I previously promised to get to the dream-invading “nocturnal activities” of the most recent session. Sadly, due to some players who shall remain nameless (but not unpunished!) who missed the last session, I can’t do that just yet. I will, and it will be hilarious, but I can’t… yet.
That’s a big yet for some, eh Arrow?
My current dilemma is this: The Recap.
You see one of my players was there for most of the session (during which he caused all sorts of trouble at the Vatican and the Temple Mount), but had to leave early. Ordinarily I would not forgive this, but his brand new baby boy is adorable enough that I will let it slide this once. His character was very much present for the hilarity, and I did in fact feel compelled to make a few decisions on his behalf. I believe I made the decisions he would have made if he had been able to stay – which is to say that they would not necessarily have been the best decisions he could have made under the circumstances. It’s his way.
My current plan is to take the opening moments of the next session and hit him with some “decision points”, by which I can accurately judge how well I know this particular player. I’m guessing I know him pretty well but there’s only one way to find out, right? Along the way maybe I’ll have him make a few WITS+COMPOSURE rolls to see how much of what was going on around him his character was actually paying attention to. This is likely to amuse me. I like this plan.
My next problem is the two slackers who missed the last session altogether. I already have a plan in place to punish Niels, and I am hatching a wonderful plan for our memory-challenged Cabalmate Rex. Their punishments will be slow, drawn out, and brutal (as they should be) and are not my problem per se. My problem is what to do with them while we catch Argus up to speed on the things his character was around for, but he wasn’t. On the one hand – they weren’t there and in theory should not hear the recap. On the other hand – it will be even more hilarious to have them around hearing events unfold as Argus finds out what he missed and certain others start to squirm uncomfortably in their seats.
I suspect that I will err on the side of hilarity.
As part of this I have to decide where their characters are right now. Since the Cabal is on an Astral journey it’s always possible that their characters will simply show up later than the others did because it took them longer to enter a meditative state. Rex probably fell asleep a few times making the attempt, and Niels was probably distracted by Physics. Damien was using spells to help everyone arrive in Astral Space together so in theory they would find the others eventually. Since this is not a physical journey, and dream-time is even more wibbley-wobbley than real time, they could be arriving just in time to bear witness to hilarity. This would completely excuse their being party to The Recap since their characters could in fact have witnessed it, which in turn would have a synergistic effect on the hilarity!
Are you squirming yet Arrow?
You will be!
You. Will. Be.
Tonight’s #RPGChat, tonight as I’m writing anyway, made me feel compelled to say a few words about working gadgets into the game table experience. Naturally mileage will vary with your group of players.
I would have a very difficult time running Mage without my laptop. There are just so ridiculously many things my Mages can do (See: The rest of this blog) that if I had to print out all of my notes there wouldn’t be a tree left standing anywhere on the planet. I also keep their stats on an Excel spreadsheet so that I can make secret die rolls for them from time to time without having to ask what their dice pool is, which would blow the secret now wouldn’t it?! Then of course there is the nightmare that is tracking initiative when people are speeding themselves up, slowing each other down, and mucking with the time stream. I don’t think I need to name any names here, do I Aenaiyah?
Yes, a laptop at the table is this GM’s friend.
The problems can happen when the players have them. They can make a player easily distracted. I admit that I have been guilty of being distracted myself from time to time, which is no one’s fault but my own. We live in a world of multitasking. We’re all so used to needing to multitask at work that we even multitask when we’re supposed to be relaxing and enjoying things.
One thing that makes it easier for me is the fact that I GM in a modern day setting, so the characters have just as many gadgets as the players. As a result I can work them into the game. When I’m researching a setting for a game session I’ll keep track of what comes up with interesting Google hits. Then I’ll work those things into the game session. For example, I was looking for an abandoned location for a less-than-sane Mage killer to be hiding out in and settled on a monastery in Staten Island. I chose this particular location because not only did it suit the general feel I was looking to evoke, but there had been some interesting stories about the location posted on various sites around the web. These sites had everything from your standard hauntings, to a fire set by a crazed monk (who continues to haunt Staten Island), to 17 flooded levels deep beneath the ground that hadn’t been entered in a century or more. Not only did this give me great encounter seeds, I knew that I could count on my players to Google the place as soon as I said the name. When they did they turned up the same links I had, so I was prepared for everything they decided to do at the location. Furthermore, I didn’t have to worry that they would “know to look into something” because “if the GM bothered to make this up about the location it must be important”. Some things were absolutely not of any consequence whatsoever and were just random facts they found on the internet. Other things they found on the internet were absolutely important. All of them had equal weight in the minds of the players because I hadn’t made any of them up.
By taking advantage of the laptops the players had with them I was able to not only prevent them from being taken out of the game by the distraction, I was able to bring the game into the real world just a little bit more. By using real life places, and real life search results, I was able to make everything just that little bit more eerie because it was more than simply something I made up. It was real.
And real is creepy.
This post may contain some small spoilers for people in the World of Darkness Parallel Campaign. Just because you read it on my blog doesn’t mean your character knows – so suck it.
This one I blame entirely on my Co-GM… and the players. Yes, the players get blamed for this too. Or, to be more specific, Argus gets blamed for this. Argus and my Co-GM are at the root of this particular bit of insanity. If I look closely enough at the root of this I believe I see someone with purple hair hiding behind the Guardian of the Fail too. Hi Aenaiyah.
Remember how Sangre Santo was so amused by Aenaiyah that he gave her a gift? (See: Death is Always an Option) Well, my players finally decide to investigate something, and instead of focusing on the captured Seer of the Throne, they decide to play around with Aenaiyah’s present.
The present is a coin.
It’s a shiny silver coin.
It’s a very old shiny silver coin.
It’s a very old shiny silver Roman coin!
Now, I’m fine with wanting to test it out. As a matter of fact I’ve come up with more than a few interesting ways to test the coin myself. Of course, that isn’t what they decide to do. Why? Because they’re Mages, and making me weep is their favorite thing in the universe. So here I am, all prepared to delve into the Oneiros of a Seer of the Throne who was once married to the Cabal’s Mastigos Mage and what do these freaks do?
Argus: “I’m scrying on the Vatican…”
MM: “You’re… what?!?!?”
Argus: “I’m scrying on the Vatican… in Rome.”
MM: “I know where the Vatican is, smartass. Why are you scrying on the Vatican?”
Argus: “I want to find a quiet place near the Vatican that I can teleport to with this coin.”
And so Argus decides to teleport to Rome with this ancient Roman Silver Coin in his pocket, and upon entering the Vatican he decides to drop it into the Holy Water. It’s right about then that the Vatican starts to fill with steam, because the coin is boiling all the Holy Water away. Mind you, the Vatican is a place filled with tourists. These tourists carry cameras, and cell-phones that can shoot movies! Who has two thumbs and thinks that videos of my favorite Guardian are gonna wind up on YouTube? THIS GUY!
But it gets even better.
He then hits me with his plan to teleport to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Because boiling the Holy Water away in the Vatican isn’t quite enough, he now wants to take this clearly cursed object to The Holy of Holies. That’s right, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was once kept. It’s at this time that I walk over to the other table in the campaign, smack my Co-GM upside the head, and yell:
F@#% YOU CO-GM!!!
We ultimately decide that the coin simply will not go to this particular ancient hallowed site. Take THAT Argus Guille! And while you’re at it, take some bashing damage for trying to teleport this thing somewhere it clearly isn’t wanted. That’ll teach ya!
Who am I kidding? He ain’t learnin’ anything.
Maybe next session he’ll try wrapping it in the Shroud of Turin. That should work out brilliantly!
Here’s a hint folks: If you really want to know how it works, there’s a very easy way to find out, it’s called asking.
(Yes, the note is written in blood. Sangre Santo still had some smeared all over his tentacles after the fight and didn’t want to waste it. He’s nothing if not environmental. It’s his version of “Going Green”. Aenaiyah did her own version of “Going Green” when she realized that little factoid.)
A time honored dilemma of GMs everywhere is trying to figure out what those annoying PCs are going to do next session so that you can plan adequately for it. I generally try to only plan for the various pieces of information that will be available for them to find without worrying too much about how they will find that information. This method frees me up a bit in session by allowing me to adjust to their ever changing assortment of crazy schemes.
For example, recently my players ended a session on the decision to storm the antagonist’s headquarters. I won’t lie to you, this was a bad plan. It did have the charm of being a plan I was ready for them to execute however. (I do so love the word “execute”!)
Instead they decided to kidnap one particular antagonist in the middle of Central Park. It being Central Park, no bystanders reacted to this event. (It helped that they had a Fate Mage to help steer people away from the area.) This I was completely unprepared for. So was the antagonist in question, who promptly botched her sense motive roll (WITS+EMPATHY) and convinced herself that they were ready to talk. (See: The Hits Just Keep On Coming) Now I have to start my session with the players holding an NPC in the Consilium prison. This causes much more work behind the scenes than the players realize (grumble grumble grumble), and leaves me wondering what their next move is.
Interrogating the prisoner would seem to be an obvious next step… but not necessarily to these guys. After all, the last time they captured an antagonist alive they wound up finding out that he had let loose a Goetic Demon in a park in upstate NY and they never did get around to asking him where in this many acre park he might have left it. That would have made way too much sense! Instead they decided to go to this park and just wander around until they stumbled across it with no idea what its bans might be. Sadly, I had planned on them interrogating the antagonist, finding out some interesting things about him and his goals (and the origins of one of the other PCs who had no memory of her past), and then going off to take care of the Goetic Demon. Instead I had to improvise and ask them precisely how a group of 6 people without a single Resource Dot between them intended to get to upstate NY and hilarity ensued. (You’ll have to remind me to post that tale here at some point… it was more than a little hysterical.)
So interrogation… not necessarily. They may decide to actually SPEAK with the prisoner, but since all she wanted to do was talk to them in the first place (and look how that wound up) this seems highly unlikely. I do have one player (a Moros Mage) advocating to kill her and interrogate her ghost… which does sort of qualify as an interrogation and could get interesting on many levels.
Another interesting option has been proposed by her Mastigos ex-husband who is contemplating taking a stroll through her Oneiros. (For the non-Mage players that would be her personal dream space – her unconscious mind) This is an extremely interesting idea that I actually like a lot, and I’m hoping to get a bead on what areas of her Oneiros he’ll be specifically looking for so I can make them suitably awesome. (Damien – I’m looking at you.) I actually have a solid back story for this character already since she is a a PCs ex-wife which makes her a pretty important character.
You never can tell what my Obrimos Guardian of the Veil will do (for the record, I totally blame my power outages this week on Argus!), and my Thyrsus Silver Ladder is convinced that the missing kid-sister of Aenaiyah the Acanthus is being held in a little town in upstate NY named Arcadia. (Don’t think I haven’t thought about how hilarious it would be should he be right!) Neils won’t be there this time around, which means I will have to come up with some awful reason why his character isn’t there. (Mua-Haa-Haaa!) My remaining Moros Mage (an Adamantine Arrow) worries me in that I have not heard him weigh in on what they should do with her just yet. This can only lead to madness.
And then of course there’s a little something that my favorite Time Mage has which could yield some interesting results. I had only considered the implications of this as I was leaving the house for the last session, and I came up with the most wonderful possible result before I reached the game store. It really would be fun on many levels – for the whole family!
No matter what happens, it should prove to be an extremely interesting session!