#RPGaDAY2015, Day 23: The Perfect Game

So, Day 23 is Perfect Game for Me on #RPGaDAY2015.

I’ve been paying attention as I’ve been writing, and common themes come up:

  • Player investment and ownership in what happens at the table, outside of just reacting to the setting and story.
  • A fast-playing system for what goes on under the hood. Something interesting to interact with but not so elaborate that it detracts from the story formed at the game table.
  • A game system that informs the game’s players[1] what the game is designed for.
  • A low prep time for the game’s facilitator.

Three games instantly spring to mind: Inspectres, Lady Blackbird, and Primetime Adventures.

InSpectres really shines with the Confessional bit[2] where characters reveal that the game is a reality tv show and they can introduce elements into the “now” that weren’t shown on screen earlier. It’s also a fast system with very little prep from the Ghost Master (or whatever the GM is called in that game). Get it now for $10![3]

Lady Blackbird does a similar thing that InSpectre’s Confessional Scenes do with the refreshement scenes — especially the scenes that are done as flashbacks. Both games’ scenes increase the player’s investment into the game and let the players dictate how some of the story is going. And a bonus: neither game needs any prep. Get it now for free!

Primetime Adventures doesn’t need any prep, either. Just show up and run. Plus, the game is set up to have the players create a great deal of the story, force the GM to focus on all characters equally over the course of a series, gets the players to reward each other for entertaining everyone at the table[4] , and there’s also the Audience Participation rules that lets everyone play the game. Get it now for $10![5]

Did I mention there’s no prep for these games? I really don’t have much time to prepare for a game; these three games are literal time-savers. InSpectres is great for (Ghostbusters-flavored) comedy, Lady Blackbird is great for action, Primetime Adventures is great for drama.

 

Edit: You know, I’m going to add Apocalypse World to that list. It hits everything, except for generating the fronts after character generation. But once that’s done, it’s smooth sailing from then on. AW also has my favorite game system, but you can read more about that on an earlier day’s entry.

  1. Remember that the GM — or whatever term you use for that facilitator role — is also playing the game. []
  2. Although the “once per game” or whatever limitation the Confessional Scenes has in the game is fun-limiting. Just go to Confessional whenever the players want. []
  3. InSpectres is available in PDF only through that link. I am not sure where you can get a physical copy. []
  4. Which will probably come up again in Day 24’s “Favorite House Rule” post []
  5. It is a $25+ for a physical copy of PTA, depending on where your mail box lives. []

#RPGaDAY2015, Day 7: Favorite Free RPG

Today, on #RPGaDAY, our writing prompt is Favorite Free RPG.

It’s still Lady Blackbird. I didn’t even need to think longer than a few seconds about that one.

Well, see you tomorrow.

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Oh, wait. That’s not 500 words.

What I like about Lady Blackbird isn’t one specific thing. There’s a lot of great moments in those few pages of game material:

The opening. You’ve got a situation that throws the protagonists into peril, reading like a Republic Movies serial opening as it scrawls up the screen. It’s a wonderful technique and a throwback to the film serials that, due to being short movies that were designed to bring people back to the theater week after week, heavily imply near non-stop action and cliffhangers.[1]

The implied setting. We don’t know much about the setting: just enough to hook us in, not enough so the players at the tables get to flesh out the world. Anything as simple as what the imperial guards on board the Hand of Sorrow are in your game: Clockwork soldiers that need winding? Men in suits of armor with blasters? Women in caped Prussian uniforms weilding electro-sabres? To what the words “Imperial Expansion” implies on the map, or that slavery is outlawed on Haven — does the Empire have slaves, or are they fleeing from the Free Worlds? To the barely-mentioned-in-the-game Sky Squids, featured on a diagram of relative sized that shows how small your ship, The Owl, is, in comparison. Especially how it would easily fit in the tentacles.

The characters. Aimed at each other with secret[2] goals and desires. “Will they be able to find the secret lair of the pirate king?” the game asks. “If they do, will Uriah Flint accept Lady Blackbird as his bride? By the time they get there, will she want him to?”

The character sheets. Right there are all the rules you need to play the game. The top half, your character. The bottom, the rules summary: how to do things, how to improve your character. It’s crazy clever how much game there is in that little space on the character sheet.

The refreshement scenes. You get to refresh your dice pool by takign a breather with another character, which drives the roleplaying, but there’s this fantastic line slapped at the end that really made our game of Lady Blackbird an awesome game: Refreshment scenes can be flashbacks, too. That single line opened up the world and let us explore the space. We flashback to when Vance first met the Lady. We see the Lady’s life before her engagement. We can experience Count Carlowe’s and Uriah Flint’s power over the common folk. We can even jump back to a quiet moment at the beginning of the journey and watch Naomi and Kale steal a kiss.

When my group played, we ran five or six sessions. We made it to Flint’s base and by that time, no, she didn’t want anything to do with the scoundrel. The Owl, destroyed, the Lady, she took command and stole Count Carlowe’s ship, fleeing into the blue with her crew. A happy ending after all, but probably not the one your group would have.

Lady Blackbird: still a masterpiece.

  1. It’s not a coincidence that George Lucas used the same technique in Star Wars back in 1976, followed by one of the most memorable openings to a movie. Go back and watch Star Wars and see how long it is until the first or fourth line of dialogue is uttered. What happens before that? Dire peril. []
  2. Secret to the characters, not to the players. []
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