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Tuesday, 30th October, 2012, 08:29 PM #511
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
I did feel that it was a bit rail-roady on my part. As there was no map of the ship, I kind of just made up places where things were as suited me to setup the next attack.
In my view, it seems that the tower is really building up to the next attack when somebody will fall. If the players are active, doing smart or silly stuff, they will make pulls. You don't need to punish doing reckless stuff by having a monster attack right then. The consequence is built into the tower. When it gets rickety is when the big monster attack comes that kills somebody.
Conversely, if the party plays it safe and hunkers down, you need to instigate change and action. This invariably means the monsters attack their position and cause a failure in the defenses that forces them to move or rush to action.
I think with this paradigm, the GM should generally reward players taking action. The players who attempt to do stuff should see success or new situations develop. There's no need to nail them with monsters if they keep doing stuff (after all the tower will nail them eventually anyway). Lack of action is boring, so bringing in the monsters to force the players into action seems fair (and part of the genre).
In Metal Sky, this meant that players who explored, found gear, new exits, etc. Players who hunkered down, would get ambushed and attacked. This actually keeps both types of players busy and involved, just in different ways.
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Tuesday, 30th October, 2012, 08:50 PM #512
Novice (Lvl 1)
I rather agree. You make a very good point about managing flow. The tower is a metaphor for (and in many ways, a chart of) the rising and falling action of the plotline. Keeping the story in sync with that is the beauty and challenge of Dread.
I think the main issue I ran into was that of mismanaged expectations. The entire cast's first decision, when faced with the hulk, was "hmm... seems dangerous. Lets just ignore it and keep flying. Why should we board that? Someone else will respond to the distress signal. I don't want to face anything scary, I want to live."
Now, I probably should have started them further along — having already boarded the hulk. That was my mistake, as a first-time Host. But having not done that, I had to figure out how to handle this.
At that point I stopped the game and had a talk about why we were even playing Dread — that is, to tell a good horror story, not for everyone to be overly careful and avoid all signs of danger.
I think that I maybe didn't quite make that point well enough. I had more than half new roleplayers, and their every instinct was "lets figure out how to completely avoid the scary, because that's what I'd if scary things seemed likely to happen."
So we hit the reset button (all of 3 minutes into the game) but the mindset didn't change much. I feel like this was largely a failure on my part, in not preparing the newbies well enough, but it made for a rocky game.
Last edited by InfoSponge; Tuesday, 30th October, 2012 at 08:55 PM.
Tuesday, 30th October, 2012, 11:44 PM #513
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Always prepare and remind your players when making their PCs that they need to make characters that would "go on the adventure". Building a party of space scavengers that don't want to scavenge is bad roleplaying, bad gaming, and just defeats the purpose.
I also thought the initial hook for Metal Sky left a lot of room for simple bypassing. You can certain pull the "Starfleet regulations state..." clause on the PCs to gull them into investigating. This smells like railroading them, and it is to an extent. I have not shaken the railroading feeling off of my interpretation of how to run the game.
You could also have setup the scene more like the beginning of Firefly. Wherein, the PCs are interested in abandoned ships like this, and this is EXACTLY what their character definitions were looking for. Namely, a ship they can loot. Set the tone that this is a "Firefly" type adventure, and once they are aboard, that's when you flip the switch and it turns into "Alien" instead.
I certainly think it's an issue in adventure design for one-shot type games. The PCs need to start AT the location as if they had decided to go there, rather than sitting at home all nice and safe with too much caution in the way of actually going anywhere dangerous.
The key problem is really that you have players who are deliberately refusing to bite the plot hook. In my group, that is against our group's social agreement. The GM is allowed to present a solitary plot hook that logically appeals to the group, and the group is obligated to bite it, unless it is obviously a screw job for the PCs (as in, the GM is not allowed to present a single choice for the purpose of screwing the PCs over).
The process works for normal D&D adventures. Given that a Dread adventure is sort of a screw-job, it has to be recognized by all the players that the point of the adventure is to be one of the survivors at the end, more than simply beating the GM by avoiding danger.
That said, with your group, your next option was to have the derelict ship, activate itself and cause it to intercept the PC ship and bring it into its cargo bay, OR cause damage to the PC ship (asteroid hit, or whatever external threat may have initially harmed the derelict ship). So then, the PCs can choose to remain stranded or board the derelict ship to look for parts to repair their own ship and leave.
All my solutions are railroady (as in, negating or preventing player choice/options). But I think the initiator to a one-shot adventure kind of needs that. The adventure is about running around a scary ship, not leaving and playing Space Merchants of Venus instead.
Wednesday, 31st October, 2012, 03:37 PM #514
Lama (Lvl 13)
Wednesday, 31st October, 2012, 05:53 PM #515
Novice (Lvl 1)
In, say, D&D, plot revelation happens relatively slowly, due to the nature of its action-resolution framework. It gives you a lot more time to come up with things while, say, doing the nigh-automatic work of checking die results against DCs. You can start with a loose sketch of an encounter and fill in details as they naturally come up.
In Dread, things can change at the drop of a hat. You need a stock of little 'kernels' of story (plot nodes) to throw out at any given time, but you can never be quite sure which one you'll need next until the very moment you need it. You can try and guide things towards the next node you have in mind, but as Dread is largely player-input driven, you can't always be sure things will end up there (or at least, that they'll take the route you anticipate). Sometimes you need to shuffle things around to suit the players' actions.
In other news, I ran that game of Dread last night, and it was a great success! Everyone had a great time (except the one player who couldn't make it due to stomach flu ). It was quite different from my first experience in almost every way. One of my players was somewhat uncomfortable with "hard" horror happening to children, so the flavor was kept relatively light. Despite that, tensions remained high throughout the game. There were lots of laughs, but lots of moments where players had to steady their shaking hands before taking a pull.
I plan to do a more detailed write-up later, and possibly a comparison with my earlier, grittier, much less successful first session, if anyone might be interested in that.
Wednesday, 31st October, 2012, 08:52 PM #516
Lama (Lvl 13)
My players were also fine with me providing some roleplaying prompts based on their answers to the questionaire, to make them a more tightly knit group. For example, one player said his character was indebted to the mob so I decided one of the ways he could repay them was with cargo from the hulk.
And in both cases it required a willingness from the players to play along with the story. It's hard to run any game if the players aren't willing to play to the genres' archetypes.
Wednesday, 31st October, 2012, 09:08 PM #517
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
So instead of asking "would your PC answer a distress call" which risks getting the tepid answer of "No!" you instead ask "Why is your PC interested in finding abandoned or wrecked ships?"
the PC doesn't get to say no, he's driven to answer "Yes, and this is why..."
which in turns gets him to say "yes" more readily when he hits the game table.
Friday, 2nd November, 2012, 05:36 PM #518
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
With new players I might give them extremely specific and leading questions.
Not just "Why is your PC interested in finding abandoned or wrecked ships?"
But "Where on the scary space hulk does your PC think he can find the rare medicine that will save his sick puppy's life?"
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Friday, 2nd November, 2012, 05:48 PM #519
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
It probably always pays to know your players. Having a group of newbs means they tend to be more indecisive, unsure and overly cautious. The good news being, that if my stereotype is wrong, you can adapt and handle the opposites of those behaviors.
So, you prepare and plan for the behaviors I cite.
design PCs that guide the player to the lay style you want, which is people who will board the cary ship.
start the scene after docking, thereby coming to the foregone conclusion that of course you would dock, you are explorers of abandoned ships.
provide stimulus and reason for why they need to be here and doing stuff. Forex, if the ships are in an asteroid belt, then the party's ship took a bad hit that damaged the engine. They need to find a replacement part on the hulk in order to repair their own ship and leave. That's impetus and motivation.
If the party holes up in a room, the monsters may find them and eventually break in (so they need to be escaping through the ventilation shafts), or the room has a leak and will run out of oxygen if they don't leave (or perhaps an asteroid is heading for this room and will hit in an hour).
basically, something bad is going to happen if the party does NOT take action. By taking action, just do the normal pulls to enable that, and you don't need a lot of monster attacks, etc. this is kind of like the montage you see in horror films where the remaining actors start setting up defenses, making weapons, moving to a new part of the ship. It's like the monster has completely vanished for a time. Because tha actors are busy doing stuff, you don't need monsters.
Saturday, 3rd November, 2012, 02:08 AM #520
Novice (Lvl 1)
Im Hosting my first Dread game tomorrow using the Under the Metal Sky scenario. It seems to be the most popular here.
They are a corp. grunts sent on a secret mission to retrieve valuable cargo from a colony ship. I hope they'll retain enough motivation to explore the ship for the cargo after they realize the ship has been abandoned.
Also looking forward to using Jenga for the only game mechanic. Hope I can get the pace of making the pulls right. "The Tower dictates the pacing" have to remember that.
A quick question: what variations on the symbiote hive-monsters have you used in this scenario. My players havent really given much critter phobias to exploit as an inspiration. Medic wrote that the weirdest thing he encountered was a "Predator" planet, using tentacles to consume everything on its way. So a tentacled blob for a symbiote it is, I guess.
Wish me luck and Long live the Dread-ed Lich thread!.