Posts Tagged ‘Imperiet’

The Empires Strike back – also, Geiger counts again.

I am currently teaching a group of 9th and 10th graders roleplaying games (though I’m interpreting it very broadly, and including a lot of board games). This week, I had three (almost – more like 2½) whole days – so now was the chance to do something with a longer scope than the usual three hours every Monday. So Tuesday, I had them play Geiger counter, while Thursday, I had three of them run a short story from either Imperiet or Imperiet 40k each, with the others rotating between the three games.

Zombies in inner Copenhagen, and Werewolves in Miller’s Hollow

Tuesday, they played Geiger Counter. Turned out we had just about enough time to do it, then talk about it afterwards.

One group started out with a great idea: to convert Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow into a Geiger Counter game. That group had most of the strong players in the class, so I left them to their own devices, and they seemed to do pretty well.

The other group consisted of mostly inexperienced and weak players, so I decided that I needed to nurse them quite a bit. In the end, I was faced with a dilemma: to what extent should I coach and coax them into playing the game how I thought they should play it, and to what extent should I allow them to play on their own, and experience the game on their own. I think I was rather controlling; on the other hand, I feel like it was my duty to make sure everyone was having fun, and when  someone fails at setting a scene in Geiger Counter, they risk taking the story down a road that’s unsatisfying for someone else, and can leave a story thread hanging unresolved and unresolvable. So I felt justified at the time, though I have since been wondering whether I was doing it wrong.

New hope

For Thursday, I had asked three of the more promising students to prepare three different short scenarios: Averheim Averessen by Johannes Busted Larsen from Imperiet, and Hendes Mørke Skønhed by Morten Greis and Under my Hive by yours truly from Imperiet 40k.

Hendes Mørke Skønhed went very well, as I knew it would. First of all, I had given it to the strongest of the GMs: a guy who’s big and mature, and is doing a performance line here – so I knew he could do both the whispering and the screaming, the two things that, to my mind, makes the scenario great and lifts it over a mere dicefest. It’s a scenario that uses some cheap tricks to great effect: though it is not really a “semi-larp,” it assigns in-game effects to how you act at the table. At times, you need to be quiet, or more aliens will arrive, at other times, you need to scream and make gun noises to get dice. It makes for a great effect, and I wasn’t particularly surprised when all my students seemed to have enjoyed it.

Averheim Averessen went pretty well as well. This scenario lives off of stress and confusion. It should be played as semi-larp, with everybody doing something all at once. The scenario instates real-time limits to its scenes, and asks for hectic activity within these time limits. Add to that that the action is often completely ridiculous, and it is a sure comic hit.

And finally, Under My Hive. I have a very ambivalent relationship to this scenario. As far as I know, it only got played once at Fastaval that year. On the other hand, that group apparently really enjoyed it. I have run it once myself, last year at around this time, when Hyggemester David asked me to put it up as an intro scenario for Hyggecon. I think people enjoyed it, but I didn’t get a whole lot of feedback. My group certainly went ok.

So, it was with mixed feelings I gave it over to a student to run. And unfortunately, he didn’t quite get it – and his first group of players didn’t, either. Under my hive is a story telling  game. The game revolves around a Russian roulette motif, but the real game is the memories the players have to tell every time they get the gun, asking them to explain why this town is worth fighting for, why they hate their opponents, or how they have made the town less attractive to the opponents. It’s a rather cerebral exercise, and if you aren’t used to telling stories in roleplaying, it can be difficult. And so, the first group played it as a Russian roulette game, and were done within half an hour.

The second group, however, got it. They didn’t finish within the hour and 20 minutes they had – which means they must have been telling a lot of stories. This second group contained some of the stronger players, and I’d made that group from the people I thought would appreciate the game. It didn’t play in the third round, because there weren’t four people who hadn’t tried it yet – the others were played with three players instead of four, something which is not ideal, but which is doable. That is much more difficult in this scenario, where you are supposed to have two pair sitting across from each other.

Anyway. Hurrah for the two Empire anthologies. There are a couple of scenarios that I’d like to try myself, and some I’d like to run with these kids – and it’s great to know there’s a backup plan available.

Ps.: If you wonder why I skipped Wednesday, we had only half a day, so we played games. One group had something to finish up, while the rest played Shadows over Camelot. They didn’t have a traitor and won comfortably, so they need a traitor next time to keep them humble, methinks…

 

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The obligatory post-Fastaval post

Everybody and their aunt seems to have made a post of their thoughts about what happened at Fastaval. Having been busy, I haven’t gotten around to it, till now.

The Empire 40k

This year marked my début as scenario-author, on a contribution for the anthology “The Empire 40k”: “Under My Hive.” So, I decided that this year’s GMing choice would be the anthology. It ran Thursday and Saturday at 9 o’clock (brrr!) and knowing that I have a tendency to get to bed later and later during a Fastaval, I chose to run it Thursday. As it turned out, I was one of two of the authors to run it that morning, and so, Kristo asked me to run the start-up for it that morning. I was more than a little surprised when I realised we’d be starting no less than 10 groups that morning (And, as I recall, we missed less than a handful of players).

I’d chosen to run The Interrogation, Space Hulk: Her Dark Beauty, and Under My Hive. In the end, I ran the first two (more on that later).

My group of players consisted of one author, and three young players. Two of the youngsters seemed like very decent players; the third had a tendency to dominate, and wasn’t the greatest player. In particular, I made the mistake of giving him exactly the character he wanted in The Interrogation: the violent one. I felt myself avoiding him, because he kept on leading the game on to a very bloody path, when the depravity of the Interrogation can take so many forms. I didn’t feel we really attained what had attracted me in The Interrogation; that multifaceted story of fall.

Space Hulk went much more according to what I had hoped. We whispered and screamed, the players died in spades, and only won when the second to last player gave his life to help the last one escape with the Power Armour. Epic!

Paradoxically, while I enjoyed Space Hulk far more than The Interrogation, My players (who had all wanted to play the Interrogation, and were more ambivalent about the other two) had enjoyed The Interrogation more. This might have had something to do with the fact that I was measuring my experiences against the written texts.

And, by the end of the day, I hadn’t played my own scenario. I had chosen not to play it based on a number of very valid arguments, but part of it was, that I simply didn’t believe that what I’d written was playable.

Come Saturday, the, to my knowledge, only session of the game ran, led by Kristo and including one of my friends as player. And so it was that I was suddenly assaulted by an enthusiastic player, who assaulted me with a “I didn’t know you’d written anything,” and continuing to tell me how great their session had been. Later, Kristo came to tell me who well it had worked, and finally, the judges sought me out to tell me that they thought I’d really hit the “short story” form, and that they’d really enjoyed reading my scenario. Well, what do you know. I was pleasantly surprised, and have vowed to get around to running it myself.

I guess it’s kind of silly to write a scenario for Fastaval without running it yourself, but I’d signed up to do it about a year ago, and when the deadline rolled around, I barely had time to complete it in time.

Ah, well. At least, now I know it’s not an insurmountable task to write a scenario. Next time, I’ll write one in “feature length.”

Salvation

After taking a nap Thursday afternoon, I was ready for Salvation Thursday evening. I got in a really strong group, with Troels Rohde Hansen as GM. Troels had been a playtester under Simon (the author), and that helped a lot – he knew how it was supposed to go.

Salvation is very much a sandbox. But it is a sandbox that shows you a clear direction. And it worked splendidly. I got a character of a type I wouldn’t normally go for – which resulted in me grunting my way through most of the evening as the antisocial, rugged character of the bunch. It was so much fun. The scenario is about a gang of wild west bank robbers, each of which is somehow broken in the head. And, oh boy, did we do depravity. It got an Otto for best roles, and it had really deserved it. The characters were perfect for sparking some of the most meaningful acts of cruelty I’ve seen in a role-playing game.

Info

We had a pretty good team in the Info this year. A couple of old veterans had returned, and we scooped up three new recruits, but apart from that, it was mostly a bunch of old friends. The highlight of our convention was clearly our strike on Saturday. Usually, the Dirtbusters strike, giving the Bunker a number of demands which usually include at least one thing that we’re supposed to provide. This year, we decided to do a sympathy strike, not answering questions for a couple of hours.

Apart from that, a couple of very unappealing things came our way. First of all, somehow the game evaluation sheets had not been printed, and we had to deal with a lot of confused an annoyed people who couldn’t get an evaluation form, and couldn’t get a straight answer as to when they’d be there.

This year, as well as last year, I had the honour of being responsible for awarding the Golden Plunger. The Golden Plunger is the Info’s award for the participant who’ve made the greatest contribution to Fastaval. Some years, someone will have done something spectacular and noticeable, like when Daniel Benjamin Clausen ferried drunk people to bed when it suddenly started to snow in the middle of the night. But this year, the field consisted of a number of hard workers, who all qualified by having done a great job over the course of the con or, in one instance, over the cause of several Fastavals.

Hell/Heavenly Monday

When one is part of the organising team of Fastaval, the cleanup is always viewed with a certain anxiety. Last year, Hell Monday turned into Troublesome Tuesday. So this year, the school had given us a deadline at 4 o’clock. Which, along with a considerable effort on Sunday, must have been responsible for the relatively unproblematic day we had. The school was closed at 4 o’clock, with only a bit of transport left to do.

It wasn’t perfect, though. I was awoken by my mattress exploding at 8.30, and so, me and another Infonaut woke the organisers up gently and quietly. And I’m glad we did, because ten minutes later, two Dirtbusters came screaming into the room and started shouting orders, then leaving. When I went to the kitchen, shortly before nine, they were somewhat confused, and didn’t know what was expected of them. And, worst of all, no one was there in the kitchen to move people along and get them started on the cleanup. We have to work on that for next year.

Apart from that, I didn’t like the Sunday. Sunday wasn’t. There was a bit of roleplaying in the morning, then cleaning in the afternoon, then waiting for the banquet. Come on! We can do better than that! It must be possible to make a Sunday that doesn’t feel like the whole thing has ended. It certainly didn’t used to feel like that.

Next time…

is going to be grand! We have a great general, who has already started – and he’s started with the thing that most failed this time: the location. Between him and the amazing scenario crew, next year is sure to be something to look forward to.

Oh, and if you want to be part of it, come to the evaluation and startup meeting this weekend in Aarhus.

Allnighter: Imperiet

After our pizza dinner, I set down with four players to play Imnperiet. We agreed on two humerous games: “The Butter Forger” by Olle J0nsson and “Averland Averessen” by Johannes Busted.

Averland Abendessen

We started out with Johannes’ game. Quickly arranging a “kitchen” out of tables, we placed dice around the place to be readily available. The game is organised into four timed “courses,” each including a number of suggested scenes to play. I started each course by reading the menu, and asking them, what their characers were doing at that exact moment. Then I would count down, starting play. We did it “semi-larp”-style, playing out most things, but narrating a lot of things. I would tell them when things woould happen, then they would react. At a certain point they would roll the dice, attempting to vanquish the opposition.

The game was a big success. Most of the time, we had people running around, shouting, screaming, sweating. Pretty soon, they would start doing things when I was paying attention to someone else or the trying to decide what to do next, just as I soon lost all count of their dicerolling. In the end, we were tired, sweaty, and sore with laughter.

We did have some critiques, however – listed here, as far as I can remember them, along with other pieces of advice and shareworthy experience:

  • Johs suggests running several scenes at once – but playing semi-larp and with only one GM, that seemed almolst copmpletely impossible. I tried it in the beginning, but in the end, I had enough just trying to keep up with running one scene at a time. An assisting GM /NPC-player would have been ideal, freeing me to narrate and moderate the game, instead of jumping between playing and moderating.
  • We had saved a number of lids from pizza trays. These were priceless as “trays” for the players to imitate carrying things.
  • The characters were far too busy to ever develop their personal plots. They requested a bit of calm to enable them to talk a bit and to catch up to the pace.
  • Some suggested plots involving the character’s internal relationships might have been appropriate – maybe telling Rofus (the chef) “Geo (the cook) is cutting the carrots in uneven slices.”
  • The Skaven events were impersonal, and needed a bit of a twist. I liked how it (and most of the other plots) escalated during play – but you needed something that made a bit more sense, even if it was the “buffer plot,” being something you could always introduce several times in the same course.
  • The characters were not ideally suited to this kind of fast play. By the time Tomas von Grieg, the poetry lover, enters the kitchen, Geo’s player had completely forgotten that HE wrote those poems. Maybe characters written mostly in bullets, might have been better, pointing out very clearly which points were important. This would also help the GM to tailour plots to each character.

But in the end, we really enjoyed Averland Averessen. Props to Johs.

The Butter Forger

The next game didn’t quite live up to the first. We set up a courtroom and went through a number of witnesses, but when one player had to leave after 45 minutes, we decided to stop. We just weren’t having a lot of fun, though were were laughing a bit.

On one hand, this surprised me – I thought the buzz was, that the Butter Forger was one of the games that people had really liked from Imperiet. On the other hand, I didn’t find it the least bit odd – when I read the scenario, I could never envision how the game could really work.

One part of the problem was of course, that the prosecuter and the defence attourney didn’t really get into the characters, not even once shouting “objection!” And their questioning of the witnesses weren’t the sharpest I’ve seen. On the other hand, I think Ole very firmly put his finger on the problem when he said: “What’s the point? The game clearly states that he’s guilty – so why are we doing this? There is nothing to help us achive a curve of intensity, no guide to what we should attempt to play for.” The point of the game seems to be in the comedy of the witnesses – but comedy with out direction and purpose has about as much bite as butter dentures – forged or not.