"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!).
We returned to the frontier territories for another session of Old Country for New Mice this past Tuesday.
I began by saying some time’s gone by since we last joined our party--
It’s nearly Summer which means it’s time for the beetle drives to begin. Beetle ranchers, riding newts, drive their herds underground through the Dark Heather tunnels to Sprucetuck for market. You have completed one drive so far and are pretty tired by the time you’re back in the territories. You're eager to rest before your next round of escorting.
Unfortunately there’s no time to rest. Flagging you down as you emerge from the Dark Heather is an angry old rancher riding a newt. He introduces himself as Warden -- Warden Seeders of the Seeders Ranch. He seems to know Luke pretty well and focuses the conversation at him. The party hears about how the other local ranch, the Culpepper Ranch, has apparently kidnapped the son and heir of the Seeders’ ranch, Quinn. Warden says to Luke, “Luke, they took Quinn. Those Culpepper bastards took my son!” (alluding to Quinn being Luke’s old friend).
While this is going on, Garrow eyes Warden inquisitively for more information about the Culpeppers, having known a Jacoby Culpepper as a mentor back in the war. Garrow is surprised to hear that it is the very same Jacoby. Jacoby, probably one of the oldest mice around is still kicking, has retired to be a beetle rancher… and apparently caught up in kidnapping Warden’s son?
Warden knows the Guard don’t hold any official power out in these parts, but since Quinn is Luke’s friend and the Culpeppers had ties to the Guard, he thinks they might be able to get to the bottom of this—this is the last chance before violence between the two ranchers. So that’s the mission for today. Resolve an ongoing feud between two beetle ranchers and a kidnapped boy.
We set our goals and then, after a few other questions for Warden, the party rode off on their newts to the Culpepper ranch.
When they get there, Jacoby and Garrow, simultaneously at sight of one another said, “I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!” and chuckled. He invited them in for breakfast and at my discretion allowed them to recover the hungry/thirsty that was plaguing them.
I insinuated that Jake Culpepper is a little.. off. He seems to be hiding some anger as he serves you all breakfast. He’s polite to you but there’s something troubling as you ask him about what’s going on with the Seeders. He gives his side of the source of the feud-- the Culpeppers let their beetles graze on his territories illegally. He offers sympathy for the boy, but doesn’t know his whereabouts.
I tell the party there’s more here but he’ll need to be pushed and we cue our first roll of the night.
A successful persuasion nets the party a confession from Jake—he took Quinn, but he didn’t wanna do this. The Culpeppers left him no choice. He had to do a little quid-pro-quo and kidnap Quinn because apparently Warden kidnapped his own son, Gerald!
The plot thickens.
The party cautions Jake about the course he’s laying for himself and the danger he’s putting others in. Jake fires back how he’s led mice in the Weasel Wars and knows the risks. He also mentions how easy it is to say to take the high road when it isn’t your very own fur and blood on the line. Things are different when it's your own son.
The party asks him to relinquish his prisoner so they can negotiate with Warden and Jake is having none of that. Things get TENSE in the kitchen and the party fails their roll to get him to go along with him. He kicks them out and doesn’t wanna see them around anymore. He’s EXTREMELY disappointed in Garrow.
(It’s at this point of the session, I asked the party if we’re having fun and about 2 solid seconds go by before everyone snaps out of character and back to reality and is like OMG YESSSSS. Feels good, man.)
When they’re getting on their newts, Jake’s daughter Joyce appears and tells them that she knows where Quinn is being kept and has a key. She loves Quinn and if the party doesn’t do something she’s afraid her papa will kill him! A circles roll establishes how easy this will be and with a success, she is able to assist by distracting the armed mice defending the cellar in time for the party to break Quinn out. Mist JUMPS on this opportunity to show what the Guard can do and convinces her to help them out with that successful circles roll.
The party, now with Quinn, ride off for the Culpepper’s farm. Interestingly enough they find out from Quinn no facts about the location of George. He does mention wild strawberries grow on the edge of the Culpepper property and sometimes George liked to sneak onto their property and eat strawberries when he was younger.
The party wants to head directly to the Strawberry patches before taking to Warden (if they can find proof of George’s whereabouts, then maybe they can avert the skirmish!) but Quinn is demanding to see his father. He’s tired and just wants to go home, but the Luke, Mist, and Garrow give a REALLY good roleplaying speech about the stakes and why they need to do this before seeing Warden and I just give it to them here.
Following that rousing speech, they botch their scout role and are face to face with a yellow-striped black snake in the strawberry fields!
An exhaustive combat unfolds and rises to a crescendo where the snake is hiding and the mice have lost sight of it, when it’s surprise strike is thwarted by Garrow who fells the beast with a mace to the skull.
Mechanically, the snake went to feint and the party did attack, but Garrow rolled 0 successes on the feint before summoning his persona for use of his War-wise. He described how the weasels would sometimes lure the mice into known snake lairs in the war and I just gave it to him. Once again—my party was just ON FIRE tonight with the roleplaying and that was just so awesome that he re-rolled all his failed dice (literally all 5) and got enough to kill the snake. The final score was a complete success for the party!
It’s in the snake’s belly they find the remains of poor George. Not a minute too soon, either, because as they’re heading out they run into the Culpepper posse looking for revenge! Garrow talks them down with a solid persuade shouting, “GODDAMMIT JAKE PUT YOUR WEAPONS DOWN. YOUR SON IS DEAD.” Which is a pretty ugly truth to yell out and also got us some looks from nearby bar patrons.
The rest of the party, with Quinn, reunite Quinn with Warden and his mom, Thyme. Joyce Culpepper, the daughter, is also here. And it’s quite the scene as I turn the reigns of the session over the players for their turn.
The party recovers and we montage some time suggesting that after the funeral, they persuade the fathers and mothers of both families to reconcile and let Quinn and Joyce get married after this year’s beetle drive.
We end the session with the party, Jake, Quinn, Joyce, and Warden leading beetles down into the Dark Heather.
WHAT WENT WELL
To quote the ancients, this whole session was lit, fam. We all loved this session and was easily the highlight of our games together so far. Roleplaying was at an all-time high and it felt like the players were REALLY grasping the mechanics this go-around with the conflict system. We finished the session in about 2.5 hours with breaks for beer/food. We eschewed a lot of the fiction-first of the conflict until after the dice resolved for each volley and that worked out well for us.
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
I think I could spend more a little bit more time preparing locations, NPC personalities, and just overall improve my pretty GM word picture skills rather than improvise this all on the spot. Overall the party did such an amazing job that it’s one of those times where the things to improve on aren’t a whole lot! I love sessions like this one. Especially compared to session 2.
THANK YOU SO MUCH for reading!
I'm in love with this system and when it's working like it was tonight, it's just... it's something else. We all agreed this was the best session so far and excited to see what's gonna happen next time on OLD COUNTRY FOR NEW MICE!
Before I forget-- My group has taken up the joys of reciting their “Previously on Old Country For New Mice” with GREAT enthusiasm. Often they tell it like a 1930’s radio show with a transatlantic accent and this week Joanna wrote up a limerick about last week’s adventures against the crow and journeying out of the mountains!
I hope you find players as interested as mine are in Mouse Guard.
This session started right on the tail end of the last one. Our party was facing down a crow!
My prep this week was to steer the game towards the final conflict of the game (I'll speak about later.) This crow showdown will be the major obstacle #1 and other mice will be #2.
The second half of this adventure was planned to be about an old Beetleranch attacked by another mole. The guard will have to be faced with the tough challenge of putting the pieces together, possibly rescuing a survivor, and following the trail based on what evidence they find: This mole attack wasn't random phenomena.
Luke Noblepaw, Patrol Guard
b to serve mice, the guard must also serve other animals as well
i always try a peaceful solution first
g save Finn & sylvia
t inquisitive, fearless, wolf's snout
Garrow Gurney, Patrol Captain
b the Border must be maintained
i always protect my charges
g get our townsmice to safety
t tough, fearless, fat, clever
b The Guard must prove to the frontiersmice that we are trustworthy and honorable
i When traveling, always look for places to hide and shelter.
g make sure our townsmice make it safely back.
t independent, impetuous, nimble
How It Went
This mission went much better than the second. After the prologue, we started with the Crow coming down out of the sky being hostile. The party did their best to dodge and avoid the Crow and decided to try and escape it rather than beat it back.
This conflict was intense. Fleeing the Crow, the party got to the rope's end with 1 disposition left before swinging the fight back to full only to end with them winning with a single point of disposition.
The party burned nearly all their persona and fate to make it through this and the consequence to escaping the crow was getting lost and tired in the mountains... and it starts to rain! Mist was able to lead them to shelter and somewhat back on track: the party found the old mission in the mountains and camped there for warmth in the ruins. The events in the rain to find the camp turned out to be a pretty reasonable second obstacle so I turned the game back over to the players.
They had a lot of checks gained from this conflict, so they decided to recover and create supplies for the journey back to town through this pass.
We wrapped up with the party finally arriving in Sun Break after a LONG arduous mission.
What went well
The party was really good at working together. I made a handout to speed up how you add dice to your pool. We also kept the game very fiction first which was very rewarding. Luke had the VERY BEST feint that was disastrous: he mimicked the friggin owl! Needless to say the Crow doubled it's efforts.
It was a tough game. It was almost torchbearerer tough where the party was EEKING out of these mountains just barely with supplies.
What could have been improved
The conflict with the crow was rewarding, but ultimately we should have run it differently. This was on me, the GM. Since the party wanted to escape, rather than shoot to a conflict, it should have been an nature escape roll, with the consequence of a fight should it fail!
I had to scrap the second half of my mission as written so I think that, while the session was fun, I think as a GM I wasn't doing my job correctly. We were having fun, but I was fighting the system when I thought I was engaging with it correctly. My eyes will see the true path with more experience with the system.
I will taking a more heavy hand leading the direction of the missions these last few adventures as we're nearing wrapping up this game's 5 session lifetime.
Thanks for reading!
This week I did significantly less prep work than previously. I had the vague idea for this session's game and I was going to play it by ear by then. I knew I wanted to do more with the wilderness and animals and settled on the following premise:
The remote settlement of Cooperstown hasn't given word since last year. Nestled past the Caspian Mountains, Cooperstown loses touch, but Spring is here and the thaws are in full stride, but no one has seen or heard from Cooperstown. Caspian pass, dangerous on a good day, should be open, yet any attempt by mice to reach the people of Cooperstown fail and go missing. Find out why.
Luke Noblepaw, Patrol Guard
b to serve mice, the guard must also serve other animals as well -- especially the smallest and weakest
i When in doubt, refer to notes
g uncover the fate of Cooperstown
t inquisitive, fearless, wolf's snout
Garrow Gurney, Patrol Captain
b the Border must be maintained
i always use my discretion when given an order
g make sure no harm comes to his party members
t tough, fearless, fat, clever
b The Guard must prove to the frontiersmice that we are trustworthy and honorable
i When traveling, always look for places to hide and shelter.
g Reach Cooperstown
t independent, impetuous, nimble
Now there's two parts to this adventure I have in mind-- the first part is the journey through Caspian Pass to Cooperstown, going by an old destroyed monastery with it's church tower (and bell) perched above some of the last remaining ruins still standing.
The second part is why Cooperstown hasn't contacted the rest of the frontier-- an ongoing problem between an Owl and a Crow. An owl has taken the nest of a crow and killed the Crow's mate and has been looming over the tiny, hole of Cooperstown. The enraged Crow now maliciously attacks any creature it sees with blind fury-- especially mice.
My target is that the Mice will have to deal with the Crow one way or another. They can either fight it and end it's fury or attempt to reason with the angry crow and placate it with something shiny--- the Bell of the Monastery.
How It Went
This follow up mission after Sickness at Sun Break started with a group effort to navigate the treacherous Caspian Pass. This narrow switchback pass through the rough mountainous terrain is grueling, with only the sights of the ruins of an old Monastery to guide them. This is an Ob 6 pathfinder test.
Garrow says he's been through here before back in the war, and takes up the test. He asks Luke if his notes about odds and ends can help him redraw a map. (Luke succeeds on the test to make a map for supplies to this pathfinder test). With everyone helping and Garrow spending BOTH persona on this roll (1 for nature to the pool, 1 on an Of Course with his wise), they make it to Cooperstown.
At Cooperstown, the small band of mice appreciate the site of the Guard. They tell them about the Owl that haunts them Day and Night (Not knowing it's the Crow during the day) and how they're running low on supplies.
Then the sounds of an Owl (during the day) are heard, but I tell the party its suspicious and that it sounds like no Owl you've ever heard before. (It's the Crow being angry and taunting the mice!). Well Luke, Mist, and Garrow make it up to see what's going on, and Luke fails the hunter test to identify the sounds before it's too late-- the crow swoops down and tries to attack him only ending up stealing his glasses and flying off with them.
The party isn't keen on fighting the crow, but are determined to get to the bottom of this. They go out in the wilds in search of answers, where they met an old Ferret hermit-- too old to attack them. He still has his old crusades armor, The Ferret tells them the story of the Crow and the Owl in exchange for a story of their own -- Garrow providing a story from his war days, but the day is getting short and it's almost night. The party can't stay with the Ferret, but also don't want to risk getting attacked by the Owl at night, so they scout out a safe camping spot (Mist's specialty). End of GM turn.
The party spends some checks recouping their injuries and proceed back to Cooperstown to tell the people there how screwed they are. The people of Cooperstown are proud and resilient and do not like hearing they need to leave for their own safety. Many choose to stay knowing the circumstances, so Mist offers to help gather fresh supplies and maybe wait out this owl siege. I describe how risky this is, but she understands the risks and is determined to prove to these other mice her duties as a Guard.
Garrow, Mist, and Luke help 2 other mice leave heading back through Caspian pass, only to be set upon by the Crow. Which is where we'll pick up on session 3.
What Went Well
You know sometimes you have days like this one where things weren't firing right. It was a weird day. Writing this up, the session seems pretty dope, but in play it felt awkward all the time. I don't have a lot to say here.
What Could Have Been Improved
Our game of Mouseguard did not succeed at what I was setting out to do with it today. One big item I had a problem with was that today's session was very roleplay light. Today's session had a Fiction-Last approach, where we'd spend a lot of time figuring out the best way to get the most for our rolls. To be fair-- this was a very challenging day with everyone blowing all their fate and persona again to make it to the end. The fiction suffered for it though. I should have demanded more "yeah but what does that LOOK like?"
That problem was compounded by this other problem -- failing to create a proper mission. After Garrow solved my pathfinder obstacle through the pass, I kind of have to move my entire planned mission from the Pass to over Cooperstown. Originally I was thinking the Crow was stopping anyone from going through the Pass, so I had to improvise which led me to not focus on the other duties as Gamemaster.
The party was afraid to confront the Crow and decompressing, they realized that they need to be more heroic. They felt the same as I did that this session was awkward and thought that was a big problem. Speaking of which, I should have started a conflict with the Crow after the failed Hunter test by Luke, but I missed that chance! So it goes.
Lastly, I think I was afraid of stepping on the toes of my previous mission. My first mission had so many themes in play, I was afraid to repeat myself so I really shied away from more Mouse vs Mouse conflicts and themes which was a HUGE mistake. The game felt flat.
The next session will be much better.
Prophecies, Golem friends, and the origins of Magic abounded in last Thursday's game of Fall of Magic. Fall of Magic has always been one of my favorite story games and while I love Roll20's online version, there's something so satisfying and tactile about the physical version with the scroll and the weighted tokens.
The four of us, all having played before, finished the whole game in about exactly three hours which was quite the feat. Normally Story Games Seattle games of Fall of Magic barely make it to Mistwood in this time.
After we made it to Umbra and wrapped up the game, it occurred to me possibly why we were able to keep the game moving. Fall of Magic can get bogged down with Mother-May-I style collaboration.
I was facilitator of the game this evening and around the Oak Hills (second location) one player asked the other players, "I want to move the Magus, did everyone do all the scenes they wanted?" and I sort of offhandedly remarked that you really shouldn't ask and just commit. After the game, when we were talking about how fast the game moved, I realized that was the pivotal moment that sped the game up and what really makes Fall of Magic move in both a progressive and fictional sense.
By withholding asking permission from your fellow players to move the Magus, everyone must play each scene without the certainty of having another scene. This implicit Carpe Diem attitude kind of makes players go, "What do I REALLY want out of this place right now?" It really started to make sense to me, because that uncertainty of a second or third or fourth chance in a location means your shots have to be hitting the dramatic notes you want or you risk throwing it away.
I also kind of see it like being the Lens in Microscope. Make sure you're always listening and incorporating other's ideas into the story, but don't be afraid or think you need permission to do what you want. Because Fall of Magic doesn't have the safety rails of Microscope, Fall of Magic is swimming in the Ocean. It's a very deep game with no safety nets. The more I move about in its waters, the less I'm inclined to share it with beginners.
Anyways, I'd love to hear about your experiences with Ross' AMAZING game and let me know how you play!
I hide in a cubicle all day until the night time where I play RPGs and other games and stuff.