

As for running a Sorceror campaign, you may get your wish. We talked about possible campaigns after the one-shot. I've got two I'm interested in -- an urban noir set in Transhuman Space setting (which, based on this experience will definitely junk the GURPS system attached to it) or player-created setting for Sorceror and Sword. Until then, the March one-shot is octaNe.

Take care,

Steve
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Clay
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2003, 10:09:38 AM »

I'm going to come out and say that being loaded probably did affect game quality. I'm not anti-drinking by any stretch of the imagination (I aspire to build my own lagering house in my back yard), but alcohol consumption does affect the quality of my games.  I limit myself to coffee, tea and soda when I'm running the game, because I have found that even small amount of alcohol impair my ability to keep things on track for the story.

You are correct, however, in your assertion that Sorcerer makes it easier to keep things on track.  There's nothing like getting the players to think of ways to stick it to themselves for inspiring continuity.
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Clay Dowling
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Marco
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2003, 03:42:57 PM »

I have GM Toon Drunk and played Star Fleet Battles *extremely* drunk ('played' being a very strong word). All I can say (and I know this isn't all that on topic): Toon was way better suited to alcohol than SFB ... *way.*

Although I haven't played it, my observation is that while the players might pick up some of the slack with Sorceror (and you can do that with GURPS too, y'know) an impaired state of mind is the *last thing* I'd want for creation of a narrative structure. I suggest you may've gotten better mileage out of Tri-Stat there.

-Marco
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2003, 06:08:46 PM »

Quote

Although I haven't played it, my observation is that while the players might pick up some of the slack with Sorceror (and you can do that with GURPS too, y'know) an impaired state of mind is the *last thing* I'd want for creation of a narrative structure. I suggest you may've gotten better mileage out of Tri-Stat there.


Thanks for the comments, but I'm not following you here very well. I bolded the comments that I'm not quite getting.

The demons and the PC's Kicker force some kind of narrative structure in Sorceror. Whether that structure is any *good* can depend on everyone's sobriety -- but its still gonna be there.

But GURPS and Tri-Stat played as is, isn't gonna give you narrative structure, it's gotta be brought in. I could of course import those rules from Sorceror, but that was my point. You have to bring something to the table to get a game to work up a narrative structure, but the games themselves aren't bringing it.

Also, you have to deal with lots of rules details that do nothing to create that narrative structure, and become baggage. If I only have so much time for game prep, I don't want to have to detail a lot of meaningless statistics, point crunching, or flip through a shopping list of "attributes" to get an effect. I'd rather spend my time on the narrative structure itself.

Of course, game prep has always been a huge issue for me, and is badly ignored in most game design.

Take care, Steve
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