Just about every Wednesday I overnight at my parents' house. It gives me a chance to help out (cleaning, sorting, venting) and also to spend time with my little sisters, a nephew, and do a little bit of gaming with them. I've got a freeform Amber game going, an AD&D1stEdMod game, a freeform Dresden Files game, and an Illegal Gods playtest all in various stages depending on what my energy is like.
I'm trying to get them comfortable with GMing for me, but it's been slow going. It's like all the energy of GMing, plus the energy of pushing them to think like a GM. This is energy that I don't always have, especially after a long day at work. One of the problems I've been having with the existing games is that I have to take a lot of the initiative. They're getting better at sharing the responsibilities, but I wanted to do something where they had to start out cooperatively. Then I realized I had the perfect game for them: InSpectres!
I had bought it based on Doyce's review a while ago, and had played around with it, but this was going to be the first time exposing the kids to it.
In order to help teach the system, I went through and created a character with them. We started with choosing names.
I haven't done a proper study of it, but choosing a name has, in the past, taken the longest time with the males than the females of my acquaintance. Now, truthfully, the averages may have been squirreled by Gorto the World King and her random name generation methods (who can forget Akbah6? Or Miskey R Zert?), but I am about to institute the rule of, "Your parents gave you a name, and the GM's taking the place of those NPCs," if it slows me down too much in the future.
I picked "KC," and decided he was a used car salesman. I've never run one of those. I also decided he was an ex-college football star who had gone punk. He joined InSpectres because he'd had a vampire girlfriend. Briefly. (It was mentioned in the interview when one of the hosts asked him, "What do you feel your past sports experience brings to the table?" and he explained how football taught teamwork, prattled on about offense and defense, and ended up exclaiming that it was "in [his] blood." "In your blood?" "Well, you need to ask my vampire girlfriend about that one.")
I thought about talents KC could have, and decided that he could glom free food. He had been in charge of Pizza Days at the big car sales, and had contacts everywhere who would make sure he ate. "But just good all-American food. Hamburgers. French fries. Hot dogs." Rainbow K, unable to resist an Eddie Izzard reference asked, "As awesome as a hot dog?" and KC replied, "More awesome than a demon weiner."
I emphasized that we weren't going to take any characters that couldn't get along, so everyone was going to be judged by me as to their ability to participate. While Chatterbox had a name for her character before anyone else, she wanted to be a sarcastic goth. I explained that that was all right, but she had to be willing to work with others. She was good with that. Then, when asked about a profession, she said, "Nothing." So we decided that Kian was an intern, still at high school, but hired because of her talent: she knew the weaknesses of every horror movie monster ever on screen. With some discussion we had her change her contact score to put another point in academics. She was our walking monster library.
I helped pick a name for the Barbarian's character semi-randomly. (I picked it out from a page of publishing credits of a magazine on the table.) Andie, who was some sort of publisher's assistant became Andie, traveling world cuisine critic. He liked the idea of being able to eat monkey brains or eyeballs and win Fear Factor-style competitions without breaking a sweat. "Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches? So 1985. Best with a side of mustard."
One of the questions I was asked multiple times were, "Do we have to use all of the points for our attributes?" Now, as a chronic munchkin at heart, I was shocked and appalled at the question, but it's worth noting.
I gave a choice of beginning interviews between the job style and the entertainment tv style. Kian and Andie went for the job interviews.
Being underage for regular employment in our modern society, their only real experience would have been television or movie job interviews. I was surprised then when Chatterbox started asking Andie some really smart job-related questions. "How would you handle an altercation between you and your co-workers over a demon?" along with her great enthusiastic, "Would you eat a bowl of gelled eyeballs?" (And yes, I made a roll that said we had access to such oddities.) Other lines? "I don't run from monsters, I hunt them," "Could you kill a zombie with an LP?" and "Would you eat a demon weiner?"
Quinn was interviewed on television ("Nighttime!") and we found out that she had starred in a Pampers commercial, with a cute baby butt.
Franchise creation really seemed to engage the kids. I had to lead them a little as to what the descriptions were on our less-than-perfect rolls, but they started coming up with their own as we thought of new things. It helped encourage the idea that this was a cooperative game. The Barbarian had the worst technology, um, die, and the worst rolls with that die. He also had the largest reach of anyone. ("I want UFO medical tech. You know, instant healing through an implant in your brain.")
("We got JET PACKS... but we have an answering machine that's mostly on the blitz? Oh, and our first aid kit is a couple bandaids. But, we got a great deal on a used SUV. Oh, and top of the line, super-amazing cell phones, but we only get business lunches." We rolled for our own offices, but we only got cubicles. That sort of thing.)
The confessionals were funny because at first Rainbow K thought we meant Confession, and was waiting for us to confess our sins in game. I like the idea and think we should do a religious InSpectres kind of like that, but that's another story entirely.
I started it up with accusing Quinn of being super-bossy. Rainbow K dutifully noted it on her character sheet, while KC ended up with a fetish for playing Tetris on his cellphone whenever anyone started arguing. The Tetris issue became a major character controversy. Andie ate some french-fried wallaby, in seconds, and became the fastest eater in the West.
We reined it in for a moment and started the adventure. I literally had nothing in mind, but I decided to do a funny voice (always a good start) and said, "My refrigerator is acting funny." Then I decided it had become literal. "It's telling bad jokes." I looked at the time and realized it was becoming bedtime for the little ones, so I figured they'd deal with the fridge however they came up with an answer, and we'd have them go to bed.
We did some practice with more confessionals (who calls "Shotgun!" all the time? Who drives? Who falls asleep in the car?") but we moved to an actual scene-changing confessional only towards the end of the game. ("I knew it was getting tense, fist-fight intense, but I didn't expect Quinn to throw the first punch.") Rainbow K picked that up right then and there with no pause, so I think our next game will allow for more of that style.
Everyone had fun, which is important, and the system allowed everyone to have a strong role in playing. Instead of some games where I've had to poll people in turn and give examples to find what they're doing, this one I had to more call turns to make sure everyone got their action in as they were shouting over each other.
We'll have to watch the Confessional rules a little more closely, but we talked about it later and Rainbow K is thinking of adding them to her chatroom plays, which could be fun.
Overall, I think the system works pretty well for the 9-12 year old crowd. I wouldn't go much younger because the character creation might not keep their attention. I can expect that we'll be playing more and exploring more options.Posted by Meera at October 20, 2006 09:53 AM
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