Saturday, 27 August 2011

Pilot Season

I just got back from seeing the pilot of Once Upon A Time. It's a very low-key urban fantasy, apart from some big “wow” flashbacks to the storybook world most of the cast hail from, with nothing much fantastical bleeding into the real world... yet. Still, the people who have been trying to adapt Fables to TV must be spittin’.

But anyways, it got me thinking about recruiting for games, taster sessions, connected or unconnected one-shots and stuff like that. Round these parts (these parts in this case meaning GEAS, the university games society) games run by the academic year, and the first session every year is generally given to one-shots.

I seem to be in a minority here because I tend to run one-shots of the same games I want to run from then on. This seems logical to me at least.

“That was fun, are you running it next week?”

But how much do you put in an intro session, “sizzle reel”, pilot, whatever? Pregen the kinds of PCs who’d star in the game generally, or focus on something else in the setting?

For example, when I tried out my Heroes-y plainclothes supers setting Next Step, low-grade superhumans on the run from sinister government agents was the obvious way to go as that’s what the game would have been about.

But for The Stars On Fire, a military SF game that starts with just-about first contact, should I put that in the not-necessarily-canon intro session? Well, I never ran an intro session for that one, but if I had I’d have done one of the previous contacts where (almost) nobody survived. The game started with the PCs finding one survivor in a wrecked ship, who could have been a PC in the imagined “prologue” game.

Way back when, The Watch House replicated Buffy accidentally a bit more than intended, when in the first session I discovered that generating four characters can be done in half an hour, and needing a plot I stole one I didn’t intend to use. When I lost one of the original players (grrr) and picked up a couple more (yay) next week, I reset with the canonical first episode. Had I actually been planning something like that, I'd have run a Buffy one-shot in that slot instead.

Equally, you want it to be a fun one-shot in and of itself. So my theoretical Buffy one-shot would have involved plenty of monsters, very possibly a BIG monster, and probably the TV characters for ease of use. If I’m running a game like a TV show, the intro week one-shot is less likely to be a “first episode” pilot than a big blow-the-budget standalone episode of the show. More The Christmas Invasion than New Earth. A reasonable taster of the show, but tending to have more monsters and explosions than an average episode.

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