Guest post from Rob.
I played my first game of InSpectres tonight. It was a blast!
The “GM” took five minutes to prep the game, and half the players used that time to create their characters. First, I put GM in quotes because the title is actually more like Director than Storyteller. Second, yes, characters really do only take five minutes to create. I had read through the rules previously and read a bunch of session reports, but I was eager to experience an actual play session so that I could see how all the pieces fit together. I have to say there was a lot of laugh out loud moments and the game just flew by.
Most of the session reports I had read stated that one and a half to two hours was all that was needed. We played for about an hour and a half, but had some technical difficulties at the beginning, I played via VoIP (Ventrilo) and MapTool, but once those were worked out it was fairly smooth sailing.
So this is how the session started: Half the group signed in without characters, but that was not a problem as stated previously. While they made the characters the GM rolled up what the “encounter” would be. That meant just a generic explanation of where, what, and who was to be the launching pad for the game. Once character generation was done we had:
- Me – Computer science hacker college student (I used one of the template characters)
- Alex – Ex-paranormal researcher who lost his funding for ESP research on dolphins and was trying to get back in business
- Mike – Ex-Nascar driver who was now unemployed and looking for any work he could get
- Matt – Bookworm nerd who had studied way too many ancient occult texts and the like.
- Bryan – GM
Then we set up our franchise: We started by voting on location, size, how long in business, specialty, etc. and ended up with a startup franchise located in an old forgotten about back room of the local university with no real specialization since we were looking for any work we could find. Then the equipment building began… Oh this is one of the awesome parts of the game. We each took turns coming up with ideas for equipping the business, but the twist is whoever comes up with the idea has to make a Tech roll for it. So if the non techy character comes up with an idea he/she may only be rolling one die for the result. You always get something, but that “something” could be a very far cry from what you were hoping for. I suggested an answering machine and phones; I rolled a 5 so we got exactly what we needed and a little extra. I wanted a killer computer system; I rolled a 4 and got a three year old laptop with a crappy wifi card that mostly didn’t work and a smallish hard drive. However, someone suggested we needed uniforms and rolled a 6. We ended up with custom tailored jump suits a la the Next Generation with built in cellular links for instance communication. Another person asked for a van tricked out with gear, rolled a 3, we got a twenty year old Winnebago with a bad paint job, and most of the gear was hand made and we didn’t know if half of it worked or what it was. On and on we went. This was a lot of fun just coming up with ideas and then having to modify them based on the die roll.
Once the franchise was setup we had an interview with the local news because we had a successful ad campaign running due to a 5 being rolled in the set up phase. All sorts of pointed questions were asked. This was basically to help us figure out what type of character we were.
Then our first job walked in: A harshly dressed nervous woman complaining about weird weather patterns in her neighborhood that the Homeowners Association wanted to have investigated. We took the case and rolled out after doing some quick research on the area. Note: Everything from this point on is created entirely by the players.
My character decided to do some Googling regarding the neighborhood and any history of strange weather phenomenon. I rolled a 4 and decided that the weather was indeed peculiar and the woman’s reports appeared to be accurate. However, the source of the strange weather was unknown and seemed to occur sporadically. The last week had been particularly harsh. We all took that information and jumped in the van and headed out.
On the way, Matt jumped into the “confessional” and mentioned Ricky’s terrible driving of the Winnebago had resulted in it and us ending up in a swimming pool surrounded by hot female demons. Confessionals are like the “interviews” in reality shows where the participants break the fourth wall and talk to the audience about past or future events. These confessionals have to be somehow worked into the story and are a major part of how the story is created.
So on the way it began to rain and then got so cold that the sleet turned to black ice and Ricky Bobby, the ex-Nascar driver, lost control of the Winnebago and we crashed through a fence and into the backyard of a home and ended up teetering on the diving board. I jumped into the confessional this time. “I really don’t know what made the others do it. Well actually I do. You see as we teetered there, this group of scantily clad hot demon babes came out of the house and looked at us. The guys, not having seen real life boobies in some time all raced over to the window to look at them. The shifting in weight broke the diving board and the Winnebago went in.”
At that point, exactly what I described occurred and in we went. As everyone tried to figure out what to do, I tossed out a joking statement about deploying the Emergency Flotation Device. Apparently suggestions like this, if the GM likes them, mean the player has to roll to see if that is in fact a reality. I rolled a 6. The EFD immediately became a hover system that we hadn’t even known about. The Winnebago lifted out of the water and floated toward the side of the pool. Mikel, Matt’s character, then jumped into the confessional to explain how these demon women were actually the cause of the weather and the weather was determined by their state of sexual satisfaction. Yea, this was the point things got a little risqué. Anyway, after a series of horrible rolls, Craig, my character, and Mikel ended up in the pool looking utterly ridiculous and upsetting the demons even further. Another bad roll resulted in Doc Martin, Alex’s character, being dragged away into the house… A change in scene allowed me to jump into the confessional again and bring up the large runic symbol on the roof of the house that we saw as the Winnebago hovered higher.
We had to end at that point as it was getting late.
The pros and cons:
- Fast easy free form system with just enough rules to allow random successes and failures and still provide a structure to the game
- Character creation is a breeze
- Game prep is virtually non existent
- It was a laugh out loud good time that matched its description of being like Ghost Busters.
- It was a little difficult breaking out of the traditional RPG mindset where you expect the GM to provide the story so the game was a little rocky getting started While the GM has to provide a minimal amount of guidance, I can see how a non free form player would struggle with GMing
- You have to be careful with the Stress dice. One really crappy roll and a character could be severely gimped; however, I think that could greatly add to the story in trying to figure out how to overcome the disadvantages.
- An immature group could cause problems in the franchise building stage so the GM will have to set some solid guidelines right out of the gate regarding tech level and how much equipment will be rolled for the game requires a lot of trust on the part of the players.
- Because the players can actually affect other players in a myriad of ways, the players have to go in with a very light hearted approach and understand the true point of the game is to just have fun and not really get weighed down by improving their characters because there isn’t any improvement mechanic other than gaining “Cool” and of course improving the franchise itself. Yes, characters can die in the game, but it has to be accepted that the “Death & Dismemberment” Clause is active.
All in all, this was a great game that I think any group could just jump right into any given night with no preparation. The fact that the story is created almost entirely by the players allows for a lot more interaction and fun I believe and allows the GM to really focus on where to ask for rolls rather than having to worry about the players doing the right thing to solve “the mystery.” I think with a close nit group, InSpectres would flow beautifully and would be a lot of fun as all the players would be comfortable with the roleplaying aspects.