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Tis the Season

Chill
It's the season for Chill, and I have a problem.

I love running Chill, and I have a group of wonderful players.  Until I took a hiatus a month ago, we'd been running weekly for a couple of years.  I tend to long, involved scenarios deeply linked into the backgrounds of the characters.  That made for a lot of good play, but Real Life has reared its monstrous head.  Odds are good that no more than 3 of my six players will be able to make any given week night session, which ends up limiting my story options.  What do I do if I've centered the story around a character who can't make it that week - or for several weeks?

I don't want to replace the players who can't make it often - they're great players, they just have Real Life conflicts.  I want to make my game more "absence friendly" without losing the personal connection that I feel is so important in a horror game.

I'd like to go to a more episodic approach (a la Supernatural, Friday the 13th the Series or Poltergeist: the Legacy), but I'm kinda stalled.  I don't want to do tired old stuff - these folks are all pretty well mired in the horror genre.  I'd like to string the episodic events into arcs so that eventually they'd look at them an realize that this and this and OMG THAT all apply to their personal arcs, and it's time to batten down the hatches.

So I turn to you, my fellow evil geniuses, for a burst of ideas for short (3-4 hr) torture sessions...er... games.

Edit: Game blogs are available at: www.chillrpg.net/chilldetroit

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Comments

( 8 comments )
bluelang
Oct. 29th, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC)
An interesting challenge - let me noodle on it. Would you be starting over from scratch or would you want to shift an existing cast/campaign to the new season structure?
jaegamer
Oct. 29th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)
I'd be migrating the existing story/group. They finished a big arc, so episodic wouldn't be a story-breaker. One of my challenges is that I'm a slow starter - it often takes me half an hour to an hour to really get into my story zone, and we play on a weeknight. I've got (at most) 4 hours to get them to a conclusion if I want to wrap it up so that absence the next session won't be a problem that I have to hand-wave away.
bluelang
Oct. 30th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
I have a headcold, so the ideas are not flowing as fast and fresh as I would like, but here are some thoughts:

(These are based on the idea that there is continuity to past stories. Please forgive any overly obvious thoughts.)

(1) I would look back over the past adventures of the group to identify loose ends or villians that may have gotten away or the like. (As I type this, I realize this is what I am going to start calling this the Bendis-Secret-Invasion approach.) Taken singly, any loose-end or villian-of-mysterious-ending might serve as the over all Mac Guffin for a season of apparent one-shots. Taken as a set, you could really build a complex web-of-conspiracy to set the season against.

(2) Given a Mac Guffin / Web of Conspiracy, I would identify the central unifying force amoung the characters and intentionally change it. On the surface, this would be to 'justify' the new format, but underneath the change would be tied to the season Mac Guffin.

(3) This new central force could then just start giving orders - whether it is the form of a purchase log (ala Friday the 13th) or crime scenes to investigate (ala Fringe) or out and out orders ("Go do this thing!"). The nice thing about getting orders is that there is a clear cut completion - keeping the 'surface' story time needed brief. You can then fill out the rest of the session with intercharacter dynamics and hints of something deeper.

(4) Given the slow starter challenge - consider looping back to previous settings and set-ups. As the players realize that they've been here before, you can spend less time on set-up and more time on what's changed/what's happening this time.

(5) I've not run Chill, but if it is like most games, combat sucks up too much time for it's entertainment value. If the PCs are not specifically combat-oriented, minimize all-out combats. Even if you have a gun-character to entertain, provide them the opportunity to shine with one-roll stunts and balance that with other skill checks.

And I suddenly realize that none of this necessarially addresses the question of ideas for short sessions.

Let me ponder some more. (Though having a sense of the campaign to date might inspire me.)
jaegamer
Oct. 30th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
I don't have an overall summary, and I suspect that would help me a lot. Just the blogs (which are pretty comprehensive).

Hmmm... I like a lot of your ideas. I'll put that summary together and see what it gets me...
varianor
Oct. 29th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
First thought - if it's a Chill game and important PCs are missing - how about the adventures revolve around the missing PCs? In other words, the players are shoved into a series of encounters where people ask for the absent folks? They need them?

Then you hit them with flashbacks and psychic screams and snuff filmsstarring - you guessed it - the PCs as victims. Is it real? Memorex? At every step, the absence of their comrades turns up the heat a little more.
jaegamer
Oct. 30th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
I've done this one to death, alas... it's one of the ways I've dealt with missing PCs in the past. In one spectacular incident the PC ended up becoming a major villain/NPC. I feel very badly about it - I was just following the organic course of events, and by the time I realized I was making his character unplayable, it was too late.

He was a good sport about it, has made a new character, and even participated in the final defeat of his previous character. He said it was of his most satisfying character deaths ever. (evil grin)
mscjec
Oct. 29th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
Well...I've been running Savage World's Pirates of the Spanish Main. I have a group that is very random because of 'RealLife(c)' so that could have been a problem (it usually was).

I am a big fan of story arcs and 'season' arcs, but couldn;t seem to get it together until 'pirates'. (I am a fan of SW and there is something simple and pure about that game that auto-focuses a Game Master...it just does). But, anywho, this is what worked:

1) Differentiate between three things;
a) your rough story plot.
b) game action
c) character stories

2) Story Plot should be kept as straightforward as possible. Mine is (and I hope no-one of my players are reading!) a-introduce players to each other, b-take British damsel to Caribbean encounter to find news of missing father, c-its a trap, rescue her, find out father is in governor's prison, d-storm prison, no father, its a trick, brand them all pirates, e-she's in trouble, so momma comes to rescue, and momma gets attacked, momma defends herself very well, f-momma is really retired pirate queen with info on lost treasure, father is having 'mid-life' crisis and was retired pirate who wants to get the treasure so he set trap.
ETC ETC.

3) Each plot point should be played out with some action - a fight or two that is involved in the plot point. a) was the characters were being mutineered against and marooned...they fought some wild boars and found a lost ship...they repaired it and took off after their mutinous crew and boarded her and took her! One night. b) had the fight at the bar she was to meet the guy who held news of her father (he lied- it was a trap to kidnap her and lure her mother)...One night. c) will be the raid on the Governor's dungeons only to find no-one (or a new NPC) and be branded pirates!
So, you fill in the action around your plot point and let the players go.

4) The characters can have backstory entwined in the main tale as you interact with the players (its better that way). One character inherited the extra ship through his personal courage. Another stressed his loyalty and found he was part of a secret society of Cannoneers. Another found that he had a 'relationship' with a demon-storm that would crop up in the Spanish Main.
All those stories were created in-play as I saw how the players played their characters...real 'Old School' DMing.

This way spontaneously generated fun NPCs like the original mutinous Captain - who shall return later! He was not written as part of the bg story, but the players reacted to him very well and so, he'll be back.

This 'style' provided a fun fight for any players, the continuence of the plot and story/character involvement generated by whomever showed up.

Consider each of the three elements as seperate ingredients...they must be mixed, but they each must be added as individual elements. Don't tie your plot to any one character. Don;t tie a fight to the plot (they may lose!). Don't rig a fight for one characterthat may not show. Mix them, don;t tie them.


'Buffy' worked like that in most instances - this week a fun battle, with the characters progressing as they desire and mixing with an overall story. I've heard the Mayor was not really a big element and theat season ws all about the vampire Mr. Trick - but the Mayor got a better response...so...

In essence....have a few plot points - build a fight for their amusement and let them follow their own path. Keep a sharp eye out for fun and run with it. Don't plan so much...we're too old for that sh*t. It's not like we can sit down and memorize 500 pages of arcane rules and make a 10-level dungeon on graph paper between hoemwork and bedtime....

Fast. Furious. Fun. Concentrate on whomever shows up and yourself. You've got those three jobs: give a fight, exploit their fun characters and NPCs on the fly and advance at least one plot point. Everything else is not required.

mscjec
Oct. 29th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
Oh...and only one plot point per night!

Each plot point may have one or two fights maximum.

That gives you enough time to pay attention to the characters involved and how they interact.

So, if you wnat a campaign for seven nights - have seven plot points.
( 8 comments )

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