Friday, March 11, 2016

Shadow of the Sea Lord - Leaning into Trope

Image Source: (I think) http://shadowcoreillustration.blogspot.com/2012/08/skull-shackles-part-1.html

Shadow of the Sea Lord is being planned as a con game for me to run for some friends at GenCon this year. Knowing that pacing is pretty important, especially in a con-game, I really need to start strong so that the game can find it's feet and flow through the story in the time allotted. Rather than try and come up with something innovative and new, I decided to lean into trope, to put the convention into a con game:

I plan to start in a bar, with a bar fight.

Why not right? The trope of an adventuring group forming out of a bar isn't a bad one, just one that got a little over used. Likewise a bar fight in a game set in the pirate city of Freeport isn't exactly going to come as a surprise to the players, its pirates in a bar after all. But there's something to be said for convention, for the familiar.

The nice thing about both of these is that you can get almost every type of character into a bar without any real effort. Bars, inns, and taverns, common rooms all, were the center of social life in the historical period that fantasy tried to emulate. Having four to six characters with disparate backgrounds all start off in a common room is both plausible and a good way to establish to the players that some kind of setup for the larger story is forthcoming. They know the trope, and they play along, and you get to jump quickly into the game.

As for the bar brawl ... There's value in setting up a situation where the characters can quickly establish that they are, more or less, on the same side. It helps build the party of good footing, and ensures that there is reason for them to stick together. Plus Freeport is a pirate city, and pirates can be boiled down to a handful of key tropes, of which bar fights is just one. It helps to sell the setting, and allows the GM to get the players exposed to a combat early on. Again, this will build trust within the team, but also allow the GM to showcase the mechanics early.

That's my plan anyway. My players may well read this so they may well know what's coming, but I think, I hope, that this will still work as intended, and facilitate what I am hoping will be a good game.