My Saturday group recently finished playing a game based on Jim Butcher’s Dresden series (to be recommended in a future post!).
The most memorable part of the game, for me, was the first night. To explain why, well, let’s imagine the first night of any given tabletop RPG…
If it’s D&D, you get together and roll up your characters and hand them in to the DM, that is, if you hadn’t rolled it up the night before. The DM may ask “how do you guys all know each other?” or it’s as likely that s/he will tell you that all of you stand in front of the dungeon door and look down a long torchlit hallway and let everybody figure out their relationships as the game progresses.
White Wolf games (Vampire, Mage, Werewolf) probably have the first night having you hand your characters in to the Storyteller and having a short (individual, private) interview discussing backstory, motivation, secrets, and whatnot and then he, with everyone else, hammers out everyone’s relationship to this point. The Gangrel and the Ventrue aren’t likely to run in the same circles, after all. What would inspire them to interact? Oh, the Ventrue knows the Toreador who knows the Brujah who knows the Gangrel? That sort of thing.
Well, when you sit down to play Dresden, the first thing you do is not create characters, the first thing you do is create your *CITY* collaboratively. I mentioned “The Dumpster!” previously, well, this circumvents that problem by allowing everybody to create their own “The Dumpster!”s together. We explored stuff around our city (Colorado Springs) and made a fairly interesting narrative from just little things that struck us as odd. Colorado Springs has a large number of military bases… there’s Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain, and the US Air Force Academy… why does it have so many? Colorado Springs has a large number of evangelical organizations… why does it have so many? In the 80’s and 90’s, Manitou Springs was a hotbed of “Satanism”. Why? Garden of the Gods is an explosion of red stone in the middle of a lush high plains region… why? There is a new marijuana store opening up every other day. Why? So on and so forth.
After doing that, we came up with a grid for “in the know” and “not in the know” and crossed those against “wants to maintain the status quo” and “wants to change things” (the military was in the know and wanted to maintain the status quo, for example). Only after had we fleshed out our city did we sit down and say “well… who are *YOU*?”
And “well… who are *YOU*?” is going to be Thursday. (I have to talk about Burn Notice first.)