Spirit of the Century: GM First Session Impressions
I got a chance to run a pickup session of Spirit of the Century last week. (Write-up: SotC – First Play Session). Our usual GM had to bow out, so I had no prep time. SotC seemed like the perfect fit. And it was.
Character creation went pretty well. Only two players were available at the start, so we got through the Early Life, Great War, and Pulp Novel Star phases just about the time the rest of the group showed up. I think my second explanation of what SotC suffered, because the aspects the second group came up with were weaker than the first. A final player joined up as the second group was beginning to guest star in other people’s novels, but we got him up to speed in record time.
The group really seemed to enjoy the storytelling aspect of character creation. Some went overboard with descriptions and got a little bogged down in the minutiae, but for the most part things stayed on track. It probably took us around an hour to get through the guest starring, and it was getting late, so I skipped ahead and we used the on-the-fly rules for skill selection.
I took the character worksheets into the other room and started reading through the stories. I had played putt-putt with my wife recently at a course that told the story of a plane downed in the jungle, so I decided to use that as a framework. One character sheet gave me an antagonist, a disenfranchised Prussian general; another, an object lost in the wreckage. It took about five minutes to do it.
I ended up bringing in Gorilla Khan as a villain because I thought having the group attacked by apes would be a good introduction to the conflict resolution. In hindsight, maybe I should have used the Prussians. At any rate, it worked out, mostly through the party intimidating and deceiving the gorillas.
I asked myself where the gorillas ran to, and that led to the idea of a fort. The players hit upon the idea of climbing into the trees to shoot over the walls, so I decided to give Gorilla Khan an escape route. The rest fell nicely into place.
The scenario took about 90 minutes to play out. I think we all wanted to continue, but it was getting very late, so I wrapped it up faster than usual.
In summary, Spirit of the Century is extremely easy to improvise with! The players and I loved it!
* * *
Today, I wrote the players an email explaining more about aspects and what makes good ones, paraphrasing the manual. I also introduced the idea of stunts and sent a copy of Brandon Amancio’s Skill and Stunt Summary (www.fusionofthought.com/rpg/index.htm) for reference, so they can do some thinking about their characters.
As a group, we need to work on placing aspects on the environment, though a couple of examples did come up in play. I think by the end of the night, they were starting to get the hang of it.
I have been listening to the Old Time Radio – Sci-Fi podcast on my iPod, and that’s been great for learning pacing and getting a feel for the genre. I need to find another podcast that has more traditional adventure tales, though. Any suggestions?