This game was supposed to happen last month, but life got in the way and we had to postpone. It was worth the wait. Lots of fun. We met yesterday (Sunday) at our usual spot, Madness Games & Comics. As is my habit, I got there early to get us a good table. One of the employees noticed that I was setting up for an RPG and suggested a table near a column in the store, where I could put the GMs chair at the head of the table and not block an aisle. Nice guy. I struck up a conversation with him, telling him how much we enjoy the store and appreciate the free gaming space, and that each of us always tries to buys something after we play to help support the place. He told me they really appreciate it, and that there are a few groups that not only don’t buy anything, but leave a huge mess at the gaming table. Well, those people need to be taken out and publicly caned. Madness it the BEST, and needs to be supported and respected!
Anyway, back to the game. I’d had some time to plan this game. As usual I’d gone through numerous versions of the session. Numerous possible trajectories for the story. I knew I wanted some really fun action in this session. Last session was nearly all roleplaying, which is great, but we needed some violence. The trick of course is to lead the PCs to the action in a way that makes sense. They still had some work to do finding clues to start leading them to the person they were seeking.
In the olds days I hated having the party separated, but with my current gaming group, over both my campaigns, I don’t mind it too much. Of course eventually I want the team united, but I don’t mind moving back and forth between two or three groups of PCs now. I just make notes, and try move from one group to another pretty quickly, giving them all something to do. This was particularly useful on Sunday, as the team was split into three groups, all looking for clues in different ways. I had four clues ready for them, and was able to work two of them into the game successfully since the team was working this way. I was on my way to discovering this kind of GMing technique for investigative games, and then the GURPS Mysteries book articulated it really well. That book has great advice for GMing investigative games, regardless the system. I recommend it.
The other advice I’ve taken heed of lately — well — I can’t remember where I read this, but it’s to have a third party involved in the story. You need the heroes, their adversaries, and at least one other entity or organization that can provide help, hindrance, information, or otherwise simplify/complicate the story (or in this case game). In the case of my game, I’m using some NPC organizations to let me, as GM, give the PCs a bit of help when they are stuck, but it all fits in well with the story. It’s taken me decades to really learn this simple lesson.
So, we had some nice action during a grav bike chase in the bioluminescent Pachyderm trails through the jungles of Planet Uetonah. I used the same rules I homebrewed for the mining pod close-quarters ship combat we used in Session 7. They work pretty well. I don’t want our sessions to turn into tactical ship/vehicle combat that slows everything down, and these rules are doing the job. They keep the game moving, offering just enough structure that I’m not just “making stuff up.” The players have some agency and results are still determined by the dice.
The players, of course, threw me a few curveballs. I had a much more complex layer of tunnels through the canopy above the Pachyderm trails I was hoping they would enter, but their use of grenades against their pursuers was very effective. I used that noise of the grenades as the reason the giant snake creature inhabiting the upper system of tunnels was attracted to the action, and it then of course chased them. I made it damned hard to kill. Took a lot of grenades to put it down, and even then it was only unconscious. Tough bastard!
I had lots more stuff planned but we ran out of time. Rather than rush through more stuff probably mess up some fun encounters, I stopped the session a the three hour mark. Plenty left to do in late July, and time for me to modify it more and make it better.
I’m loving this game.