One of the hardest bits of cat herding I ever have to face is when the players want to plan.
It’s not formalized, more a mood shift. And the kind of planning I’m talking about here seems to only happen in the midst of a long (for me/us) campaign. Nine sessions in a hyperweird collaborative campaign universe is a pretty intense cognitive and creative load for everyone. It doesn’t surprise me that they need to take a step away from the fiction and say “wait.”
Planning was a big chunk of last night’s game. We’d taken last week off so there’s always the gear-grinding and oh-yeah-what-about and generally finding their footing. But in addition to that, each time I’d try to frame a scene, there’d be noticeable pushback from everyone — not just my risk-averse recovering trad player — to gain some altitude on what all is happening in the game. To skip over scene-setting and who all is where and just get right to the part where they talk about what they’re going to do next. Trying to strategize what happens before playing to find out.
It’s still conversation and we’re still playing, but it’s quite noticeably not PbtA-style fiction-first play. Which makes the moves hard to invoke without putting on my GM hat and psychically dragging everyone back into a Scene.
Probably the most vexing bit, for me, about this mood shift is that my players — particularly those accustomed to stakes-oriented games like Burning Wheel — just want me to tell them what dice to roll to get what they want. Because they’re living and thinking at the system level and not the fiction level, they want what they want and have stopped thinking about how to get there from inside the SIS.
Some of that, too, is in the nature of the game and many of its advanced moves. There are a couple level 6 characters now, and the moves in SWvM get big. The Other, for example, now has a messianic cult following her void cat-slash-messenger of the gods character. It fits perfectly and even advanced the Faith War grim portents to its final bullet: Yet more factions emerge, solidifying their local power bases and forging new doctrines of their own design.
I gotta say I love it when the players themselves push the danger toward its final form. They’re right at the precipice now! Muahaha. The messianic cult is a great advance for the Other because she (the player) has been struggling mightily to get and stay engaged with the situation. The Other doesn’t come with a good package of connections and history, and that’s by design, so I think it’d be hard for a player who needs that to play this particular book. As luck would have it, I guess, this player (who is also my risk-averse recovering trad player) is a good match for the Other’s other-ness.
Lots of Space Wurm’s moves are large-scale as well, which also pulls that player out of the fiction and into the planning/system/what-do-I-roll mode. Oh yeah, and since Space Wurm bargained away control of one of the fronts to the Lover, that player also finds himself shifted into that headspace. I think consciously shifting between planning/pseudo-GM mode and acting/fiction-first mode is a skill they need more practice with.
This was also the session where everyone got back together into the same location. Oh thank goodness. There was plenty of good stooooory with Moonicorn off liberating and defeating oppression, but the game is most definitely better when everyone’s moves are bouncing off each other.
I think, hope, that the “but wait, what the fuck is going on and what are we going to do about it?” vibe is gone so we can get back to Framing Scenes and Fiction Firsting. But it’ll be a couple weeks, again, before we can play so maybe not.