February 1st, 2007

  • xuenay

The appropriate pacing for a conspiracy game

(I'm pretty sure that none of my players are reading this community, but if you are, don't read this post. The spoilers included are minor, but spoilers nonetheless. Thanks.)

I'm currently running a conspiracy/horror campaign involving huge, partially supernatural conspiracies which are secretly running lots of things behind the scenes. Basically your normal X-Files/Conspiracy X/Illuminati setup. Each of the four players began the game with a prequel adventure which introduced them to a world of shadows: a CIA agent had infilitrated a gang of arms dealers and was about to witness them illegally selling weapons to foreign guerillas when both groups were attacked and slaughtered by a supernatural assassin who seemed nearly immune to bullets. Our NSA agent witnessed his mother being kidnapped, apparently by a front organization set up by the IRS, and then returned a week later with no memory of anything that had happened during the last month. The character working for the FBI was going to check on a ship supposedly carrying illegal immigrants, but ended up being abducted and transported to a brainwashing camp that he barely managed to escape from. And a New York City politician was investigating abuses of the Republican party's funds, which led him running into a mage capable of entering his dreams and reading his memories for information to blackmail him with. In the end, each character came into contact with a US Army colonel who claimed to be working for Section 25, a top secret agency under the Department of Defense which was tasked with rooting out conspiracies hostile to democracy and the nation. All four were thus recruited into Section 25 and formed into an independent cell.

Now, I have been trying to decide how I should pace the appearance of Big Things showing up. We have played one session with all the players (aside for one, who had to cancel just before it) present, and so far they've been told some (very limited) things about the other conspiracies and tasked with tracking down the member of their cell who was supposed to turn up and never did. I'm basically seeing two alternatives: either let the characters slowly gather information about the scale of the conspiracies involved, ending up in small skirmishes of equally clueless cells working for the enemies and putting things together step by step. Or I could just start taking all the really juicy stuff involving lots of huge conspiracies spanning the entire nation now, letting them run into the big weird supernatural stuff in the very earliest of adventures.

Both approaches have their good and bad sides: the big, huge stuff has the risk of losing its impact if it's used too often, and it will feel a lot bigger if there's a quiet build-up phase first. Also, I like the atmosphere of utter mystery where the players have no idea of what exactly is going on, and can only slowly try to put the pieces together - and only being able to imagine the things that are involved helps build an atmosphere. On the other hand, I'm a bit impatient to get into all the really good stuff - and from what I've played in campaigns and watched TV, that slow build-up phase has always felt the least interesting both as a player and as a viewer. Our fantasy campaign really got enjoyable when we got to the point where we were dealing with all the demons and evil gods directly. The best parts of Babylon 5 were the third and fourth season and the end of the second.

So, do you folks have any suggestions for the pacing of the game? How rapidly should the players be shown big stuff in motion and neat cool supernatural thingies, and for how long should their contact with the stuff be kept far more limited?
  • clayse

Problem Gamers

Everybody who's played an RPG has dealt with problem gamers, enough so that several White Wolf publications have dealt with it in extensive articles. I'm sure other systems and supplements have too, but my familiarity with games doesn't reach much further thant White Wolf/Star Wars/DnD. So, pardoning my pedestrian exposure to the subject matter, I think it's healthy to vent about problem gamers. In keeping with the theme of White Wolf's theme of naming and identifying the types of problem gamers you might run into, I figured it'd be a fun thing if people submitted "problem gamers" from their own experiences. I figured I'd pony up the format:

Lj-cut so it doesn't eat up your scroll-downage: Collapse )