This past weekend I was at GoPlay Northwest and to play some games and see my friends. Now GoPlayNW might be the best local con I can go to as far as gaming goes and one of the reasons it's so good is because it tries to be on the edge of new. It embraces the edge of the hobby we love so dearly.
Last year streaming was an afterthought. After everything was done, the question of "should we do some streaming?" was put forward and it evolved into "Can we stream?" and with the weekend in the bag, I can safely say, "YES."
I was so happy and impressed by this weekend's streaming efforts, I decided to write a blog post outlining our motivations, processes, and thoughts for improvements in hopes other streamers and stream producers take up the torch for their local gaming conventions and spread the light of gaming at your favorite conventions.
The process started with the key stakeholder messaging me if I'd be interested in doing some stream production for this year's goplayNW. It was some information gathering about fleshing out what sort of requirements would be needed to do this. I'll be honest: I'm pretty cynical and tend towards caution when it comes to streaming. For our first attempt, I was prepared for an awful trashfire attempt that cuts out, no one can see or hear anything, and goes live totally unannounced and unleashed on an unprepared audience of cricket chirps.
I put forward things that will require a lot of talks with the convention hosts. like hardwired ethernet with fair speeds being the first bedrock. The space for streaming will also need to be considerable for acoustics, noise, and space to actually play. The final thing we'd need is an actual interest. You're asking someone (at LEAST one person) to be responsible for thousands of dollars of electronic equipment and sit in front of their computer watching other people play a game -- people BETTER be interested in actually streaming their games!
We had a few goals, mostly they were to let people try their hand at being a part of a game that's streamed or see what a streamed game is.
So I won't really go over the room selection process for streaming because the locations of cons are specific. All I can say is that I hope you find a good, quiet room, with easy access to a ethernet jack.
For technology pieces, to stream we required the following things:
Before the first stream, I hastily setup the graphics into OBS and imported both cameras and microphones into my scenes. Be mindful that when you're plugging in power-draining USB things like a yeti mic and 2 C920s, they take the dedicated usb slots before using a splitter-- your splitter may not have enough power to let you do things like change USB resolution or power multiple cameras from a single port.
Once I had access to the streaming room, I began the setup process. the laptop had to be close to the table due to cables and the limits of webcams, but also not in the way. Setting up the webcams was tricky because of that power issue and the lighting of the room requiring manual exposure setting and saturation.
The more risky process I had to deal with was setting up the microphone. I tried cardioid as the receiving angle and it worked suspiciously well! Everyone was to be on one side of the microphone anyways, and then the rest came down to testing and stacking a couple wooden end tables and putting the mic on them.
And that's all there was to it! The first stream, at least.
Adam Koebel's game of Scythe
I continuously monitored Twitch chat for feedback and aggressively compensated where I needed to but that's all.
For the next game the following day, with it being a TTRPG, I thought I'd try breaking up the table and having the DM on one side and the players on the other.
This would require the blue yeti be set to dual circle mode so the DM and players can both be picked up by the centrally located mic.
I didn't have time to do any real test runs other than a quick audio check on my own.
DistractedElf's game of Monsterhearts
In the future, I'd like to get something other than c920s for this job.
The high pitched sound that lingers is due to electrical interference and a common issue with yeti microphones. It'd probably require a lot of testing to isolate, but it being so close to the webcam and the rest of the wires being near the rest of the USB connections, I didn't really have a chance to rewire anything. In the future having some time to test for that whine would be good.
As far as camera angles go, a more top-down angle over a table might be cool, but that might require some kind of trellis.
If last year's GPNW question was "should we stream?" this year's question was "can we stream?" and next year it'll be "what will we stream?" and I'm excited about see the developments o
It's been really fun doing this experiment this year. I was a part of a prototype. Next year we'll have a full program of streams and a more permanent, professional setup I imagine. I'm looking forward to seeing the relationship between GPNW and twitch streams grow. Twitch and tabletop games are the single biggest growth vector for the hobby at the moment (the second probably being conventions.)
If you have any questions let me know! I like production work and I'd try and answer anything I can.
Alright so here's the post I'm sure you're all interested in. Here's my breakdown of the DMing side of things for Fever Swamp.
I got started pretty quickly-- I didn't flesh out a lot of the rules or procedures. I knew I was going with an iterative game approach to my West Marches and made that understood up front. We did a first session trial run early on using pretty much just the Fever Swamp rules as written and DCC rules.
Like all my games, I used a constitutional approach to rules precedents: we agree to play as written and in as good faith as possible to the game. Naturally this game creates loopholes and niche cases that require adjudication, but the GM does not have final say-- the group must agree the GM has final say and agree that the ruling seems appropriate. From then on, future cases of that niche will be ruled in the same manner as a precedent has been set. I avoided writing these down-- if we don't remember a precedent, was it ever really a precedent? How important was that rule? It's important to let your game evolve.
It took a while before we were running sessions like machines. I'm here to tell you that if you want to run a west marches game like a machine, you're not gonna do it from prep. You're gonna do it from experience and that's ok! Just play! Players don't mind-- and if they do? Fuck 'em. They're snobs. They're probably not fun to play with anyways.
As I was saying, it took a while before I could get sessions starting like this:
What you're looking at here is an organized table of every PC in Clink. At the start of sessions, players would grab whatever available ships were back in town and put their PCs in them and then we'd get to play. Sure if you wanted some new 0-level fodder to accompany your new level 1 PC in order to eat crocodile bites or get their throats slit or become zombie plant monstrosities, we'd do that, but then we'd get to play!
I'd copy over everyone in the staging area to the Player's Map as the main screen in roll20. I had a boat icon representing the party and then I'd begin to ask for roles for today's session. Roles were XP-worthy responsibilities players would volunteer for to help with play. These are character roles, not player roles.
So with our 5 players and about 15 PCs (3 each), we're ready to go into the swamp. Where are you going, Captain?
A Session of the Swamp
The party decides which hex to go to. You can only go as far in one roll as there is a line of hexes that are charted. Based on how far you want to go, the navigation DC rises. It's 5 per explored hex and an uncharted Hex is 10. You can't bypass an uncharted Hex. In other words, we can fast travel through charted hexes to get to the unexplored ones since you can't skip past unexplored hexes.
Once a hex was designated I would roll the navigation privately using the player's navigation score. I'd announce a success or fail condition to the roll and I'd move the boat a certain amount of spaces to show a vague amount of success. Dungeon Crawl Classics lets players burn their "luck" stat to improve rolls so now navigators have a choice: do I burn my luck now to ensure we make it ok? But what if I get a disease or we're in combat?
A success or failure condition to the roll isn't a game ender. What happens is that I whisper the navigator a failure result from a navigation outcome table:
If the navigator wants, they can re-roll the table but they must take that result. Following that was everyone's favorite part of the session: disease checks!
Now if you fast traveled or you traveled and got the result on the success table that ignores this, you'd have to make a disease check! This is the Fever Swamp after all!
I'd begin to script the montage of traveling through the swamp by generating a few hexes to describe the smells, sights, sounds, and weather of the journey. I'm not a creative person (believe it or not!) so I offloaded this all into a macro.
My all-in-one hex generator macro i dubbed "local color" did this for me.
Here's the dump of my tables:
I fleshed out the existing Fever Swamp encounter tables with some other swamp denizens and a few of my favorite monsters from other DCC adventures!
So to put this into context, the example above? I'd roll 2d4 and determine the amount of dredgers (giant ogre fishermen) in a fight with some undead crocodiles who are undoubtedly messing up their catfish nets. A 5 on the die of fate means the PCs probably hear and see signs of it and aren't noticed yet.
Do you escape? do you ambush them? do you wait and see? do you parley by helping them with the nets? Something else?
Certain hexes in the Fever Swamp would have preset encounters or locations-- Great! I'd use them as pretty much as written. Furthermore I'd discard the random encounter if there's to be a set piece encounter there.
Later in the campaign we introduced escape mechanics. It felt like darkest dungeon in play and we all really liked it. To flee an encounter, the captain must declare the intention to retreat. It occurs on the next PC's action and doable 1/round. The navigator rolls a 1d6: on a 1-3, the retreat fails, a 4-5: you retreat at a cost (roll a d6 for a 1:disease, 2: lost, 3: left someone behind, 4-6: successful retreat), and a 6 is you retreat successfully. A warrior can spend their mighty deeds die to rally everyone to try and get out, forcing another escape chance.
After a hex encounter has resolved, we'd check if we want to rest or explore/chart the hex. If we rest, we get the benefits of resting where we'd recover HP and ability damage but we can't explore and chart the hex. If we chart the hex, we don't heal, (but charting a hex makes it easier to travel through next time AND earns you XP).
Returning to Clink
Returning to town had a similar navigation check only it was done in the open by the navigator. Since we're wrapping up a session, we're not worrying about random encounters. We're looking for the amount of disease checks, really. It seems very gamey describing this part of the game, but there's legit hoots, sighs, gasps, and dead quietness that comes along with each navigation roll when everyone's hurt, burnt their luck, and trying to get home with loot. That desperation is palpable and it's kind of awesome.
Near the end I introduced some more treasure and health rules to expedite play:
End of session healing rules
When you return to Clink with a disease and seek aid:
Add: Town Reputation (default: 0) + Disease Threat (default -2, Spirit Sickness -3) + Fort Save Bonus. Luck may be burned on a 1-1 result basis (3 luck to +3 to this move).
On a less than zero, pick 3, on 0-4, pick 1, on a 5+ you’re fine. Go on your way!
You’re healed but:
☐ it cost you your health. (-1d2 to a stat, judges discretion)
☐ The medicine requires rest (take no further actions in town)
☐ The fever swamp’s temperature raises
☐ you got another disease! (roll now!)
☐ cursed (judge’s discretion)
☐ it cost everything you have (keep 1 item).
☐ your healer demands a quest. (judges discretion)
☐ your healer demands a donation of 25gp (or judges discretion)
☐ you have had a change in faith: --- sold your soul to the drowned god --- you are branded with the sign of the nilfenbergian god --- you must care for a chicken of Manuk --- you burped up some silvery seeds.. (you’re probably fine) (if you take this choice more than once… oof).
new town building mechanics
CLINK: Inn, General Store, [herbalist], [blacksmith], [chapel],[marketplace], [empty lot] When you seek to improve the town, Pay 100gp x town reputation (default +1) and retire one PC. A [resource] is unlocked for Clink and the towns reputation increases by 1.
new custom item requests mechanic
When you put in a request for an item from Nilfenberg with a trader:
☐ You get it but it costs more (25%) and its superior (-1 to fumble results)
☐ You get it next week, but it’s hot (raise Nilfenberg Heat)
☐ You get it next week, but it’s clunky (+1 to fumble results)
☐ You get something else instead Items arrive in one week (following friday)
Heat is a sort of ire and threat that can build up and affect the world (more monsters) or a chance for civilization/clink to be shook up.
DCC was absolutely the best choice for this game. I waffle back and forth on my decision to allow multiple PCs play each week instead of just a single PC.
Magic was somewhat of an issue since PCs could sleep or summon a ton of creatures once per session. But at the same time it led to some REALLY epic stuff, and a single bad disease roll would kill your wizard.
At the end, I just got burnt out running 4 sessions a week for a month on top of the rest of my schedule of streams... I basically played an entire years of sessions in a few short months! We did like 75% of the content in the fever swamp and I had no plans for what happens in the future.
I loved my west marches group, I loved how much the core group loved the game, but I just really don't like how west marches games always end up with just a dedicated core anyways instead of being available for newer players. New players being onboarded into a west marches game that's been going on for a while just seems too daunting for them... too much of an investment. I get it, but I really wanted this game to be different. DCC, more than D&D or anything, really really does a good job letting 0-level PCs and various leveled PCs interact together and be fun.
Sessions were easy enough to run every day because everything I needed to do was offloaded into macros or I just had to remember my notes from particular hexes. Combat was easy enough since they're generally short.
Thanks for reading! Let me know here or on twitter if you have any questions. The final thing I'm doing for Fever Swamp is to be uploading each recorded session onto a youtube playlist I'll link later!
For the past two months I've ran a dedicated west marches game using Dungeon Crawl Classics as well as the OSR supplement: Fever Swamp. It has now officially ended and I can say it was one of the most satisfying RPG campaign accomplishments I've ever done.
I want to break a lot of what I did down, share my thoughts, express my opinions, so you, dear reader, can pick at the bones of this campaign for tender ideas and methods for your next campaign.
You need two things that will require a lot of work so be prepared! You'll need your sandbox and you'll need a bunch of players. I will spend a lot of time (this sister post to be honest) talking about the former, so I'll start with the later:
Making it easy for players
Here's the pitch I threw together to aid recruiting (which I did on my own discord community and others I'm a part of) and what a recruiting post on discord looked like. I took a lot of time to make it look presentable.
I figured a new D&D adjacent West Marches game is a big ask from folks. If I showed up dressed nice with a brochure I might get more eyeballs than a low effort.
To assist with FAQ/Onboarding, I have created a guide for players to clear up confusion.
Additionally, I setup my discord to have dedicated west marches channels. By the end of my campaign, having an announcements/global channel for the DM, a general channel, a channel for leveling up/rules, and a channel for posting write-ups were important.
I was very clear up front how things were going to work. I would share a weekly availability calendar with my available times to run games and then let players self-organize. Early on in the program, we hit on a really good system-- treat every Friday IRL as a "patch/content" day. (shout out to Sythmaster for this idea!)
If there was a new system I wanted to implement (change to navigation rolls for instance), I needed to update the general store, or share out of character the calendar for next week's games, it was done on Friday. This was an extremely fun and useful tool for my game.
I took the liberty to paste the whole Swamp Tales into a google doc for posterity.
Getting started in Roll20 for players
There's a lot of mis en place when it came to playing this so I appreciate your patience. Truly getting things setup to streamline the actual play of this game was a key to how I was able to run this so frequently and easily.
Since we were using Roll20, I wanted to make it as easy as possible for players to join and create characters. DCC has this amazing process called the 0-level character funnel. You'll play multiple 0-level characters and go on an adventure. The survivors are your level 1 characters! If you were to play DCC at a convention or a store, you'd be greeted with smiles, weird dice, and a sheet with like 4 level 0 PCs on it with everything good to go. I wanted to replicate that experience as best I could for Fever Swamp. I'll try and save the magic of DCC and why it was my system for west marches for a later breakdown. Anyways-- back to talking about roll20 character creation.
My steps were as follows (also outlined in the players guide linked above):
Coming up in my next post, I'll get into all of the tables, generators, and play mechanisms I used for this campaign.
The return to meatspace gaming!
This past Thursday I went to Narrative Games Northwest and played Fall of Magic. Now I haven't been back to my story games meetups in almost a year, but it was great to see so many familiar faces.
Our Fall of Magic game begun with a Microscope palette to set a tone. Rather than the Tolkeinesque fantasy, we ended up with a numenera/apocalpytic star wars style technology bump with tastes of studio ghibli. I played Vago, the Golem of Ravenhall, who was an android who forgotten who they were or their purpose. Kind, inquisitive, but forgetful!
What made this game very special was how much everyone cared about eachother's characters. We did a very healthy amount of scenes with each other around formative questions about one another's character.
Sometimes you can get into a habit of doing a lot of solo-dictated scenes in Fall of Magic. (This isn't a BAD WRONG FUN thing...) It's been a while since I've played and I was glad to see how I was able to avoid taking the game that way.
I often would find my self taking a backseat to a lot of the action, preferring to let newer players speak up and take the initiative for scenes.
My favorite scene was on Swine Hill (a junkyard scrapheap) where Vago found other bodies of androids.... spent in a war and had some flashbacks! He turned into a defensive mode until he was talked down by a fellow player on Oak Island.
We wrapped up after being freed from the Stormqueen's judgement.... good game!
"Let the Past die. Kill it if you have to." - Kylo Ren
Well I certainly wasn't expecting an iconoclastic message from one of the largest and most well known movie franchises when I viewed The Last Jedi.
TLDR: We enjoyed our time with the system. With five PCs, we didn't get far into the game, but we felt empowered and enjoyed when it came time to roll. (Yay ludonarrative resonance!)
A little bit about ourselves before I write up so you know our backgrounds as players. Our group consists of new faces to the L5R brand and fans since 3e. We were all male, lived in the US and Europe, and some of us are now strangers to RPGs but some have read more games than they've played. At least half the group, GM included, like narrative games such as Firebrands, Blades in the Dark, Fiasco, or crunchier games like Burning Wheel RPG. We played for 5 total hours (including chargen) via Roll20 with our GM providing the macro/custom tables for our dice rolls.
The 20 questions approach was fun! Many of us had an idea in mind for our PCs, but didn't write it down until we were together. Following the suggestions of the game our party of five turned out to be:
We begun in the investigation part of the Inn. Our Shugenja sensed something was off here and their instincts were confirmed when told about the blood magician. I forget the TN but it was a Success and double opportunity gained-- both spent on a supernatural smoke coming from the second story inn. Our diplomat looks for hidden things inside the room, as Crane diplomats love to do, and find the box under the bed coaxing the air kami to help.
(Side note: Isawa realized at this point that his Sanctification should be improved via school upgrade it isn't spelled out anywhere in the book what that is.)
Hida finally gets inside and proceeds to look around the place looking for the signs of the struggle. I reenact the death blows of the fallen Hida, gesturing the cuts and blood spills and cursing at the nasty and gruesome fate of my comrade. I alluded to that scene in season 1 of The Wire where Bunk and McNulty are putting the pieces together at the slain woman's apartment saying only the same curse word. Hida takes solace in that he died with some dignity and swears to reclaim his ashes for return. Our Shiba talks to witnesses-- a Mirumoto Chiaki who politely informs him that there was a lot of drinking and laughter but by the time she arrived on the scene, sword in hand, everyone has fled.
The Hida gets the ashes before meeting up with everyone else. We found what we could and should track down this ronin south.
We tracked the Ronin down to Kyuuden Moshibaru. By the time we spoke to the Hida in charge of the watchtower, we already knew about the goblin winter and our Ronin has been accepted into the ranks of the Crab. The Hida in charge here demands a duel to first strike for the ronin-now-crab to defend their honor. Our Shiba, against their own values, volunteers to step forward and challenge the Ronin. The crime of assisting a blood magician has fired up his soul and wants to take charge. They convinced the Crane bushi that this was his duel!
We cut to the top of the wall for the duel. Our ronin-turned-crab gets a hit on our Shiba and our Shiba lashes out! cursing the ronin in a very-unbecoming way. (Outbreak during a duel triggers a finishing blow!) His opponent seizes the opportunity, flying into a rage themself! (Their attack also triggering a finishing blow!) who our Shiba capitalizes on, blinding the ronin.
We ended the session after the duel.
I've never been more nervous about playing a game before. It was the start of my PAX West weekend and I am staring at an email. I have been invited to a game of Inheritance, a LARP about a 10th century danish family's misgivings.
I have never done a LARP before, (if you don't count WW2 reenacting), and I was invited to one facilitated by the game's very own designer! The other names in the email chain also complicated things-- I was going to play this game with some very high caliber players. I arrived early to the Gen Con offices, went to a bar nearby hoped an amber ale assuages some of my anxiety. It was a mixed result.
After introductions, Luke began the shtick-- one he has done countless times facilitating this twelve-years-in-the-making game of his. (For those keeping score at home, that is as old as Dogs in the Vineyard!) He described a little bit about each character we could be before opening it up to who wants to play who. This whole game is based on the death of the Patriarch of the family reuniting and exposing some old wounds. I won't get into the whole cast of characters, but basically the game is structured around the funeral of the Patriarch in the old ways and a will to be read, one taken care of by a Catholic priest and former adviser to the now deceased which will divvy up their belongings across his family. To complicate the matter, the brother Daxo, exiled for kinslaying his brother Baldr, has returned (along with his mercenary companion) looking to make amends and get a cut of the treasure.
I first-picked and played the Mercenary friend of Daxo, Arvundil. I was pitched that I'm Daxo's best friend and convinced him to return to his family and make amends. I chose Arvundil because I was unsure of my strength of my own ability to play. I picked him because I believe playing a one dimensional character with a clear, close tie to another would be safe. Safer than playing the head of a house or something. Before I even got to the packet each character has my strategy would be to support Daxo, my best friend. Arvundil, much like all other characters I imagine, are torn: I want Daxo to get that money (because I'll get money!) but Ran, the daughter of Tyr, is so beautiful and I kind of want her more. Getting ready to begin, between all the instincts and beliefs, I thought I'd begin by really focusing on one of each. I chose to support my friend Daxo as well as to "Always cause trouble" which I liked a lot. I was also looking at running with some other beliefs, but I knew my Polaris would be to always support Daxo.
Luke took us outside across the street to begin the LARP in a park at sunset where we had the funeral scene. It was a very nice touch. Being friends with the black sheep of the family put me in an awkward spot.
In the first part of the game, I would quietly support Daxo as he wrestles his way back into the good graces of his family, but I thought he wasn't be direct enough-- so I may have pissed off his Dad and broke the laws of hospitality and got kicked out during the night. I'm not used to the bullheadedness of rural folk and realized if I'm to help my friend Daxo and get my share of the loot, Daxo will have to square off against his youngest brother Ring. I must convince Daxo to fight his youngest brother (who has been telegraphing all game how much he hates Daxo). This should be easy. After the reading of the will and the morning after, things fall apart.
I'm setting up to talk to Daxo when his brother shows up and surprise attacks ME! not Daxo. I reflexively pull my own sword and kill Ring. Instantly. People start coming out and I'm holding the sword VERY CONFUSED. Tyr, brother to Thorvald (Ring and Daxo's dad and man I pissed off last night), gets crazed and comes at me with his axe. I kill him dead. Daxo is freaking out and tells me to put down my sword, which I do not (having killed two people and confused) and Daxo comes at me, which I too cut off the arm of Daxo and leave him dying. Having my entire plans ruined and having presumably killed my best friend too, I decide its best to get going and take the family's longboat out of here.
What cool game. The structure of the game is so delightful. The game takes turns being a very tight game with everyone kind of in one scene into distributed free scenes and back. This combined with how closely tied everyone's character is has to be so delicately placed. It was never one thing overpowering others. The fact this game felt asymmetrically balanced is astounding. I can't wait to play again!
I returned to GoPlayNW this year looking forward to facilitating a few games and playing in a few more. With so many people like Adam Koebel and John Harper getting the word out about this con, I knew I wanted to set a good example here and facilitate many games and have them be first-come-first-serve.
GoPlayNW, to me, isn't just a reunion of gamers and designers you don't always get to see. It's also about gaming with strangers. In order to balance my schedule of games I wanted to play (and who I wanted to play with) and games I wanted to facilitate, I made a loose strategy to follow: I’d facilitate every other game session. With each day having three slots of games, I facilitated twice on Saturday and once on Sunday.
9am – The King is Dead
1:30pm – Lacuna
7pm – Mouse Guard 2e
9am – Worldbuilding Fiasco
1:30pm – Across The Endless Sea
7pm – Band of Blades
My gaming highlight of the weekend had to be my Band of Blades session Sunday night. Stras and John’s (Not John Harper—another John) gritty dark fantasy military/XCOM RPG was something very special. I’m super excited for that game to continue to develop. I’ll be streaming it as soon as I can!
My facilitating highlight probably was Mouse Guard. Across the Endless Sea was close, but MG just hit all the right notes that we wanted to. Three of us made mice and I ran an old favorite session of mine about transporting a new queen bee to the tiny hamlet of Dorigift. In fact, the following day, one of the players came up and thanked me again for running Mouse Guard and how it was the highlight of their con… which as a facilitator is always something special!
Next year, I think I’ll be playing more board games. Like, something chunky and grandiose.
And hopefully, by next GoPlay, I’ll also have in my possession a copy of Band of Blades to run!
At long last, we had out finale for Old Country for New Mice! School and life took a toll on our game time. We were able to eek out a final session this past week to put a cap on our game.
The mission would be very clear, but very complicated. I wanted to experiment keeping missions more open ended than I have in the past and play this by ear. As a finale, I had an obligation to make sure things wrapped up so this mission would be a long one.
"The peace between Weasels and Mice is at risk. Hostilities have escalated there. Travel to Ferndale, speak to our Guard liaison there and his Tenderpaw. See what can be done between Ferndale, The Weasels, and the guard to put this genie back in the bottle before we have a War on our hands."
The game begun with journeying to Ferndale. This was a difficult pathfinding check traveling over fallen logs and thick underbrush. Our party tried to take a shortcut over a decaying log and ended up falling through right into a wasp nest! Luke, acting quickly, calmed the Wasps before any harm could be done.
I described Ferndale as a eclectic fort surrounded by sharp Palisades and anti-siege spikes. Standing high above the walls is the Ferndale's keep, built atop a large stone mastaba, built long ago by Weasels.
The party, approaching Ferndale were harassed by the fort's mice. They demanded the guard relinquish weapons and swear fealty to the Fort's commander. Obviously confused, the party circled up the fort commander and demanded an explanation. The Party won over the commander (Garrow being a war hero would be a great weapon against the imminent weasel assault!) and finally admitted that the other Mouse Guard stationed here have been uncooperative. The party was able to persuade the commander for some time with the imprisoned guardsmice.
The fort has been under attacks by raiding Weasels and it has taken a toll. The Fort is hardened and under lockdown. The Mouse Guard refuse to acknowledge the situation out of fear of escalating this into a war, so the fort feels betrayed and kind of on its own. It gets worse when the guardsmice here (the ones the PCs are supposed to meet act VERY suspicious to the mice in the fort, refusing to disclose what they were doing around the Fort.)
They met the mice in the jail beneath the Mastaba where they explained that they came barring a message for our PCs from Moira-- Garrow's Weasel frenemy. The two were imprisoned for defying the Fort commander and not giving this message to him. They said that Moira said she had a solution that could stop the war. She has vital information about the weasels attacking the fort. She said that Garrow would know how to find her (Circles).
The party persuades the fort commander to let them out of the Fort while not telling them what they're doing, and sneak out circling up Moira. Moira doesn't belong to the weasels attacking the fort, so this is kind of sneaking out into the fringes of a battlefield to meet up with a spy!
Moira meets them and greets them both. She explains that a tunnel lord has fallen and that the tunnel princes are feuding. The attacks against your fort are attempts at a particularly brash young prince to gain respect. You see-- beneath the mastaba is a the tomb of a great Tunnel Lord. If the weasel prince can get the crown then he can unite the weasels (with legitimacy) and stop the feuding. Now this clearly doesn't stop the tension between Weasels and Mice, but Moira can maybe sway this Lord and handle him... sticking the pin back in this grenade. It's a tense situation and the PCs want to know what they should do! Moira tells them to sneak into the Mastaba, avoid the dangers and traps, and deliver her the crown and she can deliver it to the Prince. She has no proof this would work, and that the Party has to trust her. Garrow wants to know why she's hasn't responded to his Swords and Stronghold move in their play-by-mail game. She apologizes and says this affair has taken a lot of time from her.
So our Mice sneak into this crypt, avoiding guillotine traps and mazes to recover the crown! They sneak once more OUT of the fort to find Moira once more and turn over the Crown.
Moira thanks them for their service. As she's leaving, she tells her that she has decided on her move in the game. She leaves into the darkness in the tunnel and as she's going, Weasel warriors come out surrounding the Party! Betrayal!
We ended our season on that note.
This was a VERY FUN way to end our session-- with a dungeon crawl! I love Mouse Guard so much. I've been playing so much of it lately online. I've done a Mouse Guard Samurai game (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSwYQrAxiRI) and currently GMing an ongoing regular mouse guard game.
This mission was pretty crammed with content and should have been two missions, but since this was the finale-- so it goes! We all loved this game a lot and I kept how they were gonna play with this scenario pretty open. We have a quasi-religious/cultural conflict where neither side is going to give ground. The party, when realizing the scale and scope of what was going on recognized why what they did her would have widespread ramifications. It was great fun seeing them work in desperation to keep the peace.
I was hugely inspired by The West Wing for this episode and Middle East politics.
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!).
I hide in a cubicle all day until the night time where I play RPGs and other games and stuff.