So we ended our Mutants and Masterminds hiatus last night, although in retrospect I wish I’d waited an extra week or two – working a whole bunch of weekends in a row means I don’t get a lot of time to prep sessions and, man, I really wish I’d had time to do a little more prep work on this one. On the other hand, while the lack of prep hurt the session, the counter-argument is that the holidays are coming and there’s usually disruptions to gaming schedules anyway. Getting back into the groove of regular gaming is probably more important than running a perfect game session at this point.
In either case, what’s done is done, and I’m sitting here doing my post-session debrief, trying to figure out what worked, what didn’t, and how the campaign world is destined to change in the coming sessions.
This is something that I’ve always done fairly informally and in a free-form kind of approach, but it occurs to me that I’ve spent much of this year adapting my writing process to the fact that I no longer have the vast expanses of free time to spend on it, but I haven’t actually done the same thing with my gaming.
I’d ordinarily make these kind of notes mentally, and over the space of a couple of days, but given that I’m now running games far more often I’m figured I might try compressing them into a short blog-post after the session finished. Primarily I’m doing this ’cause it’s part of an attempt to develop some pre- and post-game rituals that will formalize some of the processes I used to approach in a more languorous manner. I want to try and streamline the hours of prep-time that I’d put into a game (mostly in terms of long-term plotting) into something that fits my schedule and keeps the game fun for me and my players.
The biggest thing that bugged me about the session was how set-up heavy it was – I introduced a whole bunch of new elements into the campaign, all of which I’m happy about, but none of them had an immediate pay-off that gave the feeling that a plot had advanced over the course of the evening. New characters were introduced (Ret-Con, a member of a time-travelling cadre, who appeared by disguising himself as *another* newly appearing character – I know what I was trying to do, but I tried to do to much of it), new storylines were sparked (the PCs world was temporarily invaded by cyber-dinosaurs from an alternate time-stream), and an old sub-plot was revisited on short notice when one player contacted an NPC to ask for help.
While this was all tenuously linked to the events of our last session, showcasing some of the consequences of what would happen if the villain succeeded in their plan, it didn’t actually advance the players towards finding said villain in any way that was based on the heroes efforts. The feeling of cause-and-effect that makes the PCs central to the story was missing a little.
Other things I’m feeling grumpy about: my ability to set scenes and describe things was complete pants during this session; I had a serious case of cut-scene-itus (scenes where players spectate, but can’t interact); I couldn’t remember the name of an NPC fast enough to get on the same page as the player; the players came up with a cool tactic that should have been celebrated, but I didn’t give it the splash-page-treatment it should have gotten in-game.
I should stress that I’m not beating myself up about any of these things – just noting them as things to work on in the future, ’cause I’d like each session to be that little bit better than the one that the one that came before it.
While I started with the bad, it wasn’t all doom, gloom, and misery (which is totally going to be the name of a villain team in the future)
There were a bunch of things I did in tonight’s game that I’m really happy about, and I’d like to remember how they worked. For me, the big winner was the Cyber-Tyrannosaurus as bad guys, primarily because they represented a huge departure from my comfort zone in terms of villains. He was a honking great over-the-players PL bad guy with crappy defenses and great saves (except, in this instance, his Will save, which proved significant – our electropath finally succeeded in using her ability to control machines offensively for the first time).
That the players succeeded in handling the T-rex relatively promptly significantly widens the scope in terms of the Power Level I’m willing to play with for the opposition. I also kind of look at it and think “yay for the villain audit,” since the decision to go cyber-T-Rex as opposed to other dinosaur types largely came down to the T-Rex being the utter antithesis of my villain trends.
Other things that worked: Seeding a future bad-guy via a brief, foreshadowing cut scene; making a series of call-backs to key elements in our early issues (what is it with our school and dinosaurs?); having great fun babbling about time-traveler pseudo-science; players doing interesting things with their PC’s powers.
I really need to take a close look at the grappling rules so they move a little more fluidly – both the T-Rex and one of the player characters had Improved Grab as an advantage, but I still need to reference rules in order to make them work.
I also need to get a clearer understanding of the way one PC’s Affliction power worked – its been underused, which meant we were all caught off-guard when it worked, and it also doesn’t quite match the way the player wanted the power to work now that it’s finally been used successfully.
I rarely write these kinds of details down a session, although I often lie awake in bed thinking things over. Blogging about them has been kinda interesting, ’cause I’m already seeing the ways I can create a kind of pre-flight session document that’ll streamline game prep. I’m going to tinker with it a bit over the weekend (around work) and implement it next session – if it works, I’ll report back in two weeks time.