So, I didn't write this on Tuesday (bad Jess!) due to school starting with a bang-not-a-whimper and a nasty case of flu. But, Monday night's session was actually one of the best downtime sessions we've had in a while, so I wanted to make sure I wrote something about it before I forgot what we did right.
For one thing, the logistics finally got back on our side. Our players usually come faithfully every week, but two of them went back to school, one got overwhelmed with freelance work, and another has been fighting various nasty-sounding illnesses. August seems to have been the month of hosure for all of them, but things seem better for everyone (except one player, who will be participating mostly by email until the spring).
The players also pointed out that while it's great to have so many guests come to watch the game every week, the sheer number of them is starting to become problematic. Not only do we have limited seating, but a couple of the observers can be rather disruptive of the game. These are not people who come every week, so I haven't said anything to them yet, but I plan to the next time they show up. If people are really coming to watch, they cannot socialize mid-game. Session went far, far better this week in part because there were no social distractions. (Though how we made it through session sans psychick I have no idea!!)
As far as form and content went, we tried our experiment of narrating events and letting players respond again. This time it went much better for everyone, we think. We kept the experimental portion of the evening to under an hour, and people really got into telling us what their characters did. People still are a bit uneven about telling us what happened vs. asking us whether something can happen, but I found the improvement to be striking and substantial. Even better, we chose better events this time around and tied things much more successfully to people's personal arcs.
As is usual in downtime, a lot of the really awesome stuff that happened in downtime was one-on-one, so I'm not entirely sure what went down in the overall plot. I ran a fantastic reunion scene between Marcus and his long-time flame, and got to hear Chris squeal "You do WHAT?" from the other room, and had the players do things that gave us our entire plot for the next story arc (though I can't say exactly what, here where they can see). Other highlights included Idir finally getting to know his childe Callia (he never really understood or got along with her), the Vestals making a massive power-grab, Marcus claiming to be a Naiad's lover, and Christians mysteriously disappearing from the Colosseum.
Also, not one but two characters had stuff come back all the way from their prelude. Players love that shit. That's why we keep notes.
Today I ran a catch-up downtime session with Dan, who had been out of things for about a month. It was hard-core. He has more childer now, though they're not all Actaia's. (Some of them are just borrowed.) I think I'm going to encourage all the players to have their characters Embrace during the next story arc. I wonder whether we can do something like the session of six murders again . . . ?