Game Convention GMing is like a box of chocolates… you never know what players you’re going to get.
I’ve been playing games for a long while (longer than I’d like to admit), and GMing for the past two years. In that time I’ve grown accustomed to my Cabal of Mages. I’m even starting to get a feel for what crazy tangents they will decide to follow, and which sane and rational options they will totally ignore. (don’t tell them that!)
At a convention you have to throw that comfort zone right out the window!
I had written what I felt was a solid adventure pitting mere mortal humans against the supernatural. The setting is an abandoned asylum, very loosely based on the very real Pilgrim State (not far from where I live, appropriately enough). The characters are a film crew sent out to shoot a reality TV series: 1 Paranormal Guru with alleged post-cognitive abilities (to host the show), 1 Producer, 2 Camera People, 1 Lighting Technician, 1 Production Assistant, and 1 Sound Technician. I gave them each very brief backgrounds with “internal monologues” that would be easy to read quickly at the top of the session while giving each player (I hoped) a good feel for their character’s mindset, and lots of opportunities to do crazy stuff to each other if they felt like it. (Not that players EVER do crazy stuff to each other… NEVER!) I had all of my location triggered events worked out, some nice handouts for successful “WITS + COMPOSURE” or “WITS + INVESTIGATION” rolls, a wild and crazy “end game” that I could trigger when the session’s time slot was close to over, and all that was left to do was wait until game time.
It really is the hardest part.
Throughout the day I checked the sign in list to see who I would have at my table. I did not see even one single name that I recognized.
I was more than a little terrified by this.
You see I knew that could run the scenario with a heavy dice rolling emphasis, but I also knew that it would be SO MUCH BETTER if I had a really solid Role Player to take on the part of the Paranormal Guru. The handouts were largely for this character, and the idea was that this player could interpret what they were seeing any way they wanted to. Can the player opt to roll “PRESENCE+EXPRESSION” to say something cool into the camera? Absolutely!! But how much more fun is it to make the roll, and then either say something cool or something not-so-cool based upon how well you rolled? I knew I had to track down someone to give this character to. I practically begged one of my Mage players to do it, and he accepted.
So I faced a table of unknowns with 1 of my regular players and his fiancée who joined us as well. Having two people I trusted absolutely dropped down the terror level a bit – but it was still at least around 5. The players arrived to choose their characters, and we were all set to begin.
I totally shouldn’t have worried.
These folks were absolutely brilliant! As much as I love my Mages (once again, no fair telling!) this was absolutely the best GM experience I’ve ever had. The players were in character the entire time. They even called for their Contracted Union Breaks to go grab beers! They did the craziest stuff to each other, and to themselves, all in the name of great TV. In the end-game (no spoilers!) they settled their differences and everyone made it out alive but let me tell you it was close! I couldn’t have cast better actors for these parts if I was making a multi-million dollar feature film, and I would absolutely hire these guys to make a TV show with me. For reals.
There is absolutely great gaming happening on Long Island. You can find it at RetCon: Long Island’s Gaming Convention!