Sunday, June 3, 2012

Serenity RPG

This afternoon I met up with my Serenity RPG group at our downtown game shop, Labyrinth. I love this place - it has a wide range of games and puzzles, a friendly and knowledgeable staff, and an amazing location (right off the Eastern Market metro). The owner is a lovely woman named Kathleen, and she always creates a welcoming atmosphere. This is in contrast to the game shop closest to me (which shall remain nameless) where the employees seem to have adopted a strategy of "if we ignore the customers, maybe they'll go away."

Your Friendly Neighborhood Labyrinth

Anyway, back to the gaming! Serenity is primarily a shared storytelling RPG - unlike D&D, the primary mode of conflict resolution is not combat, but the use of particular characters skills (lying, scheming, etc). In other words, if you like the "hack and slash" aspect of RPGs, this is not the game for you. However, if you love being creative in non-combat situations and want your decisions to shape the plot, this game was made for you. Another big difference is that you're not going to win every time - in fact, they expect you to come out on the losing side of some interactions, as that will make your eventual triumph all the sweeter.

Or, you know, vice versa.

In our current adventure, we are a rag-tag crew on a mid-bulk transport called Phoenix II. I'm playing the captain of the ship - a foul-tempered and sometimes violent woman named Dao-ming Tu. She's more of a 'doer' than a 'thinker,' so she depends on Wire, a smooth-talking socialite, to handle sensitive negotiations. The rest of the crew is comprised of James - a slightly deranged pilot who's obsessed with his pet otter - and Tai Li - a callous medic/mechanic who can use her acupuncture needles to heal or to hurt. Right now we're just picking up odd jobs and trying to stay aloft. Once we've made more of a reputation for ourselves, however, bigger opportunities are bound to present themselves.

Serenity works really well when have a GM (game master) who can make stuff up on the fly to fit with player decisions. In many systems, GMs are constrained by the premise that combat is the best/only option for advancing the plot. With Serenity, the options for advancement are limited only by the player's imaginations - and the GM's ability to adapt the story line accordingly. Mac is great at this - and by his own admission, some of the greatest moments have come from when we go "off script." These tangents often lead to uproarious laughter, and to people coming up to our table to see what all the fuss is about.

And that's another great thing about local game shops like Labyrinth - on any given day, you can wander in and spectate what people are playing. You can discover new games this way, and nerds are always happy to chat about their favorite systems. Who knows, they might even invite you to pull up a chair!

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