Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nightmare World

This Tuesday in my Marvel Heroic RPG I launched a "big happening" type thing to help get my game going. I think it went over well, but in a lot of ways this is also something of a desperation tactic to get the game going again and the characters interacting and doing things. Today I want to talk about that: the state of the game going in, and what, how, and why I am doing what I'm doing.

Stagnation Sucks
Before I begin I need to be clear: a large part of this is my fault.

My marvel game stagnated. With perhaps one or two notable exceptions all of the characters currently being played in the game are characters who essentially love their status quo and go to great lengths to defend it. Sure, when given an opportunity they'll play the character and interact with other PCs, but that opportunity has to knock pretty hard to get anything out of the person. Smaller attempts to break the character into moving in some way were met with heavy resistance and then a return to normalcy. it sucks, and I likely let it linger for too long before doing anything. People may still have been having fun. They claimed as such.But you can practically smell it when a game stagnates. Nothing happens, no one interacts, and everyone is just left there staring - or making Out Of Character conversation - while the GM does whatever the GM does.

Now, like I said, I tried some small things to get people going. Small events here and there. Some of them even bore fruit. For the most part though it was failing, something big needed to happen.

Something Big
That something big launched on Tuesday. A red light raised into the sky and all the telepathic folks in the game suddenly could only hear static if they tried to sense outside the city. The city itself twisted and warped into a Tim Burton/Horror show version on itself. Darkness expanded in unnatural ways and from the darkness came dog like creatures that harried and  harassed people, grappling men, women, and children and dragging them back into the shadows to never return. In the center of it all rose a castle, a twisted version of the Disney castle up on a hilltop that grew until the castle itself was higher than the tallest sky scraper. A simple thing, but it has a point.

Kicking The Pieces In Motion
Even with this going on several characters first inclination was to find somewhere safe and set things up there. Unfortunately, the nightmare realm was far ahead of them. Anywhere safe begins to turn on the people inside it. In the case for Tuesday night this meant the strip club several PCs were trying to use as a base grew arms and legs and fought them all, stressing out one hero and almost getting the other  two before they all fled. The darkness growing and expanding had people constantly calling for help. People escaped into buildings and locked their doors only to start screaming as something in the home caught them. The message got through: stay in motion. The idea was also clear: something is up with the castle.

My Goals
My goals for this is more than just being a dick to my players and shutting down certain styles of play. I want to get the characters moving. In one case a character is trying to hide what they can do - which I have nothing against - to the point that they don't get involved in scenes and other people trip up trying to get them involved - I have issue here. That character's secret is out now to at least one other PC, and if they want to keep trying for that in this dire situation it is going to be harder for them.

Other players need clear goals to work towards, which has been provided, and want further impetus towards having their character develop into being more active. The dire straights of this situation should help them in developing bonds with other players - and some NPCs - as they go through hard times together or get to have formative experiences with the characters that show up.

Break The System / Creative Play
My other goal with this is to really try and break the system. I'm throwing all sorts of things, and dice pools, at my players and seeing how they react. I'm experimenting with special effects for large creatures that increase the Doom Pool just because of the creature's mere presence. I'm also trying out strange combinations of things to see what will come out and how effective it will be.

On the other hand, some of the challenges that my players will face in this world simply can't be beat with game mechanics shy of perhaps the most super lucky roll ever. For those situations the players will need to think creatively, and may even have to retreat from a fight that they're not ready for yet.

Shake Things Up
Mostly I wanted to shake everything up. A situation where up literally is down forces everyone to react and that is what I wanted. I settled on this because it leaves room for people to take charge and handle things their own way, but people who need to be guided will be hounded and harried by the creatures in the right direction as well. There are clear short term goals for characters to reach out for and do, but how they handle things could have far reaching consequences.

All that's left now is to see how things play out. What do you think I should have done? What would you have done?

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