Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Metal Angel/SGAM thoughts

The story of Metal Angel has come to an end. I had fun playing that game--it was nice to try out a different genre and to play with some new tools. But, when all is said and done, I don't feel very satisfied with how it all turned out.  There were actually a number of different elements in this game, and I want to approach them each on their own terms. In no particular order:

1) +Zach Best's work.  Part of the goal for #SGAM2017 was to highlight Zach's work. I've used his Universal NPC Emulator on a pretty regular basis since I've become aware of it, and it's one of my favorite tools for all my games, no just Solo ones. I'm a bit disappointed I didn't get to play with it more in the Metal Angel game, but I already knew that I loved it. Instead, I got to play around with his Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator. And I was honestly surprised by how much I liked it. I'm not sure if it will entirely supplant Mythic in my games, but I can see myself welding the two together.

2) The Palladium system. It's a bit of a guilty pleasure, but I do love me some Palladium. They have some of most insane and yet fun ideas I've seen for RPG's. However, the system is a poor one for my style of roleplaying. It's really just a complicated combat system welded to a basic skill system; and that's fine for many games. But, with a Solo play, I want something a bit more robust, including things the ability to handle social interactions. I think it's why I so heavily default to Vampire/Storyteller system. I still play games with Palladium, but I'll admit that I rely far more heavily on fiat and the Oracle when I do.

3) Metal Angel. If anyone is terribly knowledgeable of Heroes Unlimited, you'll notice that I lied during the character creation post. He shouldn't have had 1 Major Power, but rather 2 Major Powers. I deliberately "simplified" him, as I knew this was going to be a published AP and so I didn't want to deal with an overly-fiddly character. So, he was weaker than he should have been in a conventional game, and, well, that can create an issue in Solo play. As anyone who has used a standard RPG for Solo, you often either need to "level" up a PC to make them more effective as a solo character, or down-shift the opposition to give them a chance.

4) The Tarot Cards. This is the big one, for me, as to why the game didn't work out in a satisfying way. As part of the setup for SGAM, we were presented with a number of Tarot Images.

From Zero Tarot
I have never used images before as a tool in my games, though I know they're quite popular.  So, I didn't really know what to do with them. I ended up using them as a form of "story structure"--with each card representing the theme or mood of each scene. And this ended up trapping me in a narrative that felt more "planned" than "emerging organically." The game didn't seem to flow from the decisions or personality of the main character, or even the results of the Oracle, but instead by the logic of the cards.

Now, I want to be clear, this is not a fault of the cards themselves as a tool. In fact, I rather like what +Todd Zircher  has created, and I can see them being a useful addition. Though, I would probably use them for general setting and NPC creation rather than as a narrative tool.  I just wouldn't want to use them in the manner in which I did, which is as scene prompts. 

And it's not that I'm against using a narrative tool either! Heck, my Lonely Hope game is pretty much entirely about the narrative tool. I think the difference in that game is that I don't know what the next "prompt" is going to be, whereas I knew the cards in advance, and so I felt as if I was "writing to the cards" (which on its own, can be pretty fun), rather than playing the game.

Obviously, different decisions on my part could have changed the game, but I like to rely on what feels right in the moment for my Solo games. And it has been pointed out to me a number of ways that Metal Angels saga could continue, but for now those are my thoughts on my SGAM play through.

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