Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Concluding Thoughts on Alien Hunger

My "PC Emulator" take on Alien Hunger has come to a close, and it's been an interesting ride. It didn't go quite the way I thought it would, but I think the game and story went better for that.

First off, the core of the game was to experiment with the idea of using the Mythic Emulator to replicate PC's in a module. And I have to say it worked extremely well. Now, Alien Hunger is something of a "sandbox" module, which is a bit different. Sure, there are plots and threads and the like, but how the players approach and resolve each one is up to them, and can vary greatly troupe to troupe. In fact, in my play through, they pretty much skipped two of the three plotlines. And one really awesome sub-plot.

If you've read along, you'll notice some 'red herrings' dropped into the recaps--during their second night,  I mention the character of Tony, but he never shows up again. His role in the module is to be something of a mentor figure, to explain the basics of being a vampire and the existence of the others in Denver. And then to disappear and be killed. On night five, I spent a bit of time on the "court" of Denver. The conflict between Edward and the PC's is a major element in the module, and I was sure if was going to come up sooner or later.

But neither did come back up. I really wanted Tony to show up. I had an entire speech written out for him, where he gives the coterie shit for being damn idiots and, I thought, a pretty poetic explanation of the inherent paradox of vampiric existence--A Monster I Am, Lest A Monster I Become.  It was haunting, and beautiful, and just what the characters needed to hear at that point. But, I didn't do it. It just didn't make sense from the point of view of the story that was unfolding to just jam this random NPC in and highjack the narrative.

Similarly, the other vampires of Denver just...never showed up. I kept trying to game the system, to keep the numbers in their favor, but the results never worked out. Now, I could have forced the issue. Just had Tony show up because, you know, I'm the Storyteller and the dice work for me, not the other way around. Same thing with the various hunters and enforcers for Edward. And that's where the inherent hybrid nature of this game became clear to me. I was running a module, but filtering it through the Mythic GM Emulator, so I wasn't the only one running it--Mythic was as well. And I wasn't the only one playing it--the Emulator was on both. In a way, it felt less like playing a game and simply recapping a story someone else was telling me.

And honestly, I think it was for the best. By keeping Tony and the vampires of Denver "off screen," the story remained hyper focused on the trials and reactions of Maya, Trent, and Daron. And, to a lesser extent, Suzanne and Zoe. When I run modules and games for "real," I sometimes force the tale to go the way I had envisioned it. But sometimes it's best to lay off a bit, and let the characters and their desires drive the game.

Anyway, it was different experience, but one I think I want to keep working on. I probably won't be posting updates for future games, though if I get another bizarre bug to novelize them, who knows?

Oh, so, the reason why I "novelize" the recap--it's a bit of an odd thing. Most of the solo gamers don't bother with it. Instead they focus on the mechanics, and let the story form "between the lines" so to speak. I think that style works for the majority of Solo games, since most are based on D&D or one of it's derivatives. Pretty much everyone "gets" D&D, and so you don't need to go into detail.

Vampire is...different. For one thing, it's not nearly as popular as it once was, so I can't assume a reader will understand what's happening if I just posted the mechanics. Also, the module I was running is obscure even among Vampire fans, and I really can't assume that anyone is even remotely familiar with it. So, yeah, hence why I "novelize" my recaps.

That, and I sort of play that way even on my non-posted games. Sure, I don't get quite as detailed as I did here. But, pieces of dialog, quick descriptions, notes about emotional states--all these things matter, whether one is playing Vampire or D&D or what have you.

Random additional thoughts:

The other plot they missed is the Investigation. There's an awesome Detective that's on their trail and uncovering all their lies and mistakes. He's just great. But, since they went on the run so fast, he never got a chance to talk with the characters. He makes a brief cameo on Night Two interviewing Daron's neighbor

That subplot I mentioned? Yeah, Prestor kept samples in a Bank, and the players get to break in and steal it. A bank job! You have no idea how excited I was to see what they would come up with and how they would, probably, fuck everything up. But, Zoe botched her roll,  so they never even knew about it.

The PC Emulator did a really good job making the PC's act like PC's. They forgot about Suzanne on Night 1. They would have a plan at the end of one night/session then just drop it and aggressively pursue another. Sometimes they were all about talking and scheming, and the next scene they just want to fight people. Which is what ends up happening in every game I've run. And, to be honest, played in.

BUT, it's not what happens in Solo games. Ultimately, because in a Solo game, the GM and PC are one. Which means if I (wearing the PC hat) think a plan is reasonable and fair then, by definition, I (wearing the GM hat) will also think the plan is reasonable and fair. By adding in a randomizer, that's not always the case. For example, the coterie would have been much better off staying at Daron's and talking with the cops earlier. Or, calling up Klondike at the end and talking it through with him. Or a number of other cases where they just screwed up because they didn't know what the hell they were doing.

Honestly, though, I think it ended up being a better story.

Creating a Random Vampire

Now that we have the basics for creating a random vampire in place, let's see what we can come up with. Oh, quick note, I did some li...