From behind the GM Screen: Getting to know your friends again

RPG terms for the unknowing:
RPG: Role-playing game
GM: Game master (basically <the narrator>, the gm’s job is to keep track of the rules, explain the surroundings and events and play the side-characters)
PC: Player character (the players are the main characters of whatever story you’re telling)
OP: Over-powered (a rule of action or whatever that’s too strong to make much sense, and can end up breaking a game)

So, I’ve been running a campaign of Noir, a Swedish RPG for a couple of months now. I think we just passed 25 sessions, but I kinda lost count a ways back. Noir is just that, a Noir game. It’s set in a city where the state is everything and decides the fate of all. A world were most people can’t stand living and just blow their heads off. Most of the common man works in the gigantic factory districts or scrape by doing other jobs. Obviously there are detectives, crooked alcoholic cops and femme fatales. There just wouldn’t be a Noir setting without them. It’s got a nice, dark setting that’s great for character development and generally torturing your PCs. (Noir is a Swedish RPG and you can check for more info here: Sorry to the non-Swedes, it’s only available in Swedish and the developers seem done with the product, so I doubt they’ll ever release a translate version.)

In Noir there’s a thing called “The Defilement”. It’s basically magic that used the caster’s life force. It’s extremely rare to be a Defiler, but some exist. The users suffer severe emotional traumas the more they use it, and I like fucking with my players, so of course I decided to center the campaign on characters that are Defiler and are trying to get rid of their affliction. So in general it’s a mix between investigation and action, finding the dudes that can help them figure out what to do, and drop-kicking evil in the face.

During the campaign, I’ve noticed that my players have a larger fancy for the action, and as such I’ve leaned towards more evil-punching than I had planned, and made the story into more of an epic struggle. Plans have rarely been made, and it generally goes like this when a plan is suggested.

  1. Look over the gathered information.
  2. Think up a basic plan, such as flanking or feigned charges.
  3. Disregard plan – kick down the door.

As a GM that doesn’t shy away from harming the PCs, I don’t complain much about it and reap the following results. I think there’s been 3 PC deaths thus far, and many occasions where players got just short of bleeding out. So it’s obviously ot the most lethal campaign ever, but I’ve been holding back a bit.

With just a few sessions to go, I decided to have a more social game, because I had to write an essay during the week and couldn’t be arsed to write up a slew of dudes to feed to the power-gaming PCs.

I thought the game went so-so. A common problem for GMs: Getting players to bite the plot hook. Mine just weren’t going for it, initially, so I kind of had to force interaction with NPCs to give them story information. It worked, and the show was on the road again. A thing I’ve noticed during the campaign is that The Defilement is ridiculously OP. It’s basically everything two of my players ever do. One of them has a Defilement that lets him become practically invisible, and the other one has one that lets him dominate NPCs (read: mind-control). Basically, The Defilement is the central game mechanic in this stage of the campaign. Which is fine, since this is just a thing I did to play-test The Defilement. Instead of talking to NPCs, they usually capture them, kill them or dominate them. That’s a problem, because The Defilement becomes a crutch to lean on instead of role playing.

Anyway, the players end up at a sort of gala for the famous aristocrats they have a problem with and infiltrate (of course, by dominating a nobleman to gain entry) and find information from an earlier antagonist. As trigger-happy as these guys are, I’m surprised they didn’t just pop him instantly. They find out that one of the party guests is an opponent of the real bad guys and they find him. Guess what: They fucking dominate him as well. Well, whoop-de-do, several hours of coming up with the character and dialogue go out the window and mind-control gets one more point.

Anyway, the session ends in bloodshed, as the old antagonist decides to fuck the place up (which was mostly me being an arse-hole, but whatever.

Anyway, what surprised me, was that after the session one of the players hit me up on Skype and thanked me for “a very good session”.

“A good session?” I thought to myself. I though it was a cluster-fuck of me fumbling over myself to throw the story at my players without them biting and making contrived plans, but I’ll take the compliment. Apparently at least he thought it was a nice change of pace to have a slow, talky session instead of shooting the place up all the time.

I’ll tell you this: If you think you know your friends exactly, think again, mate. Throw them into an RPG and be shocked at what they’ll do. I’ll get a post up on the amazing game The Quiet Year, by Joe Mcdaldno, soon. That game will have your head spinning at what your fellow players do.

PS: Funny thing, the players lack of planning bit them in the arse again as two PCs bit it in the last session. Going into a random boss battle before the Big God Damn Boss Battle cost them dearly, as one character got killed by a grenade, and one was mortally wounded when the boss battle arrived. Hopefully this’ll lead to some better planning in the future, but who knows? All I know is I’ll still get some sadistic pleasure when I snuff their three-step plan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s