Shadowdark – The Gloaming: Getting Started

We’re taking a break from our Champions Now: Sentinels of Justice game due to scheduling issues, so I’ve decided to post videos about the Shadowdark game that I recently started running. This is a very different game in a number of significant ways. While the Sentinels of Justice game is a dedicated subset of our regular gaming group that has agreed to meet on the occasional Sunday to play Champions Now, this is our gaming group in full as it gathers for our regular Saturday game. Consequently, it includes more players and has a bit of a rotating cast, as real-life concerns interfere regular attendance. Therefore, the Sentinels of Justice is us gaming under optimal conditions, while the Shadowdark game is us doing our best under less-than-ideal circumstances. I’m blessed with great players, and I think we do well, but it might be interesting to see (or at least hear about) what happens and how we grapple with a more “rough-and-tumble” gaming environment. I’ll start with two videos: our set up and our first-session play report.

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2 responses to “Shadowdark – The Gloaming: Getting Started”

  1. I’m picking out a thing disproportionately to its importance, probably.

    When you mused about whether you were intruding or forcing things into play, basically railroading or controlling as a GM, I am reminded of the Story Now meltdowns a couple of decades ago. This happened a lot: when people had kind of struggled into realizing or admitting that they didn’t like being controlled and they didn’t even like trying to do it (after formative years of internalizing both), they went into a “punching the pillow with a face on it” mode, or anti-all-GM-all-the-time.

    Anyway, none of that processing and drama applies here, but I’m pointing to the notion that when a GM says “This guy shows up now,” or really anything that’s not automated, it’s bad bad control and storyguiding and OMG go smear ash on your face and sit in the corner.

    Whereas my position is that every person has some sphere of the content for which they may expect to be heard, and that only some of this sphere is subject to explicit contraints like dice or whatever. [The shifts in this arrangement for different periods in play is another topic, notoriously attractive for discussion; instead, let’s focus closely on some scene events, so it’s stable.]

    Therefore if in a given game and group (maintaining close focus as I just said), one person’s sphere includes opening scenes and populating them at the outset and as it goes along, then, well, it’s that person’s job to do it, otherwise we won’t have scenes with people in them, for Pete’s sake.

    Some games automate some aspects of it (wandering monsters, if you want the oldest form), some democratize it a bit (choosing which corridor or door, or location-setting by turn as in Primetime Adventures), but here I’m talking about a game in which neither is the case.

    In which case, when Person A introduces an NPC into a scene, especially when there’s no reason why not, it’s no different from Person B saying their character hoists high a flagon of ale and quaffs it all down. Each person is doing the job that must be done for play to occur: speaking in their sphere of contribution, of what the others know they need to hear. Also, in this game, as a feature, Person A does this for all such content (where we are and who’s there), and Person B does this for all such content (what “my guy” does), neither with a formal constraint to consult, which makes the comparison straightforward.

    I wasn’t there, but based on your account which I think is extremely clear, I think you were doing your job.

    • Thanks for your response, Ron. You’re mostly right to say that “none of that processing or drama” applies to my case. I understand that the GM (in this case) is supposed to open and populate scenes, and I don’t suffer angst over doing so. When I muse about random encounters in this and other Shadowdark videos, it’s less about fretting that I might be controlling my players, and more about simply enjoying the increased randomization of play that I’ve adopted as of late. I don’t randomize everything (and don’t feel like I have to), but I do randomize many things, which creates a great deal of unpredictability that is fun for me (and hopefully for my players). I marvel and muse on the results mostly because our gaming group had long eschewed such randomization, with many of us considering it bad practice.

      That being said, the concepts and analysis that you and others offer at Adept Play have put me in the mode of examining and questioning my play behavior. I consider this a good thing, but my gaming group isn’t particularly interested in that sort of intentional self-reflection. This is fine, of course, but it means that sometimes I’m left second-guessing myself without a sounding board, which can be disconcerting. In short, some of the “processing and drama” you mention above might have been relevant for me in my not-so-distant past, so it’s helpful for me to hear about it, even if these days I’m a lot more confident about not usually falling into railroading behavior.

      That being said, I DO feel that I slipped into some Wallace and Grummet practices during our second session that left me (not necessarily my players) unsatisfied during play. However, it’s something that I recognized immediately after doing it, which I felt good about. I’m going to make mistakes, and I’m fine with that. I just want to make sure that I’m catching such mistakes when they happen.

      Anyway, thanks for taking the time to respond. I always appreciate the feedback.

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