Great Games

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Great Games

Postby Black Jack Rackham » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:34 pm

Got to thinking about Dave’s advice for GMing a great 7th Sea game (which is all awesome btw) and I thought maybe it would be helpful to envision what ‘great game’ looks like. Here are some examples I’ve had.

1. Since I mentioned it before, I should give more details about how exactly Dave made the all-fate-witch game so awesome. Before I begin I should say, this game came about as the result of a discussion on the Revenant’s board about primary vs. secondary character and how Fate Witches, while they could be cool, can never serve as a primary character (unlike say, Knights of the Rose and Cross where you could have a party comprised solely of Knights and that’d be awesome). So that’s what I set out to do. Nothing but fate witches (and if enough people were involved, their Guardians, but that didn’t come about in this adventure).

The idea was someone had hired mercenaries to grab up all the Fate Witches in Numa and the heroes had to figure out who. It began with a meeting with the matriarch of the clan then followed with a trip to Church (where Dave, as the acting courtesan with just a touch of fate witch powers managed to embarrass and arouse Cardinal Teodoro Ciosa DURING mass). Directly afterward they were to find out about the attacks, return home to the matriarch, find her missing, and spend about an hour looking for clues.

We got to this point about 3.5 hours into playing and we started at 10pm. When I mentioned the time constraints and how much farther there was to go, Dave said, “We don’t have to go through all that to find out where these mercenaries took [the matriarch]. I can find out where they went in about 5 minutes.”

When I asked him to continue his thought, he simply said, “They’ve been in town for a while, right?”

“Around a week I would guess.”

“Well then they MUST have gone to visit Jenny’s during their wait. And men are notorious for talking in bed…”

“…” (dear god, the man is brilliant)

“We simply go around town and ask…”

Five minutes later we’re back on track, and the adventure only went over by about half an hour.

(Lessons Learned: Trust your players. Give them more control)

2. This next example I’ve also mentioned on the forums, but I think it could use some fleshing out. It took place at the Personal Agendas adventure during TotalCon this year (2013).

I’d already done the first half of the game and had a new group sitting down. They had been very loud nearby at Laura’s table but it sounded like they were having fun so I was expecting some laughs. When I went around asking what each player would like to have their character do, most (three of the 5 total) had nothing to do as this was their very first event with us. So they were content to help the others. One wanted to continue his quest for a patron and the last wanted to get to his background (but it was Eric so who cares ;) ). Before we got to what the patron-seeking character thought he’d be doing, he discovered that he’d instead be fighting a duel for insulting a young lady (this happened at last year’s PA).

Now you may not know this but duels are pretty stale mechanics-wise. It’s just a fight with a pre-destined end. I wanted to jazz it up a bit, but before I could say a word, one of the players (the new folks) shouted across the table at another one (new guy too) and started betting on the outcome. Not wanting to interfere, I let them banter for a bit. Then the third newbie jumped in. Then Eric started egging them on, and before I knew it, they had taken control of the adventure. I became superfluous. For the next hour (at least) they kept things going between themselves with minimal input from me. And more than that, they made sure that everyone was involved. It was so amazingly good, I didn’t want to leave or move for fear of pulling them off track. But on they went, laughing about what they were doing, gently harassing one another. They even told me when to start the duel (rather than the other way around). When he lost the duel (and handily) the other players jumped right in with humorous asides and quips. In the end, we used up the whole two hours and I’d done maybe 5 minutes of the work.

(Lesson Learned: Make sure your players are responsible for their own fun)

3. I have been writing 7th Sea adventures since Aug 2003 (yes this year will be 10 years). I know this because I still have the very first adventure I wrote for it (The Ghost Coach of Imperator Riefenstahl). But the one I’m most proud of is Beauty-ful Dreamers. I think it most closely approximates how I believe 7th Sea should look. And it has everything a great 7th Sea adventure should have, pirates, betrayal, a ship battle, treasure, and a come-from-behind win! I liberally ripped off the plot of Mister Roberts and mashed it with every Errol Flynn pirate adventure.

But the thing I like best about it is, it fairly screams for players to make over-the-top choices. Every scene has something for the players to just go completely nuts and try. And it has never failed to inspire players to do exactly that. By the end, they are fairly chomping at the bit to take on the entire Castillian Armada even though they have no chance to win. It’s glorious to behold.

And the best part about it is it’s only an outline. Each scene is a page or less with only the roughest descriptions of what should (or could happen) so it’s really up to the players to make the magic.

(Lesson Learned: The right adventure does as much to inspire players as you do).

4. The last time I ran 7th Sea for my home group I decided to do something different. Most of the time I write the kind of adventures you’re used to seeing in HoA Action! Adventure! Danger! that kind of thing.

But it occurred to me movies like Dangerous Liaisons and Brotherhood of the Wolf, make for excellent 7th Sea-ish adventures too. So I wanted to make a mystery, social, intrigue adventure with just a hint of swordplay thrown in for good measure. The thing that brought them all together was the impending nuptials of a minor but important noble and a young member of the gentry. This was the scariest part for me. I’d never written in a big mystery and not only was I about to do this, but I was about to throw in nearly 100 NPCs which I’d have to give personalities and motivations. AND I’d have to keep them straight for the length of the campaign. PLUS I needed to keep track of who the players had interacted with and the impression they’d left upon said NPC.

There were some rough moments and the players can attest to the fact that my GMing was significantly different (lots more sitting back and letting players stew AND lots more referring to notes to ensure I didn’t reveal the wrong thing), but by the end I was far more able to play mental juggling while keeping the story going.

The campaign took around 2-3 years to complete and by the end the heroes had figured out all the secrets, learned the bad-guy’s plans (and thwarted them) and finally got the Noble and his bride to the altar (though things didn’t quite turn out the way they’d originally expected).

Now normally, I keep writing adventures until I’ve said everything I wanted to say (and they take as long as they take). But in this case I tried something different. I found a good stopping point (the wedding) and decided just to write to that point (even though I have lots more of the story to tell).

And that’s exactly where we made it to when the players (and I) were starting to get antsy to try a new game.

(Lessons Learned: Push your adventuring chops, you may have to fall back on earlier GM styles but in the end it will be worth it. ANY adventure you have a story for is a story worth telling)
smafdi wrote:STOP BEING SO DARN POPULAR GUYZ SRSLY I NEEDZ MEH GAMEZ TIHS YAER!!!

kenderleech wrote:If the cows were not meant to be ridden, why would they be so close to the chase scenes?
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Re: Great Games

Postby salamanca » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:20 pm

While nearly impossible to do in a campaign like ours, I still think the best games are run from the basis of starting the characters at a point and letting them dictate the direction things go.

We can't do that with this campaign as it makes future sessions nearly impossible to plan with different characters in different sessions later meeting up and half not having had the same experiences.

But in a regular single group AD&D campaign, I once ran a 5 year (weekly) game where all I had was a card file with rough impressions and key stats for NPCs inhabiting the town, a map, and a crate full of random sourcebooks for cities I was using to fill the buildings. (mostly the old flying buffalo stuff) Every session started with my reminding the players where we had left off and asking, "What are you going to do next?"

I never knew where they were going to go, I had some good guesses at times but was never certain what I would need to be running each day. The smart players caught on but the dimmer ones just could not believe how I kept taking their wild plans and turned them back to my adventure no matter what they did. (never realizing the adventure was following them)

For purely great sessions however, my crowning moment may have been a session I ran for Jeremy and a handful of freelancers on the Rapier's Edge project that involved watching a hostage for a mutual friend. That said hostage happened to be Giovanni Villanova was planned. After that, I expected either running their attempt to run away to Kirk, a nice psycho drama in the room where he tries to coerce them all to release him, or releasing him to hunt down his captors and gain a little favor. Instead they opted to steal a ship and sail away with him hoping to honor their original promise AND keep him out of sight. And that session was at least 10 years ago but I still hear about it from those who were there.
I don't mind growing old... but I hate growing up.
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Re: Great Games

Postby Black Jack Rackham » Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:56 pm

Alright, I noticed that all my previous examples were when I was GMing, and I have had more than a few experiences where I have been a player, so lemme add them in.

1. The duel on the mudflats of Avalon in Crimson Valor. Its the Don Miguel story that really started Don Miguel. I'm certain most have heard the basics by now (since everyone in CV repeats it at some point). Just to make the story complete lemme give a short synopsis. Miguel took a duel with a payment of around 36 cents. It was all the three young Jenny's could afford. A man had taken advantage of each of them in some way and since they were unlicenced, had no recourse. He turned out to be a highlander who was a journeyman of the MacDonald school (and this was back when Miguel was an apprentice) Miguel brought a second and found the man drunk and asleep on the banks of the river at low tide. After exchanging pleasantries (and offering the man a chance to sleep it off, which was refused) the duel began. Miguel won (since to first blood, Miguel was way faster) HOWEVER the man didn't stop. Fortunately my second intervened and we managed to take him down.

Now this is where it gets interesting (and in my opinion great). Technically this event is over. I could simply get up from the table and call it quits. BUT I have some other things in mind, and the GM (Frank if I recall correctly) let go of control and simply allowed me (and my second, Verne Wetherholt) to start playing off one another. We decided to cart him off to jail but not before speaking with each of the three Jennies (allowing them their moment to gloat, cast aspersions on his character, or simply weep). None of this was scripted and none of us planned to do this before it actually happened. But it was a great enough moment that it's still talked about years later. (Lesson Learned: the little things which happen between the adventures are really the important things you'll remember later).
smafdi wrote:STOP BEING SO DARN POPULAR GUYZ SRSLY I NEEDZ MEH GAMEZ TIHS YAER!!!

kenderleech wrote:If the cows were not meant to be ridden, why would they be so close to the chase scenes?
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Re: Great Games

Postby Black Jack Rackham » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:37 am

NOTE for this one, I'm not sure the majority of this story comes as a "Great Game" but the ending more than makes up for it, so I'm going to go ahead and share it.

More CV goodness, this one involving more between-the-plot shennanigans and a certain young ne'er-do-well who became quite enamored of Miguel named Sierra. I don't remember the specifics of the adventure but whatever we were doing took us to a small cabin in the woods. As Sierra and most of the players (those who could be sneaky, which Miguel, most assuredly, cannot) searched the cabin, Miguel and one other character remained outside. There we were attacked by a monster which kept us pretty busy.

And that spelled disaster for the players inside as nearly all were among the younger players and they had plenty of downtime to screw around. One thing led to another and very soon Sierra was "shirtless" I don't remember the specifics of how this came about (because she was just as involved with the decision as the others were, maybe if she drops on by she can shed some light on the where's/whyfors), and that devolved into a game of 'keep away' with her clothing.

That was fine enough while I (Mark the player) was busy with other things (namely fighting the big-bad which was part of the purpose of the adventure) and I figured that by the time the fight was over, they'd have had their fill of the game and been ready to move on. How little did I know. When Miguel and the other character entered the cabin, the game had escalated to the point the GM had lost control.

Now as a GM I had a number of ways I'd thought of to bring them back on the rails (because clearly Kara (Sierra's player) had had enough of their antics, which had moved from good-natured fun to something bordering on cruelty), but I wasn't GMing, I was only one of the other players.

One solution I came up with (and the most obvious) was simply to break character and tell them to knock it off. But I really enjoy staying in character with Miguel so I had to come up with an in character solution. And it looked like this.

Miguel walked into the cabin, noticed what was going on and gave everyone playing keep away a baleful look. They, of course, reacted like chastized children do, they quiet down. Then Miguel removed his Knight's Tabard and careful to keep his eyes skyward, affixed it around her shoulders. Kara/Sierra thanked me for my efforts and Miguel replied, "I...and my tabard...are always at your service." At that point I looked at the GM and said, "I believe we were supposed to be searching the house for clues?"

And just like that I'd corralled the wayward children, put the game back on track, and handed control of the game back to the GM. And all in character...

Lesson Learned: Several in this case
1) Take responsibility for your own entertainment. Don't let bad players (or even wayward ones) take your enjoyment away.
2) This game is NOT the old "GM vs. Players" it's cooperative storytelling. Make sure you're doing your part.
3) [like the previous example] HEROISM is as much the small things as the big things.
smafdi wrote:STOP BEING SO DARN POPULAR GUYZ SRSLY I NEEDZ MEH GAMEZ TIHS YAER!!!

kenderleech wrote:If the cows were not meant to be ridden, why would they be so close to the chase scenes?
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Black Jack Rackham
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