You go to a convention or gameday, prepared to run your game, and you never quite know what to expect. You might know some people, but you also might end up gaming with complete strangers. Also, it may have been a while since you last ran that particular scenario, or even, entire game. That was the case for me this past weekend when I ran School Daze at Camp NC Gameday.
Until a few days ago, it had somehow been over a year since I had run School Daze for anyone. I had been busy finishing War of Metal and Bone, funding Karthun and Dead Scare, and School Daze kind of just fell off my radar. When I was setting up games for this weekend, I figured, what the heck? I might as well put it on the schedule. It’s a fun game, and I need to do more to promote it.
It was kind of like riding a bike that you had forgotten has a particular way of being pedaled. We moved forward. We got where we were going. The ride, from my perspective, left a little to be desired. Now, I will say that everyone said they had fun, and I even sold a copy of the game, so it went well. Coming back to it after a long time away showed me some things, though.
First, a recap.
It’s a Little Wild and a Little Strange
I almost always improvise convention sessions of School Daze. There’s a random generation table, and everyone knows how high school movies are supposed to go, right? (1) I also let the players pick the genre of high school they want. My players this weekend settled on Wild West. Cool! I’d never done that before (2). I then rolled on the Group Project generation table and got:
Social -> Spring Break Trip. I could work with this. (3)
(You’ll note the numbers in the above paragraph. We’ll be coming back to those.)
I decided that these fine students were member of West Trowbridge High’s City Slickers Club, and they were going on a Club trip to New York City (New York City!?). (4) The characters were (as best I can remember):
- Fav Subject: Social Studies
- Ranks: Shawshank
- Motivation: To Meet a Big Celebrity
- Fav Subject: Rodeo Tricks
- Ranks: Stank, Frank
- Motivation: To Buy a Real Purty Dress
- Fav Subject: Varmint Trapping
- Ranks: Pranks, Gank, Crank
- Motivation: To Call a Phone Number from a Restroom Wall
- Fav Subject: Horseback Riding
- Ranks: Bank, Thanks, Swank
- Motivation: To Go on a Shopping Spree at F.A.O. Schwartz (and use the giant floor keyboard/piano, like in Big)
So there’s our cast. I opened things up with the traditional “It’s 7:15AM, about 15 minutes before the first bell. Where are you, and what are you doing?” but I adapted it to be about 15 minutes before the plane took off.
3: A Spring Break Trip leaves you without the structure of a day of high school
Remember those numbers? The trip was 3, and that was the problem. I usually have the structure of a day of high school within which to work, even if the students in the game decide to ignore it. It gives you something to lean on, and gives you possible consequences if you ignore it.
Taking that into consideration, the opening scene set up some expectations for the game. Marty had the most interesting scene because all they packed was VHS tapes. They specifically wanted to grab City Slickers, but flubbed the roll, and they ended up with City Stickers, a documentary about an obscure urban art/vandalism movement centered around putting Lisa Frank stickers all over buildings. (5)
5: Remember Your Callbacks
I came up with this great idea in City Stickers (at least, the two older players who knew Lisa Frank stuff liked it), and then I forgot to mention it again for the rest of the session. If you’re going to improvise, remember the things you set up. City Stickers could have been a lot of fun to work with.
The students then got to NYC, and were allowed to explore the city without guidance or supervision. Of course they were, it’s a high school movie we’re playing, right?
1: It Can Be Easy to Forget “How High School Movies Are Supposed to Go”
When I wrote School Daze, I was getting my Master’s of Education, and I was in a high school multiple times a week. I knew high school stories, movie and otherwise, cold. Now, it’s been two years since I’ve been in a high school, and even allowing for the lack of school day structure I mentioned, I’d forgotten how stories like this should go. Also? The School Daze book doesn’t really tell you. That’s something I want to correct in these posts.
Anyway, they decided to go shopping, since two of the character had that as their motivation. To make a long story short (too late), they “borrowed” horses from a Central Park carriage, rode them down 4th Avenue in the middle of rush hour traffic, went dress shopping after they gave two horseback cops the slip, and made their way to F.A.O. Schwartz.
2 and 4: Assuming Familiarity Can Leave You on Unsteady Ground
Of all of the Alternate Settings in the School Daze book, How the West was Fun was the one I felt the most shaky about. Wild West and high school don’t merge well together for me (unless you’re talking an episode of Hey Dude). Also, I haven’t been to NYC since I was in high school, and I found myself struggling to name geography, figure out how they were going to navigate from place to place, etc.
At F.A.O. Schwartz, they discovered Tom Hanks was there, filming Big 2, so we went to a montage ending to wrap the session (6). They bluffed their way into the toy store, Rose got to play the giant keyboard with Mr. Hanks, Marty got to meet Mr. Hanks, and Billie called a number that was on the restroom stall. Turned out it was Mr. Hanks’ phone number. Lastly, but not leastly, Daria had a photoshoot in her fancy dress. Hooray, a successful trip to New York!
6: I Use Montage Endings in Every Session of School Daze I Run… They’re Not Mentioned in the Book Even Once
Montage endings provide a nice, fun way to wrap up a session of School Daze, especially at conventions. Everyone says what their ideal outcome would be to the story, then everyone rolls. Outcomes get resolved highest to lowest. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s something I started doing after the game was published, and I’ve never written up how to do it.
Camp NC Gameday was a great time, and I’m glad I chose to run School Daze there. I’m also glad that I broke down the session because it exposed some things that I want to talk about in upcoming posts for this series. Some of them were things I just missed as Administrator, and others are things about the game that I want to delve into.
In the coming weeks and months, you can expect posts about School Daze more regularly. If you’ve got suggestions of things you want me to explore, leave a comment. I you enjoyed this post, check out my Patreon. It helps support me being able to take the time to write things like this. If you want to grab a copy of School Daze, you can check out our Store!