No Plan Survives First Contact With Your Players

03 Nov

I haven’t posted much about it, but my Sunday night Stars Without Number G+ game has continued on, and boy have my players been keeping me on my toes.

They’re still adventuring on Hard Light Station and last night’s adventure was shaping up to be a climactic event. Tensions between the cargo haulers and the station security had reached an all-time high and it looked like the foreman was going to try a coup d’etat against the administrator. He in turn had the entire security force kitted out in riot gear ready to bust heads to restore order. I was prepared to GM a running gun battle inside a space station, because everyone loves firearms in a sealed environment.

And then the players got hold of my adventure.

Through a combination of luck, amazing dice rolls, taking advantage of position, and applying just the right pressure at just the right moments, the team managed to diffuse the situation without firing a shot.

This is exactly the kind of game I love, where the players ingenuity and audacity can swing the adventure in directions I had not anticipated. It’s the give-and-take that makes the GM think fast on his or her feet and keeps it fun on both sides of the GM’s screen.

The element of chance also played heavily in the game, as there were two die rolls that had a critical impact on the game. The first was made by the team’s pilot, who was using a computer roll to compare multiple camera feeds to identify a saboteur who has been working on the station for some time. The pilot has gained a reputation as a master-hacker, a reputation he lived up to in this situation by identifying the culprit.

This case is even more memorable because the master-hacker doesn’t have the computer programming skill! However he is amazingly lucky with the dice, and when you keep rolling critical successes you get the reputation that goes with it. I’ve decided that, to use old internet slang, the pilot is actually a “script kiddie” who really knows how to work it.

Best of all the player is now paranoid about picking up real computer skills. He’s afraid that it would ruin his luck.

The second critical roll was when they went to arrest the saboteur. When the team’s security chief walked in to confront her, she moved her hand under her desk. I called for an initiative roll and the player nailed it, drawing his pistol and telling her to freeze.

Under her desk was a button she’d installed. If pressed it would have launched a program she’d hidden in the station’s operations system. It would have immediately crashed most of the station’s critical functions, including lights and life support, throwing everything into chaos and giving her a clear upper hand.

However thanks to that initiative roll she was staring down the barrel of a laser pistol, held at point blank range by a combat veteran who she knew was willing to use it. She opted to surrender.

Had either roll gone differently the game would have raced off in a very different direction. That’s the fun in letting the dice land where they may. But as important as those rolls were it wouldn’t have mattered if the players hadn’t been on the ball. If they hadn’t thought to collect and correlate all those video feeds, if they hadn’t approached the saboteur the way they did, if they hadn’t put their team members in the positions that let them take advantage of events going on, or thought on their feet fast enough when opportunities presented themselves.

That mixture of good luck and better game play is what creates gaming legends and keeps us coming back to the table.

Stars Without Numbers Small

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Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Gaming, Science Fiction


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