NPCs

I've hit on an idea for the NPCs of the setting. Not going to go into details, but I now have enough source material for them that I feel pretty confident about how fleshed out they will be.
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Thinking about the game itself

So, as much as it's interesting to think about the specifics of rules and such, there are a few practical considerations to running a game. Some of them are game specific: What city should I use? Should the game start with the escape and revelation of the setting, or should it start with the characters a little more established? How powerful should the characters be?

Others are more general: How many players? Where should we play? When should we play? How long will the game run?

The general considerations come first. This is a newish system for me, and I think I want to cap out at 4 or 5 players. 6 is a comfortable spot for me if the system is seamless and the setting already has player engagement, but neither is true in this case. Keeping it slotted to 4-5 also means that as I get more comfortable with the game, it becomes more practical to bring players in for guest shots.

Next, I'm disinclined to lock into a long campaign with an untested game and system. I'm not averse to it turning into one if we have a lot of buy in, but I think it's a lot more reasonable to start with a short arc and see how it plays. That allows a beginning, middle and end that can give some satisfaction and payout to the players (and myself) and gives a definite ending point where we can stop and ask what to do next. Maybe it'll turn into a longer game, maybe it will be something worth coming back to later, maybe it will be a horrible disaster. It's just good to have an opportunity to stop and ask.

As an aside, I expect the first session to be primarily about character creation. I know everyone
could just make their characters offscreen and bring them to the table, but I really feel that if I want players to buy into the setting (and each other) then the return on sitting down to talk things out cannot be overstated. I intend to come in with some ideas and a rough sketch of the setting, and I'm hoping to draw the players into helping craft the details.

So, given that, there are really only two timeslots - a short weekday night slot or a longer weekend day slot. Weekday slots need to be shorter - the window is really ~7 to 11, realistically probably closer to 7:30-10:30, so there's a need to make the game pop in short order. This is challenging, but it's also probably good for the game. There isn't
time in these slots for shopping expeditions and there's a lot of appeal to that. They also have the advantage that it's reasonable to expect a weekday night game to happen every week.

A weekend slot has the advantage of having more
time, which allows for more play, but it also allows for post-play socializing, which I enjoy a lot. The downside is that the lack of time crunch makes the games more lax, both in and out of character. Weekend games also introduce more scheduling problems because people, quite reasonably, tend to go out of town, have guests, and so on. They tend to start from an "every other weekend" plan, and then turn into "Once a month, you're lucky."

I guess, now that I put it down on paper, weekends are easier. Weekdays are more work, but are probably better. Now, no way in hell I'm doing monday night - Skyfall did a good job of illustrating why Monday nights suck for any gaming that requires brainpower. People (myself included) are burned out, and you don't tend to know how much the day will suck until it comes, so there's little advance notice on cancellations. Wednesday is boardgames, so that leaves tuesday, thursday or friday. We've got a historical bias against friday since we theoretically should be out partying or something, but I've gotten old, and I admit the prospect of gaming with friends on a friday night appeals a bit more than fighting the local crowds for a restaurant or movie. Well, no need to decide right now, but that narrows it down reasonably.

As to where: for the moment, the only option is my place. As players are selected, the hosting options will open up, but that's the last step.

The issue of
who is going to play is perhaps a bit more complicated. There is always a dance of trying to include people but simply not having the slots for everyone, and looking to avoid leaving anyone feeling left out or slighted. What's more, I don't want to ask everyone at once - if too many people say yes, I get a bigger group than I want to handle, so the process of starting gets slowed down a little. The smart thing to do would be to narrow down which night I'll be running the game on, and ask people with that as the understanding. Not every night will work for every player, and it is easier to have them say no up front then end up in a position where one night works for one player and another night works for another, and suddenly choosing the schedule becomes about choosing between players. Awkward.

So, speaking with the one player I know I have (my wife), Friday looks most promising, so I think I'll cement on that, and start takingn it to people.
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Minor Courts and other randomness

So, one of the ideas that really resonated with me in C:tL was the reasoning for why the faerie courts exist. The idea of seasons, specifically of ordered change, is antithetical to the Gentry, so tying themselves to the powers of the seasons offered the changelings some amount of protection from their former masters. Now, mechanically there's nothing to this - courts get you cool contracts, but they're just that - but conceptually it's pretty awesome. Awesome enough that I immediately started thinking about other, lesser courts.

Now, this idea may be better served as one of the organizations among the changelings, but I think those serve a different role. The idea of tying oneself to a power or idea because it's an anchor against the fae is what makes these interesting to me, so I've been pondering what ideas a changeling might tie themself too for that purpose.

The first one that struck me was the
Court of Fools, who pledged themselves to luck, with the philosophy that it was luck that allowed them to escape and keeps them free. Fae understand madness, change and randomness, but luck is not part of their repetoire - for all that they are wild beings, they are defined by contracts and always in control of their own fate. Luck laughs in the face of fate. The king of the court is the king of fools, and those who spend time among the seasonal courts (high favor characters) may be called the fool of the appropriate season.

Mechanically, I figure that lesser courts either only have contracts that go to 4 dots, or only have one contract. Beyond the first power, I haven't considered it too much. Now, that first power,
Call It, is like a safer version of the goblin contract, albeit only for 50/50 chances, with the catch that it's free if you made the last call of the same type correctly. Since this allows for the bit from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, that makes me happy.

I'm also struck by the idea of the
Court of Games. I'd originally been struck by a court of chess, but the idea broadened (while keeping chess as its central theme). Again, the Fae understand play and they understand rules, but they don't respect the rules of play, seeing them as mere inconveniences. For mortals, these ideas of rules of play are some of the most powerful of ideas knocking about the collective unconscious. Not entirely sure how the contracts settle out though.

Unrelatedly, I love the pledges to death, but they forgot one critical type:
the Wager. It's easy enough to fold into the existing system, thankfully, but it's absolutely critical to make sure it's there.

Anyway, I'll probably write these up more fully as they suit my fancy, but for the moment, I just wanted to get these down on paper (so to speak) so I could reference them later.
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Chargen Question

The default character creation method in the World of Darkness always leaves me feeling like I've made a gimpy character, unless I actively game the system, and by game the system I mean spike everything I can with creation points, then buy cheap things with XP (where it is far less expensive). I think this works ok if everyone's familiar enough with the system to exploit it in this way, but I don't anticipate that with my group. As such, I'm considering some options.

Option 1: All XP

Since pricing is an issue, it might be interesting to just start everyone off with a pile of XP and have them build with the same rules they'll use to advance.
Pros: More balanced, and allows finer control over character level.
Cons: More complicated, and I need to figure out the XP budget.

Option 2: Package buys

The point values for skills are where things break down. It's hard to get a character who feels competent without sacrificing things. This is done to prevent spiking, but I wonder if it would be easier to just replace the points with structured dots. Suppose for example that your primary pick gave you a ●●●●, a ●●●, two ●●'s and three ●'s?
Pros: Simple, and rounded.
Cons: Overly structured?
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