Archive for the ‘Play reports’ Category

[AW: Shadow of the Mountain] Third Session – deceptions and traps

It’s been a bit quiet here. Unfortunately, also on the game front. It’s been more than two months since our last session of the game!

But now we’re playing tonight, and as such, it’s about time I got the summary from last time up (written by Eric). This was an eventful session, in which the status quo got good and upset. Which all means that Maki is not currently in control of Mt. Harren.

We got to use one or two custom moves this time. Including the one that tells anybody who sleeps with a whore a rumour. Depending on how they roll, it might be specific, general, or a nasty one about themselves.

Summary of the third session

Smith and Maki enjoys their night in the brothel (which is where they ended last time, ed.). Maki’s girl Mathilda tells him the rumor that Virtue (Goldman’s favourite girl) has seen Goldman going into the mountains. Smith’s girl, Sofie, tells the rumour that Grown still thinks that Smith was on Spiders side in the killing on the mountain.
Spider heads for the city trough the caves, there he sees the traders Fleece (a weapons dealer) and Fuse (a gasoline dealer). They are clearly up to no good having hidden something in the caves.
Smith spends the night in the brothel, and opens his mind to the psychics maelstrom. This is the first time he opens his mind fully in town and he have a nightmare vision about a giant standing on the mountain leaning over the city with spooky bug eyes.
The caravan returns with Tau, the doctor, and he debriefs Maki. They were attacked by a scouting party on the road. One was killed, and they can report that the other cities are reluctant to deal with Harren’s Hold. Ron of Ronsville are applying pressure on the traders.
The assassin/trader Exit is mentally interrogated by Smith
– Ron  kidnapped Exit’s wife and is blackmailing him to kill Maki
– Ron wants to take over Harren’s hold.
Maki, Smith and Spider discuss the Ron-problem and hatch a plan.
Spider’s people was attacked by a rival cult, Moonwolves, and the plan is that Maki send some of his soldiers to aid in the defence of Spider’s caves. Maki disguises himself as one of these soldiers. The corpse from the caravan is dressed in Maki’s clothes and is disfigured by hot oil. Exit is instructed to escape and say that during the escape he “killed” Maki. This he will report to Ron, and thereby secure his wife. Ron should then come to take over Harren’s hold, and Maki and Spider’s people then kills Ron as he reached the gate. They have to do it secretly as Ron have spies in the city. Tau and Crudhammer are the only others that are informed about this cunning plan.
Smith then “finds” the body and sounds the alarm. Orc and Thor sneaks up into the mountain. Smith is feeding the rumour mill, but is confronted by a mob with Grown in the lead, in the Ramshackles. Smith draws his weapon, but not wanting to hurt anybody he flees before violence begins. As he runs for the hills, he finds Newton dead on the bridge.
Violence have begun in the city as Goldman and Crudhammer’s men fight to fill the power vacuum.
Spider’s followers and the 5 soldiers are introduced to the plan and slowly they realizes the consequence of faking Maki’s death.
Smith consults the psychics maelstrom and sees Crudhammer, Tau on one side, Goldman + reluctant Fleece and Fuse on the other side. On the third side is Ron. And just behind Smith is a shadow moving just out of the corner of his eye.
The last order of Smiths day is to place his brain relay on the bridge tower, for later use.
Spider investigates the area that he spotted Fleece and Fuse, he end up in the cave where weapons were found earlier, he hears the voices of his followers. Spider experiences some psychics resistance, tries to force it but blacks out in pain. Maki and the rest of the followers hears the cry of pain and runs to investigate. They hear someone drag something in the weapon-cave and the chase is on. The freaky humanoid leaves Spider and introduces himself as Nemo. Nemo also has mind powers and forces one of the soldiers to shoot at Maki but he misses. Nemo runs off and on the way back Maki finds a bag of Ron-money, most likely dropped by the two merchants, Fleece and Fuse.
Early next morning, Maki and Smith sneaks down to the city gate where Crudhammer, Vikara and Humty-dumty’s heads are on spikes on the containers that forms the city wall..

[AW: Shadow of the Mountain] Second Session

So, it’s been about a week and a half since we had our second session. About time to start thinking about the next session, and to post a summary.

Based on good advice from more experienced MC’s, I started the session by handing out love letters, asking players to answer questions concerning they characters and rolling something and choosing something from a list.

Below, I’ll first post the summary, written by Spider’s player, Cheresse. After that, I’ll post my love letters. I thought they worked pretty well, even though I didn’t have as much time to ruminate over them as I might have wanted.

One thing I’m experiencing, is how much you’re supposed to do as an MC. I rarely think too much about which move to make, instead making snap decisions that seem appropriate. I do find myself Announcing future badness a lot, and it seems I’ve Put Smith on the spot quite a bit. But that is often rationalizing after the fact, more than consciously using the moves. Smith’s player actually told me that he and Maki’s player had agreed that they didn’t feel we were Barfing forth enough apocalyptica, something I’ll have to work on next time.

Oh, and on a related point: The summary of the penultimate scene leaves out the fact that I was Displaying the nature of the world we are inhabiting, and using a number of other threat moves. Which ones may be obvious to anyone who looked at my fronts.

Summary (written by Cheresse, Spider’s player)

Smith is in need of some money, so he asks Maki for work. Before employing him Maki gives him a test, saying he must get Spider to come to the hardhold and meet with him. Smith goes back to the caves.

In the caves, some supplies that have been stamped with seals from Hollowgrass and Ronsville have been found by Trout and Beaver. Spider inspects them and moves them behind his primary personal living space, out of the children’s immediate access. They are: 1x ammo, 1x grenades, 1x armor, 2x assorted weaponry.

Exit the merchant visits Maki to sell him some cloth and give him first pick of the wares. Maki realizes that Exit is trying to kill him and they fight. Maki takes a stab wound but he apprehends Exit and his guards restrain him.

Smith goes to the cave and tries to gain entrance. Horse and Rabbit are guarding the barricade and won’t let him in. When he uses the psychic maelstrom to give Horse psychological and physical damage, Horse shoots him. Rabbit panics and at Smith’s suggestion runs to get Spider.

Spider is convinced to meet Maki and with five armed guards they go to the hardhold. The guard at the gate of the hardhold, Newton, doesn’t want to let them in. He sends a boy to get Maki instead, but Maki is being patched up after his fight with Exit, and they tell Spider to come back later, but he refuses. Smith is sent in to be fixed and he’s taken up to Maki’s headquarters, where a doctor is fixing Maki.

Maki hears Smith’s report and goes down to the gate. He convinces Spider to get his guards to lower their weapons and they enter the town. They go up to the headquarters and the guards wait outside with Smith while Maki and Spider reach an agreement. After much discussion a treaty is reached: the cultists will gain entrance to the hardhold and temporary shelter in times of need or threat, they will be given a weekly supply of supplementary food, and they will be safe from the violence of the guards in the townspeople. In return, they will cease their demands on the mountain and refrain from violence towards the guards and the townspeople, they will allow the hardhold use of mountain resources and access to certain parts of the cave for sulphur mining, they will, under Maki’s employ, scout for more sulphur deposits in parts of the caves, and they will provide shelter and protection for any hardholders trapped on the mountain in times of need.

While Spider and Maki are coming to their agreement, Rothschild and twenty of his fellow hardholders have got wind that some of the spiders are in the hardhold. They approach with the intent to kill and Smith reports this to Maki. Maki goes down to them and convinces Rothschild that they are not a threat by bribing him with an old house. Spider and his followers go back to the caves to make the necessary changes.

Maki takes Smith to the hardhold’s whorehouse, Charity’s Friendly House, to celebrate. Maki goes off with Mathilde and Smith takes up with Sophie.

On their way back to the hardhold, Spider and his followers come across a beaten cult child. The members of his cult have been beaten up in a hit-and-run attack that has focused on taking food and basic supplies. The men were masked and had a kind of war-cry, according to the cultists.

Love letters

Hey there, Spider

Such an ado about just one little killing, eh? And just because those folks couldn’t get into their heads that the Mountainside is your forage ground. I wonder what’s gonna happen to little Trout?

Anyway, I have a couple of questions for you. Don’t think too hard – just tell me what pops into your head.

How do you recruit new members of your cult?

 Spider will provide hungry people with food or similarly give them things they require in order to draw them in – then he’ll keep them around by being very charismatic.

Who is your cult’s greatest foe?

 I believe the answer here was “other cults” – which corresponded nicely with the roll.

Also, roll +hard. If you roll 10+, choose 3. If you roll 7-9, choose 2. Otherwise, I’ll choose for you, and I may have a little surprise up my sleeve for you.

* No new cult moves into town.

* There’s nothing hiding in the caves

* The people of Mt. Harren aren’t assembling a mob to come after you.

* You find a cache of resources in the caves.

 Spider rolled 10+, and chose all but “No new cult moves into town” – though she later told me she wouldn’t mind having something hiding in the caves. That may come next time. Muahaha.

Love and kisses,

 

Your  MC.

 

Dear Maki.

So, the life of a hardholder has its ups and downs – loads of snap decisions to make. I wonder if you did Harridan and Rice a service or not.

Anyway, I have a couple of questions for you. Don’t think about them for too long – just give me the answer that’s first in your mind.

What does your home look like?

 This turned out to be quite cool. The hardhold is connected to an old mining industry, and Maki lives in their head office. He holds court in the entrance hall, covering the broken marble with different cloths. This really gave me some cool imagery for what the whole place looks like.

The people of Mt. Harren who aren’t involved in commerce – what do they do? What sort of industry does the hold have?

 The hold sells gunpowder. They go get sulphur in the caves. D’you think that may cause controversy? Why, no – of course not!

Also, roll +cool. If you roll 10+, choose 2. If you roll 7-9, choose 1. Otherwise, I might have a little surprise for you:

* Your medic returns to town with medicine.

* You discover a new source of food for the hold.

* Your scouts discover something useful.

 Maki failed this. Poor guy. Though I think his doctor should make an appearance soon.

Love and kisses,

 

Your MC

 

Dear Smith

Too bad you couldn’t stop those idiots from storming spider’s cave. Man, don’t you sometimes wish you could force people to act sensibly? Then again, you kinda can…

Anyway, I have a couple of questions for you. Don’t think about them for too long – just give me the answer that’s first in your mind.

Who pays your wages – and what kind of service do you provide to them?

 Smith attained his gifts recently, and hasn’t started using them commercially yet. That is starting up now, though.

How do people in Mt. Harren view you?

 I forgot the answer to this.

Also, roll +hot. On a 10+ choose 2. On 7-9, choose 1. Otherwise, I might have a little surprise for you.

* Spider’s cult doesn’t blame you for your part in the assault.

* Rothschild doesn’t think you’re Spider’s chum.

* You discover something useful in the caves.

I  don’t quite recall what happened here. I know that Smith didn’t pick the first or the last – I think he actually missed this roll.

Love and kisses,

 

Your MC

 

[AW: Shadow of the Mountain] First Session summary

A while back, I played some Apocalypse World with Asbjørn as the MC. This was a lot of fun, but we never really got to the end of it. Also, I was quite curious to explore the game from the MC’s chair. It seemed it had some interesting ways to run the game that are both similar and different to how I’d usually run a game. Also, most of the story games and Indie Games I’ve played have been one-shot, so I’d like to see where we’d get playing a campaign version game.

Add to this that I have had a bit of a drought in my roleplaying for a while, and I was really yearning to get to playing some roleplaying games. So, long story short, I gathered three players and set up a game of Apocalypse World. This is a brief account of the first session.

Too much choice

When I played with Asbjørn, it seems we did a lot of worldbuilding quite early. I can’t recall whether we did it before or after making characters, but I seem to recall that we quickly had a good idea of what kind of place the game was taking place in. That seemed a bit harder going here. This might have to do with the way that I presented it, with the amount of Post Apocalypse we all knew, with my knowledge of the game… Ah, well. My players did say that the whole community building thing was one of the great fascinations of the genre, which made me think we were onto something here.

I started out with having my players choose which kind of character to play. I introduced the basic characters and a number of limited edition ones. I think I may have overdone it, because my players looked rather shell shocked at the many sheets of paper when I was done introducing all the options, and it took us a fair while until they had all chosen.

After that, everything went rather smoothly, and we got together a good cast of characters. We did the “history thing,” and went into the 1st session rules. Man, it’s intense MC’ing (at least the first session of) Apocalypse World. So many principles and moves to remember, and you have to keep them all ready all the time, cause the players are looking at you ALL THE TIME.

Anyway, I stole a custom move from Asbjørn, which means that whoever does a summary of the events of a session gets to mark experience at the beginning of the next session. And so, below is a short summary, written by Erik, and a short description of the characters, written by me.

Dramatis Personae

There are three players in the game:

  • Maki (played by Ole) is the Hardholder of Mount Harren. He wears loose, colourful clothing, and carries an ornate rifle on his sholder.
  • Smith (played by Erik) is a Brainer. He used to be a member of Maki’s gang, but struck out on his own. He wears spelunking gear, and lives in the caves in the mountains.
  • Spider (played by Cheresse) is a Hocus. Her cult is “The Sorrow,” a group that assembles in the darkness in the caves.

A note: we decided that you must be in shadow to enter the Psychic Malstrom. This was done, not least because the two “weird” characters (Smith and Spider) both lived in the caves.

Summary

The city of Mount Harren is plagued by hunger and sickness (the runs). Medical personnel have gone after supplies.

Crudhammer* complains to Maki that his girlfriend Momo is very sick, and Maki suggest that Crudhammer* (and his buddy Humty Dumty*) go shake the Kult Of Sorrows down for some food and medicine.

Smith observes Goldman*, Tor* and Ork* having a clandestine meeting with the merchant Fleece in the mountains. They suggest that Smith say nothing about the encounter, but as Tor spots Smith eavesdropping, he kicks Smith into the stream. Smith is so angry, he reports the meeting to Maki anyway. Later Goldman* explains that Fleece and his fellow merchants from the city of Ronsville, are unhappy with their town lord Ron, and want to move their trading to Mount Harren. Mutiny is brewing in Ronsville…

Meanwhile Spider have declared that the mountains are sacred, and hunting rights are only for the cave dwellers, not the city folks. A city kid is killed by some of the Kult Of Sorrow for trespassing/poaching, and Rothschild (the city kids father) and some of his friends try to storm the cave with the cult. Smith tries to calm Rothschild down, but fails. Two cult members get killed in the attack. A conflict between the city folks and the cave dwellers are imminent.

* Gang members that are Maki’s enforcers

Next, on the Shadow of the Mountain

That’s a very brief version of the game – doesn’t include Smith trying to talk sense into Maki or being rejected at the gate, doesn’t include the way Spider left his followers to die, or casually sent his people to kill any city dweller that went into the mountain (talk about opportunities on a platter…). And of course, much more is already happening in my mind. I ought to sit down and make the fronts RIGHT NOW, but I haven’t really got the energy. Anyway, I’ll post the Fronts later. Till then!

Fiasco: Identity Crisis

Yesterday, I played my first ever game of Fiasco. I’ve wanted to play Fiasco for a long time, not least since I saw how much fun Will Wheaton made it seem in his videos. Unfortunately, I’ve been living a good distance away from most role-players, so it’s been sort of difficult to get any kind of role-playing going. But yesterday, at a “Birthday Con” at a friend’s home, I got to sit down with Peter, Ole P., Troels and Nis to play a game of Fiasco… which was no fiasco (consider that the obligatory “fiasco”-joke).

Setup of the game

We settled on the “Fiasco High” playset. Most of us thought playing a teenage/high school game would provide many an opportunity for Weltschmertz and half-baked schemes. How right we were…

Set-up for a game of Fiasco has you roll a number of dice (four per player, I think), then use those dice to “buy” certain aspects of the relationships between characters. First you define the nature of the relationships between all neighbours – meaning you’ll have a relationship to the player on your right and the player on your left – then you define some characteristic of that relationship: a need, an object or a location. With five players, the game recommended two needs, two objects and one location. We might have liked one more need, but maybe that was because one object didn’t really come into use for us, and the location didn’t take full effect either.

Anyway, here’s our setup, as I recall it:

Peter and I were BFF’s (Best Friends Forever) by “Imperial Mandate” (what that meant was open to interpretation), and had a need “to get away with the Big Lie.”

Ole and I were “connected for life” as “identical twins,” and shared “our place”: the “D&D basement.”

Ole and Troels were “the richest kid in school and their devious minion,” and had “dirt on the Vice-principal’s son.”

Troels and Nis were “a searching soul and a Christian zealot,” who shared a need to get romance from “the incomparable Mike Tabuno.”

Finally, Nis and Peter did Community service together, and had a phone that had some sort of sexual connotation (I don’t remember exactly what it said, but I do remember how it played out).

 

From this we created the following characters:

Peter was Joey, the vice-principal’s son, who was doing community service, because he had been paid to take the fall for…

Kindra Flannaghan (me), who had DUI into a statue of the Reverend Mike Tabuno, who had donated a new science building to the high school. My mother had paid Joey to take the rap, and I was tutoring him to be able to pass his high school exam.

My sister, Keira Flannaghan (Ole) knew that Joey had been paid, but not for what. She was the GM for our girls only D&D group. The other player in the group was…

Mary Tabuno (Troels) – yep, she was the daughter of the Rev. Mike Tabuno. A punker and roleplayer, she was the rebellious daughter of a powerful, local church figure. She had been with Joey at the time of my “accident,” and had a… revealing video of him, also showing the police cars going by in the background on their way to the crash – thus proving that Joey couldn’t have been driving the car.

While Mary disliked her father, Lucy Bell (Nis) was one of his biggest fans. A poor girl, she was a devout member of Tabuno’s congregation, doing community service to prove her devotion. Her partner? Why, Joey, of course.

The plot, very briefly

(Brief aside: our story, by the nature of Fiasco, became quite multi-stringed and rather convoluted. I am trying to summarize from memory, but I don’t have a scene by scene go-through, so I’m trying to reconstruct it here.)

(Another aside: A number of times I’ve experienced feeling more satisfaction from playing an npc than from playing my own character. This was one of these instances: I played the Rev. Mike Tabuno, and enjoyed playing the very stoic, almost inhumanly calm, but somehow deeply disturbing, community figure.)

The game started with a clash between the devout Lucy and the unfocused rebel, Joey, with Joey drinking beer in the car while delivering meals to old folks. From there, we flashed to Kindra asking if Joey could join their role-playing group (which would not have been popular with the Rev. Tabuno).

Later, at the Tabuno residence, the Reverend has had a bright idea: his wayward daughter should join him on his Christian summer camp all summer. When she refuses, she is instead instructed to attend a bible study group the coming Wednesday – right in the middle of the weekly D&D-night.

But there’s a solution for this: Lucy, who is a part of the study group, really wants to go to bible camp – but she needs a scholarship from the Reverend to be able to afford it. Mary is of course more than willing to oblige – if only Lucy will help her skip bible studies. Lucy reluctantly agrees.

Lucy’s not the only one with money troubles. Joey has already spent the money he got to take the fall for Kindra, and now he wants her to get more money out of her mother. Meanwhile, while the girls are waiting for Joey at the D&D session, Kindra suddenly discovers that Keira and Mary have a video of Mary and Joey together at the time of the accident, proving that Joey didn’t do it. She panics, tries to kill Mary’s phone with spilt soda, only to discover that Keira has a copy. Kindra can’t destroy the evidence – what to do?

Meanwhile, Keira knows what to do. She knows that her mother is paying Joey, but not for what. Never the less, she wants in. She tries to pressure Joey into giving her some money, and he panics and sort of agrees.

At the Tabuno Community Center, only Lucy showed up for bible studies. When the Reverend shows up to check on the girls, he starts talking to Lucy about the coming bible camp, and the role she might play in it. Flustered and charmed, Lucy follows the Reverend into his office – God only knows what is going on in there (but it ain’t pretty).

Tilt

At this point we had the “tilt” – a complication that happens in the middle of the game. We got “Guilt: Somebody panics” and “Failure: you thought it was taken care of, but it wasn’t.”

Act 2

The next day, Lucy and Joey are in their car driving out food, when Lucy receives a message. Joey grabs her phone to see what it is – and finds a photo of the Reverend’s nethers. Lucy is quite flustered, and drives into a tree while trying to get it back. Joey decides to blackmail Lucy, not realizing that he could potentially blackmail the premier man in town.

Kindra is shocked to find out that she didn’t wipe out the video, and sits by stunned while her sister and Mary suddenly realize the significance of what they have, and consider what their next step should be.

Keira tries to find out why Joey hasn’t given her any money. Meanwhile, Mary seeks out Lucy (“who has a strong moral compass”) to help her figure out what to do with the video. Mary mostly figures it out on her own, while Lucy is stunned to find out that there are videos of Joey and not just of the Reverend. Later, she goes to see the Reverend to tell him about Joey’s blackmail, and the Rev. Tabuno promises her that he will take care of it. He is friends with the police, and can get them to take care of Joey.

…which they do the next day, when Joey comes to see his parole officer, and is charged with blackmail. He is very surprised, and immediately starts to blabber, in order to get out of this unscathed.

…which means that later the same day, the police knocks on Kindra’s door, and wants to take her in for questioning. Kindra is first shocked, then she pulls a low blow: she indicates that it was really her sister driving her car that night.

The aftermath

I’ll be honest to say that there are a few of the last scenes that I’m forgetting here. I think Mary goes to confront her dad, then meets up with Lucy somehow. Anyway, then we got to the closing montage. In Fiasco, you accumulate dice throughout the game, some white, some black. At the end of the game, you roll them all, tally the blacks and the whites, then find the difference. The lower the difference, the worse your fate.

Now, two of us, Kindra and Keira, got 1: The worst possible – probably worse than death. This ended up with an aftermath something like this:

After play, Keira was arrested, and imprisoned through her sisters perjurous testimony. This is backed up by help from the Rev. Tabuno, whom Kindra has joined – we see her burn her D&D books under his supervision, and later, she is teaching at the Summer Camp, pregnant and married to Tabuno’s son (but who the actual father is, is more than questionable).

Joey serves time inside, and comes out to start over from the bottom of the pile.

And finally, Mary and Lucy both leave the clutches of the Reverend Mike Tabuno, and go off together into the sunset (more or less).

Closing thoughts

The game was a lot of fun. I wasn’t entirely happy with the amount of escalation we had – I think we were a bit too cautious, and we weren’t that good at driving towards conflict. Despite that, we had some cringe-worthy moments, and the story was very good. Fiasco is particularly good at giving a great starting point, and the tilt was a bit abstract, but good.

I think Fiasco is a game that needs some relatively experienced story gamers. But if you have that, you have the basis for a great story within approximately three hours. A great game what I can heartily recommend.

[Mountain Witch] Second Session

Tonight, we played the second of four sessions of Mountain Witch. On the whole, it went pretty well, even though we had a few kinks to work out – my players were slow to start using their Fates, and they need to get accustomed to narrating successes. On my part, I haven’t been good enough at setting good scenes, and I’ve been “fishing” far too little. It’s getting a bit late, but I’ll need to do it a lot the next two times.

The Game

We continued where we left off last time. Hitayoshi was on one side of a chasm with Pig Man, the guardian of the bridge, while the rest of the group was on the other.
The big group decided to try finding a way around the chasm. I sent an icy storm their way. They decided to try finding a cave to hide out in. One of them suggested she could use her tracking to find a trail leading to a cave. So, when they had a marginal failure (or was it a tie? I know I got to narrate, so it was one or the other), I used that to say that they found a set of badger trails leading into a cave, thus introducing my character the Badger. However, just as they found the cave, they suddenly hear a rumbling noise: an avalanche, coming to bar their way.
The avalanche was an attempt on my part to split them up, in order to use the so-called “Break and Rejoin” technique: splitting them up, sowing discord, then putting them back together. And it worked beautifully. They all tried to get to the cave before the avalanche struck. Their rolls varied, with Hayashi getting a mixed success, Kato and Futasawa getting partials or ties, and me getting mixed successes against Hidaka and Kurosawa. Hayashi narrated barely getting into the cave (he got a mixed success, and narrated my partial as a flesh wound), Kato and Futasawa ended up right outside the cave, and the last two were swept along on the avalanche, getting thrown off near a little house in the mountains.

Teatime all around

Meanwhile, Hitayoshi was left with an angry Pig Man. Pig Man scoffed at him, calling him a cheat, then turning around to go home, mumbling something about tea. Hitayoshi politely asked whether he might be allowed to buy a cup, to which the pig grudgingly consented.
They arrived at the house, with someone inside asking what Pig Man was doing back so early. Hitayoshi asked me who was standing there, and I asked him to tell me.
He explained that it was his old master, Musachi, who had been thought dead. In reality, he had been dying after the battle. He had lost an arm, and was fading quickly. Then, O-Yanma approached him, offering to heal him in return for his service. And so, now he was serving the Witch.
Hitayoshi then explained that he was there with a group of Ronin, hired to go after the Witch. He said he got along well with all of them, except one.
“What is his name,” Musachi asked.
“Kurosawa,” Hitayoshi replied.
“Kurosawa… that name is familiar to me.”
“Yes. He was the one who killed my family.”
Awesome! I hadn’t expected them to be so blunt about their Fates so early, but it was great to see their reactions: they all cast glances at Kurosawa, who looked a little unsure of how to react.
Hitayoshi and Musachi agreed that Hitayoshi should go offer his services to the Witch the next day.
In the other end of the mountain, Hayashi got his breath back inside the cave. Suddenly, he realised that there was light coming down the tunnel. Intrigued, he started going down towards the light.
Here, he saw a curtain setting a cave apart from the rest of the tunnel. Inside someone was moving around.
He politely introduced himself, seeing a man in a great big coat walking around inside. In a slip of the tounge, I called him “the Badger,” which was generally well received – my attempts at describing a badger-like person worked better, I think, now they all knew what I was getting at.
The Badger invited him for tea, while he explained his business. He said he’d been pretending to be on a mission to kill the Witch, while really, he was in O-Yanma’s employ, doing something for the witch in return for being helped away from Japan.
He was offered a place to stay the night, and the next day, the Badger agreed to take him up the tunnels to the Castle, in return for a small favour.
Next up were Hidaka and Kurosawa. They went up the path to the little house. Just as they were approaching the house, the door opened, and a woman in the door offered them to come in. Inside, the table was set for tea for three.
“Were you expecting visitors… other than us?” Hidaka wanted to know.
“We are three, and the table is set for three, is it not?” said the Fox (whom, of course, it was).
The Fox started to open negotiations for favours with the two, but Hidaka, having apparently been spooked by their host, closed down the talks immediately. She was only interested in being shown a way up to the castle.
I did use this opportunity to get Kurosawa to agree to owing her a favour. She then pointed to what had appeared to be a dense bush, through which a path now ran.

Snow Battles

Kato and Futasawa turned out to be the least lucky of the bunch. Instead of getting served tea, they were left out in the snow. At first, they tried digging through the snow to get to the cave, but they quickly gave that up. Instead they started up the slope towards the castle.
Blocking their way, however, was a group of snow spirits, dancing some weird kind of dance (I hadn’t thought of these in advance, so they weren’t very well thought out. But, ah well – they worked). Futasawa had “Meld with shadows” as an ability, so he tried sneaking past them. He got stuck along the way. Meanwhile, Kato wanted to sneak past them by going from tree to tree, but soon discovered (after a tied roll) that there weren’t enough trees.
Futasawa then tried diverting their attention by using a stone from his sling shot. I won, so I ruled that the snow spirits surrounded him, but that he wounded one of them with a stone.
Seeing that the snow spirits were occupied, Kato tried sprinting up the road. One of the spirits heard her, and ran after, leaving its two companions to deal with Futasawa.
Which they did in spades. He rolled a 1, deducted 1 from a wound, and ended up with 0. Meanwhile, I rolled a 6. A critical success – enough to take out a PC.
Futasawa had been swinging his sling when he was cornered. Now he let the stone fly, and hit one of the spirits on the cheek. It roared in pain. This started a snow-slide, dumping a ton or more of snow on top of Futasawa. Kato left him behind, presuming him dead. He will return next time – either he wakes up to take part in the game as a full part of the party, or he’s found by some patrol and brought into the castle to be tended, where some of his companions will doubtlessly run into him.
Kato ran up the path, away from the snow spirit. But suddenly, a big wall with a small gate in it blocked the way. She knocked on the door but no one answered, and the snow spirit caught up with her. She drew her sword and ran it through, killing it easily.
Hidaka and Kurosawa were walking up the path, when they suddenly heard someone coming up the path. They quickly hid in a bush. The soldiers, however, stopped right in front of their bush to rest, so the samurai threw a stone to distract them, then ran out with swords blazing. Hidaka grabbed a soldier from behind, taking off his head, while Kurosawa hit the other on the arm. The wounded soldier was enraged, trying to trample Kurosawa, who managed to wound it, before he was knocked to the ground. Hidaka killed the third soldier, then turned around and killed the last one.
The two then proceeded up the path, running into Kato just as the remaining two snow spirits came running up the path. They finished them easily, Hidaka (or Kato?) even getting a Double success. She explained that when she stuck her sword into the spirit, it melted, leaving behind a key to the locked gate that I had been refusing to have someone answer. They went back to look for Futasawa, but ended up leaving him for dead under the snow (I think I may have been “GMing” them into dropping their search, but I thought it far better to leave him under the snow than to have them drag him around).

Entering the castle

Next morning, all of them prepared to go into the castle. Hitayoshi was going with Musachi and Pig Man, who was going to report the destruction of the bridge, Hayashi was led by the Badger to a place right outside the main gate, and the remaining three were going in through the side gate.
Outside the main gate, the guards were unwilling to let a stranger like Hitayoshi in. Hayashi heard this, and came to his aid, explaining that O-Yanma would want to see Hitayoshi. A friendly relationship started forming between these two ronin, who were, at least seemingly, siding with the Witch.
Inside the castle, they met the frightful captain of the Watch, who smelled the dead Gaki on Hitayoshi. He defended himself, saying that he hadn’t wanted to kill the Gaki, but had to go along with his companions.
In another part of the castle, three other ronin came sneaking in through a side gate. They came into a courtyard, where many creatures seemed to be walking. They saw a patrol come walking towards them, when Kato suddenly narrated hearing someone hissing her name. The woman led them all into a little hut in the courtyard. Kato explained that this was her old accomplice, Oshiro, who had once before helped her.
And with that, we ended.

Thoughts

I haven’t been a good enough “fisherman,” only once getting something useful out of fishing. It’s a bit late now, but I’ll have to do something about it.
My players’ reactions to the way this game is run differs immensely. Some take to it, while at least one is trying hard to reject it. I’ll have to do an extra effort to get that last person to buy into the game. I’ll try luring her into starting her own Dark Fate – I think that’ll help her.
I could certainly run the rules better in many ways – but I think my main issue at the moment is forgetting to set clear stakes, and forgetting to set counter stakes to the players’. This means it’s often difficult to narrate a mixed successes, or any of my successes really, because it’s not clear what is a success for me. I think I’ll tell my players to help me out – I get too preoccupied with managing the flow of the game, making me forget setting stakes. If I can make them remember it for me, it would take a task away from me, and give them more of a buy-in in the rules, I think.
Something interesting is happening with Trust. The person giving out the most trust (Kato) is giving out 14, the least trustful (Hitayoshi) only 7. The players are spread throughout the spectrum with people giving out 7, 8, 9, 13, 13 and 14 trust. That seems like quite a span! Clearly, someone is getting along well with people while some are being distrustful.
The trust is really well spread out, however, with people getting 9, 10, 10, 11, 11 and 13 trust. Interestingly, Hitayoshi is the one getting the most trust. I think there may be a stance issue here: only one of them have spent time with him in the game, and so they think: “Well, my character has no reason to trust him less,” while they, as players, know what he’s been up to. Hopefully, he’ll use it against them.

Next time

I have a much better idea about what’s going to happen next time than I did last week. I want to split up Hidaka and Kato – they’ve been inseparable since the beginning; unfortunately, Oshiro can’t get them into the inner castle all together – how troublesome, eh?
Hitayoshi will go before the Witch or one of his minions, who will ask him to go back to the other under cover, ready to help the Witch against them. He’ll have to work together with Kurosawa. I may show them both a family being executed by the Witch’s minions, to ramp up the tension.
Kurosawa will be approached by the Fox, who will want him to make good on the favour he owes her. The favour will of course set him on a course to collide with one or more of his companions.
Hayashi, likewise will be badgered by the Badger, who wants him to do something for it. I am a bit unsure about Hayashi – what he’s said so far could indicate that his Fate might be both Unholy Pact and True Motives. I want to give him a bit of playing field to expand his Fate, before I decide where to ram in the knife.
Kato has dug her own grave. ‘Cause you can sure bet that Oshiro has agendas of her own – and she’ll expect Kato to help her out.
I am considering giving my NPCs actual goals they try to achieve. I know I want the Fox and the Badger to have a rivalry, sending the PCs to do their dirty work. I think I’ll adopt the Dream Hunters storyline, and make them fight over a monk who is in the Witch’s dungeon.
Apart from that, they are going to hear much more about the dead Gaki. Oh, am I going to press that for all it’s worth. Overall, loyalty to the Witch is starting to become a theme here – the Fox and the Badger both made half-hearted statements to the fact that the Witch is the lord here, while Musachi and Pig Man both fervently declared their loyalty to O-Yanma. I’ll do my best to make them doubt the Witch – is he a strict, but benevolent, ruler, or a capricious and cruel tyrant?
All in all, I’m satisfied enough with tonight. We’re too many, and we were missing one, which will be a problem next week as well if he shows up. But we are having fun, and I can see the potential in the game. I’ll want to play it with four or five players who are more accustomed to indie, and I’ll make them read the book in advance, so they have a better idea of what this game is about. I think it will help this game a lot to have players who have read the rules themselves, instead of depending on their GMs haphazard explanations.

[Mountain Witch] First Session

I just finished my first session of Mountain Witch. I’d expected to be playing with three players, but after a snap decision, I ended up with seven. Which is a lot, in particular for Mountain Witch.

Character creation took longer than I’d thought, but we ended up with a decent set of characters, as far as I could tell. Then, I explained the rules – too long-windedly – and we set off.

I first led my players into Aokigahara, the suicide woods at the foot of mount Fuji. Here, I tried – and failed – the “Mountain Witch trick,” also known as “fishing:” I said to one of them “You encounter a skeleton in the remains of a suit of armour. It bears the colours of a warlord – which one?” It didn’t get the response I hoped for. Most likely because the offer was too narrow and without enough emotion: I was being very specific about what I was angling for. Also, I chose one of the less experienced players, who, I think, was somewhat shell-shocked by being put in the spotlight. Ah, well – next time, I’ll try it again with something more suitable.

After that, they progressed down the path. Here, they encountered a wailing man with blood running down his kimono. He explained that he had tried committing suicide, but that O-Yanma (the Witch) had sent Gaki (ghouls) to take the heart, thus preventing him from dying properly, leaving him as a ghost like creature, unable to get the relief of death. After a brief argument (a couple wanted to press on – I liked the fact that they were already quarreling) they went up the path towards the Gaki lair.

They found the lair amidst a pile of bones and rotting corpses. Inside, the Gaki were dancing around, singing while eating their rotting feast. The players entered, and one of them ran immediately for one of the Gaki. He was thrown back, however, and the Gaki demanded to know why they were there. The players told them, and the Gaki mocked the man, explaining that he was a thief who’d stolen from O-Yanma and then tried to commit suicide rather than being captured. Having his heart stolen was his punishment, preventing him from an honorable death.

Here, things got delightfully out of hand. Some of the players attacked, while others held back and two actually rolled against the others (I hesitate to say they “helped” the Gaki – their goal was to prevent their comrades from attacking*). In the end, they slew the Gaki and put a sword through the still-beating heart they found in a bucket nearby. They then went back to the junction where they’d met the wailing man, and found a bloodstained kimono and an amulet. One of them took the amulet, then they trudged up the mountainside.

Next, they came upon a bridge with a huge pig-man guarding it.

“What’s your name, pig-man?” they asked.

“Pig Man,” he answered.**

He demanded to know who they were and what their business was. He was hesitant to let them pass, and in the end refused to let them. One of them challenged him to a blind-walking duel (he had blind walking as an ability). This, we did as a duel. I charged him after the second roll and got a Double Success. I described how the samurai got cocky and tried cheating by pushing Pig Man over the side. Pig Man was unbalanced, and bumped into the Ronin, knocking him over the side of the bridge, just being able to grab hold of the bridge (my stake). Besides, the weight of Pig Man falling over broke the bridge. Pig Man just managed to grab hold of the Ronin and drag him to the opposite side before the bridge collapsed, leaving six ronin on the lower side of the crevasse, and one ronin and Pig Man on the other.

*: Next time, I think I may want to play out something like this as a separate conflict – first, they must get through their friends, then they can attack the Gaki. That would have lessened the confusion, and underlined the strife amongst the ronin.

**: Pig Man is inspired by the character “Pigsy” from the old Chinese novel “Journey to the West.”

Next time:

  • I will  have someone confront the ronin about the fact that they ruthlessly slaughtered the Gaki on behalf of a gutless traitor.
  • I will try to split the Ronin up into smaller groups more than this time. Having seven ronin in a conflict is rather unwieldy. Besides, that way I’ll be better able to put spotlight on them
  • I must do my utmost to make them focus on their Fates a lot.
  • I will make the lone ronin meet someone from his past at the Witch’s outpost that Pig Man takes him to.

Things to reintroduce:

  • The necklace.
  • Pig Man
  • The slaughter of the Gaki.

Generally, I thought it went ok. But I am a bit nervous about having so many Dark Fates play out. I may want to kill off one or two of the characters relatively early.

IAWA: Bloody Cults

Tuesday, I finished a game of In A Wicked Age I started last week with my group in Ungdomsskolen. They really took to it, more than I have ever seen them take to any Indie game. My personal theory is that the PvP aspect has a lot to do with this – it gives you a reason to storytell, plus it underlines the sharing of narrating rights (in some of the other games, I think they have still looked to me to “GM” by telling them what happened). Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they are older, and that I have been regularly exposing them to this kind of things for a couple of years now.

The Setup for the game

I’m afraid I can’t give you all the specifics, as I haven’t got the papers we used with me. I’m recreating this to the best of my abilities.

We drew cards and consulted the “Sex and Blood” oracle (I played with three teenage boys, and I had maintained some silly notion that they would choose, say, God Kings of War. Who was I kidding?). We got:

  • The head priestess of a bloodthirsty cult.
  • The marriage of a girl to the dead stone figure of a harvest god.
  • A woman, denied love and family, heir to a long line of sorceresses and poisoners.
  • The graduation of a swordsmaster’s apprentice, and the waiting revelry.

This turned into the following PCs:

  • The Harvest god, wanting to have a child with the girl, and to take over the cult
  • The Bride to be, heir to a line of sorceresses, wanting to become the chieftain, and to see the apprentice fail.
  • The Apprentice, wanting to take the place of his master, and to craft a sword that could kill the god.

…and the following NPCs:

  • The Priestess of the cult, wanting to kill the girl, and to gain the apprentice as a willing slave.*
  • The Chieftain, wanting the god to leave the town.
  • The Swordsmaster, wanting to capture the girl’s powers in a sword

*: We had an extra player for the second session, so the priestess was turned into a PC for him to play.

The First Session

The game started as the Bride to be arrived at the temple, with the God hidden in her entourage as a master of ceremonies. The Chieftain arrived to “pay homage” to the God. As he was leaving the disguised God “accidentally” overheard him muttering some insult towards him. The God didn’t react (in general, the God played very passively, which turned out to work in his favour in many ways).

Cut to a clearing in the woods. The apprentice is gathering his thoughts on the test the next day, when a mysterious woman appears (the Priestess). She asks him about the tests, and offers to help him if he comes to the clearing at midnight.

There was a scene here with the girl in the temple, I think of her encountering the Swordsmaster, but I’m not sure.

Skip to midnight. The Apprentice meets up with the Priestess and her two servants, agreeing to owe her a favour for her aide (a magic potion that was to help him in his trial). Meanwhile, in the village, the Bride sneaked past the Swordsmaster to slip a love potion into his water, making him enamoured with her. Then she tried to escape.

On her way back from the ritual, the Priestess had a meeting with the God, exchanging nasty remarks and underlining the hostility between the two of them. Meanwhile, the apprentice saw a figure (the Bride) trying to escape, and tried to catch her, failing and straining his ankle, landing him harsh words from his master when he came  home.

In the woods, the Priestess happened upon the Bride, and, after a chase (lasting a couple of conflicts), she captured her and dragged her back to her temple.

The next day, the apprentice went to his graduation test, and failed miserably. After an argument with his master, the pupil swore him fealty for another three years. Meanwhile, the God visited the Chieftain, asking him to get him back his Bride. After an argument, he agreed to do so, if the God in return would swear to leave the village for good. He agreed.

The session ended with the apprentice meeting the Priestess, who offered to make him the master weaponsmith in her army. Only problem was, that he’d sworn fealty to his master. So, he’d have to kill his master first…

The Second Session

Having the priestess taken over by a player solved a dilemma I’d been trying to come up with a solution to: with the God asking the Chieftain to get the Bride back from the Priestess, to NPCs were pitted against each other, meaning I would have had to play a scene against myself. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

The Chieftain went to the temple of the Priestess, beat down the Priestess, and got the Bride out of her cell. As he tried to take her with her, the Priestess assaulted him, he beat her unconscious, after which the bride attacked him, trying to kill him.

Meanwhile, the God came to the Swordmaster, offering him anything he desired, if he’d kill the Priestess. He accepted, and went on his way. The apprentice, though, followed. The Master discovered him, and killed him for his treachery.

And so it was that the God and the Swordmaster arrived at roughly the same time at the temple where the Chieftain, the Priestess and the Bride were in conflict. The Priestess promised the God loyalty if he’d let her live, and he told the swordmaster that he’d have his wish, even if he let the Priestess live.

The entire party went down to the temple. The God was about to consummate the marriage, when the Bride broke free of his grasp, and plummeted into his holy basin. On the way, she broke one of her bottles of love potion on the side, so that the water was laced with the magic potion. The Priestess tried to kill the Bride, but instead, she swallowed some of the water. The Bride was killed by the combined efforts of the Swordsmaster, the God (who had promised her soul to the swordsmaster) and the Chieftain. In the end, the Bride and the Priestess were killed, and the God left the village.

The end

Thoughts in hindsight

This is the second time I’ve played IAWA. The first time it seemed to be running itself to a wide extent, without the GM taking a more controlling role than the rest of us, even if he did have two characters, as opposed to the rest of us. This time, however, I felt like I was really running it – not that I was running it like a regular game. Most of the time, I’d be leaving the scene setting to the players, simply asking: What are you doing now? But still, I felt like I was manipulating them a lot, deciding who would go when and steering them when it came to conflicting – especially negotiating consequences. I’m not proud to say it, but I have a feeling that may be part of the reason why my characters (the Swordsmaster and the Chieftain, and the Priestess in the first session) were the ones who fared the best.

Another reason may have been that I was relentlessly driving towards my Best interests, to a much higher extent than my players. I would almost always allow them to set the scene, but whenever my characters had a chance, I’d have them go for their Interests. The players, even though they had the initiative, would often set scenes that were somewhat directionless, and not moving them towards their interests.

Much of the time, especially in the first session, we had only a few conflicts. I have a feeling that may have got something to do with the above: because the players weren’t driving towards their interests, we weren’t getting into the kinds of situations where their intentions would clash. I did do a lot to try to provoke that, giving them opportunities to move against each other, but they didn’t grasp them as often as I would have liked.

That’s not to say it wasn’t a great game. We had a lot of fun, and I relished the experience of them taking over as much of the story as they did. I need to find more of this kind of PvP games to throw at them – suggestions are welcome!

As I said, this was my second time playing IAWA. It was my first time as a GM, though, and the first time playing it after having actually read the book. Now, most of the book is ok, with descriptions of how the rules work. But the most essential rules, and the ones you will most have to rapidly reference, the dice-mechanics, are only described through examples. I think I ended up running the game almost according to the book – but I am far from certain. This is really a shame: the game is great, but the communication of it makes it hard to get to. This won’t prevent me from playing it again. But it will mean that I will be less likely to introduce it to players who haven’t played it before, because I need to be well enough prepared to be able to run it without consulting the book on the spot.

S/Lay w/Me: At the precipice of Hell

Last night, Oliver and I ventured into the bold, uncharted lands of Ron Edward’s “S/Lay w/Me,” a two-person game of short, Sword&Sorcery stories. We played two games, the first with me playing “I,” the second with Oliver in that role (for those unfamiliar with the game, “I” is the player responsible for creating a lover and a monster for the “You” player’s Hero; the game text is formulated in the first person from the point-of-view of the “I”).

Preparations

The game starts with “You” making a very brief character by reading a short, ritual statement, then choosing a brief character concept which is fleshed out by a ten-word description of the Hero’s physical appearance. “You” then chooses a general setting from a list of one-line descriptions, which it is then up to “I” to flesh out. Finally, “You” chooses a Goal that he wishes to obtain.

Oliver chose the concept “I am a scholar with my head spinning with knowledge and wisdom, but I am still able to kill,” and described himself as “a monk in flowing robes with steel gauntlets.” He chose the location “what remains from when they tried to dig to hell,” and the goal “the bones of a fallen angel.” Thus, he handed the reins over to me.

The “I” then fleshes out the location, and creates a lover and a monster for the Hero to deal with. “I” also sets a Lover score (the number of times the player can script “Goes” aimed at the lover) and a Monster Score (the number of dice “I” can roll before the “Match” ends – see below).

I described the location like this:

The city of Honour’s Gate, built underground as a base for the Apostle King’s failed crusade on Hell. Today, the city is inhabited by the degenerate progeny of the diggers, called the dross, and by a cadre of angels, standing guard by the gate to the abyss.

The Lover:

The Angel, Seraphina, who is a low ranking angel in the guard. She is old, but does not know anything about love – because she has only met the degenerate dross. She knows, that if she loves a mortal, she will thrown from Heaven’s Grace.

In game terms, she loved him: Innocent, Forbidden, Open-Hearted, Knowledgable. Her score was 2.

The monster:

The Demon Raniel, who is a fallen angel. For a thousand years since the battle in the abyss, he has waited. But now, the Prince of Hell has given him the chance to leave it – in return for opening the way for the hordes of Hell. Fast, Deceit, Civil, Singly. Score: 5

Some parts of the Lover and Monster was changed during the cause of the game as the story evovled. For instance, Raniel changed name (Raniel is his final name) and was suddenly acting alongside his brother, Aramiel (which, I guess, would mean he was acting “in a group”).

Playing it out

I started the game by simply reading out my description of the location. Oliver then described how his Brother of the Steely Hand ( a name which appeared during play) arrived as part of a company of pilgrims travelling to the point of this holy war. We had a little negotiation, as I had thought of it as a monument of shame to the Apostle King’s hybris. We agreed that the pilgrimmage was an act of rememberance and penance for the shame of the forefathers.

I then set the first go (which must somehow contain the lover, though “I” am not required to tell who it is).

The company has been trecking downwards for a couple of days underground. In the tunnel, magically glowing crystals have been mounted to light the way. But in the thousand years since the age of the Apostle King, many of them have dimmed or gone out, leaving long stretches in complete darkness.

Now, the pilgrims see a light of a different hue: ahead, they are approaching the gates of Honour’s Gate, lit by huge torches, as well as by the flames from the raised swords of the angelic guard at the gate.

At the gate, the pilgrim’s giude raises his iron-bound staff and pounds on the gate. A trio of angels decent upon them, one male and two female – one with red hair, like the flames of her blade, and one impossibly bright, with hair as fair as light (the Lover).

The two females go around the group, fixing each in turn with her gaze, then returning to their sergeant, pronouncing their half to be of pure intentions.

Olivers Go: The pilgrims proceed to the centre of the city, to the great Seal that has been erected on top of the shaft that leads to the battleground at the border of hell. Here, each pilgrim deposits a stone he has carried from his home, both as a sign of the burden of guilt carried by all of them, and as a symbolic gesture to keep the Seal to Hell firmly in place.

My go: Around the Seal, six angels pace. They go, evenly spaced, every second looking inwards at the Seal, to prevent anything from passing it from below, every second looking outwards, to prevent anyone from the crowds of pilgrim and dross from approaching the seal.

Suddenly, a stone lands feebly quite close to the monk. On of the outwards looking angels immidiately spots the culprit, and grasps the guilty dross by his throat, holding him several feet from the ground.

The monk gets to the ground, and asks the angel to have mercy on the dross. The angel tells the dross that he will temper his justice with the offended party’s mercy – but that the wretched creature should not expect such leniency in the future. The Monk then retreats from the Seal.

Finding a way

Oliver’s go: The Monk goes to one of the bridges up to the angel’s bastion, hanging above the seal, at the top of the cave in which Honour’s Gate is built. He proceeds up one of the narrow marble bridges that lead to the bastion, and ask the angelic guards at the gate for an audience with the captain of the angelic contingent, Adamantus.

Adamantus receives him in an amphitheatre in the bottom of the bastion. At the centre is a whole, through which hangs the great crystal which is the main source of light in Honour’s Gate.

The Monk asks Adamantus for permission to go past the Seal to recover the bones of the Angel. Adamantus refuses his request blankly, berating him and his order for thinking they have any right or duty to castigate the fallen angel – an angel’s duties are to the Lord alone! [Thus starteth the match!]

My go: We now zoom from the closeup of the haughty Adamantus down through the hole, past the crystal, and down to the Seal below. The six guards are going their prescribed rounds, not letting a thing get past their attention. Suddenly, one of the mounds of rocks on the seal collapses, stone tumbling down its side. The closest inwards looking angel fixes it with its gaze.

But while he is looking intensely at the fallen pile, a small stream of glowing embers and flames flows out from under the Seal. It flows under the cowl of one of the pilgrims, who spasms, as if in rapture. Then, he rises and leaves, his eyes glowing red under the cowl.

Oliver’s go: Though having been denied by the angels, the Monk does not cease his attempts to go past the Seal. Instead, he seeks out the other group resident in Honour’s Gate: the dross.

Going into a dross neighbourhood, he is quiclky accosted by a gang of dross, telling him to give up his valuables. He objects that he is a monk, sworn to poverty – but the dross counter by pointing out his robes, made of sturdy, new cloth, and his gloves of the finest steel.

He then states his purpose with going into their neighbourhood. The dross quickly change their attitude, and they take him to a cave down a narrow corridor. Here, the leader of the pack turns out to be the King of the Dross, who is more than willing to give him what he wants – provided he will perfom a small favour in return.

The dross king tells him how his forefather was the chief engineer responsible for the tunnel to Hell. He had a censer, which he unfortunately had to leave behind when he had to flee for his life out of the tunnel. If only the monk could bring this with him back, the king would gladly ensure the passage. The monk is told to appear at the Temple of the Twenty Columns four hours later.

Meeting the Lover

My go: As the monk is leaving the Dross, I decide to reintroduce the lover.

As he walks down the streets towards the Halls of the Pilgrims, glowing red eyes are staring at the Monk. A cowled figure starts following him, and is reaching out to grasp him from behind. Suddenly, Seraphina swoops out of the sky to cut down the former pilgrim.

Oliver’s Go: The angel and the monk go alongside each other to the Halls of the Pilgrims. Outside they sit down, talking until the monk has to leave to go to his meeting. He parts with hoping they will meet again.

My go: …but all is not well. The head of the slain pilgrim-turned-demon suddenly ignites, and, hiding in the torches along the way, follows the angel and the monk. As the monk turns away, it flows over and hides in the flames of Seraphina’s sword.

Down the Hellhole

Oliver’s go: The monk now meets up with the dross king and his cohort in the Temple of Twenty Columns. In the floor is a hidden trapdoor. Underneath is a tunnel, leading to a smaller, cobbled together looking relative of the grand Seal above.

Two Dross mystics open the Seal to let the monk through. Before he passes, the dross king reminds him that he will not be allowed through without the censer.

Outside is the immense expanse of the bore hole. Straight down it goes, with only two (seemingly) small paths leading down the side. The monk proceeds towards the bottom.

My go: The monk walks downwards for what could be hours or days – time flows strangely here. He passes skeletons both human and otherwise – and close to the top are several skeletons, and even a few rotting corpses of what appears to be dross.

He reaches the bottom. Here, everything is covered in piles of debris from the horrible war. Whole hills and paths are formed by the piles of bones and armour of the fallen.

Suddenly, from behind a pile of bones steps Raniel. He sneaks up behind the Monk, and moves to strike him. But the monk hears him, and catches the sword in his gauntlets. He is thrown clear by the force of the blow.

Oliver’s go: the monk and the fallen angel battle amongst the debris. Suddenly, they turn a corner – and there is the Chariot of Aramiel, and with it, the remains of the fallen angel.

My Go: Above, Aramiel’s soul splinter has acted. When Seraphina looks at her sword, it bewitches her, causing her to follow the monk. She discovers the Seal of the dross, flies into a rage, kills the mystics and jumps into the hole beyond. Here, she starts to fall, landing on top of Aramiel’s Chariot.

[This was the end of the Match. Oliver had won, earning two good dice. He chose to save Seraphina, leaving Remiel free and himself wounded. Seraphina would leave with him]

Raniel knocks the monk away, and starts the ritual that will reincarnate Aramiel in Seraphina’s body. All the bones dissolve, and flow into Seraphina.

But the monk is not out of the picture. He overpowers Remiel from behind, interrupting the ritual. Then, he presses the palm of his gautlet with the holy symbol of his order impressed on the metal, into the hole in Seraphina’s chest. The gauntlet, hot from Remiels fire, brands Seraphina, closing her wound.

Enraged, the five splinters of Aramiel’s soul grasps the monk, burning him with their fire. At this, Seraphia awakens. She jumps up, cutting the flaming tendrils with her sword. The monk falls into her grasp, badly burned and barely conscious.

Seraphina jums up, flying upwards on her burnt wings. She goes out through the hole where the dross had their seal, and comes out onto the square of the great Seal. A great crowd of pilgrims and dross gather, looking at the spectacle, and down the hole where the two came out, until three angels force them away. Adamantus flies down, landing at a building and coldly observing Seraphina and the monk – she has removed herself from the Lord’s grace, as far as he is concerned.

But unseen to anyone, the last pilgim suddenly spasms. He stands up, and leaves the area, Raniel’s eyes glowing through the cowl.

In the end, Seraphina and the monk leave, the angel supporting the monk who is wrapped like a mummy underneath his robes.

Thoughts on this round

This was our first round, and had to sort of feel our way around.

Oliver had made a Hero who was unlikely to ever engage with any lover – a chaste monk. To go with this, I’d made a chaste angel… not the best combo. In fact, I think you should strive for both heros and lovers who are not actively against sexual interaction.

We seemed to be going through the goes very rapidly. This may partly be because a Go is only vaguely decribed as a “significant, forward-moving event.” In the end (after both games) I came to the conclusion that we needed to think it as setting an entire scene, stating, to ourself or to the other “this is what happens at the end of this scene.”

And there is probably more – but I don’t remember, and I have another post to write about this. So, until next time.

[PR] Geiger Counter: Frigid Fear

I just came home (this thing was written 24 hours ago, but only published now) from playing a game of Geiger Counter. We were five people: Ole, Andreas, Oliver, Jacob and me. We enjoyed the game a lot, and everybody was more than willing to give it another go sometime. Oliver is going to write a play report as well, hopefully including a scan of our map.

For those who don’t know it, Geiger counter is a storygame in which you jointly tell a survival horror film, along the lines of the Alien films, 30 Days of Night, the Sphere, or a host of other, marginally similar films. The idea is that you have a cast of characters, most of whom are going to die, up against a “menace,” that is, some kind of nonhuman threat that is going to increase its threat trough the film, then be fought down by the surviving protagonists. You take turns as the director, framing scenes, as well as being responsible for one main character each.

We had a long brainstorming session, finding different elements that we wanted to include. Andreas wanted a zombie game, I was quite intent on playing something with cramped spaceship corridors, and Oliver wanted “body horror.” Then, someone (I think it was Oliver) mentioned radioactivity, and we started riffing on nuclear plants. I said research station, then suddenly, someone said old Russian base under the Ural lake (or something along those lines). In the end, this is what we came up with:

  • The movie is set on an underwater research base under Antarctica.
  • The base had been closed and forgotten when the USSR collapsed. Now, it’s been reopened.
  • The menace is some Cthuloid thing, with plenty of tentacles, spawned from experiments made back then, and inadvertantly released by the new scientists.

The characters were as follows:

  • Vasilli Gregorin(Oliver): A russian bureaucrat, intent on keeping the base running.
  • Michael Lloyd Adamson (Jacob): A Canadian marine biologist who wanted to open up the secrets contained in the station.
  • Jorge Dreyer (Ole): An Argentinian of German decent, Jorge was the security chief who wanted to get out of there alive.
  • Captain Yankowich (Andreas): A russian naval captain who wanted to make sure the Russian secrets contained within the base never saw the light of day.
  • Dr. Ramin Zanjani (me): An Iranian doctor, who was looking for certain secrets to take with him from the base. I considered making it plans for a nuclear plant, but didn’t think it fitted him. On the other hand, the way it ended up was far too goody two-shoesy.

We made survival dice be some characteristic about the character that would make him strive to survive. Mine, for instance, was his rock-fast believe that the world WORKS, provided by a synthesis of his Islamic beliefs in a higher order, and his scientific beliefs in a logical, sensible world. Others had stubbornness, selfish self preservation, and a curiosity making it imperative for him to find out MORE.

Trailer

The trailer started on the surface, graduately zooming in on the base, maybe showing the nuclear reactor. I missed a voiceover or some dialogue, but in the end it turned out fine. After that, we tried coming up with a good name, eventually settling on my suggestion, “Frigid Fear.”

The game itself

The game then proceeded to the preview. Here, two Russian scientists were walking about the storage of the underwater base, stumbling upon a box they didn’t know. They open it, and light pours out. The screen “shatters;” opening credits.

The next scene was the three characters coming down from the surface (Andreas, Jacob and me) coming towards the base in a submarine. After that, we had a scene with me being rushed to the scene where one of the scientists had been killed and the other had vanished. I took a look at him, then rushed off to the med-bay. Then I framed an alternate shot of the same, seen from a dark corridor, a pov shot from “something” slithering about at floor height.

[In retrospect, the opening scenes were not that good. We should much rather have framed the scene when the newcomers arrived at the base, thus having an opening scene of everyone. This way, Oliver wasn’t properly introduced to the plot untill relatively late in the game.]

After that, Andreas discovered some strange marks on a wall. Discounting it as rat markings, he orderd a goon to fix it, then went to the submarine bay, where he and Ole had a row, because Ole had ordered his men to load Andreas’ submarine. As a matter of fact, Andreas’ character would have wanted to do the same thing. But out of stubbornness, he countered Ole’s orders, and the submarine was unloaded again. Then, after I’d had a row with Ole and Oliver over gaining access to dead crew’s files and quarters (something I really wanted in order to be able to spy), Andreas and a goon found one of the dead scientists sticking out of a hole in the wall. When the goon tried pulling the scientist out, he was suddenly being pulled in instead, and Andreas failed to save him, instead finding himself Lost in the corridors.

Jacob went to the lab, and talked to a female scientist. She showed him a new kind of sea urchin they had found that had developed a very lethal toxin. We had a great scene with me (as the scientist) describing the effects, and Oliver (as direcor) cutting to shots of a goon suffering the effects.

After a scene of Oliver not noticing the lost Andreas on his surveillance screens, the poisoned goon arrived in the lab. I went to Oliver to show him; in the meantime, Jacob arrived in the lab and started examining the dead goon, when something sprang from the dead flesh and at him. He won the confrontation, and was able to get the mask off, before it could reach him.

When I returned Jacob and I examined the thing, discovered its cells were mineral in nature, then being attacked by the dead corpses that had arisen, animated by the Meanace. Using the medical equipment, including a saw and a laser cutter, we fought our way out.

Meanwhile, Andreas saw something going into the reactor room and down into the reactor water. Ole and Oliver arrived, and tried getting him out of there. Andreas won a conflict with Ole, and Ole became Hysterical when he saw what was down there.

Out in the corridor, Jacob and I, still chased by the creatures from the Med-Lab, suddenly ran into another monster. We tried running on each side of it, but we lost, and I was injured, Jacob had the corridor be Overrun. We barely managed to fight our way into the reactor room.

In the reactor, Oliver, Jacob and I were attacked by the Menace. We lost. Ole hit the emergency button, then left in a hurry, while Oliver was presumed dead, I was Alone on the other side of the containment doors, with the overrun corridor on the other side, and Jacob was Trapped in the reactor room.

Jacob had an encounter with one of the reanimated creatures, beating it soundly with the crane for lifting out the fuel rods, then spotting some sea urchins down in the reactor water. Andreas made Ole pull together, then they armed and gathered their goons, and set out down the corridor to rescue me. They failed, however, making the storage area from the prelude become Overrun as well. This, however, allowed me to leave while the beasts were engaged, and go to the lab. Here, the computer was done analysing the urcin’s toxin, and I could start working on something to fight the creatures, while looking for the documents I had really come there for.

Oliver woke up from being “dead,” and saw Jacob fotographing the things in the reactor. He tried getting the camera from Jacob, so he wouldn’t reveal the problems in the base, but lost becoming “hysterical” (we interpreted this as him losing all hope). Meanwhile, I encountered Andreas, who was going to destroy all the research. I’d just finished the “menace repellent,” but he wouldn’t listen, and just wanted to destroy everything. In the end, I tried attacking him with the toxin, but he shot me, and burned everything in the lab. (We had planned this scene, so that, no matter what, one of us would get our goal in that scene).

Ole and his goons made a barricade in the storage, but were all killed, Ole being turned into a mutant. Oliver set the reactor up for meltdown, then they all got ready to leave in the sub. (The sub-bay had been blocked by me earlier, but they found a way to get out).

While they were leaving, the hive mother suddenly left the reactor where she’s been living, exiting the base through a panorama room with all sorts of aquariums and Soviet memorabilia, all of which was destroyed when the creature crushed the glass of the room, and the water swept in.

Back in the subbay, they encountered Ole’s character as a monster, before finally leaving in the sub. They fought the creature with the sub, first using it’s robot arms to cut its tentacles, then raming it, thus killing it when it was cought in the explosion of the dying base.

Andreas, Oliver and Jacob all made it to the top. However, Oliver wanted his character to die, and the Menace still had a die left. So I scripted Ole’s revenant character coming up, eating Oliver, then attacking Jacob, who gave it a sound thrashing. The end.

Or rather… there are still a few sea urchins attached to the bottom of the ship…

Thoughts

We all really liked the game. However:

  • The condition “overrun” is too hardcore. A minus 2 to all rolls effectively means that the meanace is unbeatable, making it impossible to beat the menace there. As that is the buyoff, a location being overrun effectively makes it unusable for the rest of the game. The minus should be reduced to 1, so it is easier to beat. Or maybe the buyof should be changed – all the other conditions can be bought off with play and not with dice, but Overrun needs dice to be bought off.
  • We interpreted “Hysterical” very liberally, as paranoid, broked, etc. However, it might be a good idea with more psychic conditions, so that you can more easily have non-physical conflicts.
  • We took too long to start fighting the menace. That meant that none of us got any conditions until the second half of the game, and that too many characters survived. It also meant that we didn’t define aids till very late in the game.
  • We learned how important it is for the Director to set his scenes very sharply: He needs to set it quickly, and be very specific about the purpose of the game. What are we trying to accomplish, here?
  • It really helped that someone were keeping track of the Menace and the secondary characters, so that we alway knew what was established. We need to do that even more. For instance, we had a great secondary character that only appeared in one scene. Maybe you need something corresponding to the map where you can draw every secondary character you introduce?
  • We had two locations called “nondescript corridors” (though one quickly contained the creatures’ lair). However, we made the mistace of attaching them to other rooms, thus turning the map into a physical map, instead of just a visual index of locations encounters. Next time, things like the corridors and roads should maybe somewhere where you’re not tempted to connect it to other rooms – becase that ties our hands, and makes it difficult to set new locations. And, really, it’s not that important WHERE the corridor is, as long as we know it’s a corridor.

All in all, Geiger Counter is a good game, and one we’re likely to try again. One thought for the next edition, though: the rules needs more explanation. As it is, many rules are only properly explained in the examples, making it difficult to quickly find a rule.

Thus ends my report on last nights game. I am happy to say that Geiger counter lived up to the hype online.

Allnighter: Imperiet

After our pizza dinner, I set down with four players to play Imnperiet. We agreed on two humerous games: “The Butter Forger” by Olle J0nsson and “Averland Averessen” by Johannes Busted.

Averland Abendessen

We started out with Johannes’ game. Quickly arranging a “kitchen” out of tables, we placed dice around the place to be readily available. The game is organised into four timed “courses,” each including a number of suggested scenes to play. I started each course by reading the menu, and asking them, what their characers were doing at that exact moment. Then I would count down, starting play. We did it “semi-larp”-style, playing out most things, but narrating a lot of things. I would tell them when things woould happen, then they would react. At a certain point they would roll the dice, attempting to vanquish the opposition.

The game was a big success. Most of the time, we had people running around, shouting, screaming, sweating. Pretty soon, they would start doing things when I was paying attention to someone else or the trying to decide what to do next, just as I soon lost all count of their dicerolling. In the end, we were tired, sweaty, and sore with laughter.

We did have some critiques, however – listed here, as far as I can remember them, along with other pieces of advice and shareworthy experience:

  • Johs suggests running several scenes at once – but playing semi-larp and with only one GM, that seemed almolst copmpletely impossible. I tried it in the beginning, but in the end, I had enough just trying to keep up with running one scene at a time. An assisting GM /NPC-player would have been ideal, freeing me to narrate and moderate the game, instead of jumping between playing and moderating.
  • We had saved a number of lids from pizza trays. These were priceless as “trays” for the players to imitate carrying things.
  • The characters were far too busy to ever develop their personal plots. They requested a bit of calm to enable them to talk a bit and to catch up to the pace.
  • Some suggested plots involving the character’s internal relationships might have been appropriate – maybe telling Rofus (the chef) “Geo (the cook) is cutting the carrots in uneven slices.”
  • The Skaven events were impersonal, and needed a bit of a twist. I liked how it (and most of the other plots) escalated during play – but you needed something that made a bit more sense, even if it was the “buffer plot,” being something you could always introduce several times in the same course.
  • The characters were not ideally suited to this kind of fast play. By the time Tomas von Grieg, the poetry lover, enters the kitchen, Geo’s player had completely forgotten that HE wrote those poems. Maybe characters written mostly in bullets, might have been better, pointing out very clearly which points were important. This would also help the GM to tailour plots to each character.

But in the end, we really enjoyed Averland Averessen. Props to Johs.

The Butter Forger

The next game didn’t quite live up to the first. We set up a courtroom and went through a number of witnesses, but when one player had to leave after 45 minutes, we decided to stop. We just weren’t having a lot of fun, though were were laughing a bit.

On one hand, this surprised me – I thought the buzz was, that the Butter Forger was one of the games that people had really liked from Imperiet. On the other hand, I didn’t find it the least bit odd – when I read the scenario, I could never envision how the game could really work.

One part of the problem was of course, that the prosecuter and the defence attourney didn’t really get into the characters, not even once shouting “objection!” And their questioning of the witnesses weren’t the sharpest I’ve seen. On the other hand, I think Ole very firmly put his finger on the problem when he said: “What’s the point? The game clearly states that he’s guilty – so why are we doing this? There is nothing to help us achive a curve of intensity, no guide to what we should attempt to play for.” The point of the game seems to be in the comedy of the witnesses – but comedy with out direction and purpose has about as much bite as butter dentures – forged or not.