Reflections: Like umbrella

19 December, 2007 at 8:30 am (actual play) (, , , , )

Like umbrella was a game of new Mage GM’d by Thalin. Players were me, wgaztari and ksym (hopefully spelled right). I wrote some of the story down before getting bored. This post is mostly intended as a feedback for Thalin and a way for me to structure my thoughts to dig out more insights. Thalin may or may not write somethig related from his POV. Probably not, which is a great excuse for calling him lazy.

What I learned about myself

I don’t like to think when playing. Investigative games and generally games with lots of hidden information make me think. When thinking, I play myself. I am far too cautios to be a good player character. Hence I must watch myself and try to force appropriate reactions to in-game events. It is not the epitome of fun. Riddles and such are right out. I just don’t see their appeal in roleplay (I can tolerate them IRL). Good thing that there were none in this game. Summary: If forced to think, I start turtling. Turtling is not fun. So don’t make me think. Thanks.

I can’t supress my GM instincts when playing. I am shy enough to not hog the spotlight. Instead I will occasionally indicate the GM that this would be a good time to give screen time to some other player whose character is elsewhere. I also can’t help but look at the game as a story. I don’t immerse to character. I do immerse to the game as a whole. I don’t remeber nitty-gritty details, like who said what and when. I do remember a version of the broad story events. This comes from little play and much game mastering.

I don’t remember descriptions. I create vivid mental images and base them on descriptions if such exist, but the descriptions themselves don’t stick. Must watch this when running a game.

On character generation: I have very hard time creating a character unless I know the starting situation. The more I know, the better I can create a character. “You can play anything.” leads to paralysis. Tell me some context for my character and I will tell you about my character for you to build more context around him.

What I learned about ksym

ksym played a character similar to himself. He was occasionally quite descriptive and was entertaining enough when doing it. He also had a tendency to grab the spotlight and run with it. I wasn’t particularly bothered by it, but it took a lot away from wgaztari’s spotlight time. ksym also deliberately had his character hurt a few times, which is a definite plus for this style of play. ksym also cared a lot about the dice; at the start of th game when he was lucky, he enjoyed rolling them, and near the end when the dice gods were against him he was a bit less than happy at them. Also: new WoD is very random. Don’t try to simulate anything. It won’t work.

A note for running a game with ksym as a player: Watch the spotlight. When in doubt, throw som stuff as ksym and watch him react. Use and good ideas and try to channel the reaction towards other PCs.

What I learned about wgaztari

wgaztari roleplayed for the first time. Character creation took a lot of time. I helped as much as I could, but it was not easy because this was my first contact with the game, so I was a bit hazy with the rules. Also, w is not terribly good at English, which forced me and Thalin to translate some terms. w was also pretty uncertain about his actions in game, so I occasionally threw some ideas at him (always more than one). All in all, he accepted the style of play and got along just fine.

What I learned about Thalin

No idea. Pretty strange, that. I didn’t even realise before trying to write something useful here. It seems that I don’t think the GM as a person but instead a role. I focused on evaluating the performance of Thalin at the role, instead of him as a person.

Game mastering, theory, and miscellaneous bits

First, a matter of organisation. We arrived at Thalin and ksym’s student residence, whatever those are called in English. Chatter happened. We ate something cooked by ksym or Thalin. Play started after eating. This was very useful, because there was relatively little off-game chatter once play-time had been started. I at least didn’t recognise any specific signal for starting play, but maybe allocating the previous session’s experience points was a starting ritual. A session always had a duration of one day, in-game. This was a good ending signal. I prefer a faster pace, but this worked extremely well, too.

The bad aspect of organisation was lack of gaming table. We all were situated more or less in fron of each other, with w the farthest away from Thalin. Very bad. A table would be awfully nice. Must figure out a solution…

Second: character generation. It is hard for a first-timer. My upcoming Burning Wheel game will suffer from this. Also, if I get around running a game for my sister during the holiday, I must remeber to make this step easy and straightforward.

Third: if players can’t interact with it, it probably is boring. Two cases in this game: First, my character’s primary method of using magic was through drawings of the target. An evil guy (the Puppet master) erased (hid, exactly speaking, but I didn’t know that at the moment) the huge heaps of drawings my char had gathered along his life. This fell flat in game because it was something I could do nothing about. It was plain undramatic (my char had eidetic memory, so the actual problems caused were negligible). It happened off-screen. Thalin could have made it more dramatic by having the Puppet master command/control/dominate/possess one of my char’s people (he kinda ruled the equivalent of homeless who lived in abandoned buildings left behind by the 2nd world war) and make her/him burn those papers, so that my char would have had the opportunity to stop the poor bastard. This would have been more dramatic because I don’t know how I/my char would have reacted. Probably murder or magic. Oh well. The second case was the very end. ksym’s character Sarn had fate magic, which is used to manipulate probabilites and coincidences. Sarn wanted for everyone involved to be there when the end of the game was near. So everyone was there, including a vampire who was involved in a tangential role. He was fighting his sire (I think), who had done absolutely nothing during the game. So basically a random instance of two cool NPCs duking it out in the background. The interesting thing to do would have been the vampire confront my char about betraying him, sort of.

Interesting that both of the solutions above were for my char. Also interesting that I am far more prone to use “my char” for my char and name for other chars.

Blind choices: We (as in player characters) made a lot of decisions that clearly had a huge effect in play. If Thalin railroads, he is damn good at it. The bad part about these choices and their significance is that it all became clear only afterwards. In play I felt like I was making blind choices. Blind choices are not particularly engaging. In this game, “how” was significantly more interesting than “what”.

Fifth: There were no proper combats in the game. Two marginal cases were both more similar to slaughtering. It woked well. Combats are not necessary for an enjoyable game.

Sixth: Thalin used dice rarely. This means the game flowed fine until the dice entered game, at which point there was some general fumbling. A goal for further gaming: Dice should be used often enough for people to get used to rolling them and counting the successes and so forth.

On the value of reflecting about play

I urge everyone to reflect about their play. It helps to solidify theoretical thought and gives sparks to new ideas. Writing the stuff down is voluntary.

On getting feedback

Get a theorist or a dedicated GM as a player. Ask questions. Take the good with the bad. Learn. Improve. Conquer the world.

1 Comment

  1. Character burning: The crunch « Cogito, ergo ludo. said,

    […] knows what combat is about. wgaztari is new to roleplaying and has only played in Thalin’s Like umbrella. ksym has played some Warhammer fantasy roleplay (and is somewhat familiar with lifepaths), as well […]

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