I should be polishing up my notes for the kids game today, but thought I’d post this really quick.
After spending all that time talking about the Aspect system I sloppily poached from Spirit of the Century, I finally actually played Spirit of the Century yesterday. I thought I’d share some of my experiences of it. There’s a bit of explanation as to how I ended up running Spirit of the Century on the fly yesterday, too, so please bear with me.
Yesterday was the latest iteration of what I call my “Beer and Pretzels” group. It had started out as a light-hearted game to be played without a whole lot of emphasis on serious roleplay or anything. The idea was just to beat things up in a game, make crude jokes, munch on snacks.
The last time I’d run a game like this it was a hard-core hack-and-slash D&D game that I titled, with much originality, “Dungeon Crawl!” We drank, we tried to follow the rules as closely as possible and made jokes about the system. Lots of fun. This time I thought it would a good segue for some of the kids of the kids game to mix with adult roleplayers, since many of the kids are about to graduate from high school. That latter part didn’t work out so well, but that’s a different topic. We started this group playing Shadowrun 4e, switching to Exalted 2e farther down the road for an assortment of reasons.
I’ve been increasingly burnt out as a GM. In part because I was GMing 4 different games towards the end of last year. With that as a motivation, I’ve been clearing stuff off my plate. I wrapped up one game, moved the B&P game to once every four weeks instead of every other week, prepared to wrap up another. I was hesitant to give up the B&P game entirely, since this was a main point of contact between me and some of my friends. But burnout, the potential of moving out of state in the near future and a growing dislike of Exalted from a GMing POV prompted me talk to the players about it. I didn’t want to just outright cancel the next session, since they’d been in the midst of an adventure, but I told them in the reminder email that I’d like to wrap it up and stop GMing. I invited input on what we should do next.
While people generally wanted to continue doing something on that time slot, there was little firm thought on what that would be. As an added bonus, one player ended up not being able to make it, but two of the other three players still wanted to get together and play something, even if it was just board games. The fourth player never showed up, perhaps not wanting to come if she wasn’t going to be able to play her Exalted character. I don’t know.
I dug out a bunch of RPGs that I thought would work well for one shots, both ones that I’d played and ones that I hadn’t. The criteria I had was that character creation should be quick, the game mechanics should be simple enough that I can just wing it even if I’m not overly familiar with them and the setting should be approachable.
For those who care, the games I had played before that I suggested were Star Wars Saga Edition, a low level D&D 3.5 game, d20 Call of Cthulhu (d20 was offered because my copy of the original rules were loaned out), d20 Modern and the new World of Darkness. Other games I offered that I’d never played were Unknown Armies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spirit of the Century and Zorcerer of Zo. The two people who showed up settled on Spirit of the Century.
I walked them through character creation, since I only had one copy of the book. The early part of character creation was pretty fun. It was a little slowed by the players not knowing exactly what they wanted, but they had a good time thinking up backgrounds and Aspects to go with them, the name and plot of their first novels and the crossovers.
Things slowed down a bit when they had to pick out skills. Things ground to a halt when they had to pick stunts. It was essentially the same problem you run into when dealing with feats in D&D, charms in Exalted, etc. Having to puzzle out what stunts they wanted and what prerequisites they had to take to get them really ate up time. Especially when they saw something they really, really wanted and realized they needed 3 or 4 stunts they didn’t already have, so they’d have to start over again.
All told, character creation took about two and a half hours. With familiarity of the rules it probably would have gone faster. Not fretting over optimizing of their characters would probably have also smoothed things along.
This left an hour and a half to two hours for me to run them through an adventure that I’d been pulling out of my ass while they worked on characters. The characters were Johnny Lu, an Englishman who had studied the mysteries of the Orient under Lo-Pan (yes, that Lo Pan) and had adopted a new name to separate himself from his old identity, and Blake Rockwell, Man of Science. The plot I cobbled together mostly revolved around a continuation of the John Carter story Skeleton Men of Jupiter, with a dash of Mars Attacks and Mars Needs Women thrown in.
While attending a banquet held by a wealthy millionaire, the event is spoiled by skeleton men of Jupiter busting in, killing men with zot guns and capturing the women. The heroes bravely took down the skeleton men and managed to capture the ship. They tracked down the invaders to the planet Jupiter, staged a raid there, took back all of the Earthling women and took out the Jovian Imperial Council.
In general it was just stupid fun. The players had very little in the way of negative Aspects, so it was harder to come up with a lot of strong compels. It got easier towards the end, though. I’ll probably use it for other, similar, games in the future. I don’t know that I’ll want it for deep, intense roleplaying situations. But if we just want a game where we beat things up, this is a good one. I don’t know that it’s great as a game that you can just pull the book off the shelf with little prior exposure and just go. But I could see it being a good recurring game that would flow pretty well once you’re exposed to it.