Friday 29 July 2011

Running a Call of Cthulhu pbem Part Fifteen

A brief word on handwaving, the definition of which I am taking as “Not burdening your players with the tiresome bits of reality…”

A pbem takes a long time to play. I think my first adventure took about eight months to cover from Saturday lunchtime to Monday evening. Although subsequent adventures have moved perhaps that little bit faster, it’s still a long process, even if only the essential stuff is included. It stands to reason therefore that anything that slows the process down should be looked at closely and its necessity questioned. We’ve already covered the amount of detail a Keeper should include, but what I’m talking about today consists mainly of the moments at which you decide to say “Yeah, okay, I’ll wave that one through and we’ll move on…”

If it breaks a logjam or moves the game forward and is fair to the player concerned and the Keeper can explain the justification so that it appears fair to the player(s) concerned, it will (or at least it should be) generally accepted.

Handwaves should be considered a limited commodity – if the Keeper starts to use them too liberally, it can give the impression that the action is being circumvented or that, again, player involvement is being restricted.

The perspicacious Keeper should be able to spot when a handwave is required. If you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the adventure, the sputtering sound as the flow starts to stall is a good sign. Similarly, a good degree of player enthusiasm for the process should indicate that now is not the time to skip to the next scene.

I’m just going to mention, as we are getting very near the end of this series now, something that also comes at the end – of the adventure itself.

There is a temptation, possibly born of those five-minute segments at the end of shows, to go through what happened and clear up any loose ends. However, this is probably not a good idea in Call of Cthulhu.

Therefore, my advice is not to do an end of adventure reveal if the adventure is being played as part of an ongoing campaign. The party may never visit the mysterious Majestic Hotel again but unless you’re not going to use those characters again, ever, then keep the lid on what really went on. As we journey through life, we can be fairly sure that we don’t know everything about things that happened to us. Some events in our life are mysteries or just downright baffling. It should be thus in Call of Cthulhu. The party may have overlooked something that the keeper can go on and use in a later adventure set in that same world – but if he spills the beans about what the party missed, that’s an opportunity wasted and it makes the party privy to information that they would not otherwise have learned.

Next time – a bit of humour in an otherwise bleak, horrifying and eldritch world and some valuable insights from my players on sandbox Call of Cthulhu

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