7 May 2013

Table Top - The Reading

If you've ever met my Cousin CP, you'll note a few things. He is built like a dwarf. His hair awesome, seriously natural dash of white on the stark black hair. He has a huge smile and he always twists to his head to listen to you. He's deft on one side and has a hearing aid on the other side.

When we game, many of use outside of the Doritos and Coke surround ourselves with music to add to the mood of the game.


So when playing with CP we've never been able to play our tabletop RPG's with music. Now this guy loves music, hell he leads a choir and sings. It's the conflicting sounds that buggers it up and he looses completely when you mix sounds.

So I came up with Readings.

Instead of talking over music, I hand out the players a series of prose and cue some music. The first time I used the following tune from my sound track collection.


To set the scene I had just completed a 2 year run with Rifts. The players were a special black ops team in the Coalition States. They had suffered and fallen. They had created relationships and lost friends.

Each Thursday, and in the second year Wednesday, it was business time. The three (and sometimes four) players would show up and receive their briefing. It was organic role playing. They and their PC's were getting their info. I handed out the mission map on the table ready to be reviewed, the leader got the mission write up from command to read out to the PC's. I had a page for intel that I gave to the intelligence operator. So they, the PC's, would brief each other. I said nothing. As they planned their mission and planed away. The last PC was issuing and selecting gear from their growing list for the mission. By the time they were ready to launch, I ordered to the Chinese food and we played. When the food got in we took a break, ate and then got back to it.

This campaign was a dream for me. The military midset developed naturally. They even started to use a style of radio procedure. Each week another mission. They completed their mission and went home.

When he had the first big Gamers Heaven (a twice a year event where we gather nerds and play RPG's for 2-3 days solid), I brought back the game. I had two great weekly series and a movie was just what we wanted. I needed it to be epic.

I had the old crew take up new members and three new players who have played in the world but not the campaign. To set the mood I decided to play some music. When I and CP finished the schedule he ended up in the game. Suddenly I was in trouble. No music. Then I looked back and started to write to the music while I was planning and a story grew out of me. I repeated the track over the next few hours as I wrote the prose.

When they were given the prose I gave them a few rules.

1. No speaking/noise/moving from the table until the music is done
2. Start reading once you hear the music.

It worked.

The veteran players looked grim and determined. The world they had played in for two years was suddenly in dire threat and they had a mission. The old ways had come back. Once the music stopped, Longsword took up his old post and read out the mission brief. The new guys just watched in awe as they slowly took in the situation presented in the prose and the fierce reaction from the other players. They fell in line and looked like green soldiers in their first brief. They slowly fell into the established groove.

The game went ok, I buggered the end, but it was a great start. Looking back I have two thoughts; what I could have done better and could I really have met my expectations in the end.

Since then I've used the Reading tool more then once and a few times without CP. It's great for setting a mood. I've done it with shorter prose throughout the whole session with different sets of music. I've done long winded Readings to open up the session, or at the crux of the story.

The reading is CP's fault and one of my best ideas I've ever implemented. I'm not the first to come up with the idea, but I'm not the last.

Cheers.