01 May 2007

Actual Play - Wild Talents & Spirit of the Century

This week was an odd session.

Wild Talents Cold War

First we finished the Wild Talents Cold War mission. This went pretty rapidly as they managed to move quick enough to stay ahead of the pursuers (plus some nice use of their Talents to bluff their way through a couple of checkpoints). I then had a bit of fallout in the debriefing, as they'd gone for the big guns (as it were) very quickly, and created somewhat of an incident. The reactions of the various characters to the debriefing and subsequent training and enforced leave was interesting to play out.

The game left me a little cold, though. Partly this is the traditional nature of the thing. I'd spent an hour or so the day before preparing some stuff, including statting out a couple of Talent bad guys for them to fight, but that never got used due to them outwitting the soldiers they actually met. Although the stats can be used in another game later, it's still kind of annoying.

It's also hard to come up with things when the characters are essentially a pile of combat abilities with a little background attached. In particular, I find that improvising situations is very difficult. This wouldn't be the case after the characters have built up a bit of history, but after only one character generation session and one and a half of play, there isn't much to work with. I may need to finish my spy mission generator tables for Fade, just so that I can use them here too.

I'm considering that it may be time to just throw in the towel on traditional games, and stick with the ones that give me more tools to play in the manner that we do. That is, the group in general doesn't have time to prep or mess around. Games that set us up for instant play seem to work much better. Which leads me into...

Spirit of the Century

As we had a lot of time left, I pulled out Spirit of the Century, which I had cunningly brought along for just this contingency. We made up a bunch of characters, and we'll play a game of that before returning to Wild Talents for another mission.

Character generation in Spirit of the Century is just fantastic. We really got into it, and the way that it builds up works great.

First you work out a concept and think up a good, pulpy name. Coming up with the names was the first part where people started to get into it.
  • Doctor Quantum, scientist.
  • Sarge Splatter, werewolf.
  • Ella House, cabaret singer.
  • Rory Flashheart, adventurer.
Then you work out their early life and details about their family, and pick two aspects relating to that. Then what the character did in The Great War (all the characters are born on 1 January 1901, as part of the setting). These led to some neat images and aspects, and everyone was clearly building up a good idea of their character at this point.

Then we got to the first novel section, where you invent the title and back cover blurb of the first pulp novel starring your character. This is followed by guest appearances from two of the other characters, who add to the blurb.

We ended up with:

She Sang For Your Supperstarring Ella House
Ella had a voice to die for! Larger than life, she needed yours - but has she met her match in Lothario Lounge? Sarge Splatter adds a meaty aperitif, and Rory Flashheart discovers a whole new side to himself when he sings on stage!

Rory Flashheart vs the Diabolical Belgian Rosicrucians
With his love, Ada Jones, kidnapped by evil Lord Lashley for bloody sacrifice, Rory must fight his way into the Rosicrucian castle! Little does he know the terrible traps he will have to avoid! And how will he deal with Ella, mistress of iniquity? How will his true love cope with her forbidden charms? Doctor Quantum arrives in the nick of time to test his Detectotron - but will that be enough to save them?

Doctor Quantum and the Earthquake Machine
Doctor Quantum investigates a cluster of earthquakes on the west coast - his studies lead him to the den of the Jaguar Cult and their Earthquake Machine! Doctor Quantum enlists Rory Flashheart to fight his way to the Earthquake machine! With the Doctor surrounded by Jaguars, Sarge Splatter evens the score!

Sarge Splatter vs The Dessicator!
The most gore-soaked book ever printed! These two juggernauts go head to head! Who will walk away victorious? Doctor Quantum arrives just in time to hydrate Sarge with his Osmosis Device!
Ella's allure melts Sarge Splatter's bloody heart!

As you may guess from those, we were really having fun. I personally liked that we had a couple of science hero/adventure pulps, plus a sordid and exploitative one, and the gory horror. Should make an... interesting... combination. To be honest, a few sessions of making up characters would be fun in and of itself.

However, the thing that I (as a GM) really liked is that these characters are built almost completely of things to hang stories off. Every character ends up with ten Aspects, which are strong flags (as well as (dis)advantages) and five Stunts (pulp powers, also flagging what sort of challenges to set up). Even the skill choices strongly point you at certain scenes. Taken with the immense amount of GM advice in the book, it seems almost the opposite of what I was finding annoying about Wild Talents.

So, next session we'll hit the sample adventure in the book and see how that plays out.


Anonymous said...

I've got to totally agree. I just bought SoTC and WT and just ran a game of SoTC. I can't imagine myself doing more than just reading WT and enjoying the color background/info. SoTC just makes things so much easier to run and really hits the priorities my player's are interested in playing.

Aspects really mold the game!


Luke said...

I recommend creating your first adventure for the PCs rather than the one in the book.

Using the PCs' Aspects and a combination of the three methods set out in the book, it is very easy to craft a new adventure that is tailored to the PCs specifically. You will find that the player will be more engaged with the story as a result and, as such, make it much less effort for you in the long run than the pregen.

Using the methods provided should give you a villain, PC motivation, story structure and highlights scenes for each PC. All that is left is to come up with a title (this is mentioned in the book, but it really is possible).

If you are interested, I created a 2 page worksheet that combines the 3 story structures that I used when I ran SotC on the fly (20 minutes of prep). It is pretty scary but this method really does work.

Also, I have a cheat sheet called "Players vs the Aspects of Doom!" that explains all the mechanics of Aspects. I found this was possible the hardest thing for players to get their head around, but once they did it really flew.

Luke said...

Any chance of getting a list of which players relate to which PCs?

The Gamester At Large said...

Ella House played by Bruce
Rory Flashheart played by Andrew
Sarge Splatter played by Stef
Doctor Quantum played by Jason

The Gamester At Large said...

Ok, Luke, now I have time to comment on your stuff about session preparation. I would appreciate a copy of the worksheet and handout, if you could email them to me.

In terms of character-centricness, I'm not too bothered about it for this - we're currently planning on using SotC as a filler game. However, if planning a custom adventure is going to be quicker than re-reading the sample adventure, I guess that's going to be the nest plan.

And I must say that Sarge Splatter (who is, as it happens, a werewolf) is probably not going to fit in too well at a scientific conference.

Luke said...


The thing with pulp is that the stories are the characters and the characters are the stories. Pulp stories are little more than a vehicle to showcase the character and, ideally, you should be able to tell how the hero is just from the story.

The pregen adventure would work but you would need to work to personalise it to the PCs anyway.