Monday, July 11, 2016

Game Thoughts:

We had our monthly GURPS game on Saturday.

Set a day after we did a marathon viewing of the last three episodes of "Game of Thrones", it made for an intense, nerd-heavy, weekend.

Was kind of bad timing as well.

As I've probably indicated before, I run most of the games my group participates in. The masochists I game with seem to be fine with that and I really enjoy the opportunity to engage in world-building and story telling.

Unfortunately, I do tend to be inspired by some pretty fucked-up stuff. "A Song of Ice and Fire" is only one of myriad horribly messed-up stories that tickle my demented imagination.

If you've seen the last season of "Game of Thrones", you know (to nobody's surprise) that some really fucked-up shit goes down.

And, unfortunately for my players, I do like introducing fucked-up shit in my games. And this weekend, the two met in a whirlpool of wrong.

The current campaign I run is set in a generic, home-grown, Tolkien-inspired, fantasy world. You've got your Elves, your Dwarves, your Orcs, and various other fairy tale-inspired non-human races among the various cliche human cultures. We've got a terrible "evil empire" and various "evil kingdoms" dotted about the world and all sorts of terrible things inspired from sources ranging from Lovecraft to Tolkien to more obscure sources.

The world was created by four of us collaborating in the beginning to build a world from scratch.

We ran a 15 year campaign set in the world in which epic heroes rose from humble(ish) beginnings to a climactic showdown with the main Evil Empire, resulting in its defeat and a chaotic mess of a world left behind.

The campaign I'm now running overlaps with those events a bit. It's a humble group of misfit mercenaries under a tired, crippled, old mercenary commander with a checkered past. The PCs have more in-depth character stories and harder limitations in place to keep the campaign's power level from getting too insane.

I'm using this campaign to toy with storytelling techniques and ideas I've been thinking about. I've got a larger story arc in mind for the hapless mercenaries that I'm breaking up into "books".

Book One ("The Refugees") involved the mercenary company forming and meeting one another as well as the introduction of the various side-characters (NPCs) that I'm notorious for. I do like lots of background color. My dramatis personae list is absolutely insane. The story arc involved escorting hapless refugees from a besieged city to relative safety. In it, villains were introduced and plots teased.

We finished "The Refugees" a year or two back and are now almost done with my tentative Book Two ("The Journeyman Quest"). The story arc has the mercenary company escorting a wizard and her assistant/bodyguard as they try to take a book (another wizard's journal) back to their home island, hundreds of miles to the west across very hostile territory. Other people (some more hostile than others) seek the book and, as the plot has progressed, it's become clear that the book and this guard-job is only a tiny part of what's going on. Backstories of player characters and NPCs have tied together and both old and new threats have crossed the company's path.

That was more background than I'd intended to write, but whatever. I guess it offers context.

So the games I run tend to be cyclical. Some are expository. Some are low-key. Some are the heroes kicking all kinds of ass. And some are "hose jobs".

Saturday was a hose job.

I've been teasing a threat for many sessions now. A rival group of mercenaries who have been hired to capture several of the company's membership (PCs and NPCs alike).

I had the first real encounter happen last night. And it was a clusterfuck of wrong. By the end, I'd left one PC half-blinded while another had actually rung the doorbell on Death's door.

Some were captured and some just left for dead.

Wasn't exactly where I wanted to leave things, especially after the psychotic insanity of "Game of Thrones" in our minds, but it was what it was.

I'll admit to a nagging feeling of guilt. Maybe I should have softened things. But then, I think, it makes the threats I have been building up just wuss out. Messes up my narrative.

It's a hard balance to find in games.

Gives me something to ponder for the next month, anyway.

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