Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Five or So Questions with Fandible on Longshot Campaigns and Numenera

I have an interview today with the cast of Fandible, talking about their upcoming longshot campaign of Numenera! I got the chance to ask them questions about why they chose to take on this longshot and what they're getting from it. Here's a bunch of words from the crew!

Our interviewees today are noted below with their initials - you can learn more about the cast on Fandible's About page!
BC: Billy Coffing
DD: David Donnelly
JR: Jesus Rodriguez
DR: Daniel Rodriguez
AC: Angela Craft

Tell me a little bit about Fandible's upcoming projects. What excites you about them?

Our upcoming project is the Longshot campaign for Numenera! This will be a new weekly podcast offering, a new actual play podcast episode posted every week in one story. After five years of playing a new game every week, we're looking forward to the challenge of staying with one game week after week. We've played a few sessions of Numenera before, and have an intermittent game of The Strange that's been ongoing for awhile, so we're familiar with the system and the world, but this weekly campaign will let us dig into the game in a way we haven't been able to with any of the other games we've played

What made you choose Numenera for this campaign beyond basic familiarity?

BC: It's an interesting setting. We have never been a podcast for fantasy settings, and while Numenera can be described as fantasy, there is a unique element to it that is sci-fi and that called to me.

DD: For all of the systems that we've tried over the years, we've always gravitated towards ones with an economy that allows us (the players) to exercise some influence in the game beyond the actions of our characters. Numenera incorporates a system of experience points that facilitates that more than most other games, and encourages a mix between character advancement (increasing abilities, stats, etc.) and the myriad other uses it provides (such as "I happen to know this town" or "I'm exceptionally good at stabbing David's character.")

Speaking of economy, however, the game also appeals to my desire to find and accumulate STUFF. Cyphers, shins (money) and good, old-fashioned dungeon crawling is all baked into the narrative. The game may be based on exploration and discovery, but I'm most excited to be the team accountant. (Didn't buy rations in the last town? Let's look up those starvation rules.)

JR: The world of Numenera fascinated me. With such a bizarre setting, it seemed a great opportunity to present my Player Characters with numerous strange creatures and characters that wouldn't really come up in a more traditional roleplaying game. In many ways, it reminded me of another favorite setting of mine, Planescape. Unsurprisingly, also created by Monte Cook. Like Planescape, I hope to bring in material that may challenge the players physically but also mentally. Because in a world where technology is essentially magic, who can say that the person calling himself a wizard isn't right?

DR: For me, my favorite thing about Numenera is the sheer weirdness of it, the whole 'sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' thing. I gravitate naturally towards the weird, and Numenera does a great job of bringing the weird while keeping it approachable.

AC: I’m interested in games that let you explore different types of stories all in one setting. Think of Star Trek: on any given week, there might be a political negotiation, a war story, a goofy holodeck adventure, or a deconstruction of a modern sociological problem. Because in Numenera you’re exploring a world that is built on the leftovers of other civilizations, we can end up in a number of places that allow for different types of plot beats - in the sessions we’ve already played, my character has acted as a scientist, a spy, and a pirate. Few other games give that sort of flexibility in a single setting.

Why did you choose to run a long campaign? Do you think it will be more challenging or easier?

BC: Fans were interested in a long campaign, and we decided to listen to them. The most important thing for me was that we didn't give up our one-shot games on Friday in order to do one continuous campaign. Thus it took a little while for us to figure out the logistics of this all.

DD: I voted for this campaign because it seemed like the easiest way for me to avoid responsibility by giving Jesus more work. The challenge for me will be minimal because the dice have conspired against me in every other game thus far, so I can focus solely on portraying a character that listeners will mourn when he is dead.

JR: We play many games in Fandible and although we have a few long running games, the long length of time between them makes each session feel more like one off stories that happen to be connected than one cohesive campaign. Numenera will present an opportunity to have the players play one cohesive long term story that doesn't necessarily need me to think of stopping point at the end of each particular session. It will help me focus on the natural end of session or even stop it mid battle because I know we will be back rather quickly to finish it.

The downside of the short length of time between sessions is that I won’t have as much time to waste not thinking of the next part of story. With our other games, I can have months in between sessions. Plenty of time to hang back, sip a beer, and maybe spend 5 minutes thinking about a story point before continuing on working on my robot bartender idea. Now, I need to be a bit more focused on getting my loose ends tied together a bit quicker, because those players are going to need me to tell them what’s going on rather quickly.

DR: Well, the choice was made as a group, but I definitely approve of it, while we do have some long-running games (Hollow Earth Expedition and Unhallowed Metropolis both come to mind), this is the first one we've done with the full intention of making it a long-running game. I think the main challenge with it will be finding the right pace for growth with our characters, neither so fast that every session sees us becoming different, nor so slow that we stagnate for months on end.

AC: I have a terrible memory, so I really like that behind-the-scenes we’re going just a matter of weeks between Numenera sessions, rather than months. And because the episodes for the Longshot will be shorter than our normal format, the sessions are moving at a zippier pace. I agree with Dan that pacing character and story advancement overall is going to be the toughest balancing act for us, because this is a huge adjustment from how we’ve been playing together for the last five years.

What playstyles do you each have to contribute to the game?

BC: I'm funny. And I'm willing to have my character take a beating for the good of the story. Also, thus far, I've had the worst rolls in game so my ability to accept bad luck has been helpful to continuing the game.

DD: My contribution is the same now as it has always been: Completely forget what our objective is and have the players walk me through everything that's happened in the last few hours.

JR: Utter and absolute insanity. Pants may or may not be required.
DR: I think I bring a general 'old man grump' combined with a willingness to play a character that could very well end up killing and eating his teammates that should endear me to both the audience and the rest of the group.

AC: I often end up playing “the straight man” to the insanity of the group, and I’ve had fun developing a character that thinks she’s the straight man again, but is really just rather unobservant 90% of the time. Yes, this gets her into plenty of trouble. But also makes everyone let their guard down for that 10% of the time when she is focused.

What do you hope to get out of this campaign, both short term and long term?

BC: Short term? I'm just looking to have a good time with an interesting setting. This is the same for any of our other games. Long term, I hope we get more fans who are interested in one continuous story every week. And hopefully those new fans will find an appreciation for our older stuff.

DD: Short term: More twitter followers. Long term: More people donating to our Patreon, finding me at a Con and challenging me to a duel. (I accept, pistols at dawn and settle your affairs, btw.)

JR: Short term, I expect a few laughs, a funny situation or two, and a chance to present some truly bizarre creatures. Long term, an epic story. Fantasy is not Fandible's bag, but Numenera presented us with a chance to swing around our aversion to fantasy and give us a long term game in the vein of many group’s traditional D&D campaign. Truth is, I plan to have this game become a EPIC fantasy adventure. Just don't tell my players. They must suspect nothing!

DR: Mostly the ability to play a were-hedgehog, which I believe is its own reward.

AC: My long term goal is definitely to keep Jesus from turning this into a epic fantasy quest! SCIENCE shall be your foil, sir. I’m also looking forward to having enough game sessions to really watch our characters grow and develop from the rough sketches we started with to fully developed people (were-hedgehog-people, in one case). Short term, the goal is to keep the group’s momentum going long enough to meet our long term goals!

What tools (tech and social) do you plan to use to handle keeping track of the events, keeping tone, and help with ensuring everyone has fun?

BC: David has been pushing for us all to be taking more notes. I've slowly been taking his excessive prodding to heart. Maybe I'll even push for some sort of character journal to be posted on our website.

DD: Angela made everyone a binder, so I plan to use my training from 5th grade and stuffing all of my papers in there and hoping no one asks me to show my work.

JR: I have an Evernote account, a keyboard, and a will to use it. Besides that, I've got a Numenera bestiary I've started to bookmark with possible creatures my players may face at the most opportune (and inopportune) times.
DR: You mean, besides the half-dozen screens I have on me at any given time? Well, mostly the fabulous folders that Angela made for us because she's our only grown-up. Other than that, it's just a matter of being ourselves and talking openly among ourselves before and after each game about what we want to do with it. It's worked pretty well for us so far!

AC: For all of Dan’s screens, we really are a rather low-tech group! Pen and paper is still the best note-taking tool at the table for us, since the battery will never run out and we’re less likely to be distracted by other apps when we should be rolling dice (guilty! But we say so much funny stuff the urge to live-tweet is too hard to resist!). And yes, my fabulous binders will hopefully keep all these notes in one place rather than spreading to every nook and cranny of my apartment, where the weekly games take place.

Sounds like this is going to be a fun project to listen to! Thank you all for reading, and to the cast for answering my questions! Thanks as well to Angela for wrangling the cast. Check out Fandible now!

This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs.

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