The first story game we ever played was Capes. We were playing a very extensive Mutants & Masterminds superhero campaign so this GM-less superhero game peaked Ben’s interest. Jem, Ben and I cracked it open, and as it turns out, it started us on the path to story games.
Oh what a revelation the click and lock characters were for me! You create characters in Capes by matching a set of Persona descriptors with a set of Skill/Powers descriptors – the Hot Shot Gadgeteer, the Neurotic Brick or maybe the Neurotic Gadgeteer or the Hot Shot Brick etc. Clicking a couple together showed me that in 10 words you could have a completely useful and defined character to build from. I realized it was better to start from a straightforward concept than start with a open-ended concept and narrow it down as you go along which usually just left me with a murky character.
Strangely enough, we chose a fantasy setting probably because we had been playing supers and wanted something else. We started off each with our own hero, and our first scene pretty much proceded like a D&D encounter fighting some bandits on the road. Yawn. Now in the second scene, Jem chose to play his young archer hero again and set a conflict to rescue the girl from the bandits. I stole Ben’s Hercules-type character from him because he was cooler than my guy (that I don’t even remember any more). In my head I thought that left Ben with my lame guy, but instead, he comes out of left field as Zeus looking to have some father-son time. Doh! I think my jaw hit the floor – like you can do that? Bring in any character, bring in a character who’s not in “the party,” bring in a god?? That’s when I understood that this was a story game and not a D&D game. The fiction was the important thing.
Of course the father-son “bonding” only lasted until Zeus caught a glimpse of the beautiful girl and went to steal her from young archer. And then on my turn who should show up by Zeus’ worst nightmare… Hera.
I look at these moments and wonder how is it that these simple things were such revelations to me. Then, I remember what my friend Signa said after encountering a band of harpies in her first D&D game, “Eh, harpies. They’re all bark and no bite.” In other words, we all have to start somewhere.