Friday, October 30, 2009

Were-Ostrich and Iguana Boy

I played in a hilarious and completely awesome game of InSpectres last night.

InSpectres is a very light RPG where the PCs lie somewhere in the spectrum between Ghostbusters and Ghost Hunters. It's a very simple system, and allows for a lot of narrative power in the players hands, so I really like it.
An aside about silliness:
I've played InSpectres half a dozen times over the past year, and have come to the conclusion that it handles goofy, almost slapstick, adventures better than more serious ones.

Everyone gets very different ideas in their head about what's going on, and given each players narrative power, it's easy to end up with a disjointed and somewhat contradictory story. If you go in with the intention of being goofy, you're not alarmed when someone pulls a completely random bit of nonsense out and makes the plot take a sharp turn. Scooby Doo endings, Big Bads behind seemingly disparate events, Werewolves in Spaceships, by embracing wackiness you're freeing up the plot (and players) to surprise you. You never know when someone's going to say, "Your stake breaks against his chest, but it does tear open his artificial flesh - it turns out the vampire is actually a robot!"

A more serious game of InSpectres is harder to pull off, because it only takes one moment of wild improvisation for another player to completely destroy your suspension of disbelief, and thus "ruin" the session without doing anything "wrong". Better to go in with your eyes wide open to the truly bizarre nature of the game.
Goofiness all around last night. We were playing the creators and staff of a little monster-hunting show on the internet. I was constantly adding in-character statements like "I know were-ostriches sounds pretty strange, but this is from a reliable source. The same source that gave us our lead on that episode in season 1, remember the vampire armadillos? The same guy. That sounded unbelievably bizarre then, but John's still got the scars to prove it was true. Were-ostriches will play out the same." Other folks started getting in on the joke, though I'd been it's main instigator for the first half of the session. By the end of the night, it was established that our show was in it's 4th season of investigating mostly supernatural versions of otherwise mundane animals.

We ran two mini-scenarios during the course of the evening.
  • The first had to do with a possible were-ostrich killing the workers at an ostrich farm. Investigation later revealed it was actually ostrich warriors of some rare African mystical tradition.
  • The second scenario began with a Fortean rain of cursed coins from 1923, and ended with Iguana-Human hybrids who were being held captive by a witch. I can't really summarize the plot of the second scenario. You had to be there.
I really liked that the game's extremely light rules and quickly-resolving narrative structure allowed us to pack two self-contained scenarios into a four-hour block. If most RPGs sessions are Novella, and long campaigns like a multi-book Novel series, then last night was a short-story anthology. It's was a nice change of pace, very unlike most other gaming experiences.
Another aside, this time about the sudden resolution of plot arcs:
The hardest part of InSpectres is pacing. There's a mechanism that determines how far you are from completing the scenario, and it's really easy to accidentally blunder into what should be whole-hog resolution while you're just trying to narrate your way past what you thought was just a minor hurdle and unrelated to the main plot.

After half a dozen sessions of the game, I don't feel our group has gotten any better at keeping our eye on that and adapting our narration to match. One of these days I should really sit down and do an exhaustive mathematical analysis of the core mechanics, and different scenario length possibilities.

1 comment:

anarkeith said...

Sounds like great fun. Your title made me laugh out loud. Ostriches frighten me a bit: big creature, tiny brain. Not a good combo!