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Monday, August 15, 2011

My Greatest Failure. Beyond Reality .01

I talk a fair amount about my current group, mostly because I'm the forgetful sort and my memories of older groups tend to be fuzzy when it comes to specifics, but I figured tonight I'd make a post about possibly the worst game I've ever run. Well, I say worst. It was actually a lot of fun but objectively it was a horrible mass of mistakes and a near endless arms race between me and the PCs.

Believe it or not this game was actually tied pretty strongly to my webcomic Beyond Reality. At the time I had just come up with the idea for the comic and I wanted to try running the concept as an RPG before starting the comic itself. Essentially a game where the players hop from world to world in an effort to find their way home. 

For the system I chose GURPS. Now, there's a couple of things you should know about me and my current gaming group. First although I'd run several games I was still fairly green as a GM and I'd never run anything other than D+D but I figured I was ready to give GURPS a shot. Second, my players were all good friends but they were powergaming, munchkining bastards to a man. I once played a game with the group where I had to go on a secret sidequest in order to become a demi-god just to keep competitive with the other players. Well I spent some time looking over GURPS and making characters in order to get the hang of the system and the first thing I noticed was that I always kept running against that darn disadvantage limit with my characters. I always felt like I would be able to make more interesting characters if that limit wasn't around and I could take a wider array of disadvantages to earn more points. So I removed the limit when I had the players create their characters. This was a BIG mistake. 

Compounding the BIG mistake was the fact that I was far too trusting and too green to properly handle these disadvantages. Things would have certainly worked out if my players had taken a few big, interesting and easy to handle disadvantages...but no they each took dozens of tiny ones to build up a massive amount of bonus points while simultaneously ensuring I simply wouldn't have time to properly deal with all of the disadvantages (assuming I even remembered them). Theoretically each character was meant to be someone who could have lived in the real world (so if they had supernatural abilities they wouldn't be ones that the character was aware of) but the point value meant that they mostly looked and acted like action heroes. 

The first character was apparently a secret agent. I don't even know why I allowed this considering that the characters were meant to be college buddies. In fact I think I was so dumb I even allowed him to take his job as a Secret...in a game where they would be leaving their home world in under 15 minutes. He also took several other minor and mostly worthless disadvantages in order to buy up his driving and shooting skills to obscene levels. This guy could put a bullet in the eye of practically anyone in a hundred yards. It got so bad that I eventually started constructing enemies specifically without eyes in order to prevent him from blowing their brains out as easily. He also apparently had tons and tons of ammo stored in his car at all times. Sadly, this was the most balanced and sane character in the group. 

The second was a martial arts nut and possibly the most brutally munchkined of the team. He had tons of minor disadvantages like vegetarian, an oath not to use weapons (why? I have no idea) and even a sex addiction. He was also Bad Tempered and addicted to combat (these would normally be significant disadvantages but this is how he acted every game with every character anyway). He bought incredible amounts of martial arts skills, techniques and physical stats. He was easily capable of snapping necks at the rate of several enemies a second. The one bit of sanity I was wise enough to include was a restriction on buying the Trained By a Master advantage which would have granted him access to supernatural martial arts techniques and made things so much worse.

Finally, the third player was my true nemesis. Although not as heavily min-maxed as the martial artist this character abused the point system pretty badly too. I actually encouraged the player to get a variant of normal magic-use that allows him to learn spells on the fly because I wanted a character that worked a bit like Orion would in Beyond Reality. However the big issue was that the character also took Gadgeteering to the most excessive level, allowing him to slap together combat lasers out of a HAM radio. The game became an almost constant power struggle to stay ahead of his increasingly ambitious inventions and to restrict what technology would be available for him to play with. One thing I will say is that I'm very glad I decided to include a random invention bug/glitch system from one of the other books. The various glitches made the game so much more hilarious. Two examples that stand out: an orbital satellite constructed in under an hour from scrap metal which he launched to scan the planet they were on instead emits an intensely bright flash that temporarily blinds nearly a third of the planet. Another time he scavenges the team's car in order to build a huge battle-robot sporting armor that could stop a tank round and 6 gatling laser cannons. The only problem? The gatling lasers all had the "overheat" bug which meant as soon as they were cranked up to their "dozens of shots a second" firing speed they immediately exploded taking out both the battle-robot and its opponent. 

 The demonic creature that's currently bugging Orion in Beyond Reality had it's origin in this game. The crew had pissed off a nomadic tribe of cow-men who laid a curse on the one to kill their champion (mr. martial arts). The curse took the form of a demonic being that inhabits the bodies of living creatures and uses them to try and kill the victim of the curse. It must start small, with minor biting insects, and with each death it becomes stronger and can inhabit more powerful beings (leading to a fight with a demonic chicken). After the group  left through a dimensional portal the creature follows them through in another stolen body. However, away from it's original plane it's no longer bound by the rules of the spell. It decides it wants to keep traveling and seduces the martial artist into agreeing to let it "join up" inside his head. Obviously the Beyond Reality version works differently but I still consider this one of my neater ideas.

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