#RPGaDay2020 – Day 20: Comfort

The numerical prompt for #RPGaDay2020 on Day 20 is Investigation. I found this to be a very satisfying one which our different route provided by the map version of the infographic allowed us to reach on Day 17. While I was enjoying that prompt, many others were exploring the word ‘comfort’. Today, for our Day 20, it’s my turn to consider comfort.

Twins, in the Schwarzenegger / Devito sense

Back on Day 5, we looked at reinforcement and celebration of the abilities of the characters and the deftness of their players for the tribute prompt. Since then, the session of ghostbusters play we are using as a backdrop against which to highlight the prompts has had ups and downs for the group. It has been fast-paced for the most part, has had sporadic moments of danger, and has had a gradually diminishing sense of uncertainty which has now been mostly laid to rest through skillful investigation and analysis of what has been learned. In the last two entries, the ghostbusters have seen the forces of the opposition which they must figure out a way to stop, and they have listened to one of the key villains monologue for a little about the fate of the world if he has his way.

This is a low point in the session for the characters and the players can feel the challenge intensifying as their expectations of what might be going on with the evil baddies come into greater alignment with what they have learned actually is going on.

This has been an action-packed session having started right at the gates of the haunted site with the numerus motivations and pressures that cause the ghostbusters to be the ghostbusters (mainly mortgages) fresh in everyone’s mind. It went through a brief moment of fear, then into spike of terror as one of the group was abducted. Then there was an attack, followed by a brief revelation and then another of their number was possessed. More combat followed, and then an opportunity to regroup, reflect, compare notes, and form a hypothesis backed with facts. One the heels of that came sudden and serious confirmation of how perilous the threat really is, and a close encounter with the villain that they were forced to retreat from.

That’s a lot to go through, and in play, even with the loose approach to IC and OoC humor that we have ensured is a large part of playing ghostbusters, it has meant a few hours of building tension, escalating threat, and now a shock.

It’s a good time to start bringing the session for the night to end on a moment of high emotion and a memorable sense of certainty about where they stand within the unfolding events.

We could have ended atop the tower, and we could have ended when the Peck, the mad scientist made his entrance, but I felt like we hadn’t quite reached the right emotional pitch, yet. Further, both of those ending points would feel like a cliffhanger and that is not a feature of this particular IP nor is it something that should be used as a regular part of play outside of the heroic pulp genre. To do so risks draining the technique of its impact as it creates its effect through skillfully timed use of the concept of denial. If the group can look at the clock and predict the arrival of a cliffhanger by the nearness to the end of available time to play, then the technique has been rendered toothless.

In the video, this idea will be examined a bit further, as well as the idea of recognizing and responding to dramatic beats as they develop versus orchestrating dramatic beats. For now, let’s check in with the ghostbusters and see how they are feeling.

Fleeing the vine attack in the glass meeting room atop the observation tower, the ghostbusters run down another flight of clean and well-maintained industrial stairs. They don’t have time to inspect the decor, ,however, as glass rains down around them and tendrils and creepers pursue them. Rounding the corner, they see the door to a catering area and VIP lounge for whatever bigwigs and investors would be given the tour and trip to the tower. They jam through, vines grasping at heads and ankles. Linda the giant mantis and former shift supervisor slams it behind them and presses her giant form up against it while still staring at Dunhill. Her mandibles clatter.

“I wish I could understand her,” says Dunhill in frustration.

“I guess she was the perfect companion for Peck,” grates a winded Dieter, “He could talk endlessly and never get interrupted.” He shoots a look at Gray and gasps, “Get him! That was your whole plan, Gray?”

The banter runs a bit and before it starts to feel like they are just waiting for me to say something, I say something. I surprise them by revealing that Diego can understand Linda.

“”What? How?” the others burst out.

I shrug and suggest with my expression that Diego is free to speculate.

“Perhaps my mind and… the entity’s mind… are drawing closer together. Because he can understand her, I can understand her.”

I am not sure at this point if the thread tying Dunhill and Linda together will ever come into play, or how, but I do know that if it does it can be made more engaging, but also more amusing and awkward if it has to go through translation via Diego. Player banter has assumed that Linda is impressed with Dunhill and that in her current condition she wants to express that interest by mating like a mantis and biting his head off. Whatever role the human in her plays has been completely obscured by the effect of her transformation. This situation is further twisted into a hopefully interesting shape by Dunhill’s sympathy for her condition and desire to free her from it. He knows that she was a participant in the experiments, but in his heart of hearts he wonders if she was a willing one.

As the vines pound on the door, I offer a bit of translation for Linda, to keep things moving and moving toward a viable stopping point. I could hand Diego’s player a note and there are multiple ways that note could be written, but as our plan for this game of ghostbusters is to shift between IC and OoC states smoothly and often, I have nothing to lose by abstracting the interaction process between Linda and Diego, and much to gain in player engagement with what she has to say. Further, to shift to note passing or other 1:1 interactions dilutes the tension and makes most of the group wait. Then, the player who got the information feels compelled to repeat it to the group. It makes sense to skip the middleman.

As Linda clatters and clicks at Diego, the others toss the furniture into a heap in front of the door as a make-shift barricade, then the group vacates the room by its only other exit (to Area 16).

Tomorrow, we will find out what Linda has to say as we reach Area 16 and the end of this metaphorical session. Things in the next session will probably take more time, and involve more rolling and interaction, so I want to leave things on firm footing for this session so we have a good launching point for the next session and lots of time to resolve things. The group has explored most of the suspicious R&D center now, and have an ally in Linda – in a sense, and a useful tool in the form of Diego’s possessing entity. It feels like this job can be wrapped up in one more session, so Linda’s story is a comfortable and convenient place to close.

Question: How does this entry demonstrate the roll of comfort in play? How does the behavior of the characters demonstrate comfort? How about the players?

Link: Later today will the pattern of posting a companion video continue? There is comfort in routine, so… probably.

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