Actual Play - [Hot War] [AP] Pushing Other Players

Posted by: Gary Bowerbank On: Oct 14th 2010

Played a game of Hot War at Furnace this weekend, run by the urbane Mr Dorward. With a strong set up and occasional prodding we had a corking game. HW seems to be one of those games where you definitely need people to Bring It. We had an equally strong bunch of players and it was all set for a top session.

One thing I found myself doing was want to accelerate to conflicts all the time and up the stakes. Some other players were mildly more cautious. Was I wrong to keep pushing? Should I have instead dialled back my f***ing hyena of a character and given more time to the others to slowly simmer their way up to conflict? In this case I think no, as it was a con game and not part of a larger story arc. We had some agendas to conclude and I wanted the meaty action from the start.

Three examples spring to mind of where perhaps I should have kept my trap shut, or given it a little more time to develop depending on the event.

  1. Pete’s Eastend madam has been grabbed by the throat and threatened. Following an awesome tirade and some smashed glass his character totters off. I jumped in and said “have you got the dice to back that up?”. It was already an awesome scene and I could have left it at that, but I felt that I wanted to know what really happened – just walking off scott (no pun intended) free with no conflict seemed weak sauce, especially given the ex-boxer that was making the threats. As it happened Pete won the conflict and things happened as they would have without the dice, but it felt more meaty – and what’s more – there were consequences (in the game mechanic and also the literal sense) for the other party.

  2. Andrew’s gang boss was having conversations with the Enemy in a pub. Roleplaying had carried on for some time and I thought my character would be just about snapping by now. He’s one for uncontrolled rage, not this chin wagging. So I jumped in with what my character was about to do. Andrews asked me to hold on as he had a conflict to conclude, which is totally cool – but it did feel like I’d pushed him a bit towards getting on with it. This isn’t because what was going on was in any way dull or inappropriate, but more due to my desire to get stuck in again. Although in my following conflict the consequences were small (mechanically) that help steer the narration and set up more trouble for later.

  3. Jag’s boxer didn’t seem to be getting much in the way of action – not sure whether the character was playing the long game or Jag was struggling to get a word in sometimes – but I felt the need to “bring him along” (whether or not the player was quite happy as they were). I dragged the character kicking and screaming into a rather close-to-the-line scene (on the wrong side of the line arguably), and got some good meaty drama from his reaction, pushing him (character) to do something distasteful and reaping the backlash. I think this got Jag’s character a lot more central to what was going on, which of course the player took to with gusto.

Over analyse much? Sure. But any thoughts on this? In convention games of HW, and certainly when its all about the characters pushing the agendas and escalating scenes is it okay to keep your foot on the gas and the accelerator on the floor?

We had a great game – from what I can tell everyone loved it and was well stuck in. It was right down my strasse, and all things being equal I’d do it all the same all over again. But is there a danger with these sorts of games that one mouthy player (i.e. people like me) can push too much?

Obviously there’s that unwritten social contract and behaving in a sensible manner – which I’m comfortable I was within having taken the measure of the other players. But do you ever feel you’ve over-egged the pudding? Do games like Hot War encourage you (unwittingly) to?

Top quality session and great bunch of people to game with. Look forward to more of the same in the future.

Posted by: Scott Dorward On: Oct 14th 2010 edited

I've certainly been in games where one or two players dominate events (hell, I've often been one of those players) and this session really didn't strike me as one. Jag may be softly spoken at times, but I don't think he was sidelined. I remember his character as doing a lot of interesting stuff, but it would be very interesting to get his perspective on it.

If you'd been in the position of pushing your own agendas and scenes to the exclusion of everyone else, then it would have been a problematic game. As it is though, you (and everyone else) did a good job of bringing the other players in almost every time there was something exciting happening. This strikes me as being a very healthy dynamic.

The only one-shots of Hot War (especially) that have left me unsatisfied are the ones where the players are reticent about launching into conflicts. This has led to me starting pretty well every convention game with the same pep talk, where I explain that almost everything that will make the game dynamic will come from the players, and if they're ever sitting there waiting for some plot to hit them, they should stop doing so, grab one of their agendas and find a way of pushing it as hard as possible. I've never run a game where I've wished afterwards that the players had played a bit more cautiously.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Oct 14th 2010

It's the Blood Opera approach, and it really burns through the fuel. Pretty awesome when everyone loads more fuel in.

I think the key is that the group has to be open about communicating the "too much" or "not enough" feelings and crucially the statement "... for my liking". And everyone has to be part of a group wide vibe too. Like a guitarist in a band has to work with the bass and drums, but can both lead and follow the others at different times.

The communicating doesn't have to be vocal either. Nods and agreeable silent assent to action/dialogue and toothy grins at turning the screw all let everyone (sub)consciously that we're all on the same page.

Groans, exasperated sighs, sarcasm and checking iphones probably indicate the opposite!

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