I ran my Numenera session to time yesterday. The group of numenera hunters, enthusiastic explorers and loyal Truth followers managed to find their way to the source of problems threatening Briary, and resolved it. That makes three sessions, with the first spent creating characters.
When I say I ran to time, I ran to a target more so. I had several encounters mapped out that never happened and have a structure that never made an appearance. I skipped the discovery of numenera and empowered players with the agency to get the game they desired.
Someone actually made a comment about not playing the GM’s adventure, or something along those lines. A moment of amusement around the idea that anyone would care to follow the GM’s plotline and make it easy! I never have anything of the sort in mind.
The comment came up when I mentioned my plans to run the very same adventure at Concrete Cow this weekend, along with a TimeWatch mission I have also run before. I think I mentioned that the time travel adventure never played the same way twice because the players never chose to do what I expected. Or maybe one of the players offered up the second comment.
I don’t think I ever run a game anymore with plans to get from A to Z, following a linear course between. I have a plotline, a few ideas and locations – but, I don’t strictly plan for anything to happen. I’m quite prepared to go with the flow.
Last night, when someone mentioned that bird crap might have fouled the machinery in a tower, leading to a malfunction – I rolled with it. It seemed wrong to disagree. As the group battled their adversaries and attempted to render repair to the machine, one player chose a non-violent solution to clearing some space – sending a sharp jolt of fear into one enemies mind. Seems fair enough to me… and with a successful roll, it happened.
I suspect I’m just saying stuff here that some think quite straightforward and matter of fact. Many games push the “Yes and…” and “Yes, but…” approach of accepting the player’s solution and taking it forward from there. I suspect, a little while ago, I might have baulked at the idea of casting the whole adventure aside because the players seem to have come up with something better.
Better? Well… OK, maybe not necessarily better. I think it has a lot to do with the story becoming more a work of the group rather than a solely created reenactment of events from the GMs imagination. I’m not quite wandering all the way into freeform storytelling here – but, I’m meeting the challenge in the middle.
When I run these two games – Numenera and TimeWatch – at the weekend, I know they will both run to their own beat and at their own pace – although I’m conscious they have to run to time. Pacing will determine how much I excise from the course of events and how quickly I “Skip to the end” to reach the resolution.
From a Numenera perspective, I feel I may have to read through some of the text again around setting difficulties and defining conflict. I felt a little awkward, a little forced. I’m not 100% sure I’m doing it right – assuming there is a definitive way to do it. Perhaps I’ll watch a few YouTube’d Numenera sessions and see how other people handle the challenges and the conflicts.