|"Crafting a Mystery with Spenser Starke"
|November 21, 2023 10:00 PT
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"Crafting a Mystery with Spenser Starke" (Mx27) is an interview with Spenser Starke on his experience as the GM of the second chapter of Candela Obscura. Game Designer Spenser Starke elaborates on his experience both designing the Candela Obscura game and being able to serve as gamemaster for Candela Obscura: Needle & Thread! Learn about his unique process for how to run a mystery, how to collaborate with players, and how to incorporate the world of Candela Obscura using the Illuminated Worlds System.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
Game Design[edit | edit source]
The two elements of game design Spenser gravitates towards are theme and mechanics; either he focuses on a theme and finds mechanics to support it, or is interested in a specific mechanic and figures out the themes best supported by it. Candela Obscura came to him with strong themes already built out, so his role was to look for mechanics, and he found them in Illuminated Worlds, also under development at the time. The first chapter of Candela Obscura aired while the game was still being developed, so Matt had to make some calls on his own. By the time of chapter 2, Spenser had been working on the rulebook for about six months, and so while it still required some creative GM-ing it was much more realized. One example, shown overlaid with a few clips from "Broken Path" (CO2x03), is that there was PvP in chapter 2 that Spenser had to adjudicate.
Session Zero/Player investment[edit | edit source]
Session zero, according to Spenser, is a chance to understand what interests the players. Their player concepts and backstory serve as a guide to their interests for this game, so once those are solidified, he has an idea of what themes these characters are prepared to tell. He can then find common themes between players and use those to drive the game. Over a clip of Jean sewing the rift closed in "Eye for an Eye" (CO2x01), Spenser explains that because Travis's character had backstory ties to Allison Suarez, that would guarantee the Circle of Needle and Thread would go on that mission without having fully rested, due to that investment; this came from Spenser listening to the backstory of Nathaniel Trapp.
Something Spenser likes to do is to take a small, trivial detail that comes up in gameplay through collaboration and then use it later, to show that the players' choices matter and are permanent within the world. One example is the chickens that appear in the first episode and then pay off in the final episode: Because Zehra focused on these and had Jean roll to Sense something about them, Spenser decided they were magickal, and used that later. The clips of both these scenes play as he describes this.
Characters[edit | edit source]
All of the following is interspersed with clips from the series of the characters in question.
If players send Spenser a lot of details he absolutely wants to incorporate that because they're excited, and he recommends this as a tip for GMs. For example, Travis sent a lot of detail on Nathaniel's backstory, including the shapeshifting creatures that formed much of the ultimate plot of the series. Marisha's choice to play Beatrix, who is a support character, was one that showed off her talent as a player because it can be difficult to understand when to enter and assist in that role. Zehra was incredibly enthusiastic and thoughtful, and by playing a doctor she represented the interplay of science and magick that is core to the setting. Brennan is a great player for any GM because he is very willing to play difficult or darker scenes, he always has an answer, and he is incredible at monologuing. Luis is excellent at finding the heart of characters and playing them with deep sincerity, which was very fun for Spenser to see in the horror genre.
Final thoughts[edit | edit source]
Spenser usually doesn't really remember running games in detail, so he had to trust that once he started, it would go well, and it felt like the table told a story they can be proud of.
References[edit | edit source]