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Author Topic: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play  (Read 10794 times)
Robert Bohl
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« on: November 24, 2004, 08:16:13 AM »

You can see the Story Hour for my first session of this chronicle at the chronicle's website.  I've been told that Story Hours are not popular to post here, so I'll get to the crunch so to speak.

I have to say that after my experiement with open session design, I don't think I'll be doing it again.  It either doesn't play to my strengths as a GM, it doesn't work right at my table, or I've done something fundamentally wrong that I can't wriggle out of.

I don't want you to think it didn't wind up as a good session.  I think it did.  My players (all but one anyway) really enjoyed it and even the one who had problems still overall liked it.

Historically I've prepared for games by writing out a fleshy outline for the session, then diverting as needed.  I think that without that bedrock to work from, I get panicky.  I felt out of my depth and I honestly had a knot in my stomach for some of it.  I think I threw more supernatural stings out there than I would have had I been prepared.  

The one player who had a complaint felt that the supernatural had been revealed too quickly.  He wanted a build-up for his PC.  I don't think that had anything to do with open session design problems though, or my poor dealing with it.  It was just something I'd decided . . . the supernatural would exert itself in a strong and obvious way, though the explanation for it wouldn't necessarily be clear or make sense.

--

A brief outline of the game:  Ricky and Harris's kickers really drove the game (and that was nice, I will probably reuse Kickers if I can figure out a good way to do so).  I got Manny's too late to think about or use, so I used a bang (his cousin getting shot) that I had planned for him.  There were really two plots that were united by the Tarot thing.  There was the haunted computer and the mask and the vampire (though it may not be a vampire, and they certainly don't have much reason to think it's one in character) stalking Ricky.  The vampire plot is a thread for next time: they know his name and believe he killed a bouncer.  They even sort of know what he looks like.  The computer thread got dealt with (the mask was destroyed, and its evil was evidently linked to the evil in the computer), but the antagonist who wanted the mask is still out there.
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Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2004, 08:58:51 AM »

You've got a lot of moments in the story where one of the player's characters says or does or just thinks something that is intensely strange and without explanation.  Example:  Ricky and Manny notice Harris has brought the mask, and ask him why, and he says he doesn't know.  It didn't even occur to him.

It's not clear from the story write-up:  Were those moments created by the players, or by you?
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2004, 09:00:16 AM »

That specific example was something I injected.  The point where Ricky said that they wanted a table for four . . . that was a joke by the player and we decided it would be something that felt "right".
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Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
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Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
Robert Bohl
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« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2004, 09:03:24 AM »

I should add: the feel was not, "The GM is making my character do this," but rather the mask as an NPC, injecting its will and using its powers.
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Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
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Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2004, 09:25:51 AM »

Can you explain what you mean by "open session design"?

I see your use of the term kicker. Does that mean that you were using Sorcerer methodology? And then using the WoD system?

Did you do any prep at all? This would not be the Sorcerer method, and, while I know some people completely wing it like this, it's not something that's generally recommended by anyone I know. You should always do some prep.

Or was this just some experiment to see if you could run a session sans prep?

Mike
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2004, 09:29:52 AM »

I started a thread here about this.  I was trying to do an open-session-design style for the first game of my new chronicle.

Ordinarily what I would do would be to create an outline of what I expected to happen, fatten it out with details, then diverge as need be.  E.g.,

* The editors give the PCs a story assignment to check out this warehouse that's going to be torn down that has a big ugly face painted on the side that's considered a local landmark.
 * It's actually a haven for some shadow-beasts that will kill anyone who gets in from a belated wasting sickness if they get to touch you.
* If the PCs research it they will find out. . .

And so on.

This time, instead, I gave myself a mood, a theme, a very basic outline, kickers and a few bangs.
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Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
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Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
Trevis Martin
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« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2004, 11:04:25 AM »

Wow Rob, tough experience.

I think you might be making some mistaken assumptions.  Correct me if I'm wrong.

I rarely go into play without a solid idea of the situation at large as developed through a backstory.  That's one of my major inputs into the game as a GM.  That and good solid NPC's that are in action trying to achieve what they want.  I can imagine it would be tough to do that stuff in a vacum.

Using kickers and bangs and r-maps and letting the players take the story where they think its interesting doesn't mean not prepping anything at all.  It just means you don't decide the characters decisions beforehand.  You come up with a solid situation up to the point of play and NPC's and any other setting material you need.

Anyway, I'm glad the kicker stuff seemed to work out for you.  

Trevis
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2004, 11:17:12 AM »

Judd (Paka) has encouraged me to keep posting here and throw up my next outline to compare and contrast the old style to the new.  I think I will do that.
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Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
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Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2004, 01:33:32 PM »

Well, hold on, two things that I still am not sure about. He said he did have some bangs and a basic outline, Trevis. Rob, just what did you have prepared?

Doesn't sound like any less than I usuall head in with. But it's hard to tell for sure.

Second, again, what system were you using? If you were using WOD, you were "swimming upstream" unless your players are all pretty much into narrativism when playing other primarily sim games.

Mike
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2004, 01:39:34 PM »

Mike, I was using the new World of Darkness game (aka nWoD or WoD 2.0).

As far as the players' tendencies, I'm not really sure how to classify them.  They are largely ignorant of GSN, and most of them would probably scoff at it.  Some of them have limited experience with the games popular here (Judd has run Harris's player on a Dust Devils game and a Dogs in the Vinyard game along with me).  Most of our time together as players we've played D&D 3.0 or 3.5 (and with two of them, earlier versions of D&D).  We played some 2nd Edition Vampire stuff, as well as Trinity, Aberrant, and innumerable other systems.

I will replicate my notes-sheet that I went into this game with on my next post.
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Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
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Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
Robert Bohl
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« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2004, 01:41:51 PM »

1st session notes

Kicker call:  Give me something that happens to your character that is potentially supernatural, to which he must react.

Kicker Response:

Harris:

Crap. It's after three. Getting a little old for these pub crawls. My eyes feel astringent. Wish smoking would get banned in bars here like in the City. At least I can sleep in. Gotta have some water, or I'll feel like royal hell tomorrow, er today. Funny. I always lock my door....Holy shit! Look at the mess! I've been robbed!...Wait, TV's here, DVD player, computer...what is my computer doing? it looks like it's downloading something...those characters look like cuneiform; what the fuck!?

Perhaps he's finally eBayed something real, and the loser of the bid is a being of supernatural might.  It has ransacked his home looking for the artifact and not found it.

Ricky:

Ricky is hanging out at an all ages club.  He is feeling a little tired so he goes to the bathroom to splash some cold water on his face.  He is alone in the bathroom.  He wets his face and looks in the mirror.  Behind him in the reflection he sees a teenage boy staring at him with a knife stuck in his stomach and stab wounds surrounding the blade.  Blood comes out of his mouth.  Ricky spins around to help the boy only no one is there.  Ricky looks back in the mirror and sees the boy is still there.

The young man Ricky sees might be a vampire who was Embraced by a guy who was his "lover" before turning him.  The kid was ghouled first and kept in a state of ever-childhood.  I think that the kid's mentor is gone now, but he hunts the same places Ricky frequents, and has noticed and liked his flair. He's considering fucking with the guy for fun, or maybe taking him in.

--

Bangs:

Manny's hanging out with one of his cousins, and there's a drive-by.  The cousin takes a hot one to the head and is bleeding to death, and the cousin's girlfriend, through a veil of tears, insists he take them in the Freak Jersey van to La Sagrada Joven del Jardin (the Sacred Girl of the Garden), a peri-teen "saint" from the Latin ghetto that supposedly heals people.

Ricky meets a girl he used to know, Carmen.  She went to high school with Manny and was a popular girl who, unlike most, was nice to him and defended him when people gave him shit.  She's eighteen now, and turning tricks.  She's obviously been beaten badly, and recently.  She asks Ricky for a cup of coffee, and breaks down and tells him her whole terrible past, mentioning the guy who beat her.

Harris's ex-wife is dating a new guy and her behavior is changing radically.

All of the commuters on a particular subway car have been struck semi-catatonic.

A woman who's under investigation for murder says that something ate them.  Shades of Susan Stewart.

Our hero finds warnings about some terrible threat recorded in his own voice that he doesn't remember making.

Recordings of conversations our heroes thought they were having privately start turning up

PCs are run off the road and left for dead after publishing something innocuous-seeming.

PC finds a journal in his own handwriting detailing things that he doesn't remember happening.

One of the PCs are suddenly being treated like a leper.  People are avoiding contact with him, giving him strange looks, etc.

Suddenly, the faces of everyone around you transform into those of twisted, hideous beasts.

A long-term friend treats you (literally) like a stranger.

--

Theme: Knowledge can be deadly.

Mood: Unreasoning horror.

(that is, terrifying things that are in part that way because they defy sane thought or logic)

--

Act One: Characters are introduced to the supernatural in an undeniable way.

Act Two: Characters process this, possibly trying to get a story published.  Whatever their reaction is, it will hopefully involve interacting with the world of the supernatural.  Consider Bangs to involve them more if they seem disinterested.

Act Three: Characters discover that the World of Darkness, when pushed, pushes back.

--

Setting notes to touch on:

Detail the work environment.  Try to let all the coworkers get "seen".

Try to involve Ricky's grandma and Manny's mom, as they are their touchstones on the supernatural.
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Game:
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Shows:
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
TonyLB
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Posts: 3702


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« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2004, 03:05:04 PM »

Interesting.  Your Bangs seem more like... well... Color, to me.  

On some level, those sorts of wierd happenings are just what people in this sort of story should expect.  A train full of people going semi-catatonic doesn't actually require a response from them.  Especially if the train still goes to the subway stop they want.

Did they drive forward the Kickers in practice?  If so, could you give an example?
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2004, 05:19:40 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
On some level, those sorts of wierd happenings are just what people in this sort of story should expect.  A train full of people going semi-catatonic doesn't actually require a response from them.  Especially if the train still goes to the subway stop they want.

Right, true.  What I should have said and didn't was that if I used these I would personalize them.  So for the train example, it'd be something that happened on a train they were on, or perhaps which happened to them along with the other passengers, or to someone they loved.
Quote
Did they drive forward the Kickers in practice?  If so, could you give an example?

To tell you the truth, I didn't use them except for Manny's drive-by, which I used as his Kicker.  The Kickers themselves kept me busy.

The problem was I never knew where things were going and I found myself kicking out more examples of the supernatural, and more overtly, than I probably would have had I had an outline prepared.

The other big problem, besides me foundering and putting out too much supernatural stuff or too obvious stuff was the constant sense of unease I had where I always felt like things were going to sputter out.
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Game:
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Shows:
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
TonyLB
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Posts: 3702


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« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2004, 05:52:10 PM »

So your problems are that you didn't know where things were going, and you didn't have the control to assure that things didn't sputter out.  Yes?

If those two items are deal-breakers for you then, yeah, you probably aren't going to like 'open session design'.  I read that (perhaps incorrectly) as placing much more of the responsibility for making the story fun in the players.

The thing is, if you give away all that responsibility then there's the very real chance that your players won't live up to it.  They can tell a really boring story.  And if you're being good about not stepping in and taking over at the first sign of boredom then you'll just have to sit there and be bored and disappointed along with them.  

I can speculate, based on the Story Hour, but you're the only one who will know:  Did you give the players enough power that they could have screwed up and told a crummy story?  Or did you reserve for yourself the power to make sure that it went in a direction you liked, even if everyone else was dragging the other way?
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2004, 05:43:44 AM »

It's a good question, and I'm not sure of the answer.  Let me answer it indirectly and let you draw your own conclusions.  When things were spinning their wheels, I often goosed it with freaky shit happening.  I also spent a lot of time saying, "So what are you doing now?" though I usually do that even when I have stuff planned.

What I didn't do, and what I don't do even when I have an outline, is have some NPC pop up and say, "Okay, this is what you have to do now."

(Well, okay, I did that sometimes but only when it made sense for the situation--such as when the characters were "cops" in an Arcana Unearthed game for example.)
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Game:
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Shows:
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
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