The Warren at Chicago Gameday 43
This Saturday I played The Warren for the first time. Joe Beason was the GM and my fellow players included Tim Jensen, Dain Lybarger, Sam, John, and Laurie. My rabbit was Dogwood, a one-eared buck who was not only unfraid of humans, but invented rabbit parkour by bouncing off one of their young (a little girl named Hope).
I had a really good time with this game; Joe did a great job as GM, and all the players made wonderful contributions that resulted in so much bunny drama. I haven’t had a chance to play a lot of PbtA games, but this has probably been my favorite so far. The character sheet Joe used is so wonderfully designed — clean, simple layout, beautiful typography; two of my favorite things. A quick read-over of the moves and I felt like I really got what the game was about. Plus, reference was a breeze.
I also must mention the Innovate move, which is what gave birth to the rabbit parkour. It may be my favorite move in any PbtA game I’ve experienced. 100% genius.
Admittedly, there were some slow spots, but I think that was inevitable given six players who were, for the most part, all going off in different directions. I was enthralled nonetheless.
Also, in the process of playing, I made an effort to ry and implement some of the guidelines for good conversation that were in a TED talk I posted a week ago (https://plus.google.com/+MarkDelsing/posts/TpCC1375zct).
1. “Be present”. I made sure my phone was in my pocket, and I did not walk away from the table unless the whole group was taking a break. Normally, I might go grab a drink or snack, or hit the restroom as-needed. This time I resisted. If the game was happening, I was sitting at the table paying attention. I even tried really hard not to fiddle with my dice!
2. “It’s not about you.” Essentially, I tried to keep my mouth shut when it was not my turn. I have a tendency to do color commentary about events in which I am not involved — “Heh, that’s just like [movie reference]” — so I made sure to shut that shit down completely. I spoke when we were focused on Dogwood, and otherwise I just stayed at the ready to offer input if asked.
3. “Really listen.” Man, this is hard! It’s very easy to get distracted at Gameday, as you’re in a big room with a lot of other tables full of gamers. It’s tempting to drift off and pick up another GM’s orations or look to see how a friend is faring at another table. I did my best to be Zen and just focus on our table and our players. Thankfully, the frustration of shutting out the rest of the world is rewarded with deep investment in the game at hand. It’s amazing how much easier it is to contribute after 10-15 minutes of it not being your turn by having paid serious attention during that 10-15 minutes.
As a GM, you don’t have to worry about much of this, as you’re being engaged every moment of play, and you’re contributing a lot more than you are receiving. Ergo, this experiment cemented for me that being a “good conversationalist” is absolutely the key skill for being a “good player”.
Extra double bonus, I learned a lot by simply watching Joe work. He has this PbtA stuff nailed. I honestly think the game I ran later in the afternoon was improved by my having been in this event.
Also, totally sold on The Warren. I guess I’m a full-blown furry now.