A couple of years ago on the drive back from the incomparable Ambercon NW, Mike and I had a discussion about a game I could possibly run the next year. That game was based on a previous game by mike and focused around the creation of true meaningful relationships created by the players. The idea way that to start off the game we would have the players break off into explicit couples and come up with scenes they wanted to play through between each other. These scenes had prompts. For the ACNW game they were: 1. A scene where you fight each other and it comes to blows, 2. A scene where you defend the other to a family member, and 3. a scene that results in ill-advised sex.
I ended up running this game both for a Sunday session last summer and for ACNW. Both of these games went very well, but I never got to the final part of the adventure. After the scenes were played out, the couples were supposed to face a great challenge, and hopefully overcome it as a couple. In both previous runs, I was unable to get the players to the conclusion in time. (In the sunday session we didn't have enough time to explain Amber to a new player and also get through everything, in the ACNW game, my players didn't seem interested in that part of the adventure, so I abandoned it). So, for the retreat I decided to run "Both Alike in Dignity" once again.
For the retreat version of this game I changed the scenes (since one person had already played with these scenes), and Keith and I were able to come up with: 1. A scene where you convince the other to love you despite their hatred, 2. A scene where someone dies, 3. A scene that results in ill-advised sex. We kept ill-advised sex because the relationship doesn't feel solid until you have it, in my opinion. These scenes worked great and the two couples (Mike and Evelyn, Jesse and Carl) I think got some really excellent roleplaying done in their scenes. Best of all this time I was able to get everyone to the conclusion!
This game has worked really well everytime I've run it. It was certainly the best GM'ing I did at the retreat last week, and it was the best Ambercon game I've run as well. In thinking about this I figure that one of the big reasons for this is that I'm asking for direct player involvement from moment one in creating these relationships. I think of how many times I have tried to get a love interest going in a game (normally with an NPC), and it normally takes one of two forms: 1. the player ignores my hints, and nothing happens 2. the player desperately latches on to the hints, and it feels awkward and unfinished. Maybe all of that is me, but I think the reason these relationships work is that the players are responsible for making it happen.
Player Scenes as a method of generating buy-in for adventure ideas I think might be really cool. I have another idea for generating intense relationships in a family that I think might be very cool, and that I want to try at some point. I also think this shares a lot with the "stunt your failure" concept that Nikita introduced to our stunting group. Basically Nikita was the first GM to say "this is too hard, you cannot succeed, please stunt your failure to kill the dragon". While a little wierd the first time (since people are used to just succeeding all the time in persona), it has really grown on us all. It is a great GM tool (to be used sparingly, of course), but it really gets the players' buy-in and lets them feel cool while still failing (and lets them fail on their own terms). In much the same way, I feel that these relationship building scenes generate player buy-in and involvement, and are definitely a valuable tool I am adding to my GM toolbox.
Tomorrow I'm going to try to write about the cool new GM fighting technique I tried out at the retreat that Mike came up with for his Georgia Amber crew.