My Buffy Role-Playing Experience
Whatever sick freak first thought up the concept behind the Buffy RPG is a freak I’d like to call a genius. People have come together to create the best roleplaying game this side of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the gamers who play it. But, like all great games centered around the Buffyverse, this journalist felt inclined to give it a test drive. So, I set out to do the unthinkable…hold a Buffy RPG session and then write an article about it. I have never regretted something more in my life. Okay, that’s not entirely true, because it was quite fun. And don’t get me wrong, because the game by itself was great, it’s just…well…I’ll let you read what happened.
To protect the innocent, I am going to change the names of the actual players who took part in these RPG sessions held by yours truly (yeah, that means I was too damn lazy to get their permission). To start off, I recruited a guy named Jim (Remember, not a real Jim. Any resemblance to an actual Jim is completely coincidental. Of course, now that I have taken the time to make this point clear, if this person does resemble you in any way, shape, or form then perhaps you should feel inclined to be a bit paranoid, yes?). Jim is a twenty-two year old gamer who has enjoyed such RPGs as Dungeons and Dragons and Dungeons and Dragons. He makes sure he gets himself that wonderful healthy dose of D&D every week. It’s practically a religion with the guy. Yep, Jim’s a hardcore fanatic when it comes to dragons and dungeons…or vice-versa, whatever. I don’t really know why, but I don’t really question it either. He takes his gaming extremely seriously. That’s why I wanted him for this game.
I wanted a female to play the slayer, so I talked up a young woman named Sandy who was relatively new to RPGs but had expressed an interest to me in the television series once before (also a weekly reader of our wonderful series here). She was the oldest of my gamers, being twenty-five, but of course she was also the least experienced with any game action as well.
An old high-school friend named Dave was in town and visiting, so I invited him to stop by as well. He’d played a few RPGs before, but he’d only seen about five episodes of the Buffy program. All of those episodes were in Season Six, by the way. To help him better prepare, we let him read the summaries provided within the corebook of the RPG. The book comes with brief summaries on each season up through five.
And lastly, I brought in a young man named Todd, twenty-two year old college man who spends his days eating pizza and playing X-Box. Typical Grade-A American, and God bless him for it.
So, first thing was first. I, being the nice guy that I am, allowed these crazy idiots to pick their own characters. This was my first mistake. Never do this, if you’re taking notes as a potential Game Master (or Director, as they’re called in this game). Because if you do, and if you don’t assign them like you should, you might have a scenario like this unfold…
Things might go well at first, such as was the case with my game in question. However, they will soon turn poorly. Take my word for it. Sandy took on the role for Buffy, being as how I chose her specifically for the part, and everything was going great until I heard who the guys wanted to play as.
“I wanna be Adam,” was Todd’s first request. “Can I be Adam?” He had just seen a few episodes of Season Four on syndication at the time.
I wanted to hit him. I’d already told him that we were playing a game set in Season Five. When I explained this again, he asked if he could play as the Master instead. You have to understand that this went on for about an hour and a half. Even Dave thought he was an idiot. I gave up and settled with allowing Todd to play the Master with a soul. Don’t ask. It shut him up.
Next came Dave’s turn. Dave chose to play as Xander for this game, which I personally found respectable. But then he wanted Xander to have a stockhold of weapons. I explained to him that Xander begins the game living in his parent’s basement with the cat-piss hotplate, but that didn’t do any good. He wanted more weapons than the crazy old man from Tremors. I finally just let him have a freaking cabinet filled with grenades and rocket launchers. Again, don’t ask.
Then came Jim, our experienced D&D gamer. He wanted to play Spike for the game. I agreed. It seemed simple enough, right? Wrong. He wanted to alter a few of the details of Spike’s character. For instance, he suddenly wanted Spike to be a skilled mage and have high marksmanship with archery skills. I had a really bad image of James Marsters done up like Robin Hood and singing the “Men in Tights” song.
Needless to say, I had to draw a line. No mage for Spike.
Okay, so we had the characters all good and ready to go…well, not good but ready to go. Luckily, every title cast member from seasons one through five have character sheets located within the corebook. Simply make a copy to hold as reference for each player. Also included was a fun Tara sheet. Why? Who cares? It’s a fun Tara sheet. There are also stats for the Big Bads of those seasons, and a few other cool henchmen such as Luke and the funny Frankenstein football player who tried to behead Cordelia that one time.
Since my cast consisted of Buffy, Xander, Spike, and a souled Master, I was going to have one hell of a time piecing together a plot for these players to enjoy. Since this was simply a test run, and I was fresh out of ideas, I decided it best to begin the game in the cemetery, as it seemed the most suitable location considering our cast. The idea was to have Buffy cramming her head with college work while patrolling with Spike. Xander was around because…well, is there really ever a reason? Meanwhile, the Master would appear and be brought back to Earth with a soul. Why? I decided that because it was never really explained why Buffy came back from the dead the first time…I didn’t have to have a reason either.
So, there it was. The perfect scene. And…action!
I noticed a few problems with gaming right off the bat. For instance, Dave (who had only seen a few eps) was making Xander out to be buddy/buddy with Spike, who in turn was casting extremely witty dialogue insults toward the construction worker. Spike seemed a lot more witty than Xander. Not only that, but Dave had Xander talking like he was a disgruntled and retired sailor. Hmm…bad casting. But I brushed it off as soon as we brought in some fun vamps for these three to dust. After all, I was about to test the fighting system of the game. Oh joy, oh joy! *Does Mac’s patented dance.*
The game’s rounds seemed a lot easier to adapt to than with most traditional RPGs. I noticed that even Sandy, who had never played an RPG before in her life, was having fun with it in mere minutes. It takes the focus off of rolling dice and puts more emphasis on keeping the action fast-paced and fun to play. To make up for the fact that certain weaker characters (aka Angel) can’t always fight as well as the bigger heroes (aka Dawn), there are Drama Points which are given to each character. And no, I wasn’t serious with those examples. But more Drama Points do go to the weaker Scoobies. Make sense? Didn’t think so.
But what are Drama Points, you ask? Well, basically they’re used to create a dramatic twist in the story. For instance, you’re about to be bitten by a vampire and you have no hope in the world of escaping without 3.5 percent of your neck’s flesh getting ripped from your body. Simply use a Drama Point. The vamp might stop from biting you and instead recognize you from high-school. Remember Holden Webster from Conversations with Dead People?
Anyway, I’m not going to spend a great deal of time on the details of the rules, mostly because you can get those from just about any other review of this game you read. And there are lots out there, so check them out. We’re also moving on because I’m almost out of time. I’ll simply state that it was extremely easy to adjust to, even for new gamers. The UniSystem does the trick. You’ll love it. Trust me. And hey, when have I ever been wrong?
So Buffy and Spike were handling the nuisances pretty gosh darn well. At least, until Xander waltzed into the battle with a grenade launcher. Now, granted, this might have seemed a little out of place or out of character for even the one-day army man, but I gotta admit…it was pretty damn funny at the time so I let it slide. So, Buffy and Spike took out a wapping three vamps together, while Xander killed four with a weapon that’s not even sanctioned by the game.
Anyway, we finally got the plot moving and introduced our souled Master. Even this went badly (as if you couldn’t have guessed this story arc was going to suck from the beginning). Our good friend Todd decided he’d play the Master his own damn way. He claimed his character was brought back by the Initiative, even though I’d already discussed the plot with him before-hand about…you know…not having a reason and just rolling with the story.
But no…he had to make up this elaborate story to the others about the Master getting captured and having a soul given to him by Maggie Walsh. At this point, I was losing hope in my cast. Buffy and Spike were beginning to flirt like it was Season Seven, Xander was the most stale comic in Sunnydale…not to mention a bit homicidal, and now the Master was trying to transform himself into the next government conspiracy super-species.
Where did it all go wrong?
But, I didn’t give up yet. I had the team convene together at the Magic Box where I played an NPC (non-playable character) of Rupert Giles. In this scene, the scoobies were supposed to explain to the watcher that they had encountered the Master and found that he now had a soul. I know, I know. The ratings would have had us off the air by now, but we still had enough time to get through this scene.
Instead of accomplishing what seemed to be a rather simple enough assignment for my players to do, the scoobs had their own agendas in mind. This is one of the great things about RPGs. You never know what’s going to happen next. But, in my case, things didn’t exactly seem to flow in a plausible fashion. Hopefully you’ll have better luck.
Buffy spent the entire time flirting with Spike while they left Xander to explain to Giles what was going on. Instead of telling a witty joke or even remotely staying in character, Dave had his character (Xander) once again talk like a disgruntled and retired marine. Honest to God, the guy sounded like Quint from JAWS.
Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies…farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain…
So, there we had it. Todd was begging to let the Master crash into the Magic Box, but it was just approaching sunrise at the time and he wasn’t exactly in well with the Scoobies. But still, it was Todd and he was persistent with what he wanted. He had the Master throw on a coat and run through the streets of Sunnydale blocking out the sun rays to prevent himself from self-exploding. He did eventually get to the Magic Box, but the game was about to end so I paid little mind to him. Unfortunately, Todd wouldn’t accept that as an answer. He had his vampire break in through the windows and attack the others for “locking him outside.”
Thank Joss for Xander and the ever-amazing grenade launcher. Meanwhile, Buffy was cowering under the table and Spike was testing to see if his chip still worked, using Giles as a test subject.
Yeah, I realized my cast was not fit for this game.
But luckily, as Director I did have a few perks. One of those perks was deciding who dies and when. Therefore, I had Caleb come into town and rip off their heads. Game over. Thank Joss.
I closed the corebook and have yet to re-open it again. But still, I imagine if I ever gather up a worthy enough cast I will once again voyage into this ever-amazing game. It’s just going to take me some great planning and some great patience before I come to grips with such an endeavor.
Final notes? Play the game. You’ll have fun. Just plan it better. This was a quick session to test out the engine of the game. Again, just a test…and a poor one at that. Hey, just needed something to write about. Great game, bad players. You’ll do better. Much better. Trust me.
The Buffy RPG is great fun and for all ages. Simply buy the corebook and check it out sometime. Even with a royally screwed up cast, you will still have fun playing it. And now I happen to know that that is factually true. So, what are you waiting for? Go out and buy the book, get your friends together, and induct yourselves into the realm of Buffy gamers everywhere. You won’t regret it. Our friends at Eden Studios have truly worked wonders.