Target Practice

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year.  The time when I begin talking about the new seasons of Arrowverse shows.

For the three people who are still reading, let’s get some contextual stuff out of the way, first.

Supergirl –

Have not watched a new episode, haven’t watched most of last season on DVR.  I’m so close to mass deleting as the show only really got me perked up (outside of crossovers) in the first two episodes of season “yo, Superman”.

Arrow –

Keep seeing comments about getting back to roots.  Um, nope.  I have had a higher tolerance for Felicity than most after she became a main.  Great supporting character, terrible main.  But, I just can’t stand her this season.  Her arbitrary “I’m more important than everyone else”ness is exactly contrary to what makes superheroes heroes (well, what makes anyone heroes).  Helping others is what society deems Good, as I’ve stated before.  Sacrificing to help others is more Gooder.  Whining is not Good.  Arrow always should have been one of two things – modern take on vigilantes where they just straight up murder the bad guys all of the time … or … ignore early season 1’s straight up murdering people right and left and all hail boxing glove arrow time.  To keep trying to play on the fence of what vigilantism means is really, really boring.  Almost like I said this before – angst is bad, m’kay, there are plenty of ways to have drama without caring whether someone has dealt with their personal demons or not.

It’s like other folks, the folks who like this season, want something different than what I do.  Oh, right, they do.  They want Amell shirtless in prison fights.  I want a superhero show about an archer (well, not really, since Green Arrow isn’t an important character to me, but, given that we don’t get supers I like better, sure, a show about a superhero archer).  Of course there’s lots of agreement on the weak parts.  For instance, get rid of every other main character and have some fun supporting characters, like season 1 Felicity and anyone who is like “Whoa, you are a Bratva Captain?”.  Just to show I don’t hate women – make Nyssa mainish and have her be the rival/foil.  “Husband, while you were fiddling with your long, thick expanding arrow, I straight up murdered all of the bad guys and solved the problem … again.”

Flash –

Not bad.  But, see below about Legends of Tomorrow.  Cicada is actually less interesting already.  I can accept the ludicrous tropes needed to make a god threatened by ungods, but oh my does it get tiresome when they set up scenes where anyone who moves, I don’t know, four times as fast as a normal person wouldn’t be remotely threatened.  Cisco is not as cool as he once was.  Caitlin’s problems are boring.  Ralph is boring.  Wells has yet to get anywhere near season 1 Wells, though that may not be possible.  Having JPK play the daughter of two actors who are actually younger than her is somewhat amusing.  Just too much locked into tropeland rather than capturing the really cool dynamic of early season 1.

Legends of Tomorrow –

At no point has Supergirl been what I wanted it to be as a show.  Sure, Supes’ first two episodes were there, but that didn’t last long.  Arrow had moments but really lost its cool after like the first three episodes.  The Yao Fei training and early Deathstroke stuff was on point.  Even later Deathstroke was just a slog as:  one, wasn’t Ollie’s fault; two, the whole setup was really stupid when you stopped to think about it at any time even though the plan to pit them against each other made perfect sense.  Flash was what it should be early to mid season 1.

Oh, hold on.  All of these shows tend to be what they should be when they do crossovers.

LoT was not good in season 1.  Two characters were such a downer.  But, it got better.  Season premier of this season may not be perfect television, but it’s exactly what LoT should be like.  I’ve had bigger laughs, but that they made a Woodstock episode work at all was an achievement as I don’t have any nostalgia for Woodstock (okay, I’m maybe not as ancient as I think), so I find it a boring historical reference.  Then, the second episode happened.

Which brings me to my gaming topic.  !!

There’s a line in storytelling, even highly mechanical storytelling, where on one side you have good or better and the other you have not good or worse.  LoT had the same ideals and generally the same components but failed the execution.  The second episode was actually exceedingly obnoxious.  Boringland called and paid a visit.  The supernatural antagonist (not really the real antagonist) was not terrible.  The singing was timely.  It was just how mindnumbingly stupid Zari was that left me disgusted with the episode.

My concern with running … since there’s only so much I can do as a player and I have a high tolerance for suboptimal play of RPGs … is that I try to do what sounds righteous and don’t get on the righteous side of the line.

This is likely a terrible example for this particular topic, but it’s something from recent Rokugan 1600 play that hasn’t worked.

Usagi Yumi

I steal so much stuff from prior campaigns.  So, one thing I did was have an object that mattered to me as a player show up in the campaign as a subplot device.  Besides passing comments on rare occasions about getting rid of the yumi, at no point did it matter to the player of the PC tasked with finding the rightful owner to find the rightful owner.

When the lack of progress kept getting commented upon, the players finally came up with some ideas for pursuing the subplot.  One idea was okay, but I called it “prosaic” in an email I sent – prosaic doesn’t fit my style of RPGing.  The other idea I called “I Love Lucy” level thinking to just be rid of the subplot.  Because latchkey kids had to watch TV from the time they got home to when they went to bed and I’m from an age when there were maybe eight TV stations to watch with only about three mattering, I suffered through I Love Lucy.  And, Laverne and Shirley.  And, other shows about incompetents.  Which is maybe why I have such a deep, abiding hatred of entertainment about incompetents/losers.

I was proud of bringing more magic items into a fantasy campaign because I noticed that I should do more of that sort of thing to play up the fantasy elements of, er, fantasy campaigns.  Instead, griping and sarcasm.

The intent was to motivate towards a goal, since I don’t really require players/PCs to have goals yet goals add depth to a campaign and contribute to having a PC story arc.  Sure, this sort of thing is well familiar to GMs.  They have in mind something they think will make for a better game, a cool story, and the player doesn’t care.

So, what could I have done differently?  Well, since I think in a way that most people I play RPGs don’t, maybe the hints I made recently could have been made earlier.  Though, to be fair in the sense that this isn’t the most important thing to the campaign, I was fine with letting the player deal with the subplot when he felt like it.

Now, there’s another reason not to tip my hand.  I like other people figuring out things, perhaps because I like figuring out things.  I like guessing.  I like having an opportunity before I get an answer handed to me.  I find it weird when other people aren’t into guessing, which a lot of people I quiz aren’t into.  To me, being handed an answer either undermines or invalidates knowing something.  Since this is so “profound”, I’ll come back to it another time.

As a GM, I don’t see my job being giving answers.  I see my job being to give mysteries where the players can discover the answers.  Feel like I’m getting off topic, in that maybe I have a bunch of topics related to CW TV shows.

Anyway, ideas are easy, execution is hard.  Oh, also said this before.

Meanwhile

Meanwhile, there are things I think I do poorly that seem to find favor with players.  This should not be surprising, but it suggests the closeness to the line that a GM can run at.  With just the right dice rolls or player interpretations or improvisation, something uninspired can be inspirational.

Another example that may not even fit.  There’s a geisha that two of the players met in a side session.  She worked in that session better than expected, so I’m obviously having her return to the stage.  Maybe that NPC will engage in a way so many others don’t.

We’ve played enough sessions for players to either gain a feel or reassess their characters.  If I don’t start adding depth rather than continuing to create breadth (shallow and broad I be), going to miss out, methinks, on a better experience.

More engaging villains.  More engaging NPCs.  More engaging locales.  More engaging objects.  More engaging plots, subplots, events.  If wishes were fishes, fish sauce might be more expensive.

So, how to do the better things Arrowverse shows have done and eschew the worse?  Well, no, I don’t look forward to Mick and Constantine working together.  Just sounds Odd Couple level “I only watch this show because nothing else is on this channel I watch for four hours every day” grating.

I’m not very hard on the players.  I was reading some story ideas in L5R supplements and they are *harsh*.  Permanently being made an eta harsh.  Maybe events would be taken more seriously if there were actual consequences.  OTOH, doesn’t sound like that would be any more fun, just more intense.

GM Fun

Because who really cares whether I have a coherent blog post or not?

I was asked what was fun for me as a GM, what would make things more fun.

I enjoy research.  I enjoy worldbuilding.  I enjoy using research in my worldbuilding.  I enjoy coming up with interesting takes on mechanics.  I enjoy the soap opera lives my NPCs have that players generally couldn’t care less about.

What makes me stop enjoying anything is if players aren’t enjoying play.

I’m sure the writers of Arrowverse episodes enjoy Gorilla Grodd or messing up the timelines or trying to address political issues.  See, getting related to my own post – booyah.

I can enjoy building a world that doesn’t get played.  What seems like it would be more fun is having the players enjoy the world.  I’m pretty sure that’s true, as players caring about some aspect of the world gets me motivated to keep creating more of the world, while players not caring about the world hardly at all gets me disinterested in running.

When I can find the time and am in the mood, I enjoy writing stories that are relevant to the PCs.  This is an area I’ve been poor at for R.1600, as we often schedule sessions in quick succession or have long layoffs.  In theory, if we had more every other week sessions, that would give me a week to work on a session and to write up what’s going on with the NPCs so that the players have more insight into how I view the world.

Arrowverse seasons are still early.  Flash feels like it’s wavering between the two sides of the line.  Arrow is relatively good for Arrow but that doesn’t say much as so much of Arrow has had similar problems to so much of Wheel of Time.  I don’t expect it to rise to new heights or to rise to the heights of its crossover episodes.  LoT is where I hope to be continuously entertained, but it needs to figure out how to use its current crew better as I feel like it’s a Sara and everyone else show, at the moment, because only Sara feels fully “present” as a protagonist.  Mick is underused, Nate is annoying, Ray gets too silly, Zari doesn’t work when she’s serious, Constantine is not integrated well, at all.

R.1600 isn’t early.  If only it was easier to implement GMing advice rather than just reading it.  If only it was easier writing good TV.  Oh yeah, still absolutely on theme for today.

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