Actual Play – Alligator Alley (4/4/2010)

GM: Alan Hodges
Players: Jay, Joe, Sean and Travis
System: Changeling

First it must be said that EndGame’s minicon was a blast. Even if I hadn’t played in games (which I did) the whole event it full of fun. Carl Rigney had Jeni’s Ice Cream shipped in dry ice to the con. Chris and Anthony were great hosts. Ryan Macklin (you know, from the Internets) was there to promote Go Play SF Bay. Finally, Paul Tevis was up, which is always a treat. I got to see friends I game with, friends I only see at cons, folks I’ve gamed with once or twice and became reacquainted with, and folks I’ve never met but had a blast gaming with and that are now added to my growing roster of killer gamers. Overall, a great day of gaming and hanging out with cool people. And now… onto my report.

10 AM. A finger is missing.

Alan, our GM, showed up to the Changeling game in a relatively unassuming mode. He had a box of Changeling books, some folders with character sheets in then and a list of places and people that he propped up to give us some background. I admit I was dubious. I hadn’t played under Alan before and I’m always a little skeptical of World of Darkness games. White Wolf makes all these promises about storytelling but fails to deliver most of the time. Their fiction usually written from a single protagonist perspective, not the ensemble found in gaming groups. Their mechanics give you many different ways to kill people, even though we’re supposed to be telling stories that are more meaningful than hack and slash. So, while I love the flavor of White Wolf games, I rarely see that delivered. Alan started in a low voice (which was hard to hear over the clamor of other games staring) explaining the basic game mechanics. Although I know it’s necessary, it’s one of the more boring parts of any game and since I know the WoD rules very well and have a passing familiarity with Changeling (my wife is in a weekly game), I pretty much tuned out during that part of the intro.

So all this time, as the game is starting, my expectations are dropping farther and farther. There was one little light of hope thought, a small glimmering spec of hope. When I cracked open the character folder, the first thing I saw was:

Name: Roman
Description: Morbid EMT
Favorite Food: Potato Skins

Why this turned me on so much, I’m not sure, but there was something very exciting about the fact that not only had Alan though to put these kind of details, but that they were the most prominent thing in the packet. Where many GMs would have said Human Fighter, Alan put Morbid EMT that loves Potato Skins. That was cool. What was also cool was his comprehensive character packets. One thing I hate doing is looking up rules during play (as either GM or player) and White Wolf games tend to have a LOT of non-obvious abilities (I think my character had 13 of them including things like Darkling blessing, which I would never have been able to guess what it did). Alan had photocopied all of the powers our characters had and put them in the character packet. More kudos for the GM. I had everything I needed!

As the game starts though, something magical happened with Alan. Previously his voice had been low (in volume and energy) as he went over the administrative duties of the game. When we started play however the first thing he asked was “tell me a dream fantasy you character has that involves losing a finger.” Okay, how many games start with something like that?

From then on the game started rolling at full steam. There was a lot of comedy (especially in the part of our hallucinations of our missing motley member), but also elements of psychological horror (we had done some messed up things that didn’t sit well with anyone) and tragedy (by the end of the game, we were likely to do more). Mostly thought, it was just plain fun to play a slightly (or mostly in some cases) insane changeling who was trying to figure out why they woke up with a finger missing and how they could stop the process from happening again… and again… and…

We met with goblins, talked to ourselves, and gained guidance from a strange and powerful figured named The Greenman. In the end we had a showdown with him to free our motley member Ajay Fingerman from our keeper Pretty Kate. The results were… unpredictable. I don’t want to share too much (as Alan might run the game again) but the game was a ton of fun.

What rocked

Alan’s character portrayals. They were on fire. Ajay had a slight Canadian flavor, while the goblins had these great wheeling n’ dealing mannerisms. The Finger Merchant was this crusty old man, but he was cagey and wasn’t about to have the better of him.
The central premise. We had all lost fingers and wanted to find out why. Talk about a great way to get a group in motion.

Alan’s knowledge of mythical Miami was awesome. His portrayal of the beach, downtown, the Greyhound station and other bits were all great.

As mentioned above, his character packets were complete, so we all knew what our powers were.

The characters themselves were also very interesting. From the very casual Chon (who was casually drinking a coke while driving like a maniac down the streets of Miami) to the rather macabre Ramon (who liked to play with sleeping bodies because they reminded her of dead people).

Our dream combat was great. It’s always awesome to shape reality.

What could have been improved

The characters were fairly powerful (Wyrd 4 and two contracts at 5) which meant that had a lot of powers. While these were cool it also meant it took a long time to read all our powers and sometimes game was slowed down as we looked up some power or another.

One of the players frustrated me… a lot.