Time for another SGG meetup. This time it was David, Mark, Kevin, and I. We talked about a few options, and decided to go with Praxis: Odin's Eye, a post world games production. It's a GM-less game by Jim Pinto, but a bit more focused than what you'd expect from a Fiasco game, which has a fairly open-ended start and up-front cost of setup. The scenario boils down to this: While orbiting an alien planet, the crew of Odin’s Eye intercepts a distress beacon of unknown origin, squawking from the planet’s surface.
When I've played Praxis with Jim, my memory is that very little world building discussion is performed prior to the game start. The characters do have a bit of World Building questions on the character sheets, but again, my memory is that we skim that fairly lightly.
I know that our group here has had problems when we haven't set a common framework in some games we've played (such as Fall of Magic) and decided to do a little bit of prior discussion to the game. I think it served us well.
We decided to go for a bit of a Roman Catholic feel... after the galactic empire fell and went through the dark ages, we are now part of the church's exploration arm, tasked with finding habitable worlds... and also converting those that already have inhabitants. Low number of alien species, and some light trans-humanism would be OK.
Praxis starts by having you pick from a number of character archetypes or playbooks (for example: Engineer, Pilot, Captain, etc.). After choosing one of the four given names, you start by drawing playing cards to randomly select some Objectives and Relationships with others at the table.
I chose the Ranger sheet, which is effectively the combat / security dude. I drew a club card for my Objective: "CYA (Cover Your Ass)". Kevin was playing Sloane the Biologist, to my left and drew a relationship with me, and I drew a spade for my relationship with David as Zed the Pilot: Guardian Angel. We decide that he and I have been through a bunch of missions together and I've saved his life more than a few times.
In other words, my character sheet was starting to look something like this:
I went with "Crow", and decided that Rangers were actually a very integral part of the core church hierarchy (and for simplicity, just used the archetype name "Rangers" as the name of the group in the church). Oh ya, and that they are actually gene spliced humans with various animals. I was actually part crow-bird thing, and part human. I liked the idea that it is customary for every exploratory crew from the church to have a Ranger on board, and that was I.
After an opening Vignette (action only, by a character) and Ensemble (a quick session with everyone present), we got into it and started taking turns directing. On your turn you choose a Scene type, and then mark that off your sheet. We had about 2 goes around the table, but the game ended rather abruptly. One of the end conditions is that a character marks off 4 Trepidation, and that was me! I started with 3 due to my special ability, and I just had some bad rolls trying to get things done. In retrospect we could've played a bit smarter to avoid that fate, but hey, live and learn.
The game also has Story Milestones, which are events that occur after a certain number of total milestones get checked off of character sheets. We didn't really get to explore that as the game went so very quickly, and we overlooked the first one, which is supposed to happen after 4 milestones are checked. (That said, I think only 6 milestones were checked in total before the game ended; I think the expected total should normally be closer to 10-12 or more.)
We still had a pretty good time getting into the story, but I think most of us felt a little cheated at how fast it went. Our crew got down to the planets surface. We ran into a quarantine, and some drama. But didn't really get to explore the beacon signal much.
One of the main things I wanted to get out of this was some actual experience running the system, so that was definitely a positive.
POST-EDIT: Praxis has a number of alternative ending rule, which I didn't really understand or take advantage of during this game. One is called the Plot Twist, and it extends the game by giving the character who normally would trigger the endgame a few bonuses (a plot point and an extra power), and then allows further play until the second player triggers the end game. Although recommended for players who have experience with the system, it would've been put to perfect use in this session.