Sunday, July 09, 2017

The Only Warning You Are Going To Get

You might want to copy this down somewhere.
There may come a day where you’ll want to paste this into your text box or send this via PM or FPM.

“Hi there. There is a thing that I want to tell you that may have slipped your mind.
I don’t know you.

See. That’s kind of important.
 I don’t necessarily know your sex or your ethnicity.
I don’t know your orientation or whether you are short or tall.
You might even be a “Bot” for all I know.

And I’ve got news for you.
You don’t know me either.
You have no way to know if I’ve got a Nazi flag on my wall
You have no way to know if I’ve been taking my medication.
You cannot knowledgeably speak to any of my motivations or attitudes.

We are, not to put to fine a point on it, STRANGERS.

Now, that being said, My CHARACTER may not like your character much. May consider them a stumbling block to most of their plans and might consider taking them off the count before starting any serious enterprise.  The fact that I might want to kill your character might even be a subtle compliment.

After many years of this kind of gaming, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that In Character Soap Opera is almost always good.  By this same token, Out of Character Soap Opera is almost always bad for chat games and larps.  It wrecks games. It wrecks friendships. It divides communities.

I make an effort to keep my attitudes and the attitudes of my character separate.
In fact, generally speaking, It’s one of the reasons why I tend to avoid the foyer altogether if I can help it.
I’m not averse to making friends out of character. Don’t misunderstand me.

But I am dead set against making enemies out of character. If you have ANY sense at all, you should feel much the same.

This is not to say that all people feel this way. Certainly, I have witnessed people being bounced from games for being raging assholes, racists, sexists, and militant jerks of every stripe.  But that’s their business. and if they want to be that way, they are certainly entitled to be that way. Far away from here.

Look, all you need to know about me is that I am here to play a game and have fun.  If we can agree on that we’ll be fine.
If we can't, I am going to decide you are a troll, or mentally ill, or quite possibly both.
If that IS the case, I am not going to conspire behind the scenes against you. I'm simply going to have nothing to do with you altogether.

I've got drama of my own. I don't need yours.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

K.I.S.S. (Keep it short stupid.)

You would be surprised at how much time you can waste doing a chat game.
Seriously. it’s astonishing

Picture a simple premise. There are bad guys. They are probably doing bad things. They seem to be headquartered in this particular spot. You may want to go round there and fuck up their shit.  You may even want to plan such an excursion. GO!

Any Gm with any experience will be able to tell you that your players will take as much of the game session as you let them to plan the assault. And usually, it’s a plan that goes by the wayside in 2 minutes time.  This is par for the course, and not necessarily something to get upset about.

But in a chat game, these long planning sessions are far longer. All the discussion is typed and usually from scratch. The number of players who have their gear and their act together from the jump are so rare as to be near mythical.

And as any chat ST can also tell you, Even for things that seem simple and straightforward, they can bog down. and of course, Combat tends to bring things to a screeching halt. I know it does for me both as a player and an ST. After 3 separate versions of my game of choice, I find myself still having to go, “What’s the roll for that again?”  Thank God for Searchable PDF’s.

So my advice for the prospective Chat ST is fairly simple.
Don’t plan a 6-hour jaunt. Because it might run 10 hours and by the time it’s all over, everyone will be crabby and tired. Most of all, you!

Chat games are a strange animal insofar as they run 24/7/365 but a plot may take weeks and months to resolve.  Since this is the case, it is incumbent for you to build your plots to be small and modular.

Instead of planning a clash between your PC’s and some antagonist that will take ages to resolve, why not break it down into much more manageable bits.
Say my players are having trouble with a particular street gang. And maybe they want to go around to that one place where they are and put paid to them and whatever supernatural assistance they may be getting on the side.  Well, that might work as a long game session but it could also work okay if you stretch it out some.

Let’s say I’ve got some guys pushing some Meth in my city. and maybe, my players being all civic minded and shit, decide to shut them down.

1) Getting a line on those dudes. (This game session could involve going around to some biker bar and asking some questions. Could be social. Could be a fist fight. Could involve undercover cops trying to get the same sort of intel.

2) Getting on the inside. ( Decently sized criminal organizations rarely put all of their eggs in one basket. It ain’t like New Jack City where they all have their stuff in one building in the projects. They might have a number of places that they use to hang out in, that they use for a distribution hub, They’ll likely have a lab, and a backup for the lab. They might even have “Bank” of some sort.  So stomping them all in one shot isn’t likely. You can hit one place only to have another pop up in less than a week. You can actually make a target for the player to go around to at least once every couple of weeks. Rather than play whack-a-mole, you might have to make your way inside the organization in order to find out all of its limbs and vital organs.  This will certainly give the social types something to do.

3) The Get Back  (Criminal organizations that come under attack are not going to take it lying down. They’ll want to know who’s causing them problems. They’ll lean on people in the neighborhood where something happened. They lean on anybody in the police force who is on their payroll. They’ll send round their troubleshooter (Who may be supernatural too.)  And if they can find out who might be causing them troubles, they will see what they can do to stick a spoke in your wheels. Like maybe filling you so full of lead that you could use your dick for a pencil. Or maybe coming around and firebombing your apartment.

4) The Fist in the Gauntlet (At some point, you have two options. (A) There’s some supernatural backing and if you locate THEM and wax them, it will likely break the back of the criminal organization. or (B) there is NO supernatural element guiding the bad guys, but this means that the bad guys will NEVER go away completely and you can feel free to have them merge with other criminal groups and/or hunter groups and try to evolve with the threat arrayed against them.  Option 1 is the kind of option that might involve going after the bad guys in their extremely dug in operation. (Might be good for a large group of players)  Option 2 means that those guys become a permanent fixture of the game, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Heck, some supernatural nasty might decide to try to take them.  It might even be one of your PC’s

The key here is scaling. Have more than you need at any given time.  Plan a short session, and if it goes quickly, give them a little more.  Keep it broken into chunks. If you start small and scale up, That’s always easier than creating something epic and having to water it down.

And why do I suggest that you keep things so short?
There are many reasons.

Plan small, because maybe you aren’t the most patient GM and if you don’t want to spend all day on the game you’ve prepared, this can be the best way. You don’t actually want to run a scene that runs so long that you don’t have the energy to make your after action notes.

Plan small because real life will fuck you. Someone may be called away in the middle of combat. YOU might be called away in the middle of combat. You can lose a couple of players to a particularly nasty thunderstorm in some far off portion of the country. It sounds all well and good to “Bubble” a scene because a particular scene has gone so long,  but getting those very same players together in order to continue that scene a couple of days later will be as hard as trying to get a health care bill through Congress. And after a week or so, those players are going to want to get on with their lives.

Plan Small because you won’t always get the same players for each section of the story. Some players will be investigators. Some will be social monsters. Some will be combat wombats. But you may not get the same ones each time.  It’d be a shame if the session you plan to have the big knock down drag out fight in, turns out to have exactly no combat characters show up.

Stepping on the gas

Combat and certain types of scene work are time intensive and frankly, that’s okay.  However, there are times when you simply need to speed things along. Mediation is a good way to do that.  You throttle back from the IC situation after you’ve had a good look around. Your players probably would have been okay if the dice roller bot hadn’t decided to bend a few of them over the coffee table and have its nasty way with them.   You can ameliorate this somewhat via Mediation.  Like, “Okay guys, at this point, the bad guys would like to break off the fight and run for it, so maybe everybody takes about 4-5 level of lethal and those dudes limp away and your guys get to limp away too.  Is that amenable to you? “  Sometimes it will be, sometimes it won’t.

You can always get cinematic too. Allow each player to describe one cool thing that their player can do in the ensuing fracas and then wind it up as best you can from that. DO NOT do the lame fuck around of having the power NPC’S show up and make everyone look like fat sleepy toddlers. That’s bullshit right there. Cinematic just means, you ran out of time to chuck dice around, it doesn’t imply any moral failing, so don’t fucking punish the players ok?