7 Nov 2007

Thoughts on Session 4

Narrower in scope but with a more action orientated pulp feel session 4 was notable mainly for the use of character spotlighting, and considerations of pace.

For a start, the session very quickly moved towards use of the chase mechanics. Oriole's player was keen that the pulp format should not involve too much planning, and I was trying to keep up the suspense by making sure the players were on the clock in story terms. (Only 7 hours to avert a catastrophic invasion of the earth.)

For perhaps 30 seconds the players started to worry about what they were going to do when they got to the Nautiloid base, as they would need to find the tide machine, disable it in some way or get hold of the plans of the base (obvious parallels with the Death Star blueprints were noted). Oriole's player averted this potential lull by stating "come on this is pulp we can worry about what to do when we get there lets just jump in the plane", which had already been flagged up as the next source of drama by me discussing trying out the chase mechanics.

The chase mechanics were not an exact match for the situation, but they are clearly how the book would advocate running such a scene and I was confident that I could mold the situation to the mechanics. I didn't want to house rule or patch the mechanics to fit the situation, as this was the first time I had tried them out, and that way can lead to confusion, and if it falls down can lead to players coming away from the game thinking the mechanics are inadequate.

I set up five planes that would oppose the group, 4 'good' planes with 2 stress tracks and and a final plane as a Last Pursuer with +1 Pilot and +3 stress boxes. I haven't quite got the hang of balancing out combat and its ilk in SotC so this was based on instinct. The PC's plane had 3 stress tracks and had a speed of 'great' mainly dictated by how we had narrated the plane, our instinct being that it should just get the players to their destination.

The scene was run as a series of manoeuvres as suggested in chase scenes with any combat being left to the players not flying. This felt natural in the story, as Oriole was written up as a natural pilot and it seemed right that his pilot skills be in the spotlight as opposed to gun skills.

Treating the scene as a chase also allowed us to stay focused on the reason for the scene 'get to the Nautiloid base and quick' instead of treating it as an aerial combat scene. It was interesting that when the option came up to declare that the plane had rear guns this was quickly discarded in favour of using a gadget, which provided more colour and kept the pulp flavour going.

The chase advice suggests that no passenger can act for two exchanges in a row, which proved a nice way to keep the spotlight rotating around the table, although we found it difficult for Clay to contribute to the action as the character has a social skill focus. This was handled at first by a player tag, suggesting that a pipe had come loose, which I used to compel Clay's Tough Scot, and a direct compel of his espionage aspect to provide a reason why the plane should crash land at the end (as agreed earlier).

So via these two spotlight controlling actions, and the sharing of the passenger role the chase was quite satisfying. Although, Sylvie and Clay may need to hold the spotlight in the next session.

I had misread one element of the chase rules, I had been treating the passenger roll as a separate roll as opposed to taking the higher roll to work out success in the chase. On reflection despite this being a detraction from the rules it allowed more action in the scene and the balance of the chase seemed to work. Had I realised and played it by the book it is possible that the opposition may have been too highly powered.

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