[Shell Shock] Shell Shock in Gaza

edited February 2009 in Actual Play
I promised to playtest Shell Shock if I could find a group to play it with. In early January I hooked up with these guys on teh interwebs (okay, two out of three were old friends) and arranged a test game. We played the first session last Wednesday. I posted an actual play report of the session on Alt+Games blog, here are the highlights.

As it says in the game's introductory text, Shell Shock puts you in the role of young recruits sent to the frontlines. Facing the hardships of military life and war they will have to make tough choices to survive.

Shell Shock is a set of rules which will allow you to tell the stories of these soldiers. There is no predetermined setting. You can tell the stories of US soldiers confronted to the horrors of the Korean war or the lives of guerrilla fighters on the Polar front of the Mars independance war of 2135. Whatever the setting, the question remains the same: how far will they go to survive?

You can find out more about Shell Shock on this thread. Shell Shock is available in pdf format on Kobayashi's blog.

I was the only one in our group to read the game text before the first session. This didn't provide any hardships for us as I was prepared to explain the rules. The character creation was tightly covered as well as the conflict system. The role of the game master and the preparation and the course of events in the game were left bit vague to me.

The first decision concerned the setting for the game. The players came up with lots of ideas, of which two prevailed: The Battle of Stalingrad and the (at the time) ongoing Gaza conflict. In the end the Gaza conflict intrigued all of us so much that we decided to give it a shot. During the course of our conversation a doubt was cast whether we could treat such an complicated and intricate situation on a sufficiently meaningful level. We agreed that we would see how far Shell Shock would take us on that road. In my mind the game will probably tell a lot more about ourselves and our attitudes about the Gaza conflict than about the actual conflict and the people involved in it.

Characters were set in a unit guarding an outpost along the northern border of Gaza. The start date for the events in the game was 23rd of December 2008, the day the cease-fire negotiations were on-going but would be aborted in the following day. We also decided that all the main characters would be young Israeli conscripts.

The character creation in Shell Shock consists of a series of choices, most of which have four options. First you choose the character's attitude towards the conflict in question, after that her attitude towards military etc. Using this method the characters were made quite fast and with no fuss. We used two principles: 1) to try to make as diverse as group as possible and 2) discuss the different options and choices out loud with the rest of the group throughout the process to great success.

The choices of the characters' attitude towards the conflict and the military focused the players and characters towards mutual interests and the focus of the game itself. We could see instantly what the dynamics between the characters were. These dynamics also developed and became more concrete during play.

As for the play itself, we played one short incident on the border. The conflict mechanic worked okay, but I had some problems allocating dice for the enemy. None of the players used traumas (a major element of a Shell Shock game and an important part of character development) but I think that was because the introductory scenes did not provide much in the way of challenge.

All in all, the session was a success and that was in no small part due to Shell Shock. Particularly the dynamic in the group between the main characters and also the supporting cast developed immensely during our first session. In the same time, the characters became more concrete. Here's my notes about the characters after the session:

Group 2 of the Eureka squad

* Sgt. Baruch ("Kischke") - indifferent, cynic, deviant intellectual from a wealthy family (Matti)
* Corporal Spielberg - authority respecting religious pacifist (Simo)
* Private (machine gunner) Lewandowski ("501") - a believer in the conflict, a slacker and a video game addict (Laku)
* Private Raanan (machine gun loader) - frightful but eager soldier
* Private Hershel (radio operator) - M.Sc., geek, avoids social conflicts
* Private Schmidt - indifferent slacker
* Private Humboldt - your garden variety nationalist
* Private Epstein - approves of hard disciplineand demands others get it too (justice too)

The squad leader ltn. Ben-Reuven has been left in the background but he's certainly not a hands-on leader.

So, we had a great time. The only major problem was my inability to decide on a good system to decide how much dice the enemy would have in each conflict.

So, this short actual play highlight text was a balancing act between not just copy-pasting my blog entry but providing a shorter version of the AP report for those interested and still providing enough information to give a coherent picture of things. Feedback is very welcome on how well I succeeded and what could have been done otherwise.

A more in-depth actual play report (with pictures!) is on our blog Alt+Games.

The next session is on Sunday so the next AP report will be up some time next week.

Comments

  • edited February 2009
    This AP is very interesting, Many thanks for writing it.

    Of course I'm very glad with this part : "The session was a success and that was in no small part due to Shell Shock" but what really made my day is this :

    "In my mind the game will probably tell a lot more about ourselves and our attitudes about the Gaza conflict than about the actual conflict and the people involved in it."

    This is great because it's exactly what I wanted Shell Shock to be about.

    Now on the game/rules level :

    "The text states that every conflict that a player loses should lower her character's wounds or stress. Is this intended in the rules so that the group cannot have a conflict of purely story level consequences ?"

    Yes, I wanted that each conflict leads to wounds or stress. Was it a problem during play ?

    "Two pieces of advice which are not given in the character creation part of the game but which did help our character creation process greatly were 1) to try to make as diverse as group as possible and 2) discuss the different options and choices out loud with the rest of the group throughout the process."

    It was such a basic assumption for me that I didn't write it out in the rules. Thanks for bringing that out, that's typically the kind of things that you should find in the game text.

    "The choices of the characters' attitude towards the conflict and the military focused the players and characters towards mutual interests and the focus of the game itself. We could see instantly what the dynamics between the characters were. These dynamics also developed and became more concrete"

    and

    "The characters grew a lot during the session."

    Once again, this is very, very good news. Glad to see that the game gave you and your players enough elements to built on.

    "Choosing the attitudes for all five NPC's at the same time seemed a bit tricky so we decided to fill in the blanks during the play."

    Yes obviously this can be done during play (or even randomly), another thing I'll take care of.

    "The only problem was my inability to decide on a good system to decide how much dice the enemy would have in each conflict."

    Yes, I see the problem. Maybe each conflict with the enemy should be dangerous, so the enemy always have 5 dice. What were the number of dice you gave to the enemy ?

    "Other potential problem in the future could be that the players don't use their traumas"

    If each conflict becomes dangerous, that problem should be solved pretty quickly and it appears that some of the impending conflicts (especially between Spielberg and Baruch) have not reached a crisis point when Trauma points should come in handy.
  • Posted By: wanmansouDuring the course of our conversation a doubt was cast whether we could treat such an complicated and intricate situation on a sufficiently meaningful level. We agreed that we would see how far Shell Shock would take us on that road. In my mind the game will probably tell a lot more about ourselves and our attitudes about the Gaza conflict than about the actual conflict and the people involved in it.
    This, in my mind, is one of the things that makes roleplaying interesting/valuable/cool as an art form. We can pose an open question, and use the structures provided to explore that question.

    However, from a quick browse, I don't see any post-game reflection on this - your attitudes, your thoughts about the conflict. Did you talk about it at all?
  • Posted By: KobayashiThis AP isveryinteresting, Many thanks for writing it.
    Now on the game/rules level :

    "The text states that every conflict that a player loses should lower her character's wounds or stress. Is this intended in the rules so that the group cannot have a conflict of purely story level consequences ?"

    Yes, I wanted that each conflict leads to wounds or stress. Was it a problem during play ?
    No, because that's the way I interpreted it. We also discussed about it and I interpreted the rules to the group so that anything that couldn't possibly cause wounds or stress would be too 'light' to be potential conflict material. So we rolled with that.
    Posted By: Kobayashi"The only problem was my inability to decide on a good system to decide how much dice the enemy would have in each conflict."

    Yes, I see the problem. Maybe each conflict with the enemy should be dangerous, so the enemyalwayshave 5 dice. What were the number of dice you gave to the enemy ?
    I used 3 to 4 dice for conflicts were the players weren't collaborating, my basic premise being 2 dice for each of the Hamas fighters. For those conflicts involving more player characters I had up to 6 dice.
    Posted By: Kobayashi"Other potential problem in the future could be that the players don't use their traumas"

    If each conflict becomes dangerous, that problem should be solved pretty quickly and it appears that some of the impending conflicts (especially between Spielberg and Baruch) have not reached a crisis point when Trauma points should come in handy.
    Yeah, I'm not really worried about this at this point. We'll see in the next session when the ground offensive begins :)
  • Posted By: MatthijsPosted By: wanmansouDuring the course of our conversation a doubt was cast whether we could treat such an complicated and intricate situation on a sufficiently meaningful level. We agreed that we would see how far Shell Shock would take us on that road. In my mind the game will probably tell a lot more about ourselves and our attitudes about the Gaza conflict than about the actual conflict and the people involved in it.
    This, in my mind, is one of the things that makes roleplaying interesting/valuable/cool as an art form. We can pose an open question, and use the structures provided to explore that question.

    However, from a quick browse, I don't see any post-game reflection on this - your attitudes, your thoughts about the conflict. Did you talk about it at all?

    Yeah, we didn't talk about that, probably because the game is still in the early stages. It's a good point, though, to make a mental note about bringing the subject up later on - asking the question can bring up a discussion and interesting points that would otherwise be lost (Or not lost, but remain tacit). BTW, Matti (one of the players) did send a bunch of links to articles discussing the Gaza conflict after the session so maybe I can consider the discussion started. Any way I'll provide updates on this in the AP reports of the rest of the sessions.
  • Awesome, looking forward to it !
  • We played session 2 last Sunday, here are the highlights. The full AP report can be found on our blog (with pictures!).

    The second session was set on the events of the 3rd of January, 2009 in Gaza. The ground offensive was just about to begin and the group with the player characters was transported towards the outskirts of the city of Bayt Lahiya in the North West corner of Gaza. Earlier that evening the group had attended a briefing in which they were given their orders: They were to advance towards a police station in Bayt Lahiya, take a position near it and secure a their own sector near the station. Meanwhile the IAF would bomb the police station. The group's mission was to make sure that the Hamas warriors wouldn't escape before or after the bombing.

    The Set-Up

    At the start of the second session a discussion on the Gaza situation rose before we started playing. That day's newspaper had had an article on the destruction in Gaza and the experiences ofpeople living there during the conflict. We spoke briefly about the article and other subjects that came up. One of those topics were the tactics Hamas used. We also talked briefly about the Israeli colonists and about their relationships with Palestinians, the Israeli army and the Israeli government. Then we sidetracked a bit and started playing.

    Before jumping to the first scene we recounted the events between the end of last session and the start of this one. I asked all the players to either 1) come up with a relative or other person they have a close relationship with that lives in the areas attacked by rockets or 2) describe a soldier in some other group they have become friends with. I asked this because I wanted to tie their characters more closely to the conflict. I did not need to milk these connections in this session as the tension remained tight throughout anyway.

    The First Scene: A Gun man in the Window?

    Sergeant Baruch's group exited the transport truck and started heading towards the center of Bayt Lahiya. The outskirts were silent. The group, made suspicious by the silence, decided to advance through backyards and alleys instead of the main roads. When the group had advanced a couple of hundred meters, private Epstein noticed movement in a house window. He notified Cpl. Spielberg, who gave the order to fire on sight. He missed.

    The sarge ordered the first team to secure the house. With the Cpl.'s order Epstein threw a tear grenade inside the house. In game terms we decided that this was a conflict where Cpl Spielberg was using his tactical and leadership skills to force those inside the house outside. Simo won with three successes, so I decided that two people fled the house straight into Sergeant Baruch and Hershel, who fired immediately. We decided that Simo's three successes carried over to this conflict and with them, Matti won clearly with 4 successes, so both of the escapees were dead. Two swift shots hit them and they fell into the ground. They turned out to be civilians, a man and a woman. The sergeant ordered Cpl. Spielberg to make sure they were dead. Simo hesitated for a while. Fooling Sgt. Baruch would have needed a success in a conflict. As an alternative option I suggested that Spielberg could do as asked and take a point of Guilt trauma for his troubles. That's what Simo decided to do.

    Private Humboldt found two children inside the house and dragged them out. Lieutenant Ben-Reuven informed the sergeant that the house would be bombed as a precaution (the report of a gun-man led IDF to believe the house could be a weapons cache) and ordered him to lead his troop to a safe distance. Spielberg noticed that the children weren't leaving their dead parents behind. He grabbed the older child and ordered Humboldt to take the other with him. Sgt. Baruch objected but after Spielberg retorted that they weren't here to kill children but terrorists he concurred.

    This scene was a direct result of the active discussion amongst players on how the outskirts seemed to hold some trap for them. They practically decided with their talk and actions that there was a deadly trap ahead. Instead of giving them that I decided to offer a red herring. Although the setup was unjust (I decided that Epstein really thought he saw a gun-man and was wrong), the scene delivered on its promise and provided just the kind of action the players wanted.

    (continued on the second post)
  • Sidetracked

    The second scene started with new orders for the group for the lieutenant: They were to raid a Hamas weapons cache that had just been located in a building near them. The players planned directions of approach and points where they would be able to survey the location from every angle. After that they planned to shell the supposed weapons cache houses with tear gas grenades and enter with a two-man team with the help of explosives.

    There were two snipers in the area that gave a bit of trouble to the players. They were losing conflicts, gaining stress and wounds. At this point I revised the rules for using trauma points in conflict. The explanation sinked and the players now got exactly what the rules for using trauma points were for. Laku immediately used a Guilt point which caused a bullet to hit Raanan instead of his character. After that, the other players used violence traum points to get rid of the snipers quick and dirty.

    After that the group secured the surroundings and found out that there were no more Hamas fighters about. Then one sniper's cell phone and a phone in the other building started to ring at the same time. The soldiers feared the worst; probably this was a warning by the IAF aimed at the Gazan civilians tha the area was about to be bombed. This was confirmed by Ltn. Ben-Reuven after he'd contacted the IAF. Apparently there was some kind of mix-up and IDF hadn't been notified before, but IAF had been planning to air bomb the weapons cache all along. The group had to flee once more from under the bombing.

    Conclusion

    I think that the second combat scene went really well. The players became aware of the trauma point system and saw that the point of the mechanism was to tempt the players to increase traumas on their characters, thus enabling interesting and dramatic character development.The two snipers provided ample challenge, too. I didn't fully heed Kobayashi's suggestion to always give 5 dice to opponents. Instead I gave them 4, which seemed like an appropriate amount of challenge at this point. For a tighter spot, 5 dice or more enemies could be work, too.

    After the second scene we decided to call it a night. I had one more scene prepared, but in hindsight it was a good idea to leave it at that. Now it is possible to have a more quiet scene at the start to pace the action a little bit.

    Being a GM didn't feel like as much of a challenge as the first session was. On the other hand I feel like the structure could have been even more solid as we had two action-packed scenes with little or no time to breathe. I could improve on that later on. Other thing was that I kind of aborted the weapons cache plot line in the middle because it seemed to take too much time for a side track. Other option would have been to not have the building bombed but to play the weapons cache raid all the way.

    After the session we noted how different the characters seemed compared to the first session. This was due to this session being about the real serious business of war whereas the first one had been kind of an easy ride. This gave a very moody, realistic light to all the events. I can warmly recommend a structure that introduces the characters in a more peaceful situation before throwing them to the tension and horrors of war for anyone that will play Shell Shock in the future.

    The system also showed it's best; the trauma point mechanics seemed to support the game's basic premise in an excellent way. We'll see if anyone will use the Fear trauma in the next session.

    Next session will be played this Saturday. As before, it will probably take me a couple of days to write the report and translate it to English.
  • I can fact-check some of the organizational claims about IDF here. What you present is very much what happens in professional armies, or what I remember from watching Vietnam/WW2 movies/series/documentaries, but not the organization of the IDF.
  • edited February 2009
    Posted By: Thunder_GodI can fact-check some of the organizational claims about IDF here. What you present is very much what happens in professional armies, or what I remember from watching Vietnam/WW2 movies/series/documentaries, but not the organization of the IDF.
    That is probably true and I do not claim any authority about IDF or the actual factual situation in Gaza. I can only quote myself from my first post in this thread: "In my mind the game will probably tell a lot more about ourselves and our attitudes about the Gaza conflict than about the actual conflict and the people involved in it."

    So in short, our game is purely fictional even though it discusses events that are not.

    [edited a quote blunder, sorry 'bout that]
  • Yup, which is why I only offerred. Also, you quoted yourself under my name ;)
  • edited February 2009
    Posted By: Thunder_GodYup, which is why I only offerred. Also, you quoted yourself under my name ;)
    Fixed, Sorry 'bout that. Yeah, we would be grateful for any input you provide (including but not limited to unit/group/team & officer value classes in IDF). I'm pretty clueless about that stuff in general, not to mention considering a country foreign for me, so fire away. But I must mention that I don't know how much fact corrections we can incorporate at this moment as I think the game will only last a couple of sessions more.

    EDIT: It just occurred to me that this is the kind of game I could be running again in some con or to other groups, so in that regard, please mention any corrections about our assumptions about IDF so I can get them right the next time if not in this game.
  • This is a useful place to start. I just inputted a couple of corrections.

    Israeli combatants almost unfiromly join at the age of 18-19. They serve their period (usually 3 years for males, with a mandatory minimum additional one year for officers). It's very unlikely someone will have an M.Sc. at this age, and even more unlikely they won't be used somewhere else (The IDF is very aggressive about finding people for its technological intelligence arms).
    Israeli army progression is, especially at the lower ranks, decided only based on "Pazam", the time you've spent in the army, unless you've made the annual list of people who get a recommendation from the leader of the army or got stripped of rank for some reason. Combatants get Corporal after 8 months or so (for some reason I got the figure 6 months in my head as also possible..). It is most likely that anyone who entered Gaza on such an action and received this level of freedom is at least a Corporal, since just boot-camp is 3-4 months, and then most Combatants have "Maslul", meaning "Route". They spend 3-4 more months in advanced training, then they sit somewhere and guard "Line" (or "Kav"), and then some more training.
    Combatants get "Sergeant" after a year and a half, and about 4-6 months before if they take a command course. There is a difference between "Position" and "Rank". You can have the rank of a sergeant, but you won't be leading anyone, as opposed to "Sergeant" which can actually be of Corporal-rank, but they are called that because they are in charge of their unit/team/etc.
    After 2.5 years (perhaps 2 years and 4 months) combatants get Staff Sergeant, or only after two years if they underwent a Command Course. Again, since some units move in "Waves", a whole wave from bootcamp to release, it is quite possible for a whole team to be comprised of Staff Sergeants. This is almost universally the case with Reserves people, who all get released at Staff Sergeants. Aside from the Officers and NCOs, mind.
    Being a "Sergeant" is not a mark of distinction of skill in the IDF, more a mark of how much time you've served. Though it does carry status in as much as people give the newbies a hard-time, used to be quite a hazing-like, though not anything overt, but many small and demeaning things, especially in combatant units.

    Also, "Machine-gun loader"? If you're not in a Tank or some such, almost all soldiers are trained in all skills. Machine guns ("Mag") is a training almost all combatants receive, and these are the mobile sort, people run with them. And certainly no one has a "Machine gun loader" description.
    Also, your team should probably have a medic, or be in the vicinity of a team with one. All IDF personnel are given basic trainings, and all officers are given advanced training in first-aid. There are also courses given to combatants called "Ma'ar", "First aid provider", where they learn CPR, IV injection, and some more mid-level techniques.

    Also, in general, many of the more "Diaspora"-esque last names have been "Hebrewalized". Humboldt, Schmidt, Herschel, are names I doubt you'll see people my age sporting.
  • Once again, this is excellent.

    I asked all the players to either 1) come up with a relative or other person they have a close relationship with that lives in the areas attacked by rockets or 2) describe a soldier in some other group they have become friends with.

    The first draft of Shell Shock had cumbersome rules about the soldiers' relatives. What you've done here : "choose a person you have a close relationship with who is involved in the conflict as well" is awesome.

    I can warmly recommend a structure that introduces the characters in a more peaceful situation before throwing them to the tension and horrors of war for anyone that will play Shell Shock in the future.

    Yes, yes, yes, I'll steal this as well.

    I didn't fully heed Kobayashi's suggestion to always give 5 dice to opponents. Instead I gave them 4, which seemed like an appropriate amount of challenge at this point. For a tighter spot, 5 dice or more enemies could be the right amount, too.

    Maybe something like this would work better :

    Light opposition (mostly color, maybe leading to another conflict) : 3 dice
    Normal (dangerous) : 4
    Heavy (Traumas will be used): 5

    And thank you for this : The system also showed it's best; the trauma point mechanics seemed to support the game's basic premise in an excellent way. this is music to my ears.

    Thanks again for your AP, it gives me A LOT to think about.
  • edited February 2009
    Thanks for the information, Guy!

    I have to admit it's a bit humbling to read the stuff about the names etc., so maybe you'll bear with me as I explain our choices :) maybe it'll stop my ears from burning so bright too. So here's some background:

    We hadn't been prepared about the nomenclature and we were making the characters and the rest of the team with a "let's get this over with" attitude, so I kind of was aware that those were not the kind of names you'd normally see in Israel. It occurred to me again as I was typing the AP report but I also thought about that it would be best if I wrote about everything just the way it happened, so I didn't leave anything out.

    And when beginning play we decided that the unit (of three groups of 8 soldiers each) would have a medic. The MAG team we invented because we wanted more diverse roles. It is somewhat of a anachronism dating from all the Finnish Winter War movies (okay, The Unknown Soldier) but we weren't concerned about that :) We basically decided that we didn't care so much about realism concerning military formation but wanted to have different roles in the unit and to use some archetypes that felt good to us. But, on another game, I could see the group adhering to the more realistic one described by you, so thank you for that.

    And the M. Sc. guy that is described briefly (the radio operator) does not actually have a M.Sc. in the game fiction either. It was a rough translation of a Finnish stereotype "teekkari" which means a University of Technology student. Maybe a UT student would have been a more correct translation.

    So, I doubt that this particular comment had any value to anyone but me, sorry about that. I just had to explain our choices a little bit. Vanity, sure, but I hope you don't mind.
  • It'd be silly to mind to you explaining your choices or sporting "vanity" in your own AP thread, heh, unless I were objecting to vanity/choices clashing with other players.

    S'all good.
  • I've had a flu for over a week now so I haven't gotten into writing an actual play report until now. I'm also trying to modify the format a little bit. I'll just write the most important remarks here, the rest can be found on the Alt+Games blog.

    I described on the demographics of our group. Most of the players are lapsed role-players with no prior experience on story games or indie rpgs (me being the exception). Otherwise, we are a varied group of 3 working thirty-somethings and one studying 20-something-year-old.

    I had planned to have a couple of more tranquil scenes at the beginning of the session. I also wanted to experiment with offering players to players order scenes from the GM just like they do in Primetime Adventures. We listed the most important events in the last session and went over differences and changes of relationships between the members of the group in that session. Then I asked each player in turn to ask for a scene concerning a specific issue and including the characters he wanted in it.

    The scenes were excellent as far as everyone of us were concerned. I had prepared possible moral challenges to the players and they were realized as a rsult of the players' scene requests. Everyone liked the fact that we got to focus a little bit in the intra-group relationships for a change. I don't know if it should be a general rule, but I think that I had hard time to think how to make the R&R scenes interesting before we started to play out intra-group relationship stuff there.

    This ends the first part of the third session actual play report. In the second part I'm planning to recall the events of the rest of the session as well as our evening after the session. After we were done playing we grabbed a couple of beers (and some wine from Israel) and talked about the game, the situation in Gaza and all kinds of things that arose from that. Then we went to sauna...

    More on that in the second part. And a bit more on the Alt+Games blog. With really nice photos, of course.
  • "I asked each player in turn to ask for a scene concerning a specific issue and including the characters he wanted in it."

    This really interesting. I should state in the rules that the R&R scenes must be about each soldier's issues, the rules lack focus on this point.

    "we realized that the game mechanics at least in our case seemed to put a lot of harm on the sergeant"

    That's pretty cool ^^ I wanted the guy in charge to take most of the heat.

    Thanks again
  • edited March 2009
    The second part of the thrid session' s AP has been ready for a while, but I haven't had the time to paraphrase it here. Until now, that is. The whole she-bang, covering lots more, can be found in the Alt+Games blog.

    The Events

    I had prepared the following course of action as the action-oriented part of our third session: When the bombing of the police station would start, both civilians and Hamas fighters would try to escape from the station towards the locations of the player characters' group. The action would have (again?) consisted of quick decisions that would have to be less than perfect.

    The players' actions prior to this had changed the scenario somewhat. Although it seemed that I'd already drained this theme in previous play and the events seemed a bit like a repetition of past ones (some kind of action before bombings seemed to be the modus operandi of the group), there were meaningful choices for the players and the play kept their interest well. There certainly was enough challenge too: Spielberg was on the verge of both death and shell shock (one damage point away from both, actually).

    The players used a lot of traumas and the use of them fit their view of the fiction as well. I alternated the risk of individual conflicts between wounds and stress according to the situation and that seemed like a meaningful choice now too. All in all we had now complaints now that we had learned to use the system.

    The Influence of the Game on Our Attitudes

    After the session we discussed how the game had changed our attitudes and views on the real life issues it portrays such as the conflict in Gaza and ultramodern warfare in general. The unanimous answer regarding our attitudes towards the Gaza conflict was that the game had not changed our views on the subject at all. I had come closest as I had acquired a lot of information about the situation in Gaza and about the view-points of all involved parties as I prepared for the game. I could now make more solid arguments related to the interests of each involved party in the conflict. Regardless of that I did not think that my attitudes changed in the process either.

    On the other hand we felt that our views of ultramodern warfare and the experience of a soldier in it had possibly evolved a lot. We felt that the game portrayed this very well; the strength and burden of the experience, the fear of death and not knowing whether you are dealing with a civilian or an enemy soldier.

    So that was the short version. We played the final session last Sunday, I'll be writing an AP report on that in the near future.
  • Once more you've gone above and beyond the call of duty. Thanks again to you and your players. AP reports like yours are a goldmine for me. This will allow me to improve Shell Shock rules a bit.

    "Shell Shock, out-of-the-box, portrays the view-point of a soldier very well."

    And this will definitely go on the backcover ! ^^
  • edited March 2009
    Nice to hear, it's been a success for us too. I think we actually caught ourselves patting each other in the back and congratulating each other for making it so awesome after the final session ;)
  • If you want some eye-level perspective from the Palestinian side you could do worse than check out "Palestine", the umm.. graphic travelogue, by Joe Sacco. It's about ten years old, so is rather tangential, but gives a very human angle on the situation there. There was a follow up focussing on Gaza, due at the end of last year which has not shown up yet.

    He has also done some stuff on the Yugoslav war: "Safe Area Goražde", and "The Fixer".
  • edited March 2009
    Yeah, I recommend Sacco's Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, too. Especially Gorazde. There's a stunning story about a war amongst people who were neighbors (literally) just a couple of days before. My question is, what game would you use to play something like that? Or something that really helps you relate to the situation in Gaza. I'm thinking I'd probably want to distance it with a fantasy/s-f setting or cute fairy-tale animals or something. Well, maybe not the furry animals but you get the point. (maybe discussion about this in another thread if anyone's interested?).
  • edited April 2009
    Now for something that has been long overdue: The Actual Play report of the last session of our Shell Shock in Gaza game. I've posted it in the Alt+Games blog, here's a short(ish) summary of play and remarks on the game.

    I've been meaning to write the report for a while, but unfortunately other stuff have been climbing over it in my priority hierarchy.

    Preparation

    We had decided that we'd play one more session as we had had some fun. The players' preferences for the session were to do something a bit different this time as well as to deepen the inter-personal issues in the squad. We also talked about how this session would mark the end of the campaign for the player characters.

    We agreed that the characters would have been on a leave for about a fortnight before being called back to action. In the meantime, Lewandowski's niece had been hurt badly in the missile strikes. I introduced this to tie Lewandowski more strongly to the Israeli cause. The player characters' group had been briefed for their mission which was to find an entrance to the Hamas' tunnels west of Gaza city. They were to interrogate Gazan civilians and anyone not co-operating were to be treated as a Hamas collaborator.

    I also set up so that one NPC of the PC's group, Epstein, would not return from the leave. He was replaced by another soldier. The new guy made some noise about killing and terrorizing Gazans in the transport to the area, irritating Spielberg and Baruch and drawing interest from private Humboldt.

    The Action

    This session was about rules of conduct in regards to Gazan civilians. There were a couple of key scenes which re-enforced that: Sgt. Baruch interrogating a traumatized head of a family who had laid his wife and children, shot by IDF, on the bed of his apartment. The new guy and Lewandowski chasing two Gazan girls who had fleed the group and bringing them back to be interrogated. Sgt. Baruch hitting the new guy in the face and nearly killing him with his bare hands in rage (and frustration?) when he found out the new guy hit one of the girls with his rifle and was ready to do more to get them to talk (this was after Baruch had roughed up the widower to make him talk).

    After these powerful scenes the action concluded with the group checking out the entrance to the tunnels and being ambushed by a couple of Hamas gunmen guarding it. Special forces entered the area shortly after and the player's group was relieved. They were transported back to the barracks (an to the hospital and cemetery respectively).

    Reflection

    To make a long story short this was another solid session of Shell Shock. I had prepared two major hooks for this session, the new guy and the fate of Epstein. The new guy was thought to put some flavor to the mission itself and I thought that if the players would want some after-mission stuff the Epstein situation would be a good place to start. The new guy hook worked well as in particular Matti got irritated about the character's sick attitude and constant maneuvering to turn the PC's group into a bunch of mindless ruffians. Lewandowski got into the action a bit as well, even though this hook too played better towards the officers.

    This leads me to our most prevalent complaint about our game. Shell Shock seemed to provide conflict between the sergeant and xcorporal straight on, but the player of private seemed to have much less spotlight. This is something we think we could have planned for, but is still in our mind very much a feature of Shell Shock, so maybe players should be advised to take that into consideration when planning games and sessions.

    But, read the whole AP report on Alt+Games to find out more (and to check out the beautiful illustrations (courtesy of creative commons-licensing artists, kudos to them!).
  • Once again, this is invaluable feedback for me. The next version of Shell should be loaded with a lot more GM advice thanks to your extensive reports.

    Many thanks to you and your players

    the player of private seemed to have much less spotlight

    And I'll try to do something about that
  • Posted By: Kobayashithe player of private seemed to have much less spotlight

    And I'll try to do something about that
    In my opinion, a good heads up on that, coupled with examples of techniques to make the ordinary soldier characters more involved would probably be enough.
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