For a while now, something like a year and a half (including the occasional hiatus) I was running an OVA campaign for my friends called “Divine Machine.” It had some issues throughout, and towards the end I was less than happy with it. On the other hand, it was fun more often than not, and I’d like to think last night’s conclusion ended things on a high note.
1. I never really liked any of the PCs. I feel kind of bad for saying it, but it is the truth. This is partly just a matter of taste on my part, of course, but somehow I just didn’t care all that much for any of them. I never outright hated any of them, and they all grew on me to some degree, but still. It didn’t help that none of them tied into the existing setting I had created in any meaningful way (except for the two amnesiacs in the group, but only because I spent hours figuring out their forgotten backstories). The only PC who was truly heroic was also the one who created the most friction in the group, and generally created lots of headaches for me.
2. I got burned out on running a semi-traditional fiat-y game week after week. It’s a style of GM-ing that demands a lot out of me psychologically, and I’m pretty much abandoning it from now on. I’ll occasionally do a Maid RPG session for sheer zaniness and awesome, but otherwise I want to concentrate on games that spread the work around some. After a session of Divine Machine, I would always be drained and irritable, in a way that just wasn’t the case for games like The Shab-al-Hiri Roach or Peerless Food Fighters. The one time I ran DM two nights in a row was absolute murder, and something I never want to experience ever again.
3. The game wound up encompassing too many NPCs and too big of a plot. No matter what the medium, I deal better with more personal stories. In Yuuyake Koyake, for example, you only have one or two, maybe three NPCs in a session, and I can handle them just fine. In Divine Machine it got to the point where we would outright forget someone who was supposed to be present, and I had a hard time giving them all adequate motivations and personality.
4. OVA is good for what it is. I tell people it’s what BESM’s original edition (the little gray book) wanted to be and never quite pulled off. But one thing it shares with BESM: it’s easy to break it with just a little bit of powergaming. In theory a result of 12 on a die roll is unbelievably good, but we wound up having combats where the combat-oriented characters were throwing around results of 20+ regularly, and I had to give NPCs 8+ dice to roll at once just for them to have a fighting chance. If I were to ever use it again (or PDQ for that matter), I would SEVERELY limit the ability to stack traits into one roll. Also, the magic system is pretty much broken as far as I’m concerned. Its balancing factors (a check to make sure the spell works, and an Endurance cost) are much too easy to circumvent.
5. Creatively, I always have more ideas than I know what to do with. One of the nice things about running a game like Divine Machine was that pretty much anything I thought up I could throw into the game in some form. I got to use practically every odd little scrap of an idea for something to put into an RPG I had laying around. That, combined with regularly being the GM, is why unlike some of my friends, I’m not as attracted to being tethered to one player character for a long time, and I don’t personally regard immersion as a priority. It also means that switching games more frequently appeals to me. I’m hoping that in the future we can have a bit of both, with the D&D4e game my friend is running, and a succession of indie games and other experiments and mini-campaigns on the side.
In summary: Divine Machine was a fun ride, but it had all kinds of issues, and I’m glad it’s finally over. I learned a lot from it, albeit sometimes more with regard to what not to do in the future. OVA is neat, but don’t let players who are even remotely interested in gaming the system near the thing.