With Gateway 2011 behind us, I now have some breathing room to reflect on the games and the prep.
I ran three games at Gateway, Ghostbusters LA vs. the Flying Spaghetti Monster; Big Red Planet Hollywood; The Tulupian Avian. I’ll detail each game separately.
The Tulupian Avian
System: GURPS (in the Traveller setting)
Synopsis to the players: An artifact of Ancient manufacture has been discovered on Forine. The object was supposed to be bequeathed to a museum on Grote, but the chancellor of Forine has had a change of heart. The party is the crew of a merchant trader that has been hired by the local duke to take him to Forine where he will try to smooth over relations and gain possession of the artifact (with the understanding that the artifact WILL leave when the duke leaves).
What was really happening: The Imperium sent a “Diplomacy-Class Gunboat” to the system, supposedly a sign of leverage, however the ship was carrying Imperial agents who went planet side, stole the artifact and smuggled it to the gunboat (the gunboat was heading for the jump point while the party was headed to the planet). The artifact was a powerful piece of psionic Ancient technology, powered by star light. When starlight from a porthole on the gunboat shined directly on the statue, a psionic burst caused the crew of the ship to die or go mad. The party traced the steps of the imperial agents to the ship, and recovered the Tulupian Avian artifact.
Things that went wrong: This game ran over by about 45 minutes. Three reasons:
- there was more initial role-playing than I accounted for,
- the party was more through than I was expecting they would be during their investigations,
- I tried to fit too much in the adventure.
- Don’t try to put 5 hours of game in a 4-hour slot.
- Make the PCs generalists with a specialty, rather than specialists with a bit of general skills. And the pilot should have a secondary specialty that doesn’t involve the ship.
Big Red Planet Hollywood
System: Savage Worlds, in a custom scifi pulp setting.
Synopsis to the players: The players are the crew of the space patrol frigate, Corazon del Oro. They have been ordered to pick up two of the stars of the upcoming film, Blood on the Banana, from the former pirate city of Port Ceres in the asteroid belt and take them to New Hollywood on Mars for the red-carpet premiere.
- The players didn’t seem to notice that the last 2 hours of the game were being made up on the fly (whew!).
- The players seemed to be having a lot of fun, especially in the last scene, when they raided the secret Nazi base, found the girl, stole an arachnoid and escaped mostly unscathed.
- Always have MORE adventure prepared than you need.
- Breadcrumb adventures are a GREAT way to run con games. If you need to go longer, add more breadcrumbs. If you need to go shorter, skip some breadcrumbs.
- Have more female PCs available. In this game, half of the players were women. This group of PCs only has 2 women characters. Many people don’t my cross-gender roleplaying, but it’s nice if it’s an option, rather than a necessity.
Ghostbusters L.A. vs. the Flying Spaghetti Monster
System: Savage Worlds, in a modern-day setting with ghosts and Ghostbusters.
Synopsis: The party is the local franchise of Ghostbusters International. They are sent out on a series of calls to various Italian restaurants. Eventually they discover that a band of hipsters are summoning some sort of other-worldly entity. This entity ends up being the legendary Flying Spaghetti Monster.
What went wrong: almost nothing. I cut one scene, as they investigated a few things I didn’t think they might, but I was anticipating cutting that scene anyway.
What went right: damn near everything:
- My pacing of clues was such that some members of the party started suspecting that there was going to be a Flying Spaghetti Monster at some point. This happened at around the 2 hour mark — right when I wanted it to happen.
- The players embraced their characters and complicated the story with their weirdness, which I rewarded with bennies.
- The players were innovative and kept me on my toes throughout the adventure.