Saturday, October 2, 2010

Space 1889 - Date Night, Newbie GM and First Time Adventurer Pt 1 of 2

Duck is a long time friend of mine. He, I and three others form the core of a 30 year old gaming group called the UEDSS. Duck's been working on the blog behind the scenes helping proofread, suggesting content, and developing a podcast titled Stop, Duck, and Troll. (first episode out soon). Duck is an excellent figure painter and builds scale models as well as any professional I've seen.

His wife recently volunteered to play a RPG for the first time. You can read his first official blog entry titled 'Date Night'

RP Troll

Date Night

Neville Duck

Yes, I said Date Night. To all the "time crunched" gamers out there, Date Night is (for us) some variation on food, flowers, and a movie. With 55" TV screens becoming more and more common, it's easy to have pay-per-view, Netflix, or an old DVD favorite supply our escape from the mundane. Well, my saint of a wife has listened to me comment (complain) about my long agonizing wait for the return of Space 1889 in its new incarnation. A savaged treatment was a brilliant idea but it took over two years to produce. It's been a long wait.

Within two hours of it's PDF release on Studio 2, I had the Space 1889 PDF submitted to the local office supply's Print-On-Demand queue. I am addicted to the spiral binding they have that allows the book to lay open and flat on the tabletop. It's much easier to read than a traditionally bound book. I can swing the pages around and hold the book like a single 8.5 x 11 pad. Brilliant.

That first afternoon, I emailed RP Troll as soon as I was holding the book. He called to say his traditional "I hate you" with a smile of jealousy that occurs when I trump him in something new we've both been waiting for. He promptly hung up and bought his copy. We traded a flurry of comments and ideas on Space 1889:Red Sands and recalled old stories from the previous millennium when last we played. Grandiose Victorian schemes, scenarios, and (in my mind) visions of some cool 28mm props and set pieces began to coalesce. This HawaCon* will definitely be about Space 1889.

I digress.

My wife knew I had been playing the Space Nazis Campaign for several years with RP Troll as the GM. He and I had created the Space Nazi Campaign for our annual HawaCon of 2007. We liked it and continued it with our gaming group of 30 years letting Maptool bridge the 1800 mile gap between us. But now she saw that something had changed a bit. I couldn't stop talking about things Wellsian and Vernsian. The civilized British era that was Victorian consumed my imagination.

One day after seeing the most recent incarnation of Sherlock Holmes for the third time, my wife said, "Why don't we play Space 1889, you know, for date night?" I almost fell over. Now don't get me wrong, I have been blessed with a wife that is a gamer of sorts. Backgammon, Cathedral, Star Trek Monopoly, Risk, Star Wars Miniatures, and even Axis and Allies (on my birthday). But, RPGs have always been more my thing. She asked, "There aren't any of those dreadful vampires or werewolves in it are there?" "No", I said. "Then let's play," she said, "It'll be fun." I didn't have any miniatures, yet, that were appropriate. What will I do? Then she said "Date night is Saturday. That's 5 days from now. Will you be ready?" "Do you care if I don't have the right figures and props built?" I asked? "Lets just play", she said. Wahoo! I replied.

My mind reeled. I would strike while the iron is hot. I saw great paper figures by Scarecrow in the Pinnacle forums and I have plenty of white boards. It's on!

I immediately jumped on my computer and went back to Studio 2 and bought the Space 1889 Player's Guide PDF. I submitted it to the on-line Print-On-Demand at my local office supply (Staples). That next day I went to my FLGS, Game Empire, and bought her a copy of the Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition. Later that afternoon I picked up the newly printed and coil bound Space 1889 Player's Guide. She loved it. Her first RPG rule book and player's guide. I decided to run the first adventure in the Savage Tales portion of Space 1889. Alexander's Mark would work! I printed up figures and prepared the adventure.

That week I helped her create her first character. A brilliant Victorian woman (Smarts d10) that was multilingual, a great investigator, and could...pick locks. I then was reminded why my wife could have been a great lawyer. She lobbied me for more educational based skills and edges. I explained that it's part of the game. "You earn experience and buy more edges and skills over time", I countered. She made a compelling argument that someone as intelligent as she would certainly have more degrees and skills starting out to reflect the reality of her brilliance!

Eventually I persuaded her that it was part of the game that shouldn't be skipped. I said that earning your 'wings' so to speak is important.

While creating her character, I had my eyes opened to what its like for a newbie RPG player. The gang and I had been playing for 30 years and even "new" players thru Maptool adventures were RPG literate. So, I had to spend some time explaining some basics. She caught on but did something completely unexpected. She rearranged the skills so they were lined up by related attribute.

Like so: ...

This chart layout really surprised me. It made so much more sense. She said she needed to see how to pick her attribute levels to better support the skills she wanted to have. Duh!

The Buying Skills Chart helped her quickly figure out how allocate points efficiently. I'm a visual learner but it quickly helped me see that a few little charts like this for beginners and the creation process is even faster!

Then came the unavoidable discussions of why...was Healing under Smarts and not Spirit? Why was fighting under Agility and not Strength, etc... Good questions all but for sake of actually playing, you just have to accept these decisions were anguished over by the creator(s) and ultimately the rationalizations came down to their current places and voila! the game IS.

It made me much more aware of the game and its mechanics. I actually had to think about the content, it's structure, and rationalization...and be able to explain it satisfactory to an intellectually inquisitive spouse. Good training for a newbie GM.

So, Saturday evening was coming soon and I was getting ready. Her character was ready and I had created a few extra characters (potential red shirts) for her to have a chance of surviving. While GMing with your Spouse as the sole player is dangerous territory, it also can be a lot of fun. The great thing about this Space 1889 is it has been re imagined thru the lens of Savage Worlds. The pulpy approach allows for all the adventure without the devastation of quick character death. Fun, Fast, and Furious! ...and pulpy is family safe!

Next Blog.... Alexander's Mark AP: A Newbie GM and Player

Space 1889 - Here we come!

[ *HawaCon - a usually annual private gaming club "Convention" of 5-8 members of the UEDSS held in deep East Texas. Unanswered questions arising from this reference will have to wait until a future blog entry - ed. ]


  1. I am very jealous! A wife with an imagination and a willingness to try a more elegant time ;>) While she might not have managed to talk you into several degrees, her background should allow the use of "common knowledge" bonuses based on her being a brilliant woman in a society where only men were supposed to be brilliant (until they entered the explorer's society). Thus she may not have a deep background in an area but she could have some or all of the -2 penalty negated by having overheard a part she was not supposed to understand or have read from a book a male friend left lying about.

    I am anxious to read about how it goes!


  2. Fighting has Agility, because Strength will be counted on the damage in combat. (Str+d6 etc.).

    Healing is not a magical, but a science factor and thats why it is smarts. If you using some kind of psy powers in Savage Worlds (Arcane Background), your healing magic will maybe depend on spirit.