In A Wicked Age: Need help with game for non-gamers

edited December 2008 in Play Advice
Hi all,

I am running a game of 'In A Wicked Age' tomorrow for some friends, and, as I am slightly anxious about it, I was wondering if anyone had any useful tips for me.

My (slight) anxiety stems from the group itself. It is definitely not a group of experienced gamers. Aside from myself, there is another regular gamer; his wife, whose only RPG experience was a excruciating GURPS game she was once roped into; his brother, who played a few D&D campaigns years ago out of social obligation, and did not enjoy them; and another mutual friend, who has been friends with gamers for a decade, and has never expressed the slightest interest, despite repeated invitations.

So ... a tough crowd. But also a fun crowd, very creative and lively, and people with at least SOME interest in understanding why their friends/husbands gather in the basement and pretend to be sorcerors.

Another source of anxiety is my lack of familiarity with the rules; I just picked them up a week ago, and I've never played or run a game. But when I read them, it just seemed like THIS was the game to play for this night, in a way that other games did not.

I've read all the APs I could find, but if anyone has any suggestions that will help the game go smoother, even a little, I would appreciate it. By suggestions, I'm referring to suggestion specific to IAWA, rather than general "running a game for non-gamers" tips.



  • Pay attention to all the little bits of advice in the book about how to set things up in the game - how many things to describe, to have two characters meet in a scene, and things like that.

    Make sure that you work with people to generate best interests that will lead to a good story at the beginning. Not always obvious things, not always subtle things either. Probably the best ones, from my play of the game, were those that put characters in conflict but not necessarily in conflict with the same people the whole time. For instance "save the town" compared to "stop the attacking general"

    As GM, it can be fun to make very few, but extremely black and white characters for them to throw themselves against. One total villain is often appreciated by first time players, in my experience (often to ally themselves with!)
  • Here's the best most important thing for the GM.

    When in doubt scan the best interests. Pick one that grabs you, maybe one that hasn't been featured yet. Take that character and some other character who could either help accomplish the best interest, or would want to stop it. Put them in a scene together, but don't automatically frame it as a conflict. Put some other people in the scene who want something from one or both of those characters...let things evolve.

    Read and highlight the section in the text about driving to conflict and dancing around the edge of conflict (I can't remember the exact section headings, but its something like that)...Read it Read it...use it. some sample conflict solo. IaWA works best when the dice are like Bam Bam Bam interspersed with tight exciting narration. Stopping to figure out how to interpret the dice mid conflict will KILL your momentum...really take the wind out of your sails. So spend some time coming up with various scenarios between some made up characters and roll the dice until you're comfortable you can resolve things quickly in play. Pay special attention to multiplayer conflicts. They make COMPLETE and total sense once you see them in action, but reading them can be a bit of a head scratcher. Don't shy away from them though...they're hella fun and you get lots of back stabby deal makey action out of them.
  • I'd suggest running a game you know and love instead. Trying something new is hard, a tough crowd is hard, why compound the difficulty?

    I'm sorry if this is not constructive.
  • Just let everyone know your concerns right off the bat before you play. They want to have fun just as much as you do, and that means you're having fun too. Don't worry too much about the rules. If you flub them, that's fine. Just keep the story moving. If someone has a problem with something, come up with something that makes sense and move on. This is pretty general advice, but it works. As far as IAWA specific?

    Only roll dice when someone would and will try to stop something. Also, make sure the players know why the owe list is cool.
  • edited December 2008
    One suggestion I have is to throw out lots of cool color. Let everyone share in not just making characters, but creating a cool world with details. The setting pieces my group made for the Shakham Trilogy were just so cool from a pure Color perspective that playing in it was that much more fun.
  • Thanks for the advice. Making a very obvious villain seems like a good stick to have handy in case the action stalls, as does having a list of everyone's best interests handy.

    Valamir, I followed your advice, "rolled" up several sample characters and NPCs, and walked myself through a conflict with some of them. It made a lot of sense as I went through it, which was good. I pretended I was addressing two of the players, which helped, and was not embarrassing, as there was no one here to witness it.

    Jesse, I'm not sure why the "We Owe" list is all that cool. Is it the advantage dice? That seems like it would be pretty significant. Or is it the "recurring character" thing? I don't have high hopes that this will be a "campaign play" group of people, so perhaps that isn't as important.

    Regardless, I appreciate all the responses. It sounds all vague and wambly to be like "Hey, I'm running this game. Help!", but tips like the ones here actually do help me when playing an unfamiliar game.

    Thanks, all.
  • edited December 2008
    I agree with both Ralph and Jason.

    Seriously. If you're concerned that this group won't engage, then maybe you should play something that you already know and love. That way, you can communicate your enthusiasm for that game in how you run it.

    But, if they're already sold on IAWA, then Ralph speaks truth. He and I are in the same group, and I've done most of the IAWA GMing.

    Additionally, there were those "Best Interest" diagram sheets around somewhere. Use them. I don't have a link, but if you whisper me your email address, I'll send them your way.

    We often invoke "Well, it is a wicked age" to justify all sorts of wacky outcomes from the oracle. Remember, you are beginning with a blank slate. Embrace the freedom that it brings. Someone wants to play one of the trees in the sacred grove? Go for it! It is a wicked age. Or maybe someone wants to play the North Wind. Sure! It is a wicked age. So long as someone isn't being a griefer, say yes to all these things.

    During play, remember that you frame the scenes. That's your tool to make sure that stuff happens. When it's time to start a scene, see if anyone has a cool idea. If not, then do what Ralph said: pick two people with opposing interests and put them together. Then see what happens. When the energy in a scene flags, then cut it off and move to the next one. Keep the energy level high and keep the game moving. You really don't want downtime.

    The game will start slowly. That's normal. At first, everyone is feeling their way through the situation that you all just created, so there's a lot of hesitancy. As the situation unfolds, people begin to act with more confidence. We recently finished our sixth Chapter, and this is still how things go. Therefore, tell this to your players. "Hey, guys. This game tends to start slowly, but then it'll pick up speed as we go on. Just play your characters, and it'll work out fine."

    Vincent has said that IAWA action sequences are essentially D&D combat. You "roll for initiative". Then, the high roller gets to use his initiative as his "attack roll". He picks who he is attacking, and those players (in initiative order) have to make their "defense rolls". I found that this helped me grok the system.

    When we play, we actually have The Stick which sits on the table. When you're negotiating, the player with "the stick" gets to hold The Stick. Props are fun. Go forth, and do likewise.

    Read the Breaking Bad Habits thread. Remember, those aren't rules clarifications, but they can be ways of getting everyone into the right "zone" with the rules.

    Have fun!

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • edited December 2008
    Re: Running something else.

    Not constructive, but a perfectly fair thing to suggest.

    I've been half-assedly trying for a while now to involve more of my friends in gaming, but many of them (such as some of the people from tomorrow's game) are either uninterested or actively opposed to the idea. The other games I play often enough to run confidently are things like Savage Worlds, Burning Wheel and D&D. But none of these seem like the kinds of games that this group would enjoy. I honestly cannot imagine the effort that would be involved in explaining Armor Class or the uses of Fate points or something like that. Ugh. It would be horrible. Horrible!

    I don't know. When I read through the rules for IAWA, I instantly knew this was the game I wanted to play with my non-gamer friends. I've had that thought about a few other games (most notably Spirit of the Century), but never very strongly. Call it divine inspiration. The gamer gods spoke through me. It is written.

    Plus, I did have a lengthy and drunken conversation one night not long ago with Chris (the most overtly RPG-hostile friend involved) about gaming, and he was pretty interested in the concepts of protagonist identity and authorial control (he's teaches literature and composition at a community college), so I feel like a game like this will interest him more than a more straightforward "My guy does THIS!" kind of game.

    I apologize for the lengthiness of this post.
  • I mention the owe list because it is a seemingly subtle thing, especially with the new players that I've run the game for. The advantage dice are an awesome thing, but the recurring characters is really what makes this game great. If you only play a one-shot, the game will still be fun, but it won't sing.
  • "We Owe" is soooooper important. Try to get through 2 chapters with them and you'll see what I mean.
  • Hopefully we'll be able to do two chapters. It does seem like it would be cool to build a new chapter on the events of the first. I'll try to keep the time in mind. Although I'm not sure how long an average chapter takes to run.
  • OK, two points that may be really useful:

    1. Understand that "Answer" means not so much an action that you take in response but rather a description of "what happens". So, I Challenge you: it's like an attack. Then you reroll and say "what happens". If you roll poorly, describe your character in trouble because of my attack. If you roll well, describe how your character defends himself successfully.

    That helped me a lot to "get" the mechanic.

    2. Even more important:

    When playing with non-gamers, try to be brave and go with whatever they want to do and how they approach the game whenever possible. Try really, really hard to let them play their way instead of saying, "no, that's not how we do things". Not only is it more fun for them, but you'll learn a lot too.

    Because punishment or admonishment doesn't just discourage the behaviour it's aimed against; it tends to remove the desire for any action on initiative from everybody.
  • Hi all,

    The game went great; everyone had a good time. Big thumbs-up for IAWA. I posted an AP, in case anyone is interested.

    Thanks for the help!
  • Story Games Victory!
  • Well, Brian's gaming group victory. But Story Games assist!
  • edited December 2008


    Link up the AP!

    [Edit: Oh, found it.]

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