Gaming in 2016: January
My year in gaming has begun. As I said in a previous post, I want to try and report on new gaming events and activities that I try each month this year. This is partially to expand my experience as a gamer but also to give me something to write about with more regularity. To both ends, I recently got a group together to play a one-shot RPG.
I’m going to supply a bit of context for those unfamiliar with gaming terms. An RPG is a Role-Play Game. It’s a tabletop adventure game that usually features one player, called a Game Master or GM, telling a story and the other players taking the parts of characters in the story. Characters are created through a series of rules that give them representations for physical and mental statistics, skills, special abilities, and any unique powers they may possess. The GM will give the players a scenario and ask how the player’s characters will react to the situation. Once that’s established, they use the games rules and mechanisms to determine the outcome. This usually involves comparing various numeric values for all the characters involved and rolling dice.
Some of you unfamiliar with gaming might be asking what’s to stop the players or GM from making stuff up that lets them do or not do whatever they want? Simply put, there is an unspoken agreement between everyone at the table to adhere to the spirit of the story being told. If we’re playing a western that takes place in the 1800 you’re unlikely to have your character try and invent a car because it’s not fitting with the theme of the game. If we’re playing a fantasy setting you’re most likely not going to try and have your character suddenly figure out the exact formula for gun powder and a method for forming steel into a Colt Peacemaker. Of course these things aren’t necessarily going to not happen. You will on occasion come across a player who decides that they want to do this and should be allowed to because they can find an obscure rule that lets them. These players tend to never get invited back to play again. Similarly, if a GM abuses his players, never lets them deviate from the story, or discourages creative ideas, they will quickly find themselves without players.
Having said all of that, I want to talk about Sunday. My group decided to meet at my house and play a game we’d never tried before. I narrowed it down to two games: Maid and The End of the World: Wrath of the Gods. I prepared a rough outline for both games. I did this partly because I wasn’t sure which game we would play and also because I’ve discovered over the years that by setting up to rigid a story I would be preventing both myself and my players from having fun. I prefer to allow my players to explore the world and their options. I want them to come up with creative solutions that force me to quickly think up the results and responses from the various monsters and villains.
My group choose the End of the World. I had set up a quick romp through Ragnarok. The End of the World is a series of rule books from Fantasy Flight Games. Each book outlines the rules, enemies, and timelines for various apocalyptic scenarios. There are four books in the series, with there in publication at this time. I choose the one with Deity based world ending horror, the others were zombies, aliens, and machines. In the book were five detailed sections on different religious endings. From nature rising against man to Revelations to Cthulhu. As stated earlier, I choose Vikings.
One of the things I like about TEotW is the system for character creation is, to my knowledge, unique. The players play themselves. Their stats and skills are based on what they can and cannot do. Their equipment is what they have in their pockets at the time of the game. Their motivation is what they would do if this occurred right now.
The adventure was simple, using the set up and time line in the section I had the group experience a vivid dream that showed them their own deaths. They now knew exactly how they would die, though not when. They had a view of maybe a minute before the event occurred, but they couldn’t know exactly when the event would occur. Maybe five minutes, five years, or fifty, there was no way to be sure. With this knowledge the group began checking on family and friends. They wanted to make sure everyone was okay. For the purposes of making my life as a GM simpler, I had an event occur. After making sure it was okay with the two players it concerned, I had their seven month old baby kidnapped by his grandmother. Mostly because I didn’t want to run a game where I had to worry about a baby. I was willing to do it, but it seemed like a bit of a problem for a new system.
While the events of Ragnarok began unfolding the group was trying to find a safe place to stay, get family and friends to shelter, secure housing, get food, obtain gas, and generally prepare for the worst. They had to deal with things like earthquakes, a massive Tsunami in the Pacific, (we’re in Ohio, so not a huge problem) then the sun and moon disappeared completely. Other problems began to come to light, local police and military were in chaos as they dealt with the fallout from people reacting to how they were going to die. Some people were running in an attempt to escape it, some people were attempting murder, to prevent the person who they knew would kill them from getting the chance, and some people just disappearing.
The worst of this was politicians and world leaders who responded to seeing how they would die by moving troops and declaring war on other nations. Under these conditions World War three was inevitable. The group managed to settle down into an easy routine, chasing away looters, fighting the occasional monster, and then a massive earthquake struck. Shortly after that, a bright light appeared on the horizon. At first they thought the sun was returning, but they quickly realized it was noon and the glow was in the west. With a little research, radio communication, and a bit of internet hacking they learned Indiana was on fire. This was mostly due to Surtur and his fire giants rampaging across the state.
The groups life was further complicated when they managed to warn Heimdall as Loki was about to stab him in the back. Heimdall recognizing the group as fated asked them to complete a task that could help Freyar, who was battling Surtur. Loki had stolen Freyar’s sword and Heimdall was attempting to retrieve it. If the group could go and find four heroes to aid in Freyar’s battle then it could give Heimdall enough time to find the sword and possibly sway the battle. The group agreed.
Using the winged mounts of Valkyries they traveled across the globe seeking legendary heroes who had been released from Valhalla to fight in the war. They ended up joining forces with Robin Hood, Fa Mulan, Kalunga, and John Wayne. Returning in time they were able to help Freyar buy time for Heimdall to return with the sword, and allow events to unfold in the manner they were foretold.
Overall the day was fun. I wish I had a better handle on the rules. I think I made some mistakes with how things were done. For example, three Duregar, Viking zombies, were far more difficult a fight than a troll. Beyond that, I like the system and how everything worked. We did skip one step in character creation. The rules call for a moment where everyone votes on what each person has chosen for their stats. I found this to be a bit mean, and decided to skip it.
In the end I’m glad we played. I’ll go over the rules once again before playing a second time. I would like to try this game again in the future. I look forward to running my friends through some other vicious, world ending escapade. Maybe with aliens next time?