Posts Tagged ‘play report’

[In the Shadow of the Mountain] Fourth Session – Tension in the Mountain

After the long wait between the third and the fourth session, we have scheduled a session for Monday, and hopefully, we can schedule one in another few weeks. And so, here’s the

This one saw some interesting developments in the dynamics between the characters. The first two sessions had Maki in the hold and Spider in the mountain, with Smith going back and forth between them. Third session was filled with action, and had them all running back and forth across the hold and out to the mountain, playing up against a number of npc’s.

This time, on the other hand, they were all pent up in the caves, waiting for Ron to arrive (cue the Waiting for Godot references). This meant a lot of back and forth, and caused a couple of conflicts that they couldn’t solve through distance, particularly between Maki and Spider. The Hardholder and the Hocus had some interesting showdowns, with Maki trying to keep his domain together while Spider keeps strictly to the rules of his cult.

During the post-play debriefing, I discovered that Maki had had significantly fewer advances than the other two. One reason for that is that he doesn’t write summaries of the session. But another is the fact that Maki’s player is used to talking his way through roleplaying instead of rolling dice. Apparently, I haven’t been good enough at demanding rolls from him – also because the first two sessions provided more opportunities for diplomacy for him, so he wriggled his way around rolling the dice. Hopefully, that will change from now on as his play becomes a bit more martial.

Anyway, here’s the summary. I think I’ll write some love letters for next session; they will probably come up together with the next summary.

Summary of the fourth session

Spider, Maki and Smith are looking at the wreckage of Maki’s hardhold, and the heads of the people that Maki left in charge. They go back to get the men, and on the way back they met Mill, the foreman of the sulphur mines, and Mill’s second in command, Harrow. Maki explains the situation when Mill complains about the delay of supplies to the mines, and they take Mill and Harrow back to the caves.
Maki asks Spider to feed the miners and Spider agrees, on the condition that the miners participate in his services. Mill refuses to participate in Spider’s cult sermons and prayers, but Spider refuses to capitulate. Maki and Mill get into an argument because of this, and Maki threatens Mill. Mill agrees to hole up in the mine for the time being.
Smith goes to keep a lookout for Ron on the side of the mountain. He will make a humming noise with his homemade hummer when he sees Ron coming so that the others have more time to prepare.
One of the new children in the cult gets into a fight with Trout, and Spider has to break it up. He sends the mother of the troublemaking child to some of the other cult women with an infusion, he gives her son a toy, and rewards Trout with a piece of fruit and a commendation.
While out scouting, Smith runs into the cult of the moon. They surround him and their leader, Desert Eagle, speaks to him. He lies and tells her that he dislikes the Sorrow cult and is trying to get away from them. He tells her that there is trouble in Harren Hold. She invites him to supper but he declines. She inquires about Herren Hold and he tells her something of the fight – he doesn’t tell her that Maki is dead but he tells her that Maki is down in town, being a part of the fight.
That evening Spider reaches into the world’s psychic maelstrom to influence the miners and convince them that it’s better to come to bear the indignities and suffer through his service than it is to go hungry.
While this is happening, more men in animal masks come to attack the cave. They’re not expecting a lot of resistance and are surprised by Maki’s superior guard. Maki goes to assist the fight and succeeds in driving them back, but Jakabaka gets shot and one of Spider’s cultists gets killed. They kill one of the opponents and find that he wears a moon necklace. Spider attempts to gather information by opening his brain to the psychic maelstrom. He sees a spider that goes up to a fly and sucks it dry, then begins to walk towards him, sprouting wings as it approaches.
Smith, on lookout, also opens his brain. He sees a dog in Harren Hold, holding another dog by the throat and tearing at its flesh. The dog looks confused and frightened once it has killed the other dog, however.
While Smith is opening his brain, Nemo sits down beside him, and they converse. Nemo draws parallels between Smith and himself, belittling Maki and Spider.
In the morning Maki goes to the sulphur mines with bread stolen from Spider’s stores. Mill tells Maki that he wants to go down to the cave after all, and they go down together with the miners.
Spider tries to find Ron, and senses that Ron is on his way with a large-ish gang. The gang is elated and cocksure.
Smith goes back into the maelstrom to find out more about Nemo. Instead, he finds hardholders dancing to a shadowy puppetmaster.
Spider sees Thrice carrying a box of food from his cult stores toward the back of the caves. He confronts her but she tries to go around him. He shoves her and takes the box of food, knocking Thrice to the ground and pulling her out of her reverie. Maki comes running and gets into an argument with Spider over Spider’s treatment of Thrice. On his lookout, Smith sees Spider cut the strings of the puppetmaster with a large knife and blood pours from the strings, leaving Thrice helpless on the ground. As he comes to, Smith sees a dust cloud growing on the horizon.

 

[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] 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.

The Empires Strike back – also, Geiger counts again.

I am currently teaching a group of 9th and 10th graders roleplaying games (though I’m interpreting it very broadly, and including a lot of board games). This week, I had three (almost – more like 2½) whole days – so now was the chance to do something with a longer scope than the usual three hours every Monday. So Tuesday, I had them play Geiger counter, while Thursday, I had three of them run a short story from either Imperiet or Imperiet 40k each, with the others rotating between the three games.

Zombies in inner Copenhagen, and Werewolves in Miller’s Hollow

Tuesday, they played Geiger Counter. Turned out we had just about enough time to do it, then talk about it afterwards.

One group started out with a great idea: to convert Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow into a Geiger Counter game. That group had most of the strong players in the class, so I left them to their own devices, and they seemed to do pretty well.

The other group consisted of mostly inexperienced and weak players, so I decided that I needed to nurse them quite a bit. In the end, I was faced with a dilemma: to what extent should I coach and coax them into playing the game how I thought they should play it, and to what extent should I allow them to play on their own, and experience the game on their own. I think I was rather controlling; on the other hand, I feel like it was my duty to make sure everyone was having fun, and when  someone fails at setting a scene in Geiger Counter, they risk taking the story down a road that’s unsatisfying for someone else, and can leave a story thread hanging unresolved and unresolvable. So I felt justified at the time, though I have since been wondering whether I was doing it wrong.

New hope

For Thursday, I had asked three of the more promising students to prepare three different short scenarios: Averheim Averessen by Johannes Busted Larsen from Imperiet, and Hendes Mørke Skønhed by Morten Greis and Under my Hive by yours truly from Imperiet 40k.

Hendes Mørke Skønhed went very well, as I knew it would. First of all, I had given it to the strongest of the GMs: a guy who’s big and mature, and is doing a performance line here – so I knew he could do both the whispering and the screaming, the two things that, to my mind, makes the scenario great and lifts it over a mere dicefest. It’s a scenario that uses some cheap tricks to great effect: though it is not really a “semi-larp,” it assigns in-game effects to how you act at the table. At times, you need to be quiet, or more aliens will arrive, at other times, you need to scream and make gun noises to get dice. It makes for a great effect, and I wasn’t particularly surprised when all my students seemed to have enjoyed it.

Averheim Averessen went pretty well as well. This scenario lives off of stress and confusion. It should be played as semi-larp, with everybody doing something all at once. The scenario instates real-time limits to its scenes, and asks for hectic activity within these time limits. Add to that that the action is often completely ridiculous, and it is a sure comic hit.

And finally, Under My Hive. I have a very ambivalent relationship to this scenario. As far as I know, it only got played once at Fastaval that year. On the other hand, that group apparently really enjoyed it. I have run it once myself, last year at around this time, when Hyggemester David asked me to put it up as an intro scenario for Hyggecon. I think people enjoyed it, but I didn’t get a whole lot of feedback. My group certainly went ok.

So, it was with mixed feelings I gave it over to a student to run. And unfortunately, he didn’t quite get it – and his first group of players didn’t, either. Under my hive is a story telling  game. The game revolves around a Russian roulette motif, but the real game is the memories the players have to tell every time they get the gun, asking them to explain why this town is worth fighting for, why they hate their opponents, or how they have made the town less attractive to the opponents. It’s a rather cerebral exercise, and if you aren’t used to telling stories in roleplaying, it can be difficult. And so, the first group played it as a Russian roulette game, and were done within half an hour.

The second group, however, got it. They didn’t finish within the hour and 20 minutes they had – which means they must have been telling a lot of stories. This second group contained some of the stronger players, and I’d made that group from the people I thought would appreciate the game. It didn’t play in the third round, because there weren’t four people who hadn’t tried it yet – the others were played with three players instead of four, something which is not ideal, but which is doable. That is much more difficult in this scenario, where you are supposed to have two pair sitting across from each other.

Anyway. Hurrah for the two Empire anthologies. There are a couple of scenarios that I’d like to try myself, and some I’d like to run with these kids – and it’s great to know there’s a backup plan available.

Ps.: If you wonder why I skipped Wednesday, we had only half a day, so we played games. One group had something to finish up, while the rest played Shadows over Camelot. They didn’t have a traitor and won comfortably, so they need a traitor next time to keep them humble, methinks…

 

Danger Patrol: Thwarting Crushtjov

Last Thursday, I tried out the beta version of Danger Patrol. The game went well, but there are some kinks. I’ll start with a brief recap, then I’ll present some of my issues with the game. At the end, I’ll say a little about my overall attitude to the game.

Danger Patrol is a pastiche of old tv-shows like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. You play the heroes of the Danger Patrol, defending Rocket City from all manner of villains who want to destroy, conquer or enslave the proud city.

How the game went

We were three people playing : apart from me we were Mads and one of his regular players, Sander.

They made an Atomic Agent and a Psychic Commando – two of the many peculiar combo’s the game allow for.

I for my part took the easy way out, and took the setup that is used as an example: Scarlet Apes attack Rocket City’s rocket car traffic. We had an action packed first scene, with our two heroes zooming up and down, saving people from plummeting rocket cars, slaloming between clotheslines and using holograms and psychic projections to stop the disaster from happening.

After that, we took some brief interlude scenes. I don’t quite remember them, but I think one took place at the monkey cage, with the mayor coming to greet the heroes.

Then, on to investigate this crime. One of them stayed at the cage, trying to find out who had let the apes out of their cage, the other trying to find out who would benefit, a trail leading to the mayor – who turned out to be a traitor, and fled down a secret staircase. Meanwhile, the other hero found a trail leading to a warehouse. And lo and behold – this was were the mayor was running to!

In the warehouse was a number of Crimson Republic guards alongside their leader, General Crushtjov, the nemesis of the players. Also in there was a Mysterious Character, the mercenary villain who’d commanded the apes to attack! The mayor bust ind, and panicked explained that he was found out. But the General laughed – they were ready to launch the Red Comet upon Rocket City!

The players came up with an ingenious plan:  Sander, the Psychic Commando, would throw in a smoke grenade. Meanwhile, Mads, the Atomic Agent, would sneak up upon one of the guards, take him out and put on his uniform.

The minute the smoke grenade went off, the general started to prepare a Rocket Ship for departure. The Mysterious Figure summoned more apes, and the mayor panicked. This action scene was more combat oriented, but equally intense, than the first. Mads was surrounded by burning Gasolineum from barrels thrown by the apes, but used a burst from his rocket pack to get out – thus blowing fire straight down into the puddle of highly volatile, burning liquid! It all ended when Mads, somehow assisted by Sander, blasted over the head of the Mysterious figure, and destroyed the engine of the General’s Rocket Ship, just as he was taking off, making him crash a short way away.

All in all, we had good fun. There were a lot of funny things going on, a lot of which I’ve unfortunately forgotten now. The system, however, is clearly a work in progress.

The issues I had with the system

The first kink was making good “Last time on” sequences. This was mostly my fault for not explaining it properly. One player started describing the entire plot of the last episode, instead of just describing a short scene of something he wanted in this episode. Also, being only two players in the game, I didn’t get a lot to work with in these scenes.

The combat system mostly worked fine. Most of it was quick, and very action oriented. The role of the action map, however, seems poorly thought out: the impression is of something very loose, but some rules seem to demand more exact maps, to know what would have to pass to get somewhere. Also, the telekinesis power requires the map to be much more than a guideline. Giving the players access to the map may not be the best idea – it’s the purview of the GM, and giving the player a power that allows him to change the position of things on the map seems to require that the GM decides what can be moved and what can’t.

There is also the issue of threats and threat actions. Now, being two players no doubt played a significant role in this – but it often seemed like I had a whole host of Threats that should be activated because the players hadn’t done anything about them. In the game, the Threats act according to a Threat table. There are two instances in which you consult this chart: if the player rolled ‘dangers’ (failed dice) you’d add them together and look up that level. If the players haven’t rolled against the threat, you look up its level +1 in the chart. Having quite a few threats, I did this quite often. Now, the only thing the lowest level of threat can do if there isn’t a player within its reach, is to store up a so-called “danger die” that would be rolled the next time a PC rolled against it, but counted only  if it was a ‘Danger’.  At one point, half the threats had red (danger) dice waiting for the players when they came to deal with them. Other threats would instead warrant the creation of a new threat. Unfortunately, I ran out of ideas way before I ran out of opportunities to make new threats. I think it would make much better sense to make a Threat Menu with many options that could be combined for different levels, making it easier to mix up danger actions.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the fact that threats don’t act on their own, but instead react to players. It’s a good way of spotlighting what the players are doing. It just needs some tweaking.

Throughout the game, I had difficulty gauging the balancing of player resources. Players have a number of resources: danger, damage and [+]’es (aspects that can be tagged for bonus dice). Some of these can be regained during Interludes. But my players seemed to be using a lot of these – enough that it looked like they’d run out before the end of the game.

This led me to go against what I believed was the rules’ intention on Interludes. The game doesn’t state this explicitly, but it indicates that there is supposed to be one interlude after each action scene. This makes sense – if you have five players, having five interludes would be excessive. On the other hand, I had two players, who were running low on resources after the first Action Scene. Thus, I let them have an Interlude each.

Now, Suspense Scenes. Suspense scenes are supposed to be investigation scenes of a sort, fighting questions as if they were threats. This indicated that they would work like action scenes. However – I already said my players were burning through their resources. If they had to use them on Suspense as well? They’d run out immediately. Besides, it says in the rules that threats generated here should be saved for later Action Scenes. Thus,  it makes sense that they shouldn’t get danger, and especially not damage, through these scenes. What then? If they haven’t got the [+]es to get bonus dice, and they don’t really need danger dice (they could get them, I guess, but I’m not sure it makes sense for them to endanger themselves like that in the suspense scenes that serve to pave the way for action scenes.

I feel like there must be something I’m missing (and it has been a week, so I might have forgotten important things here). But in my opinion, Suspense scenes are the single weakest point in the game as it stands – they don’t make sense. As I recall, they aren’t very well described, either – they are probably still being thought out, as opposed to Action Scenes, which seem to have been well planned.

All in all…

I like this game. It’s unfinished – this can clearly be seen in the game document, which has “notes to the author” instead of finished content in several places. But I can see its potential. I want to try the next edition of the game – and eventually the finished thing. It may be a work in progress – but it’s a work I really want to see progress.

[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.