Saturday, September 14, 2013

Back Behind the Screen

So a couple of weeks ago, in the final throes of no-power-having (which I'll write about pretty soon), I'm visiting some game friends in their house with lights, and efamar mentions that she would like to try Champions. I keep talking about it, and Sargon keeps talking about it, how complex yet fun it can be, and she just wants to know for herself.

And the thing is, I've been thinking about trying to gamemaster again for a few years now, but hadn't gotten the nerve for a few reasons. I'd been trying to put together a very large game world that was a little too ambitious, I had been trying to adapt the Champions design into something a little simpler (coming up with some similar approaches to the guys who did the Fuzion system) with not much success, and with Sargon already running our once-a-week game, I wasn't sure people would have time to fit a second game into their schedules.

But efamar wanted to try it, and jormungandr said he wanted to give it a go as well, and when efamar said that Sargon had expressed a wish to get to be a player instead of a GM at least once, I decided to give it a try.

But instead of trying to launch a big campaign in a new world, I decided to start small. One of the biggest hurdles to new Champions players is designing a new character. There are so many options and variations, and so much math, and that's only after you've wrapped your head around the concept of the effects-based system Champions uses. It can take hours to put together a good character--fun hours for a certain brand of game geek, admittedly--but it can be off-putting to new players.

So I decided to use a fairly small pre-generated adventure with the players using introductory characters from the 4th Edition Champions rulebook. The adventure was the classic "School Holiday" by Aaron Allston, published in The Space Gamer magazine in 1982 (later expanded into School of Hard Knocks for GURPS Supers). Because the adventure's NPC's were designed with 1st edition rules, however, I also used characters from either the rulebook or from Classic Enemies (4th Ed.), sometimes with slight changes to names and powers. I threw in a quick introductory Danger Room fight to get people used to the way combat works before throwing them into the big fight. I ended up getting way more into it than I expected to.

The actual night itself was fun, after a rocky start. A couple of players weren't in great moods coming in, and I don't know if the two-page quick-start rules I sent out were actually helpful at all in introducing concepts, so the Danger Room fight didn't go quite as quickly as I'd hoped.

When the PC's got to the hostage situation at the school, they leapt forward a lot more quickly than I'd expected and hit from two fronts, so the fight was a lot less self-contained than anticipated. The encounter was supposed to be pretty challenging, but doable as long as the characters took on a few enemies at a time. We ended up running out of time in the middle of the big fight, with one character alone against a few of the enemies in the final room (he tunnelled ahead) while the others were fighting against the rest upstairs.

I was a lot more out-of-practice behind the screen than I'd anticipated. The last time I gamemastered was in 1987, so we're looking at over 25 years. It was fun, but I had forgotten a lot of the rules on things like Flash Attacks and Entangles, so I spent more time consulting the rulebook than I prefer. But people said they enjoyed it, and we're planning on getting together perhaps week after next to finish out the encounter, and beyond that, who knows?

I'm getting the itch to pick up that old campaign I was designing, although I'm having trouble choosing a rules system. Part of me wants to stick with Champions, but putting together NPC's and things is really time-consuming. Another part of me is really curious about something rules-lite, like the Fate System. You don't get that satisfying crunch of improving skills and watching your numbers go up, but it seems like it could be really fast, fun and flexible, ideal for a group of people who wouldn't have a lot of time for either preparation or play. And I've downloaded a lot of d6 system stuff that I've never gotten to play, as well, so there's that.


Anonymous said...

I probably should have warned you I tend to be quite a hard-assed tactical player once the fighting starts. I'm the guy who one-punched Mechanon with a completely legal 250-point character. I try to reign myself in as a GM, but as a player I can be hard to handle.

Anonymous said...

The quick start was helpful, but the truth is that I'm terrible reading game instructions of nearly any sort from a rule book. I even had Jorm try to break them down to me beforehand, but with this sort of thing I tend to need to actually do it to get the hang of it. So it was probably going to go slowly no matter what.

I was getting more of the hang of it as the night ended (and sorry for crapping out in the middle of a turn like that, but I was just falling apart--nothing on you and your GMing). And I had fun regardless! (Though it kills me how quickly Naamah and Sargon can get into a character, even a one-off one. Yes, yes, I know 20+ years playing, but I'm still envious . . .)

Naamah said...

I found the quick start guide helpful, definitely.

I had fun! A lot, actually. I absolutely would like to do more of that kind of thing. It's a really neat system. I'm a strongly character-oriented player, I always have been, but I also have a fascination with RPGs in general, so exploring other systems would be awesome, too. I don't know about the others -- switching systems can be a bit whiplash-y -- but I would enjoy that. So, whatever you're up for, you have my sword/axe/bow/zombie shark.

(Efamar: maybe it's not easy, but you do fine. All your people have been quite distinct, and Vesper is awesome. I don't think you have anything to worry about. Besides, I may have a boost beyond the 20+ years thing: I'm legit crazy. How many points would I get for the disadvantage "talks to imaginary people, and they talk right back"?)

TheyStoleFrazier'sBrain said...

Looking forward to finishing up maybe next week then.