Thursday, April 14, 2016
The Girl Who Would Be Assassinated
Last Saturday, I was running Alpha Blue at the OddCon convention in Madison, WI. We had a backroom suite all to ourselves, free from noise and distraction - it was a fantastic experience and one I hope to see over and over again.
A few people did wander into our area, wondering what we were playing. Invariably, I'd say "Alpha Blue". They'd respond with, "Never heard of it." Then I'd reply, "That's because I wrote it. It's a sci-fi RPG mixed with 70's porn." Mixed reactions, as expected.
One time I mentioned Ice Pirates, but the young dude hadn't heard of that. Ice Pirates meets Flash Gordon might be a better description, if one were to dial down the sleaze.
As usual, I had a few ideas in my back pocket. But mostly, I let character creation, player wanderlust, and luck decide how the scenario was going to go. Luckily, Alpha Blue and Girls Gone Rogue are filled to the brim with all manner of random tables.
I've said this before, but it bears repeating - GMs should listen to what their players say when not actively playing the game, out of character and usually leading up to the adventure proper. An attentive GM will pick up all manner of clues: what players want to do with their characters, who they want to talk to, where they want to go, what they want to kill, what's special about their character's backstory, why they need the money, etc. Because we're all sitting, verbal cues are much more important than body language. Just by listening to the tone in a player's voice, you can usually tell what's resonating with him.
For instance, the players were interested in things to buy. +sean mcconkey, who's played Alpha Blue almost as much as I've run it, was talking about various purchasable goods when an idea hit. Clones! For a thousand credits, you could buy a clone. Of course!
Plus, what about the ins and outs of obtaining a clone of someone else? Can one buy the rights (or steal the DNA) to clone the space girl next door? What about a hardened super-criminal? Or quantum physics genius? Is that slavery? What if you inserted some or all of your consciousness/will into the "not you" clone? Mmm... possibilities.
So, what are these clones like? As I envision it, a clone is an identical copy that could be held in reserve as backup or activated immediately - instant twin! Want more than one clone? Sure, it's 1,000 credits per clone... you can buy as many as you can afford. My advice: definitely make that an option in our Alpha Blue game!
Getting back to the character creation process, one of the players was really excited about his space priest / assassin career opportunities and rolled on the debt owed tables in order to purchase his own starship. He mentioned how "up for anything" he was if and when his creditors asked.
Boom! That became the hook. Within minutes of play, that PC received a transmission from the bounty hunters who lent him the credits to buy Tiny Dancer. On they went to New Alderaan 2. We all know that something bad happened to the original Alderaan, but apparently both New Alderaan and Alderaan 2 also took turns for the worse.
Of course, that wasn't set in stone. The PC who owed the debt didn't have to track her down and kill her - in fact, I was hoping the party would take an alternative route - but I've found that old habits die hard. Longtime gamers who've assassinated hundreds of individuals in-game probably don't even question their orders anymore. If their mission is to take someone out, they take them out... no matter how hot they are!
I've never encountered so many male players choosing to play female characters as when I'm running this RPG. I like to think that Alpha Blue helps re-program gamers. Another example is the technician / pirate PC (left my notes at home and have to do all this from memory and I'm terrible with names) who was alone on the ship with several space prostitutes. As the Space Dungeon Master, I practically had to rip off his clothes (in-game) and grind her vagina on him before he got the hint. As gamers, we've been so used to avoiding casual and serious, emotional and sexual relationships, attachments, and drama that it seems weird to intentionally involve ourselves in such moments, to embrace them rather than acknowledge them briefly before getting to "the real adventure": breaking in, slaying, and looting.
Another observation I had was a player who kept gambling. His character was a gambler with an edge (he was invisible, except for clothing, items carried, etc.) and that's pretty much what he did throughout the game, except when forced into combat or situations between card games. That seemed strange to me, but I went with it. He actually made several hundred credits, though it didn't seem very exciting, heroic, villainous, adventurous, or sleazy. To each his own.
One last thing, in an effort to remind players that once per session they could double their dice pools, as well as, creating some additional visual aid, I brought a blue glow stick to the game. The object was to double a PC's dice pool and then pass the glow stick to someone else who could use it and then he would pass it again. That actually led to a couple of minor problems. The passing back and forth was distracting while allowing it to be passed back and forth continually gave everyone 3 or 4 double-ups during the session.
Next time, I'll probably just splurge on a 10-pack of blue glow sticks for about $5. Then everyone will have one and once they've used it, they can hand it back to me and it's done.
Everyone had a good time, were impressed with the maps, laughed at the tables, got to feel a little dirty, and I can't wait for next time!