Friday, January 15, 2016

When Spinning Plates, Don't Get Ahead Of Yourself

As of the time of this writing I have wasted almost two days of prep time for my L5R game. Not that I didn't get something done, but in trying to figure out what to do in the next session - the second session so still very early in the game - my head couldn't figure out what would be a good idea to introduce first. The problem is not a lack of ideas, but rather having too many. Today, I want to talk about that.

Too Many Ideas
It sounds like a cheesy complaint "I have too many ideas for the game" but in truth, it can be just as detrimental as "I don't have any ideas for the game." In my case, there was one big problem. A lot of the things I want to do with the game require certain things to be established, and very few of those things are currently even in play let alone established. I mean, how could they be? We've only had the one session so far.

If a game, the type of location based campaign I'm going for anyhow, is like a spinning plate performance then my problem was this: I was freaking out about how to keep the plates spinning, when in truth I didn't even have them going just yet. In other words, I had the cart in front of the horse.

The Solution
The solution here is to get to basics. Remember, this is the second session. What do PCs need in the second session? We talk so much about first sessions, and transitioning to mid and late game sessions, but rarely do we talk about sessions 2, 3, and 4. Funnily enough, those sessions are almost more important than session 1 for the PCs. After all, in Session 1 they're exploring an idea, it's not until these sessions that they see if their idea - their character - has the legs to move through the game.

The second session is a great time for a lot of things, but bludgeoning down heavy plot ideas or making big moves for the meta arcs is not one of them. The PCs have met their character, now they need to have small talk to get to know them. Something that can hint at what is going on, that plays with the themes of the game and the direction it can go in, but also gives the player room to maneuver is key.

So, what I did was cheat.

Stealing Ideas
I want my players to be able to explore their characters a bit more, but I need to have something for game. So, I talked to some of my players and I asked them a simple question. "Your character is walking around outside the local village. Something, somethings, someone, or someones approach you from behind. What or who are they/is it?

Each of the players I asked - and I didn't ask all of them - gave me a different answer. One said something about a messenger from home with important news. Another had an idea for an encounter with a particularly dangerous spirit. A third had an idea for a mystery.

I probed the players for more answers. Who are these characters? Why are they here? What do they want? What happened to cause this mystery? What is the spirits ultimate goal?

They gave answers and I took notes.

The end result is I have a handful of ideas for things to do in my game that I didn't have before. These things are colored by what my players saw in the game in the first session. They're shaped by what the player wants to see in the game going forward. They're open enough scenarios that it lets their character do something with what is there.

The ideas need tweaking, sure, but they're still solid ideas.

Now all I need to do is execute them and see what we're left with.

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