When games go not as expected, but still okay

Its an interesting one I find, I had a plan for this afternoons game, or at least parts of a plan. I knew I was going to do the tunnel segment at the start nice and smooth and do it in semi-light to drop everyone into the mood for visualising and storytelling. Then when I started to ramp stuff up I was going to use more toys and tricks. Make people sit in the dark, add a bunch of sandalwood incense, use bells and singing bowls for strange noises, throw buckets of gore and severed limbs at them etc. etc. The standard horror playbook (and indeed I spoke to someone outside the meeting who still remembered the kill-room in my IronRef one shot and how badly it turned their stomach).

However the two situations for starting the player killing they managed to get out just before I brought the hammer down, and in the end it just didn’t fit to randomly start jobbing them. I pondered making them trade to take people out of Inferno but again it just didn’t sit right.

The game had a strange vibe of its own based on the players and atmosphere, Katie I think summed it up best by saying it was dream like, and that’s about right. I shot for horrible but on the day it came out strange and illusionary.

I miss the original plan I had in a way, but I quite liked how it all worked out in the end.

So has anyone else had games like that? Did you like that they turned out totally different? Did you re-run them to try and get the original vibe? Or were they better for it?

(Also other Halloween one-shot refs what happened? How’d it go? Did your spooky tricks work? I was brain-drained after running so I was mostly still stuck in my own plot and didn’t get a chance to get much info from others).

4 thoughts on “When games go not as expected, but still okay

  1. mr_jez

    The DG stuff I’d been working on this week was filling my head today, so I had to make a concerted effort to change gears into playing your Kult game. I did briefly think of heading home before we got started, as visions of the story I expected to be telling rather threatened to spill over, but I opted for a quick and smooth LBRP out in the courtyard and that cleared my head.

    It seemed like dreams were the whole key to Matt, so whilst I aimed to play him confused when he first encountered the clash of realities, I then reckoned he would react to events as if in a dream. I hope that came over in my voice, but I may have just sounded tired! I can’t claim that I crafted the dream atmosphere though, that came in pretty early with the long intro session. The player characters had one route to tread through the Tunnels of Set and so were encouraged to relax and let the imagery flow over them. Were you looking at the faces of the players during that section? Kids around a campfire, I tell you! … ;o)

    I must say I did like the bird-faced magician and his monastery. Very otherworldly. That section reminded me of Crowley’s strange painting ‘Four Red Monks Carrying a Black Goat Across the Snows to Nowhere’.

    All in all, games go how games go. The ref may put the first ideas together, but the game itself is a collaboration between the whole group. I do re-run games sometimes, not to try and manifest my vision, but to discover how a different group will put flesh on the bones. To be honest, my first choice in game prep is to set up a situation and some npcs and then see where the whole thing goes, although I often have flashes that form vignettes to kick start particular scenes.

    1. mostlyfoo

      Thanks for staying about (and yes banishing rituals are useful like that aren’t they?), and I think you just about pegged it playing the slightly sleep deprived dreamer, I quite liked the interaction between Andrew and him and his insistance that Florence couldn’t be really dead because they’d interacted in dreams (actually the whole one-shot really suited the Valentines theme more than Halloween in a way).

      The campfire vibe wasn’t one I was aiming for but yes it seemed to work :) The long and rather linear intro was planned to lull people a bit before I started to layer on the weird, as I find if you go all into weird stuff right from the get go it tends to bounce people before they’ve had time to drop into the vibe of it all.

      The original plan was to have people sprawed under rows of tables as if crawling through tunnel (and at times perhaps make them shift), with the aim of making them cramped yet not cosy and warm due to being on the floor, to give some impression of claustrophobia. But with those tables in that room I couldn’t quite work out a good method of doing the layout with that many blankets. If I’d had more prep time (and cash) I’d have had you all wearing boiler suits as well, which I think would have helped set the scene.

      Are you referring to this painting? http://www.royalbooks.com/pictures/109559.jpg

      Indeed, games do seem to flow oddly, and I agree on the flashes of inspiration that form key parts. For example as soon as I saw those masks I knew I was going to have the bird faced monks, the two just seemed to go together, the prop creating the character. Although they did became creepier and slightly more like the Skeksis from Dark Crystal as they went on, but with a slightly more dreaming overtone.

      I’ve rerun some stuff in the past, but its been slightly more practical in a way, problem solving things like Cyberpunk, which the skillset of the characters can change how the players approach a problem.

      I’m interested by rerunning more atmospheric games to see how the players and setting affect the atmosphere of it, as you say to put flesh on the bones.


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