Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wife's Solo Campaign: How Short Can A Session Be?

I asked myself this question following my wife’s solo game last night which amounted to a little less than an hour. Much of it consisted of DM monologue. Young Eon and her boy companion Mander had just entered the city gates. C was as lost in the game as her PC was in the bastide, but I was determined not to overly coach her or suggest courses of action.

Because of her uncertainty, her role-playing actually came across as very good. She stood there for awhile inside the city gates alongside the slack-jawed Mander who was looking to her for guidance. She began crying, and a sergeant-at-arms gave her a very basic, tattered cloth map of Domme (one given to new recruits) out of pity. After this she stopped crying but continued to stand there in shock. There was some commotion as the guards at the entrance were joined by what looked to be a captain. She could only pick up part of the conversation from where she stood, but she gathered from the reactions of folks wanting to leave town that a quarantine had just been declared due to an outbreak of some kind of disease.

She continued to stand there not sure of where to go or how to go about it. The sergeant last session had given them documents to present to the town magistrate, so I was hoping she’d try to make her way there where a jobs board was posted and I could give her some further ideas. It started to grow awkward, so I decided to roll on Matt Finch’s City Encounter tables. The first time was just another guard patrol. I’d been describing to her various details of the city and pausing to see if she’d do anything, but she wasn’t budging. After another ten minutes of in-game time, I rolled again. I didn’t like the result, so I had a beaten up beggar come crawling from one of the fancier looking avenues not far away. He saw her catch sight of him and cried out to her for help. Apparently this was enough to spur her to some kind of action, although I was surprised at it - she decided to take off running away from him and towards the river.

After just a little bit, she slowed down, and saw a church and cemetery. She walked towards the church and saw a couple of holy men chopping wood. She seemed relieved, and I had one of them approach her and ask if there was anything he could do for her. She relayed her whole story, and he directed her to a nearby inn and said to come back and ask for him personally any time.

Following his directions, she managed to find the inn and entered and asked for Harry. The innkeeper (Loretta) told her she’d been misinformed or was confused as there wasn’t any Harry, but that her inn was sometimes referred to as “The Inn of the Hairy Orphan” since it was contracted with by the office of the magistrate to put up any refugees from the outlands at no charge (as long as they had the correct paperwork). At this, she and Mander handed over the papers they’d been directed to take to the office of the magistrate, and the innkeeper said she’d take care of everything and told them where to find their rooms. Eon asked for some food, and Loretta gave each of them a baguette and jug of water with a splash of wine mixed in. She also told them where the nearest well was located.

I had to smile at one point when I said “Loretta seems nice” and C said “She’s not!” so maybe there’s some hope and interest here yet. It looks as though our regular Swords & Wizardry and OSRIC sessions are starting up again next week, so maybe this solo campaign will happen even less frequently. She has a busy schedule and a lot of her own interests - D&D doesn’t rank too highly among them! I’m glad she’s been amenable to giving it a try and still hold out hope that she’ll come around to enjoying it, but I’m open to the fact that the game’s not for everyone. Originally I’d hoped to have at least three hour sessions. This one hour session feels far too short to capture what I’d been hoping for - but I remind myself that many people enjoy play-by-post games (something I’ve been a little reluctant to try myself). I’m going to shoot for two hours next time and then try to slowly increase it if it goes well.


Telecanter said...

I find it interesting and refreshing to see a player unburdened by the weight of RPG trope experience-- starting an adventure-- head to the tavern. See seemed to act in a way that was realistic to the situation, especially darting away from the beggar.

Unless . . . it was uncertainty about the "game" and what one should do in it. I recently talked to a woman I introduced to S&W and who seemed to have a great time when she played. She said "I don't know what I'm supposed to do in that game" which was kind of discouraging to me.

Hmm, introducing someone solo, seems like a double challenge. Wish you well.

christian said...

I am not having any luck getting the missus to game, either. Not even seductive vampire stuff a la Anne Rice. I wish you luck in your quest. At the very least, you got to spend some alone time together. :)

squidman said...

This sounds a bit familiar. There seems to be a common confusion when it comes to fresh adult players, who didn't have any rpg (even computer ones) experience in the past.

Julia (my girlfriend), though very into Zak's and Jeff's blogs, also seems a bit lost, when not presented with a "i need you to go there and do that" structure.

Still, she seems to feel more and more comfortable with every single session and I hope so will your wife. Goodluck!

Andy Bartlett said...

I DM'd a game for my wife, mother and teenage sister. The whole first session was spent negotiating with their patron, and camping out at the edge of the forest watching the dungeon entrace. Without any idea, either from tabletop RPGs or computer adventure games, or the power scaling typical of games in this genre, they had no idea of their chances of survival and so were ultra-cautious, even though I had a NPC member of the party turning the mechanics of the game into description.

It made from great role-playing, if for little dice-rolling.

ze bulette said...

Thanks for the feedback guys...

I think most of us were able to see others play as an example before we started or played with more experienced players. Telecanter's right, introducing someone solo is a double challenge. A dungeon setting is probably easier for a newcomer to deal with - there are different clear directions that you can go in. A town setting is more overwhelming with its many options. I imagine she feels somewhat like having been dropped into a foreign city where she doesn't speak the language. Now what? If it was me and I had any money in my pocket, I'd find my way to a pub for a drink! Then I'd figure out what to do next...

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

I had fits and starts with my wife when it started. I found that gently guiding her along with a helpful NPC was the way to go. She made all of the major, meaningful decisions, but it was good to have a mechanism to help get her thinking.

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