one of my least favorite role-playing experiences, I thought I'd turn the tables to talk about one of the most fun experiences I've had lately.
A few weeks ago, in place of the normal Friday Night "Andalusia II" game, DM'd by my friend Brian, that I'm playing in, we ended up with a couple of players who couldn't make it, so my friend Sean stepped in and offered to run a Cthulhu one-shot for us. It's really important to me to keep the momentum of the Friday night game going, because I really look forward to it. Yeah, I'm tired and it's at the end of a long week of work, at night. But, that's precisely why I need that time - to hang out with my friends and relax, have a few beers and hopefully some Scotch (although the Scotch purveyor has been slacking lately - you know who you are), talk about the week, and kill pretend zombies/orcs/dragons/cultists.
So, when Sean stepped up, I was ecstatic. It was the second time in the past few months when another player in the Friday night game had offered to run a one-shot as a replacement for our regular game falling through.
Now, as a courtesy to those who haven't played this particular module I'm going to talk about, there are not any spoiler alerts ahead. This adventure was so much fun that I would hate to ruin it for anyone who might want to play through it some day.
Sean opted to use the Savage Worlds rules, which we had used successfully a few months ago with a one-shot game run by my friend, Cal (which was probably the second-most fun I've had role-playing in recent memory). Sean picked an adventure called "In Media Res", which I've never heard of and didn't know what to expect. I believe it's available in the Unspeakable Oath #10.
Right away, we were immersed in the world when Sean provided us with actual name tags that he had made listing the names of our pre-generated characters on them, as well as their "current location" (where they resided). Sean is always making props for his games, and they are good props - he went the extra mile and bought little plastic card holders with clips on them that we wore, and then told us afterwards that we could keep them as kind of like a little game momento. In the past, he's made matchbooks, postcards, business cards, newspaper articles (printed on actual newsprint), and handbills for different events.
Anyway, the game started by Sean taking each player outside one at a time and telling us about our characters. The rest of the information we needed to know was written on our character sheets, including the "Hindrances" of the Savage Worlds system. One of mine was "mumbles a lot", so I spent the game doing my impression of Rain Man and mumbling under my breath, doing my best to comment on every situation. There were only three players, and the adventure called for four pre-generated characters, so Sean played the fourth himself.
During the course of the game, which takes place in a more modern time period (1980s), our characters did some really interesting things that I would normally not do in a course of a role-playing game, including rifling through a refrigerator looking for steaks to cook and then splitting the party so that some of the characters could eat dinner, having our characters put on clothes that weren't theirs, rummaging through someone's underwear drawer, and watching TV. It was just totally crazy and weird and tons of fun. But, this is a Cthulhu game, so there was some maximum creepiness/weirdness thrown in that really changed the tenor of the game as well. As I mentioned, I don't want to say too much more in order to avoid spoiling it for those who haven't experienced it.
The next day, my wife asked me, "How was the game last night?" and I couldn't stop talking about how cool it was and how much fun I had, and she said, "That sounds fun! I totally would've played that game!" My wife has played RPGs before, but only in my World of Samoth game and pretty much only to humor me because she was curious about the world that I'd spent the past 20+ years developing. But she was totally excited at how cool the Savage Worlds Cthulhu game was, and I think if we do another one-shot in the future I could convince her to come with me.
I think the key for this type of game was the pre-generated character. I love creating my own characters, but I've found that, especially for shorter game (one-shots or just one module over the course of a few games), having the GM give you a pre-generated character makes it so much easier to actually role-play, because the GM usually gives you little bits of information about your character.
As an example, in my friend Cal's one-shot Savage Worlds game, we all played American paratroopers during World War II who were being dropped behind enemy lines to investigate a secret Nazi experimental base. Well, everyone but me, that is. I played Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Nigel Hawthorne from the British Office of Special Intelligence. I was actually in charge of the entire mission, but my superiors and I had realized that the Americans had the best paratroopers on the side of the Allies, so we opted to use them for the mission. I was told on my sheet to try to speak as much as possible in an English accent, to pronounce "Lieutenant" as though there were an "F" in the first syllable, and to start pretty much every sentence with the phrase "I Say", to insert the word "then" into my speech even when unnecessary and to end each sentence with a rhetorical question. So, I might comment on the weather by saying, "I say, old chap, lovely spot of weather we're having then, isn't it?" I had three Hindrances. The top one was simply, "English." My sheet also told me how I felt about all of the other characters, and of course theirs did the same for me. It was hilarious, and combined with the other characters in the group, it made for an awesomely fun night of role-playing because I was able to instantly get into my character.
What are your experiences with pre-generated characters? Do you think they help, or do you think they're just a crutch for people?
Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "The Last Good Day of the Year" by Cousteau