Behind the Session: Ghosts

Ghosts, a session of The Dresden Files RPG, was what I ran for this years BrigadeCon. I was able to play with some new folks, introducing them to the game for the first time. In that I hope I was a pleasant gate way, showcasing to them the strength of the game and the setting. Like every session, I have some thoughts about how it went so lets talk about it.

I. Self-Assessment, Feedback, and Takeways

This year’s BrigadeCon I was hobbled by a cold. Now, for me, running a session of a tabletop RPG is a nerve-inducing, stressful, and exhausting experience with the big pay off participating in creating something fun and awesome. Having a cold, while not dampening my enthusiasm, certainly sapped my strength. It may or may not have come out on camera, but I felt like a  hot mess for the majority of the session. If it hadn’t been BrigadeCon, I would have definitely rescheduled the game.

Another thing I am going to look in the future is how I moderate my players and control the tempo (which I admit was off, but I’m blaming the cold). Taking the technology issues out of it, there were instances when people were talked over and interrupted. I hate when I do that to others (so does my wife, who is the normal recipient of such disruptions) and I hate when it is done to me or my players. This isn’t a BIG deal because it is mostly ameliorated by getting to know your players as players but I did walk away with this one my mind afterwards so it bore mentioning.

My biggest takeaway, however, involved something I’ve been feeling for months now about the games I run: I can do a better job of creating the environment for and encouraging emergent narratives in my games. This session had some great instances of that: the climax of the session, for example, wouldn’t have happened the way it did if Chris hadn’t said ‘hey, Laura knows these folks abilities…can they help’. But other instances I know my hand was a bit too heavy in steering events. Striking the right balance in a one-shot is tricky, but that isn’t an excuse: when I sit down with other folks to play a tabletop RPG I’m not there to tell MY story, I am there to tell OUR story.

II. The Game Itself

I was actually very pleased with how I prepped for Ghosts. This might sound silly, but I discovered a new love for Landscape orientation and columns in Word. I had about four or five pages of notes in total – a master page with important aspects, characters, locations, and an outline of the session. I also nice, neat columns of stat blocks for what I conceived as the likely NPC’s. Definitely a process I hope to use again and hone in the future.

Now, let’s talk inspiration: I knew that for this years BrigadeCon I wanted to do something using the Paranet. The third source book for The Dresden Files RPG, The Paranet Papers, was release this year and I wanted to explore that aspect of the world. In fact, this session only reinforced that desire – it’s all well and good running Submerged games with cagey wizards, powerful scions, and best-at-craft mortals but running something at Feet in the Water through the lens of the Paranet really felt like being on the ground-level of a world that is darker, more mysterious, and filled with magic that ours is not.

I was also inspired by my recent first watch through of Stargate Atlantis – a better-than-expected spin off of the much beloved (by myself and my wife at least) Stargate SG1. Specifically, the Wraith – alien beings that fed off of human life force – for the concept of the antagonist in this session. I also drew from the iraetus-bug hybrids seen in the early parts of the Michael-arc as inspiration for the creatures that attacked the party towards the end of the session. This is all made possible by one of the big strengths of The Dresden Files setting: human myth and imagination is a powerful thing and the Nevernever is a big place – who knows what’ll pop one day out of the blue and start snatching folk.

III. Final Thoughts

Overall, I thought this was a strong session in both its successes and it acting as a lens to focus my attention on items I want to continue to improve. Once again I would like to thank Rob D., Chris J., Lloyd T., and Michael W. – you were all aces. Can’t wait till the next BrigadeCon and another Dresden Files session!


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