Wednesday, October 23, 2013

[Behind the Screen] DWAiTAS: Exiles of Time - Divide and Confuse (and other issues)

Last night's session was a bit better in some ways than last week's, but there were still other problems that cropped up. Since Clara was starting a week later than the rest of the group, I decided to start her character off in another part of the ship the TARDIS arrived on, and I also made up a playable NPC for one of the other players to play as, so that she didn't feel isolated during her own scenes until she met up with the rest of the PCs.

The problem was a) I split the party, b) I think it got a little confusing for Clara because she wasn't sure sometimes whether it was the NPC talking to her or Luke's PC talking to others, c) I forgot that Clara's PC (Aru) had a fear and distrust of men, which made having a male NPC for her to interact with a bit of an oversight on my part.

Splitting the party is something that's often quoted as to be avoided if possible, but sometimes it's just inevitable. The characters aren't always going to want to go the same way; they might split up to cover more ground, or some might stay behind to cover the others' escape while they go do something elsewhere. The problem wasn't really that the party got split up, but rather that the party was split up from the beginning of the session. It seemed to make sense for them to start in different areas, and I stand by that decision - it would have seemed contrived for Aru to be right where they started the adventure from, and the situation she found herself in at the start tied in nicely with her amnesia arc - but maybe I could have started them off closer to each other somehow, so it didn't take most of the session for her to meet up with the others.

I did realise this might be an issue before the session, which is why I threw in the playable NPC so that Aru would have someone else to share her side of the adventure with. But that turned out to be confusing for Clara, as I mentioned, and Luke quickly got annoyed with playing two different characters. Plus, Aru's issue with men made it all the more awkward.

I also need to improve my skills at managing split parties in general, making sure to give equal time to characters, as my pacing between scene changes may have been a little off. Should maybe time such split scenes in future, make sure to transition between them after about five minutes if possible.

Other than Clara being a bit sidelined by the splitting of the party, the only other main issue was referring to my notes. I'm working mostly with handwritten or printed material for session notes and NPC stats, which is a little awkward to sift through at the gaming table. I also have to play my music and sound effects through my MP3 player, which doesn't offer the same ease of access as music playing software like iTunes or something else might. Things would be much simpler if I had a laptop at the table, because I could just switch windows between notes and NPC stats, and queue up tracks on playlists in my media player. It would even be simpler to set up initiative tracks by having a spreadsheet ready for extended conflict scenes. But at the moment I can't use my laptop without having a mains connection, and even then I can't be sure it won't cut out on me when I'm playing media files. So, I'm going to have to figure out a better system for running with my current low-tech means. Earlier GMs managed it for the likes of D&D, so there's no reason I shouldn't be able to manage it as well.

I think there were also elements of the plot which weren't fully explained - because the right opportunity to offer those explanations never came up - and even the stuff which was explained was provided through convenient expository dialogue with an NPC character.

Still, we learn from doing, and I'm sure that I'll improve upon these issues with experience. In the meantime, I'm going to start working on the character arcs for the PCs, and figure out how things tie into the metaplot for the campaign.

Be seeing you!

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