Fall of Magic, the map traversing story game by Ross Cowman, is one the best story games out right now. The story of the journey to Umbra is always full of surprises. Well, I wrote about the depths of Fall of Magic and how its strengths lend themselves to more experienced story gamers, but tonight I was surprised just how well it worked for new players!
Lennart, Maxwell, Rachel, and I set off for Umbra, the land where magic was born, this evening at Story Games Seattle. My original plans were to try mixing up the game and setting it in Space, but that got derailed as the three were new players (two of which new to story games entirely!). I thought playing the game with the warranty sticker on it would provide a better story game experience.
Lennart - Kabu, scholar of istallia
Maxwell - Ellamura, ranger of Mistwood
Rachel - Caspiar (not a typo-- our map is just worn!), swineherder of Barley Town
Eric - Harp, raven of Ravenhall
Our game was interesting right out of the gate as I had to explain a few concepts that I took for granted. I had to take some time to define what a scene is, how to include characters in it, and how to know when it's done.
I was very impressed as other players took the lead, interested in hearing about the other characters and why we're on this mission. I think, partly, our new players wanted to jump and find out why we're journeying in the first few scenes instead of being content with a slower burn. (This need to get to the bottom of why we're playing was also an observation I had from playing Lovecraftesque.) Whatever the reason, it worked! Our stories were more intertwined than our usual game of Fall of Magic.
We had a silverhaired old lady taunting us with questions from the scrying pool, a mysterious letter with a depiction of a ring, and a prophecy that needed resolved.
The next sign this game was going places was Barley Town. Geesh our town was depressing! It was such a nice diversion from the usual, happy rustic town. Our town was more grim, muddy, and superstitious!
During a transition from one place to another, Maxwell had the idea that the silverhaired lady move the river, draining us into the maw of the deep zone, which frankly was so friggin' good and will be stealing that for future games.
I think, maybe the best part of the game for me was our time in the deep. Our time hanging out with the Rug-Baggers in the hanging city with their gossamer strings, reverence for the Kin Mother, and their... odd digestion mannerisms (leave it at that) all made that place super creepy.
Then it came time to get to the very best part of the best part-- the Crone! It was the silver haired lady all along! Bingo. What a revelation! Considering the person establishing the lady has literally never seen Fall of Magic before tonight, to have that assertion be ratified through her being the Pool Crone was just SO GOOD.
We wrapped up the game and bid farewell at the gates of Umbra. We had a hard stop time of 9:30pm and we were all very content with the story's conclusion from there.
What went well
Our ability to synthesize and collaborate each other's ideas was so good! Especially for new players. Our fictional jazz was very enjoyable to create. Our whole group brought it today.
What could have been improved
I think I could have explained the game better. Sometimes knowing what's coming up WAY in advance is good because it helps you set up more powerful scenes later. Sometimes it works out anyways (like the Pool Crone!).