Comic book "Truth and Justice" game

X-kids game, run by Sean
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

My weekend at ConQuest overloaded my brain with games. In the kids’ gaming room there were usually two role-playing games at once, and then board games on tables and a few kids messing with legos in the corner.

It’s radical and interesting to sit down with several strangers around a table, committing to talk with each other about imaginary things for 3 to 4 hours. How often people get together and “just chat” or hang out – but this is different: it’s a group creative process. It lets you get to know the inside corners of people’s heads.

At our X-kids game on Sunday morning, Sean passed out folders with character sheets and descriptions of some of the kids in the Xavier Academy. Elia chooses Bobby, the Iceman, while the other girls fight over who has to be the boy. The most talkative girl chooses Angel, her sister is Rogue, and the other girl is Kitty Pride. I’m Colossus and can turn to metal.

The GM’s bright purple hair matches my hair. There’s a lot of giggling.

Here’s what happened in our story:

All our teachers run off to deal with the Dark Phoenix. The crisis develops as one of our classmates, Siren, is kidnapped by her parents, who will force her to get the mutant cure. Bobby breaks up with Kitty and Rogue. Angel declares that he’s hot, but not gay.

Finally we started punching holographic airplanes out of the simulated emergency which… oh nooooo it’s a real emergency! We steal the x-jet and fly it over to Hammerton Labs, then Kitty phases us undergroud to the Hammerton basement. A woman promises to be our guide to the mutant cure stuff so we can destroy it. We find lab coats and bluff our way upstairs. Rescue Siren peacefully. But on the 16th floor there’s this huge scaffolding thing that holdes the antitoxin! What to do! Swinging around on pipes, leaping, kickboxing, stealing of powers, duplicate heroes everywhere, an evil dude with a toad-tongue… We kick their butts. And call Storm for rescue. “Oh… by the way… Storm… you can’t fly the x-jet over here to pick us up, because we stole it.!”

The game was heavy on GM descriptions which were often creative and interesting but were overdetermined. So a kid would say “I’m going to kick him, like, um,” and Sean would be finishing their sentences so fast no one had a chance to work it through – and then often he would keep speaking without a pause for 10-15 minutes. After I spoke up (a bit frustrated) Sean declared a break, and when we came back he asked for mid-game feedback of something we were enjoying and something that we weren’t. That was an interesting technique! The other players were very happy with the game… They loved Sean’s detailed and eloquent descriptions of the action and of the scenes!

Overall, I was impressed with the way the GM engaged the 3 players who weren’t paying much attention. They were standoffish at first, not taking it seriously and seeming likely to drop out of the game, and then at some point they got involved, thinking up cool cinematic combat moves. They clearly felt like they were in the story. Over the course of the game I noticed that the 5 girls playing put a priority on teamwork. They wanted to know what everyone else was doing before they decided what they were doing, to make sure that we meshed. The game mechanics of the system made that a little difficult, so we fudged by having short out of character strategizing discussions (like “What would be best to do? If you do this and I do that and she does this other thing, we could defuse the bomb and save the scientists and our friend.”) And then we went around to do those things. Some GMs would frown on this, but it was necessary with that group of players!

We walked away feeling that we had done the things in the story.

Another general observation: The three kids’ games I played in had a similar story element; our characters began in a school, with teachers telling the kids what to do. Then the teachers left, a crisis would occur, and the kids had to disobey instructions to make their own decisions.

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