Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Exploiting Previous Experience

I've talked a few times about the two Friday groups that I'm a part of. Honestly, I am freaking blessed with these groups. Both have active, imaginative, and good players. Both are willing to try new games and new styles. Both are willing to teach new players (socialize them to RPGs as it were). Just in general, both groups (there is heavy overlap in the groups mind) make up a large and strong core of gamers that I'm really happy to be a part of. Recently, I agreed to split my GMing time with one of the people in the group who wants to give GMing a try. We've only had one session so far, but the way the session worked was profound enough that I wanted to talk about it. This isn't a play by play post though, this is about how a new GM was able to play on previous games (one he wasn't even a part of) to help capture the feel for his game.

The Game
For some of this to make sense, you need to know the game. System is unimportant here, but for the curious we are using a modern combat mod for AEG's Roll and Keep system (the system powering Legend of Five Rings and Seven Seas) that I made a while back, further modded by another player and myself to properly fit this universe. The universe in question? The Halo universe.

Love it or hate it, the Halo universe has a lot of very deep lore and strong story potential. It is amusing, but the FPS's are actually the worst conveyance of everything that is going on out there. If you like Sci Fi, you owe it to yourself to spend some time poking around Halopedia and seeing what the universe has to offer.

Now, for the game, the idea is simple. There are five PCs total. One of them is playing a high ranking ODST officer, the rest of us are playing Spartan IIIs (The Master Chief is a Spartan II). Thanks to ONI, our ODST officer has found himself in charge of a Spartan III team, which ultimately means that he's going to be getting sent on a lot of very dangerous missions.

The Challenge
The challenge here? Spartan IIIs, and Spartans in general, are pretty much the ultimate in group. These are people who have been training through very harsh and potentially traumatizing conditions since they were 4-6 years old. They have their own hand signals, they are very insular, they almost seem to communicate without speaking at times.

Now, there are ways to simulate this, but to get the actual feel of it across the group needs to be clicking fairly well. The GM was aware of this, but he also felt that the group could pull it off. He was counting on previous experience being the factor that could pull the group through and actually pull it off.

Enter the Scorpion Game
The experience in particular that the GM is pulling off of, is an L5R game that one of the other players in the group ran a few years ago. In the game, the PCs were a group of black ops commandos for the Scorpion clan in Rokugan. The game was long running, and people really got into character. In a lot of ways this game changed the way the group plays, because a group chemistry was formed that still pops up from time to time. I am not exaggerating when I say that on several occasions, without speaking and with only 2-5 seconds to think, the entire group broke off and did six different things that all perfectly complimented what the others were doing.

I'm honestly still not sure how this happened. Part of it was the GMing, sure. Part of it was the way end game was done. But part of it was just the group clicking and playing their characters in a way that they could naturally grow and develop into a team.

Experience in Action
Now, like I said, the GM for the Halo game wasn't part of the Scorpion game, but he's heard stories of it. He is actually specifically banking on this experience to help us pull off the Spartan IIIs, because we've done something like it before. In the first session, it worked like a charm to. The person playing the ODST was the GM for the Scorpion game. The rest of us? We were all players in that game. The transition isn't flawless mind you, but we still have that core experience of having been as close as family IC before that we can pull off of.

The best part? It showed in game. In every fight, the actions of the spartan PCs tended to build off of each other. Either tag-teaming targets, or just setting things up for a greater take down. The ODST's actions weren't counter to this, but definitely wasn't a part of the group. It was an interesting feel, a new twist on something familiar, and it worked wonderfully well.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I don't normally go on about games I am in, but for this, I wasn't sure how else to introduce the topic aside from citing a real example of how it was done. It is a high level play, but done expertly by a new GM. I honestly can't wait to see where it goes.

Tomorrow, I'm going to talk about this a bit more with some examples of how you can pull it off in your own games, if you know what to look for.


  1. Having GM'd several campaigns for real-life soldiers while in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can say with authority that the "hivemind" you talk about totally changes the way you have to GM for these groups. Challenges that are monstrous for a normal group become a cakewalk for these guys. It totally changes the way you have to think about how yu approach challenging them.

  2. While I can't say that I've ever seen it to that extent, I can imagine from what I have seen. It is amazing how actual team work can make a group a lot more than the sum of their parts, even without specific coding for it in a game, just because things get done in just that right way.

  3. This is one of the best and worst things you can have in a group of players. It's the best because the games go smoothly, and the players have a lot of fun and accomplish a lot quickly.

    It's the worst thing when you need to get a new group or have to replace a few members. It is really hard to go back to playing when your group doesn't have that vibe.