A moment in gaming that sticks with me

edited August 2018 in Actual Play
My friend was running Apocalypse world 2, I was playing hard holder. I remember because that was such a departure from typical party gaming. I wanted to see what it was like to start the game "in charge."

In the first session the hold (city) was attacked. A messenger from another hold, clearly poorer than us had approached with a a sort of ultimatum. It wasn't even a crucial roll, but I failed a read the sitch roll I think, and my friend who was the MC looked at me and asked... "why would you fail to see the danger."

I remember asking, "how old is this he?" he had said previously that it was some scared looking kid.

He told me he was young, and I responded, "I think my character would just see how young he was and just go soft on him."

I won the day by rolling well with my gang. But he tells me I captured two characters, "Big f*cker, and Three (the kid)." I remember suggesting a staged scene where I have a Malcolm Reynolds moment where I threaten the two characters on the dangerous surface world, telling them they join the community or else. It was a funny/serious afterthought.

Fast forward to the next session. A bunch of stuff happens but one of the threats is that someone is in the control room giving out information to the enemy, I go and find out its "Three," he says that my character is just as bad as the last asshole he worked for... I remember feeling my heart drop. The MC asked me what do I do...

I said I want to manipulate him (the move, manipulate. It sounds worse if you don't know its a basic move in the game). I say that my character refuses to shoot him, he is truly distraught knowing that he drove the kid to this.

The MC asks me to roll and asked me what I say. I remember asking "am I really that bad? Is it really that bad here?" I rolled well and I resolved the situation, making Three a more loyal character, but it stuck with me. It surprised me. My character would have sacrificed himself at that moment, at the idea that he had utterly failed someone he had tried to save. The idea that his "tough love" had just been more of the same bullsh*t power move he was trying to prevent.

This moment sticks with me, something that I don't know how to re-create.

Two Questions;

Do you have a moment like that (In any game)?

Is there a way to make moments like that typical, through game design?


  • I was playing Pathfinder. I'm one of those "usually the GM" people, so the fact that I was 1) actually being a player and 2) doing it in an extended campaign, was pretty remarkable.

    By the time we finished up the campaign, Julia was an efrit bard 7 / swashbuckler 2, I believe. She'd started out as an arrogant "I only really care about myself" kind of person and slowly morphed into a team player who worshipped the Goddess of Love and wanted to make the world better.

    In the final sessions, we'd fought our way into the tunneled depths of a mountain that was inhabited by an ancient, awaking, trapped evil god. At one point, the god manifested in an avatar and confronted us directly, and we had to decide to fight him directly or retreat into a tunnel that led deeper into the mountain. We chose the tunnel, hoping to get stronger and return to fight him when we had a real chance.

    The tunnel just kept going deep into the mountain -- for days. The cave walls exuded a sort of magic radiation that was slowly killing us. We figured out a way to not just directly die after a couple days of this, but we weren't sure if were just headed to our doom.

    Everything was at stake. If we gave up the quest, we might survive, but this ancient evil god would be unleashed on the world. If we didn't give up, there was a good chance we were just going to die in a tunnel without even a decent monster to do us in.

    We pressed on, because we were heroes.

    Eventually we escaped the mountain. The radiation sickness had deformed us all. Julia had a serious limp now. The GM ended the campaign there (unfortunately) but we felt that we had done our best to be true heroes, never giving up.
  • edited August 2018
    Is there a way to make moments like that typical, through game design?
    @Eero_Tuovinen said something here a while back about how the design helps you create these interesting scenarios pregnant with interesting questions; and then once you've made your choices the design ensures that they have the right sorts of impact; but the design had also better stay out of the way when you're actually making your choices.

    I think that might be the best design can do?

    Or perhaps not:

    I recently had a one-shot Monsterhearts game where I couldn't pass a "keep your cool" roll all game, and it could have been played for comedy, but I felt my character was a pretty relatable person attempting pretty reasonable (and in some cases positive) things, and to see it all spiral into a mess was pretty tragic. "When under significant stress, you don't get to simply keep your cool without a roll" -> "make that roll once you've declared what you want to do if you can keep your cool" -> "MC incorporates that player decision into what happens on a miss" . . . the design kinda runs the show for a bit there.

    In the end, of course, it's on my MC to provide good consequences, and on your MC to give Three that great line of dialogue, and on you and me as players to react to these outcomes with genuine investment. An RPG design or product can't make that happen, but I think they can certainly help a group buy into that sort of approach.
  • I have and have seen a lot of awesome moments like that, and I'm not sure how much is system and how much that I game with awesome people.

    As Aviatrix can attest, I think the entire game she facilitated of Red Carnations at DexCon is going to stick with all of us for a very long time. Some of this was the choices we made. Some of it was the mechanic involving pulling cards for our characters' fates, and this wound up with the right blend of horribly unfair fates.

    I'm currently on a high from a post-playtest session of Fate of Cthulhu where the absurd, the satirical, the potentially tragic, and the fierce desire of the PCs to save those they loved and considered family blended to bring it all home, albeit with room for a sequel.

    When I ran the first part of Our Ladies of Sorrow, everyone went all in to make 1963 Greenwich Village come to life in our living room. And the climax ranged from over the top in the middle of North Korea to restrained conversation on a boat.

    At Gen Con, I was in one of Greg Stolze's Grim War games. And once we had it, we all understood, very quickly, out of character, what the mcguffin did, and were figuring out when our characters would find out and what that would mean.

    And my character had a real problem with the mcguffin once he understood. This thing offended him on such a deep level I'm going to be thinking about where the heck that came from.
  • I think that those moments are really valuable and worth seeking out. I probably wouldn't be gaming at all if I didn't find those fairly often.

    David Berg, above, summarizes the criteria pretty well in terms of what game design contributes to creating those moments: dramatically interesting material, and rules which allow our choices to have impact. The rest has to be done by the players, for the most part, unless the game is incredibly constrained in terms of what can happen at the table.

    There are lots of good examples of such moments in the "What did you play this week?" threads. Here's one from my posts there (back in the Spring, after attending a convention in Toronto):
    Krataphagia: the Gore-Filled Sea, a playtest of a PbtA game about weird mutant goblin-creatures living in a hostile and terrifying world. Also, they're cannibals. Designed and run by Hamish Cameron.

    The setup for the game, the phantasmagoric Colour, and the energy of the players was simply fantastic. Ultimately, I wasn't sure what the point of it was, though - if it was just revelling in describing weird little monsters eating each other, it succeeded 100% (maybe 110%!!!), but that won't hold my attention for any kind of long-term interest.


    Velvet Glove was my final game. Designed and run by Sarah Richardson, who arguably specializes in creating terrifying and intense, fundamentally feminine games. This is a PbtA game where you play young women (high school age) who belong to a gang together. Their lives are shitty because of various forms of systemic oppression, basically, and Sarah really knows how to bring that on. Oh, man.

    I'd say it's a little like a more REAL and intense version of Monsterhearts (and without any fantastic elements to distance you from the human drama).

    The play here was wonderfully intense and the players brought it, 100%.

    I've heard so many stories about games at conventions that move people, make them want to cry, and feel like they joined the table as strangers but depart as dear friends. That's exactly what this was. I was thinking about it almost non-stop for the next 24 hours.

    My character injured or killed (or, at least, severely brain-damaged) a teacher at her school, but, in the end, it was her friend who took the blame. Two of the girls were arrested, and one ended up in prison (because she was 18) - and all for a crime they had nothing to do with! It was all my character's doing. Realizing that my girl could simply walk away from all this and accept society's (and her family's) attempts to force her into a conventional lifestyle and a traditional feminine role, while her friends, who weren't as well off and therefore didn't have that luxury, could not... it was powerful.

    Although my feeling is that this particular session was mostly elevated by what all the participants brought to the table, moreso than the game's rules, the system design was extremely top-notch. [...]

    As a sidenote, I thought it was interesting, afterwards, that although I love fantastic elements in my fiction, all the games which I enjoyed most were purely about real-world, human elements. For instance, when we played Turning Point, we all contributed elements to the story that we could relate to or had ourselves struggled with, and that made it very personal and touching.
    Quoted from HERE.
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