So as part of my involvement in my university’s roleplay society, I have started running a game set in the popular New World of Darkness system. The game revolves around a group of Native Alaskans (of the Nunamiut people) being sent out to explore the world after they turn 18. I thought it would be cool to share my experiences at the helm of this 10 week game.
Week One- Character Gen
Yesterday saw the start of ‘The Great Journey’, my game and I was surprised at the response my pitch got- seven players in total, despite personal worries that my pitch wasn’t great and that my emphasis on expecting a level of cultural sensitivity from my players may have shunted people towards other games. Unfortunately, I was to learn why very soon…
So after arriving late to my game due to an extended piece of non-game business, I find that of my seven players, four of them have never played New World of Darkness before and so, as the character generation is simple yet frustrating, I tell my two experienced, pre-picked players to just power ahead as I run, step-by-step, through the character generation process. The character name is the first item on the sheet and so problems were there from the start as a number of players were eager to take on Native American names…such as ‘Skywind’ and ‘Runningbear’ which led me to give my ‘Nunamiut 101’ lesson a little earlier than I had planned as I explained that while you would have a ‘native’ name, you would also have a common English name, a practice that has become increasingly common. Furthermore, your community name would not be two nature adjectives/nouns slapped together but something meaningful in your native language.
The next problem came at the character concept, the two/three word summary of your character (such as ‘helpful mechanic’ or ‘amicable dog-trainer’) and instantly, one of my players asks if they can play a religious fanatic. I tell them I’m open to the idea, explain the religion and then have them respond with a mildly offensive interpretation of what the people’s religion (animism) entails. After I shut that little bit down and the player finally changed his concept, the rest of character generation went by smoothly, albeit slowly. While I love nWoD as a system, if you don’t have multiple copies of the system, character gen for more than four players gets a little stalled.
However, despite the late start and the teething troubles in character gen, we managed to get to the discussion of where the group wanted to travel to well before one of my players had to leave for their night shift. After a stuttering start to their first bit of roleplay, my two wonderful roleplay veterans took the helm and steered the conversation towards the United States and Canada (as opposed to Mr Religious Fanatic, who was very keen to sail out towards North Korea). Eventually, Vancouver was settled upon as the first destination and the following morning (in-game), the seven players, six dogs and a dog sled flew Delta to Seattle and then back up to Vancouver.
This was when an idea popped into my head; I could show the new players how to play the game while advancing the plot. And so, while the new players piled onto the SkyTrain, Vancouver’s monorail system, one of my veterans, playing a charming and amicable dog-sledder, used her dog sled to ferry the luggage and her dogs to the home the group had found on Craigslist. What followed was some solid roleplay and an interaction with an NPC, Stuart the frat house member! My intention was to utilise the skills of my pre-picked players to advance the plot and also (hopefully) show the newer players how the system runs best.
Eventually, the new players showed up, ordered sushi and threatened to set fire to the possessions of the home’s owner. The session ended with them all heading to bed after dinner.
What I’ve learned: I am so glad I pre-picked two of my players. I trust both of them and I really enjoy working with both of them. Looking back at it the day after, I don’t think there a huge amount I could have done to curb some of the more cringing ignorance, especially after I left them alone for a good 45 minutes to an hour. However, I know what I need to do next time and hopefully; this will lead to things running more smoothly in the future.
The Cast: And finally, allow me to introduce the characters under my guidance for the next nine weeks:
Amicable dog-sledder Willow, a striking sweetheart with a can-do attitude and a wide-eyed approach to the world.
Timid medic Tabitha, a perservering medical profession who is more likely to heal you once you’re far aware from the action rather than wade into battle to make sure you don’t die.
Hot-headed brawler Victor, the tank of the group who leads with his fists and stern expression but is also a dab hand at doing some investigative work.
Slimy Con man Geoff Jr, a fast talking kid looking to make a quick buck at every opportunity. Less than useless when it comes to non-manipulative social skills or a physical fight.
Hungry intellectual Mike, a man in pursuit of knowledge of the world. Not bad in a fight either.
Inventor Anna, a sharp witted and highly intelligent inventor and craftswoman with a buried vengeful side. Highly academic and survival orientated, Anna is not the strongest social character.
Helpful engineer Eric, an all-rounder and generally nice guy who, along with Willow, keeps a grip on the group as a whole.
Next week: Lessons in cultural sensitivity, a frat party and hopefully the start of the main plot.