This weekend was Chicago Gameday 47. I ran HERO System, 6th Ed. in the morning and played Dungeon Crawl Classics in the afternoon.
My HERO event was yet another in a string of “Mark has lost his mojo” Gameday events. Instead of playing too close to the vest like I did last time, I threw everything at the players right off the bat — which ended up with me at a loss what to do next once we hit the two-thirds mark. I also prepended some PbtA-style character questions and the Emotion Matrix from Tenra Bansho Zero to the session, which I thought was kind of cool, but as usual, I ended up using virtually none of it during the session. It just ended up being a slugfest.
I dunno. I thought I had a pretty cool situation, and I prepped solely by writing down the basic “fronts” in play. I guess I still don’t know how to use fronts, or else they are antithetical to GM’ing HERO.
Let me state, however, that I will readily call bullshit on anyone who claims crunchy ol’ HERO is to blame for any of this. I’m facile enough with the system that I was able to bear all of the heavy lifting for the players, so despite some of their complaints that the handling time was too high — legit in comparison to many indie games — I don’t think it was any worse than most trad games. That and I was up-front about HERO’s complexity and that I was intentionally indulging my love of the system.
The point is that the fault was solely mine. I did not give the players enough time to breathe in the setting and situation, and I wasted too much time trying to graft on techniques from other games. I provided summary cover sheets for the pregens so that lack of rule knowledge would not keep them from understanding their PC’s basic schtick — which I still think was a good move, as it made it easy for them to choose which they wanted to play — but I didn’t do enough to help them understand some of the useful nuances of their abilities.
Another thing I noticed was the clash between the player’s assumptions about supers in general and the specific characters in this game. Not only were these low-powered teen supers in the vein of Smallville or Buffy, but HERO is also not a perfect genre simulator — characters have limits. E.g., the player of the “speedster” basically assumed they could do anything that the CW Flash could do, and it took a bit of realignment to convey that they could only sorta do the same things.
Again, I’m assuming this is my fault. I had thought that low-powered supers would be easier, math-wise, than standard HERO supers, but honestly now I think that, in terms of genre assumptions, it would have been better to go full-on costumed heroes.
DCC was pretty fun — it was my first time playing. We were doing a 0-level funnel, stamping character sheets with a big, red “DEAD!” stamp as the attrition proceeded. The overhead of handling four PCs was a bit much for me, though, and I gotta admit that dungeon-crawling in a vaguely D&D-like universe has lost a bit of its luster for me. I think I can only poke a ten-foot pole or choose between the devil- and angel-faced fountains so many times. Regardless, we had a great group of people at the table.
So, another Gameday down. Honestly, while I am still thinking about all of this, I’m also glad to not have to prep anymore. It’ll be nice to focus on non-RPG things for a while.
I also think that maybe part of my issues is that I am getting sick of the one-shot format, especially (re-) learning games just to facilitate them once. It’s a lot of work with a high risk of disappointment. The time pressure is also exhausting — i.e., not being able to stretch out and breathe a bit, unconcerned with having a given combat/conflict take up a good chunk of time — because you’re never going to have a second session. Not to mention the “sell the players” aspect. Coming away from a game knowing that players are vowing to never play a given RPG again is pretty disheartening.
Anyway, I will continue to ruminate on this. My initial thought is that I need to question my process, maybe actively choosing the opposite of my normal instincts, as they definitely aren’t paying off. Next Gameday I will either stick with something canned or else I just won’t run anything.