Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My First Tabletop or: Firefly's Second Demise

Back in January a friend who had just come back into the country asked me if I'd like to join a Serenity/Firefly based tabletop RPG that he and his friend were starting up. Now, my experience with role playing games is limited to one summer in Middle School when at a summer camp I had a Vampire the Masquerade "class," which consisted of teaching the group of kids how to play an rpg and then trying, completely unsuccessfully, to run a game (what can you expect from a bunch of Middle School idiots who've never played an rpg before though?) So what I had was a basic understanding that you were allotted points and had to fill in little bubbles or numbers to indicate how powerful you were. Also that there were, at some point, dice involved.

So when I was asked if I wanted to join up, I figured why not. Two of my friends were going to be playing and it might be fun. Got an email with all the relevant info/sheets/rules etc that we needed and created a character. The classes worked a bit differently and we had the main necessary guys in our party, so I decided to play a "socialite" and just be a rich, generally douche-y guy for fun. I figured character and role playing were pretty important to an rpg, so I thought it would be fun to have a jerk that people wouldn't like. I also ended up putting points in skills that would probably be of no use to me in a game about space, like fencing. Because socialites have a lot of useless skills that don't help anyone and generally make people hate them even more.

When we all finally sat down for the first session, I was a little nervous since I still wasn't totally sure how to "play," but everyone assured me it would go fine. The GM sets the scene, we're all in a seedy bar/casino parked on a small planet with our own separate agendas, "Go for it," she says. (Yeah a lady GM, girls play too). My friend looks at me and says "I'm standing in a corner pumping coins into a slot machine." I look at him, and say "...what?" I have no idea what the hell is going on, or even who he is. I managed to forget my entire backstory that involves his character and why I'm even there. I tell everyone to hold on a sec and have to ask my friend his character's name. Then I have to look over my backstory sheet to try and figure out what I'm supposed to do. The game is off to a fabulous start!

The rest of the session went better as I started to get more comfortable with the role playing and just going with the flow. We finished up, and I felt better about the whole thing. "Yeah, that was fun, I think I can do this," I said to myself. And then the inevitable happened: the whole thing started to fall apart.

As you know, getting 6 people over college age together weekly can be nigh impossible. Someone always has to work or has a girlfriend or has a party or has ANOTHER rpg they play that day. This is why rpgs are strongest in the middle school/high school crowd. Everyone is on the same schedule. Then college you still have workarounds, but when you have a job and you're living in the city where you can't just drive over to someone's place in 5 minutes, it's a different story. The next session one of our group couldn't make it. We had two muscle characters, so we were alright with just one. We make it through quite a bit, and we do alright for ourselves, even if things go slower because we're down a man.

When we set up for the next meeting, another one of our group has some bad news: she can't make it because she's moved...upstate. So there goes our other fighting character. The guy who couldn't meet last time shows up again, but since he was out last week, we have to locate him in the prison (yeah did I mention we're stuck in a huge prison full of armed guards and violent prisoners?) So the three of us left; a socialite, an engineer, and a pilot with no sense of smell, one leg and basically zero ability to fight or shoot a weapon, battle our way through a prison break and have to fight a bunch of guys ourselves. This of course takes very many rolls as only two of us can use weapons in any effective way, and one of us (not me) continually manages to botch half of the rolls he makes to shoot.

So we finish our session. It's a little annoying to get through, but we make it and there's four of us in the party now. That's enough to keep playing. The next session, two more friends of the gm show up to play, and it looks like we might actually have enough people to make this a fun game. The session goes alright, if not a little rocky with two totally new guys who need to be integrated into the party through story time.

What the hell have I gotten myself into?

So we plan the next session, and no one can come. One of our original guys has moved to Guatemala for a few months. Another just can't make it, at all. It's too far or he has another game to play or he has work the next morning or whatever, so he's out for good. One guy never responds to any emails, and another has classes or papers when we want to play. The trying to put the game back together phase lasts about 2 weeks or so until it's obvious it isn't going anywhere and our game, like it's namesake, has been cancelled before the season's end.

So my first real rpg experience lasted 4 sessions, never with the same group twice. Not the greatest way to try and get into it. I have my doubts as to the feasibility of actually running games outside of school. People are just too busy, and when you live in NY and have to take the subway, getting home late can be a real pain. I am not put off however. Although I am out of the city until summer on business, I'm planning to try and get a new group together to play a new game that I am going to try and GM. Sure, it will probably be a disaster and end in shouts and tears, but for the sake of the geeky teenager still inside, it's worth a shot.

Any good tabletop stories you guys have? I know this is probably nothing compared to the tales some well seasoned rpgers could tell.


JasonMH said...

Has anyone tried doing a tabletop through shared Google Documents? Everyone has their char sheets uploaded, the story line, maps, etc.. uploaded, and conversation is done with a storyboard type written conversation on another shared doc. Just a thought anyway o.0

AHR said...

That's actually an amazing idea. Seems like a lot of honor system would be involved when dice rolls were concerned...but maybe there some sort of shared ap for that?

Of course if you're playing a tabletop online, it kind of begs the question as to why you're not just playing warcraft or something...part of the fun of a tabletop is that you're face to face with your opponents.

Still, I think this idea needs a few rounds of play testing before it's dismissed.

Bishop said...

I think we even had proposed doing it online for about a second, but I think a lot of the fun comes from being in the room with other people. Though something like that might work when one or two people have to leave for a bit but want to keep the game going. I know someone who actually had a game of D&D going during college with his high school friends through email.
I think my concern would be more that, as a GM in that situation, I'd be less likely to feel bad for my faceless players, and would probably just start throwing ridiculous challenges at them because I would be more intent on my entertainment.