Saturday, July 13, 2013

Game Idea: Familiar Grounds

Familiar Grounds
by Tobie Abad

This idea was born after thinking about the following things:
1) Dungeon World's Ranger familiar
2) My previous articles on Side Kick Stories and Untold Monster Stories
3) Movies like Babe and Ratatouille

 Why not have a game where the players portray the animal familiars of the troupe, and other characters in the game setting?   For example, if you were playing Dungeon World, have one session where a player focuses on playing the animal companion they have as the character.  Other players whose characters do not have animal companions can instead portray other animal companions of other characters (such as the evil Wizard's imp familiar) if not the other animal threats that the familiar may face?

This could be an awesome if not exciting twist to one's typical fantasy romp, with the story possibly taking over the course of a single night while the party rests.

Imagine it this way:
The group sets camp and the Ranger decides to keep watch.  The rest of the troupe gets some sleep.
The Ranger commands the animal companion to fly off and make a perimeter check of the area for anything strange.  The owl hoots and takes to the sky.

The GM now asks the Ranger player to portray the animal companion, and continues the story as the owl.    As the owl flies the perimeter, it notices a nearby camp of goblins that seem to be complaining about how hungry they are.  (You can have some of the other players who don't have an animal companion now portray the goblins)  And eventually they notice the owl and perhaps try to shoot it down to eat it.  

Or, the owl finds itself stalked too as a Wolf Spider leaps from the trees to snag it!

Clearly the "sub-session" ends when the owl finally is able to alert the Ranger of the incoming trouble.

Or not.

Perhaps the attack distracts the owl enough that it fails to warn the party.  And the party ends up captive by the Goblins.  Or ambushed by less scrupulous adventurers.  The Ranger, being at watch, is disabled with a sleeping dart.   And now the Owl has to help them escape.

Lots of fun to be explored there!

Alternately, you can even go the whole nine yards in the opposite way.
The Evil Wizard plots and plans, with the monstrosities it had summoned ready to be unleashed.     The players then have a session to portray these monsters as they assault a nearby town.  Give them full freedom to go wild, destroying houses, attacking townsfolk, devouring dogs, and even attacking each other!  Let them let loose the monsters within.

Then cut back to the party, who had just arrived that moment to see the carnage, and let them now deal with the very horror they were playing just seconds ago.   If you want to be particularly cruel, whenever a player character attacks a monster, have the player portraying that monster decide on the monster's retaliatory strikes!  Sometimes, you have to admit, players love a good challenge, and the players themselves can be the very source of that challenge.

Lastly, you can also explore scene completely from the familiar's eyes.  If you've gamed long enough with your players, then you know the typical moves and tactics they would exploit against monsters and other threats.  So let them go wild with the monsters of the evil wizard, then throw in their own characters as having arrived at the scene to take them down!  Play it to the hilt, with the players most likely at first panicking at the thought of killing their own characters (but a nudge in the right direction might have them excitedly trying to kill the other player characters!) and if their original characters go down in the fight, you can then easily segue to a "captive" scene with the villain gloating at their defeat.

If they win, then let them go back to being in charge of their characters.  

Craftly GMs can even describe the scenes literally in that manner, as if the player characters found themselves mentally linked to the monsters they were fighting against, seeing and experiencing themselves as antagonists that were out to get them.

So try something unfamiliar by playing the familiars.
You might get enjoy it (far too much).

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