Road Trip Remix: Two at a Time

For the moment we are shifting to two blog posts a month to be able to better provide timely posts.

While doing my preparations for the next campaign for Technical Difficulties, I searched for advice on how to run games of Monsters and Other Childish Things. Although I have listened to this and many other games in the One Roll Engine family being played, I had never played in or run a game with it. Luckily, the cast of The Drunk and The Ugly are some of the most experienced with this game, so I asked questions on how to run the game and on running Road Trip using their forums.

As we talked, a few present and former members of their cast expressed interest in playing in it. Although this would increase my workload, I thought it would be an interesting prospect. While campaigns are designed to be run multiple times, I have never heard of someone running the same campaign for two groups at the same time. It would be interesting to see how the groups reacted to the same stimuli in real time and how that might affect my running of the campaigns.

Already this has borne fruit. I ran the first session for the other group before Technical Difficulties first session due to scheduling conflicts. By playing the other game first, I learned some of the weaknesses in how I had presented it.  One of the players brought up that when I described the monster the kids fought I only used the bare minimum of descriptive language to describe them. My intent was take make it more horrifying by leaving it up to the imagination, but since it is the theater of the mind, using more imagery gives it a unified image that makes the game more real.

While it wasn’t a complaint of theirs, they also flew through combat without a scratch. I feel that was more system mastery than the monsters, as they said that they felt right for a first session enemy. With their advice, I got a better feel of how the first session needed to go. While combat got a lot more crunchy with four PCs and six enemies, the Technical Difficulties crew has fun and had a challenging fight, as they took damage while fighting the creatures.

A new group was helpful to seeing these blind spots in my GM style. Laura had mentioned descriptiveness in the short story I had written, but once is an anomaly while twice is a pattern. I need to do better with description. It’s weird because the image is clear in my head and I can describe it well; perhaps I’m unnecessarily worried about dragging on in play, especially with Technical Difficulties’ scheduling. I just need to take the time to describe. And I know viciousness is not my strong suit, but in an RPG I need to know when to lay back and when to throw the hammer.

No matter what, all of the players across the sessions enjoyed the opening act. These are means of growth, not game breaking errors. Focus on fun at the table and be open to suggestion, and anyone can be a great GM.

GM's Corner 09: Road Trip Remix

As you may know, we are closing in on the final episodes of our Red Markets Beta campaign. I hope you’ve been enjoying The Reformers’ adventures and are tuning in for their final battle.

With one campaign drawing to a close, it comes time to plan for the next one. The next games you will be hearing will be a couple of one-shots, followed by our MonsterHearts campaign, a Powered by the Apocalypse setting. The campaign was run by Aaron, and I can’t wait for you to hear them.

The team had discussed what system to play next. I had always wanted to try out Monsters and Other Childish Things, a system where players play as a child and their monster friend. Having never played a game in the system, I suggested that I could run a pre-made campaign. Continuing with the theme of RPPR, one of the campaigns was written by the host himself, Ross Payton. Road Trip, a six adventure campaign, is available as a PDF and print product on DriveThruRPG.

Having read the campaign, I like Ross’ design of a set of places where the kids and creatures can have adventures throughout the country. However, his design is for a modular campaign where the kids can reach any of the destinations in any order outside of the ‘final boss’. This can work well for letting the GM design how they want to run the campaign.

The inspirations for Road Trip come from a variety of sources, both childish and adult. For example, the most famous leg, Sucrose Park, takes place in a Las Vegas theme park where the heroes fight a creature that kidnaps kids and replaces them with robots. The cited sources include Saturday Morning Cartoons, Theme Parks, and Stephen King’s Misery, though after reading I also see parts of Invasions of the Body Snatchers and a critique of consumerism, to say nothing of neglectful parenting.

As a child, I was taken on many road trips. Some of my happiest memories are of going places with my family to see the sights. As an adult, the road trips I’ve taken have still been fun but have also been marred with worries about my safety, how much money I can spend, and where I’ll stay and what I’ll do. I wanted to take inspiration from these memories, and from my own childhood fascinations and adult readings and anxieties. My plan is to move Road Trip from a choose your own adventure to a linear path, mixed in with custom legs of my own. To that end I’ve been reviewing some of my own childhood favorites, including superhero comics and cartoons, Nickelodeon classics, and interactions with family and friends. In keeping with Ross’ design, I want to use my own past to more fully evoke the sense of an actual road trip.

Road Trip Remix will take our kids and monsters on a wide spanning journey from California to Florida with a grandparent as they’ve been chosen to appear on their favorite kids game show, live at the studio in sunny Florida! However, as they see the sights on their way to fame and fortune they keep coming across situations where kids, monsters, or kids and monsters are being manipulated against one another and with plots against the greater world at large. Are these plans connected? Will they make it to Florida in one piece? And is TV glory the only thing waiting for them on set? Stay tuned. In a few months, Road Trip Remix will be your ticket to find out.