Yesterday was a one-shot game with most of the weekly group members. It was with a GM we don’t usually play with, and a system we don’t usually use, and a genre (horror) that we don’t usually play. The game had its fun moments, but also some very awkward and not-so-great moments. Things I learned:
- Playing a horror game with people who haven’t gamed extensively together = bad idea. Until there’s trust, it’s not a good idea to go to the difficult places a horror game requires. (At least if it’s going to be true horror, and not ‘just’ gore or something like that.)
- Playing a horror game without first having a good knowledge of the scenario, or at least possible triggers = bad idea. Even if there’s trust that the GM will do a good job, and even if the group has trust with each other, the GM still might inadvertently step on some toes or go into some areas people are uncomfortable with. Horror can require going uncomfortable, unannounced places. So that means it’s a good idea to know ahead of time what the game might contain, and negotiate the difficult parts first. (And if horror scenarios and the nature of RPG surprise requires that the players not know in advance what triggers a scenario might contain… well, for the foreseeable future, I’ll only be playing those kinds of games with people I already have a lot of trust built up with.)
- Deprotagonizing scenarios with people you haven’t played much with = bad idea. It’s like meeting people over Zar; it’s not a very good idea to meet someone by GMing for them and then put their character in a place that makes the player powerless. It’s probably a better idea to play something where the players will actually feel empowered, unless (as above) they’re all explicitly expecting deprotagonizing horror and are cool with that.
- GMing for people you don’t know = good idea. You just need to work out some social contract issues — briefly, quickly, and before the game starts.