Last week I went to an event called Macabre. I really enjoyed it. It was Gothic Horror, set about the time of the plague in Eastern Europe. I got back home on Sunday and was faced with the realisation that my prepared blog entry was wrong. I no longer felt the same way about things as I had when I had written it a few days previously.
After a few conversations I decided to post it as it was and then write something else that explains why my thoughts on pacing have changed. I feel that I run better games when I am playing a variety of games, and this is an example of that.
I wrote last Monday about keeping players occupied, knowing what they’re likely to do when, and about making sure that lulls aren’t harmful. At Macabre we spent a lot of time exploring our immediate surroundings and talking to each other. We had not spent a lot of time before the game thinking up elaborate backgrounds for our characters. Our characters didn’t know who they were. They had few memories of a time before the cloister and those we had gained had been given to us by the team running the game. Play was about establishing rituals, and rediscovering things our characters had once known.
This left a lot of space for talking. We had a lot of information and a lot of space to talk about it. We probably left the immediate environment we were in six times in total. We had one encounter come to us. The rest of the time was spent pouring over paperwork, balancing ingredients, removing the effects of the environment and rebuilding the religion. We were never without something to do, but everything was driven by players and it was almost always with other players.
In many ways it was a gentle game. It felt like the prologue for something more and we were learning a new rule set and new mechanics. The next game continues from the next IC day, so there’s very little downtime, and it’s a game that it’s possible to play without having to have a lot of mobility, but with certain character choices does allow for a lot more action.
The team involved had balanced the inter-player information well. If there had been more action then there wouldn’t have been time for the development of characters within the game. There were only seventeen players, which meant all were needed and all had reasons to contribute. We frequently missed people who’d gone to bed, or were away during the game, and the resource balancing was tricky in character and out.
The game wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But then again, no game ever is. It did challenge my ideas of how pacing should work. They were trusting players to find ways to be involved. We were trusted to be proactive. I like small events anyway, as I get lost in a crowd. In this case I really enjoyed the conversations. The solid in character conversations were some of the best I’ve had, and the space to act within the game was awesome.