Got folks together the other weekend to play Hollowpoint and see if I enjoyed GMing it as much as I liked playing it. Threw out the invitation to the winds and got back an OK from two of our Pathfinder regulars, my husband, an old friend recently returned from Places Southwest, and a couple whom we do not get to do RPG's with very often. It was a big group. I got to count out a LOT of dice.
Skin: Steampunk Western.
Mission: (1) Rescue Mister Banks's daughter from the Pinkertons. (2) Get the deed to the Lucky Star out of the train's lockbox before the Dawson Gang does.
We took a few minutes to get everyone settled - used the toe tag character sheets which amused the hell out of my players - and ran them all through character gen in about twenty minutes, counting chasing kids and asking questions. There were Complications from almost every player, which definitely made things more interesting. There were also a lot of questions starting with “can we have…” from my D&D-based group, who were almost obscenely pleased with the idea that they could in fact have whatever it was they were asking for.
Several of the players took low to nothing in Kill, so they schmoozed their way past the engineer (Complication: I am the engineer’s daughter) and the Pinkertons before settling into the real meat of the adventure. There was a lot of throwing people out of train windows. There was a lot of Terror and Dig and Cool being used, with the occasional gunfire battle. There were Pinkertons hiding in the restrooms and using earpiece microphones to transmit information down the train. There were traits being burned in new and interesting ways as the players realized that a scene was headed for a Wash or that they just needed One More Hit in Terror to make things happen.
I was surprised at how much the players had to do with creating the scenes; I almost didn’t need to be there except to roll handfuls of dice and watch them get torn apart. But the best part for me was setting up a Retribution.
They had Miss Banks in friendly custody after Terrorizing the Pinkerton agent holding her hostage (Complication: I rescued Miss Banks from a brothel in Juarez once). They had successfully Conned some of the Dawson Gang into watching her for them (Complication: I left the Dawson Gang under friendly circumstances). And then the rest of the gang showed up, on flying steel horses, and shot the hell out of Agent Jayne. “It was like they were gunning for him or something.” Chalk one up to Complication: I left the Dawson Gang under unfriendly circumstances, and bring in an Operative loaded on Cool to help finish out the show.
Jeffery Dawson learned an important lesson about being out-Cooled (do not stick a deed down your pants to keep it away from an Operative) and an Agent learned about getting Conned by a fast-talking pretty boy, right up until he got his deed taken away anyway. Everyone got to play a role: Operative Sylvia may have been the one doing the crotch-grab, but she couldn’t do it without backup – and backup was provided in full.
Everyone left the table feeling satisfied, accomplished, and having thoroughly enjoyed themselves. My quiet players opened up with very little prompting, and as promised the scenes pretty much ran without my guidance. I still very much enjoy the dice mechanic for making scenes flow smoothly, and it was clear and easy for the players as well. “Not so much math” was the main take-home comment.
We did notice that unless I am splitting my dice pool for a Principal or a Catch that I will never have more than 6 actions (one per side), so the massive dice pool of the GM tends to lend itself to longer runs which means I get to go first most of the time. However, once the players get a turn they are likely to wipe out everything I have left, so it evens out. I’m not attached to NPCs because I haven’t spent more than twenty seconds statting them up by deciding how many dice they get, so I don’t get as defensive when they get out-cooled because my investment is low. As a GM, my biggest hurdle is getting over my fear of killing PC’s in mundane ways. Shooting the hell out of Agent Jayne was, in fact, extremely satisfying for all of us and Operative Sylvia was statted up by the time the scene was completed.
Still love this system and the next time we are looking for a one-nighter it will probably be the first off the shelf.