Thursday, September 13, 2018

Experiment in GMless roleplaying

Last night, I finally got to play a GMless game. Ever since I started Solo Role-playing, I've been particularly fascinated with this variation of "standard" role-playing.  To put it simply, it's a "group solo" style game, where multiple players come together and use an Oracle rather than a GM to tell a, for lack of a better term, emergent story. It's obviously a bit of an odd duck, but one that is pretty well documented and supported with the base Mythic game. Since I love both traditional roleplaying as well as Solo, this seemed to be an excellent method to combine the two. 

Plus, there's something to be said for an utterly zero-prep style of game. 

Well, I managed to rope in a long-time friend of mine, D. He's been an off and on gamer for years, both as a player and as a GM. He's read along some of my Solo AP's, so it wasn't a completely alien concept to him. He still wasn't sure that he "got" it, but was willing to humor me as we are both between games at the moment.  It ended up being a very fun game, even if it did lean a tad toward the cliche. 

We started around 8:30, meeting up over Roll20. We didn't have anything set, other than to try a GMless style game. I went over how basic Mythic worked, even though it can seem a bit off-putting until you really see it in practice. After that, we had a brief discussion of which game we should play. I immediately waved off any idea of doing Vampire or the like. I was already the "Mythic guy" in this particular game, and I didn't want to put any more weight in my corner. I wanted this to be as collaborative as possible. 

We opted instead for Call of Cthulhu. It's a game and genre we're both familiar with, even if it's been years since either of us actually played it. This came back to cause issues later, but our focus was on just getting going. We quickly rolled up our character in Hero Lab, which made character creation a breeze. We ended up with probably "subpar" characters, but it didn't really matter. Leaning into the tropes, he named his character "Charles Dexter Ward"--a small time occult journalist. I went with "Jack Thompson"--an "in-house investigator" for an insurance company.  

Unfortunately, I didn't keep detailed notes for this game, so I can't state all of the results the Oracle gave us. As such, this AAR will be slightly light on the mechanics. I will try to provide as much context as I can for our decisions, though. 

D's first thought was that a professor or doctor had died and we're looking into it. We rolled against Mythic for some of these assumptions, and confirmed it was a professor, but that he was missing. D stated that Ward was SURE he died due to nefarious and mystical agents, while I decided that Jack is sure that he had just skipped town with a mistress, and his wife was making a false life insurance claim. 

He's the Mulder, I'm the Scully. 

Scene 1 CF 5

We use a combination of skill checks and Mythic rolls to ask around Arkham. It ended up that the fellow was extremely off-putting and disliked by both colleagues and grad students. We also confirmed that he was a professor of Biology, conduction some kind of odd-research about animals. We couldn't tell if he was being secretive about his research, or if simply no one cared to discuss it with him. 

Scene 2 CF remains at 5 

(I forgot the "roll against CF at the scene change" thing, so we kept it as is)

The PC's headed to his on-campus office. We decided it was during the day, so we did things by the book. We asked the department secretary to let us into the office, which she did, grudgingly. But, she was oddly ANGRY at us (Mythic), and Ward stayed to chat with her.  He did well on his social rolls, but we were still left questioning as to exactly what her relationship was with the missing professor. Oh, and at this point we randomly rolled a name for him, and came up with Leonard Archer. 

While Ward was talking with the secretary, Thompson was looking in the office, trying to find where he could have gone and where his off-campus office/lab would be. I succeeded in my skill checks, so we turned to Mythic, and ended up with a farm  pretty distant from Arkham. A place we nebulously called "upstate" until we had to narrow it down more. We decided I found a letter from a different insurance company for a truck that I didn't know he had, registered under his name at an unknown address. I was also curious as to WHAT he was researching. We decided to answer this with a "complex question" and got "Disrupt" and "Evil." We discussed the result a bit, and decided that vaccinations made the most sense, particularly for a Biologist, but rolling on Mythic let us know there was more to it. We decided that, while he shelves were filled with classic Biology and Chemical tracts, he had a small collection of more obscure and fringe works as well. Ward was the occult guy, and so Thompson pried him away from the secretary and had him check the books. He failed his Occult check, so we couldn't link any of the works with the rest of the items on his shelf. Particularly since none of us knew a damn thing about Biology.

Scene 3 Chaos Factor drops to 4

(I remember, and we roll against the CF and everything continues as normal)

We headed upstate, and figured it would take us the rest of the day to even get to a town near where the address lay. We got a hotel room for the night (expense accounts, gotta love them), and headed over in the morning.  We decided it was a farm of some sort, but knew nothing else. We rolled against Mythic and figured out that it seemed somewhat normal, and that there were people working on it. But, they REFUSED to talk to us about anything--a combination of failed social rolls and Mythic.  I left my business card, and we headed back to town. 

Theorizing that, hey, this guy is an egg head from the city and NOT a local, we figured we should talk to the locals about what Archer's farm had been up to. We figured it would be "Very Likely" that they would be willing to talk, but rolled an ABSOLUTE NO roll. A few more rolls, and it was clear that us, and our questions, were not welcome in this town. Hell, the hotel even had our bags packed and waiting for us outside when we got back. 

This thing is bigger than we thought!

We headed to a different town, and checked into separate hotels, thinking that if word went out about us, they'd be looking for two men together.  This might not have been the best plan we've ever had. We then decided we'd head back that night to keep an eye on the road to and from the Farm, to see what we can figure out. 

Scene 4 Chaos Factor rises to 5. 

We roll against it, and get an altered scene, "Move Towards Thread, Deny, Dispute." 

We interpreted this as the following: Ward and Thompson park the car in the trees, and slowly make their way to the road. In the distance, they can hear yelling and screaming, in particular someone yelling "No." Curious as hell, they decide to sneak onto the farm and see if they can find out what's going on. 

Well, two failed Sneak checks later, that plan completely fell apart. Rolling on Mythic, we were found by just one guy, but one who had no interest in either talking to us or calling for help. Instead, he was attacking! And this is the point where the game got bumpy, since neither of us REALLY remembered how Call of Cthulhu handled combat, aside from the most basic. A quick look up told us that combat order was determined by Dexterity--highest go first. Ward had a Dex of 15, while Thompson had a measly 5. We asked if the guy had a Dex higher than Wards, figuring it was "Unlikely"--but, he did. And got to go first. 

We also had no idea of this guys skill. We knew he had a hatchet-like tool, and asked if he was using it at default. We got another "ABSOLUTELY NO" result, and set it equal to our best combat skill, my Handguns at 70%. Of course, since we're still trying to be quiet, I'd be using my Fist/Punch skill at 60. 

There's not point going into the back and forth, but it was a very, very rough fight for Ward and Thompson, both of whom were pretty well wounded in the fight. Worse, in desperation, Thompson fired his gun, though to no avail. While victorious, the combination of the multi-round scuffle and the gun shot convinced us that discretion was the better part of valor. 

But, Mythic resulted in us being pursued. I probably would have run it as a running fight to our car, but D felt a car chase made more sense. Sounded fine to me, and I didn't dispute it. We got to our car, but their trucks were roaring out of the farm. The car was faster, but not built for these rough rural roads. Given that, we decide the vehicles were roughly equal. And Mythic indicated that the drivers of the trucks were using the default skill at 20%. Which should have been good for us, except Ward and Thompson were also at 20%.  

We had no interest in looking up chase rules, so we just declared that it would be a roll off, first person to 3 successes either catches the other or gets away. "Crits" count for two, "Botches" subtract 2. We got away, barely, and more to misfortune on their part than any skill or cleverness on ours. 

We scuttled back to Thomspon's hotel room, and collapsed, wounded and exhausted. 

At this point, it was about 10:30 and we had to call the game. I asked D if he was free in the next week or two, but he offered to play the next night. 

All in all, it was a very fun if very different kind of game. Not a lot of "roleplaying"--though I attribute that more to the slap dash nature of our character generation and desire to just get going and to see what Mythic could tell us. But it was still a fun and thrilling game, and fast. I mean, we went from "I don't know, what do YOU want to play" to collapsing, wounded, persuade by foes in just two hours. 

If you're ever in a position where you and your friends want to game, but no one has anything prepped or wants to GM, I highly recommend you try a GMless style game.

Thousand Year Old Vampire

Thousand Year Old Vampire is a Solo Roleplaying game, in which you chronicle the centuries of existence as one of the undead. It was laun...