Monday, September 23, 2013

Gamerati: The Absurdity of 11-Player Drop-In Drop-Out Lasers & Feelings

This was one of the ending songs in Psycho Pass, though I've heard it also was used in Guilty Crown. It is a good song, though it is also a very anime song.

This image probably best sums up the casual-ness of this session.
I'm on the right, in the hat, mostly obscured. This is about 2/3 of the people we had participate over the course of things. But gaming on couches, rolling dice on a cushion-y ottoman, lounging about.

 So yesterday was the Gamerati Game Day @ PLU. Things weren't perfect as far as getting games together worked; rooms were split up, RPG'ers were at the far back, etc. I ended up playing in a pair of the 13th Age games Ash ran, which were decent, and basically what I expected of 13th Age. I try to push my narrative angle as far as possible (and I think I was pretty funny with my dialogue in the latter game, given that I was mind-blowingly incompetent, which was only a little bit my fault). My first game I was a Wood Elf Ranger named Stalista who was born under the Sacred Tree on the night of the blue moon and was thus granted the ability to commune with, and at times control, plants. The second game, I was Arrran (yup, three Rs), a Dwarf Cleric of Sorpoth, the Lord of Wealth, who had given me crackled stony skin and liquid ruby for blood. He was, uh, unduly violent (but didn't believe it) and excessively incompetent (which was, of course, "never his fault"). After all, he'd held the line alone against an orc horde, and slain Narmac the Red Terror of the Diabolist's personal guard - with accomplishments like those, how could he possibly be THIS incapable?

But I'm not here to talk about 13th Age. I'm here to talk about Lasers. I'm also here to talk about Feelings. I just might be here to talk about what happens when you put the two together in a new one-page RPG released by John Harper at PAX as a tribute to The Doubleclicks and to space adventure media like Star Trek and Farscape.

It was possibly the craziest thing I've ever tried to run. Not by virtue of the game's rules; that was very VERY easy to understand and use. No, my attempted structure was the most absurd thing. I certainly didn't think I'd be doing it.

So here's the setup: I didn't come to the day planning to run L&F. I wasn't even planning to offer it. But I was setting my potential games on the table when I noticed I still had it in my binder (which I'd brought to PAX) so I took it out just to read it while I wait. That's when Joe England walked by and was all excited by it and wanted to play it, so I took it out and started looking for players.

This might surprise you, but at a day featuring wargamers, Pathfinder players, and Magic the Gathering, pitching a game called Lasers & Feelings was less than successful. Around 6pm, we camped out a spot up front where the registration tables had been, and Ed and Joe and I recruited one more. And we started making characters!
That sounds normal-ish, right? Well, we'd finished character creation in a fit in giggling because our character concepts were awesome (Binary Tangent the holographic android doctor with a number of 2, meaning it sucked at Lasers aka tech stuff, which is pretty required for a doctor to do actual medicine, and Blaster Wolf, about who I had several hilarious Metal Gear Rising jokes that no one but me understood, but I assure you, they were hilarious), when some other folks walked past and we invited 'em in, and they sat down and we made them some characters.
And as things were happening, we just kept adding people. The game doesn't actually list how many players it wants; I'd started with the assumption of 3-5 players + GM, but ended up using the lack of a list as an excuse to get more people in. More, and more people. In the end, we had at least 8 characters (as that's how many of people's character notecards I brought home, if there were more they're escaping me), me running it, and multiple spectators who were given the glorious ability of being able to end whatever scene we were in, whenever. Basically they were the "...and NOW we cut this scene!" that I'm still learning to do. I mean, seriously, this game had SPECTATORS. Do you understand how boring watching people play RPGs can be, especially without proper editing (which is how Actual Play podcasts and Tabletop are good)? A game has to be something particularly special to be watchable from the outside.

Here's the characters I had:
* Blaster Wolf, Hot-Shot (in his mind) Envoy, number 2 (great at feelings, bad at lasers)
* Binary Tangent, (holographic) Android Doctor, number 2,
* Stella Stargazer the Savvy Scientist, number 5 (great at lasers, bad at feelings),
* Tachyon Ted, the Sexy Pilot, number 4 (slightly better at Lasers),
* Sexy Sally Systems, the Engineer, number 4,
* Question Afterthought the Indefinitely Prolonged, an Alien Envoy with a number of 5,
* Bittorrent the (not-holographic) Android Soldier, number 4,
* Jack Plasma, Dangerous Explorer, number 3.
The Raptor, our ship, was Fast with Fightercraft, with Horrible Circuit Breakers.

Some highlights were an attempt to redirect the ship to a star base for treatment of Captain Darcy (rather than going directly to the Hive Armada's base with the Star Dreadnought), jumping directly under the Star Dreadnought's hanger to beam the away team in, Sally and Stella loading up Binary Tangent onto one of the phone-communicator-things which Bittorrent brought with him on the mission, Jack and Bittorrent crossing the phase batteries of the pistols with the quantum batteries of the communicators to create a mini-signularity to consume the blast doors of the bridge, and Question Afterthought waking up Darcy and the Something Else, having a discussion with the psychic thing, killing it and Darcy, killing the pilot, and fleeing the battle, leaving the away team to die (having blown up the Dreadnought and completing their mission).

People entered the story whenever, people had to go and their characters were just suddenly unimportant and we were pretty much constantly breaking for a few moments to giggle incessently. It was the funniest, craziest experience I think I've had with RPGs. I don't think I could do this with a normal game, but the sort of light weight of Lasers & Feelings, it's fabulously simple chargen, and its self-evident tone and wealth of relatable references (everyone saw something in it; Star Trek, Star Wars, Farscape, Firefly, Mass Effect) made it easy to induct players into it and easy to just push along. I'm not sure we put the game through its fair paces (it was a bit too disjointed for that; we weren't really paying attention to actually doing the space adventure), so I'd like to play again in a bit more focused group, but it was exactly the silly antidote that I needed last night. Thanks to everyone; John Harper for writing, Joe for bringing it up, Ed for helping round out the original critical mass so our play could start attracting others, all of the players (whose names I can not all remember; I know Sion and Gary were there, and I remember folks from throughout the day, but names are foggy in all the alliterative character name silliness). It was quite the experience.

I recommend playing this crazy game! It is HERE: LASERS & FEELINGS

End Recording,

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