Meandering thoughts, mute nao.
I’ve been playing the bejeezus (for me, i.e. a couple hours each night) out of Stellaris of course. Kind of forgot what vidja games do to me! Mostly I get weird and antisocial and I spend all my brain cycles grinding on the game. It’s sorta-kinda intellectually satisfying but sometimes I wonder if it isn’t just kind of a pacifier for my brain to chew on. I’m just talking about me, here, don’t freak out.
Tonight we’re playing session number… seven or eight, maybe, of The One Ring. It’s been a really interesting ride so far. It’s a nice game. Flawed, but no show stoppers. It’s fun, but I don’t get super-pumped about it. The sessions are always interesting but rarely, as a GM, do I feel like things are building toward anything. It’s a slice of Middle-Earth life, way more simmy (in the “right to dream” kind of way) than my typical fare. Like, the drama is neat when it happens but there’s no purposeful building toward drama: shit just lines up where the players suddenly need to make a hard decision. I kind of like how those moments sneak up on everyone, but it means I need to be vigilant.
Mutant: Year Zero is very similar, and I needed to be similarly vigilant when it came to noticing meaningful character statements being made. Without incentives baiting the players or structural prompts mandating that An Ethical Statement Be Made Now, those moments are purely aesthetic. “Wow, things really lined up for you, here’s two Fate and a Persona for that moldbreaker” just feels different than when the fiction has to stand on its own. I’m totally not making a value judgement; my players continue to itch for the incentives because they like to win more than they savor the drama. And that’s okay.
Probably my favorite part of playing games like this (setting aside the loaded language of a term like “incoherent;” let’s say instead “broadly appealing”) is that there’s always something for someone eventually. The best practice here being sensitivity to what those somethings may be, and letting them happen. I’ve sucked at that in the past (me: “I’m super bored by this, I’m skipping over all this shit you want to roll dice for, can we please focus on the storyline instead?”), and it’s a skill I continue to hone.
I’ve got a few games I’m already thinking about trying soonish! Alas, they’re mostly in the PbtA camp. I think my players are feeling burned out/meh, and I blame myself partially. I realize that my one-shot style of PbtA facilitation makes long-term play hard. When everything is high stakes, nothing is high stakes, you know? So my personal skill development wish list is to better modulate the stakes, so I don’t rush to the hard moves and I let the players drive toward their stuff a bit more. I too would feel burned out if my play was largely reactive.
Anyway, my try list right now is:
* Playtest Keith Stetson’s Seco Creek Vigilance Committee …takes a lot of players, and that’s hard to pull together until The One Ring is over (sorry Keith!)
* Uncharted Worlds
* My super secret American West game
* My super secret time travel game
* Dungeon World (for real!) + one of the Magpie setting books. They all look nifty. Makes me wonder why nobody’s done a series of Apocalypse World setting books, tbh. Probably after 2E hits.
* The Clay That Woke. My big bag of wooden chits is looking forlorn and unused.
I also picked up No Thank You, Evil! for me and the kiddo, but she’s probably a couple years away from playing it still.