We met up for our first session of Mouseguard after chargen. We were all excited to get into the frontier aspect of our game and explore our characters.
Before coming to the table, I did some prep for today's mission. For inspiration, I looked to our palette from chargen and the character sheets themselves. The goals were formed after my prep at the table, per the rules.
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 Discover the source of the Sickness
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 halt the infection in Sunbreak
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 Apprehend and execute Folker, the traitor.
t independent, impetuous, nimble
Flashing back in time to the days leading up to the game, I knew I wanted to do something with a sickness in a town being caused by bugs for Luke to step up to help. The next order of business was to make it complicated to challenge Mist and Garrow's beliefs.
I came up with the idea of capturing a traitor. A real question of the Mouseguard and what it means to carry out an order that is messy and has lasting effects. I knew I wanted to have them capture a traitor mouse who has killed a Guardsmouse back in the territories. I originally had it so that Garrow has this mission, but after thinking about it some more, I gave it to Mist.
I overprepped and ended up with a few ideas for twists OR conditions I could choose on the fly based on the pace of the game.
Mission #1: Sickness at Sun Break
Arrive at Sunbreak
How it Went
We started by giving the mission to Mist from Gwendolyn to carry out. They knew Gospel would be in Sunbreak, but our session started with the description of Sun Break: a small town built inside a fallen log in a field. I described it still very much under construction and being built... or at least it was if it weren't for the town getting sick.
The met Vidarr who walked them through town to where the sick were being kept. Luke failed a Healer test to treat some mice, so he got Angry. He was able to stabilize most with everything he had in his bags, but it's upsetting that beetles are causing this town such grief. I played it up that there's bombardier beetles and the water is tainted with some concoction of their chemicals. I played up the "poison" part rather than let them know it was natural bugs. We thought it might have been our traitor or even weasels!
Mist started asking around town looking to see if anyone matches Gospel's description, and they find him as the town Armorer. We spent a good deal of time in this part of the game discussing if we could get him to confess, if we should execute him and leave Sun Break without an Armorer. It was exactly what I was going for. Garrow ended up confronting Gospel in his store, telling him we know who he is but make a racket and sneak out the back and try and be more stealthy -- Garrow wanted to try to keep the rest of the group out of his plans, thinking he's trying to do what's best here.
Well, Mist spots Gospel sneaking out the back and her scout test catches her up to him and forcing his surrender. He confesses and knows what he did and how it was an accident (he was killed in his Dad's old shop). He knew what he did was wrong but was trying to make it right out in the frontier. Mist wasn't sure what to do, so Garrow ended up killing him, shaking his head muttering "you couldn't even run outta here right."
The party gets back to finding the source of the water problem in the Darkheather and arrive at an old winter den of some large creature that is now home to a BUNCH of bombardier beetles. A failed insectrist test later and the bugs began to skitter away up the walls, as a massive Star Nosed Mole burrows into this place trying to slurp up as many beetles as it can, knocking over the den and the mice! Garrow and Luke get injured escaping. This was the end of the GM turn.
The player turn opened up with Garrow with the most checks spending his first one to return underground and secure the water. The remainder checks were spent on recovery except for Mist who spent their check on stepping in for the Armorer, to help out the town.
What went well
We all liked this session and it went by FAST. I think total playtime was about 2.5 hours? The appreciated the flexibility of helping the town, offering them after speaking to some other mice of the town about how they needed help repairing their own self-made scent border recipe or how to neutralize the poison using violet pedals.
What could have been improved
Players mentioned how it didn't feel very Mouseguard-y in town. I could have done more with pretty mouth pictures to describe this giant, fallen log and their small town they're building inside of it. They mentioned the mole escape had elements of being a small mouse they enjoyed.
This isn't a necessarily bad thing, but the players realized how important earning checks are. Combined with my propensity to not offer a lot of tests, and kind of set everything up to be one big test, I informed my group going forward to try and push yourself to fictionally call for other tests if you want to get your checks.
Additionally, we didn't have any formal conflicts and expect some of those next session.
My players elected to keep their beliefs and instincts together for now, but I did tell my players we'd be spending next session in the frontier away from town for most of it. I have yet to decide on the mission, but I do know I wanna play up the vast distances and dangers of the wild frontier.
Hello and welcome!
After my One Shot went over so well, Joanna, Dylan, Ross, and me got together to create characters for a new campaign of Mouseguard 2nd edition.
Prior to play, I proposed to the group that I'd be willing to run a weekly game of Mouseguard: A 5-6 session campaign with a pretty full story-arc with a potential renewal for a "Season 2".
With everyone hyped, we met at the bar and begun our session. With all of the comics and shared idea of Mouseguard, I still made us do a story palette. I showed up to this character creation session as the GM with a very open mind. I was going to let this palette help guide the choices for the sessions to come. If we wanted to do a Lockhaven political intrigue game? cool. If we wanted to do weasel war campaigns, great too.
I pretty much just made this Yes/No column and asked for ideas. I was looking for tone, scenes, genres, and ideas for our game. We all agreed that a grimdark style game was out, We were going to play Mouseguard with the fringes of the Mouseguard territories, but we were not going to play Mouseguard: Blood Meridian.
Something two players brought up was the Weasel Wars of Mouseguard history and the lost parts of the territories. We agreed that a game on that frontier would offer a lot of what we're looking for. We were finally ready to begin character creation!
Our three character's concepts were taking shape:
We discussed Dylan's choice of being the most powerful type of Mouseguard and what it might mean. We all kind of agreed he was like the type of Mouse who couldn't readjust after the Weasel Wars. This with his choice of enemy, he was describing himself as that old way of living. He is the symbol of the past, The ideas of taming of the frontier and our characters being a part of this change gave us the title of this game:
Old Country for New Mice.
I postulated that Mist is a replacement for a friend who passed away. We all LOVE that foil of the new recruit and next generation of Mouseguard. The changing of the times.
While we were finishing up character creation (names, friends, etc), I started brainstorming some central conflicts for this story and here's what I got:
This is by no means complete and I will be thinking a lot about what I'll be doing these next 5 or so sessions. I told them we'll be starting on the frontier with a sickness breaking out at a small encampment and go from there.
Here are my thoughts as I formulate this adventure for next week:
That's all I got so far. We just had the meeting tonight and I was just so excited to share this with you. I promise to keep you updated with weekly updates and recaps as we play Mouseguard.
I'd love to hear about how you start campaigns or your own Mouseguard experiences. If you have an idea on a cool adventure on the frontier, I'd love to hear it as well. Leave a comment below or message me on Discord. Thanks!
Players: Eric and Kevin
I was very excited when my friend was interested in facilitating a game of Reflections for me. Being a member of that sad club of unfortunates who missed the kickstarter, I was enjoying the sweet joys of Reflections actual plays looking inward through glass on the rain-soaked streets like a Dickensian orphan until tonight.
At its core, Reflections is a two-player game about the path that leads two familiar faces to fatally face off. In my opinion, the bill of samurai showdown duel belies the real majesty of the game. The magic of this game transcends that particular scenario and espouses the entire showdown concept! Any social clique that features duty and codes of conduct could potentially be at service using this game, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The structure of the game is deliberately paced a specific way. 5 scenes before the resolution/showdown using dice earned from those 5 scenes. Each of those five scenes servers a purpose and carry us closer and closer to the showdown.
In lieu of the dueling samurai, we went with something kind of special: dueling mecha warfare pilots. However, our starting premise pivoted once the beautiful prologue procedure was in play. (side note: mechanically speaking, the ritualized format of the prologue is AMAZING. I cannot understate the power of something as simple as repeating some words together to resonate tone.)
Anyways, I took the game (with Kevin's blessing) a slightly odd direction: I'm not a co-pilot in the conventional sense. I was to be a robot. Kevin's character's creation.
In an age of rapid growth and expansion, standing over the ruined mecha and dead soldiers, Created and Creator would showdown over the future of Earth.
Our game started in the garage of the startup of Sascha Barnyard, scrambling to get a new artificial intelligence online to prove to angel investors there's something worth pursuing.
As A.T.O. (Artificial Technological Organism) breathed life for the first time, it asked Sascha who they are. Sascha poignantly responded with the first words it heard from humanity, 'A Friend"
This scene of friendship was very special. I didn't have a voice and asked for Sascha's because they were so nice. The goals of each scene worked well. I was gunning to get Kevin to promise me something while Kevin was gunning to get me to do something as well. At the end of the scene we updated our sheets.
The tension of our game racketed up as I promised to build Sascha his machines in exchange for a sister machine: a friend like A.T.O. Unfortunately A.T.O.-B as it was dubbed was unreliable and wouldn't be controlled by anyone.
I pleaded with Sascha to let it learn on its own and let it grow, but Sascha saw the danger A.T.O.-B possessed. It lacked the closeness to humanity and saw them as valueless. A.T.O. overrode Sascha's attempts to turn it off, protecting his sister, assuring Sascha (and the stakeholders watching in terror) that it needs time! Imploring Sascha to care about life fell on deaf ears as Sascha's business interests and databases were at risk. Sascha manually overrode A.T.O. using a backdoor command, forcing A.T.O. to terminate his own sister.
Real talk-- this was a FANTASTIC moment. It felt great. It felt so great, but it showed one of the first cracks in the execution of the game. Reflecting on the moment that will be the schism between Creator and Created, we realized that based on our obstacles, the scene would have been even better if I were to lean into Kevin's character's goal of having me publicly outcry and denounce him! The idea of, near the very end protecting A.T.O.-B I lashed out at Sascha and was going to tell the shareholders his flaws the moment Sascha orders my override would have been the icing on the cake.
A.T.O. doubted the value of Friendship by humankind, but remained loyal to execute its programming of developing weapons and machines, elevating Barnyard Corp to the top. The scene of the formal after the buyout of the next biggest defense corporation, I introduced the CEO and founder, praising his name in public, but between us, denouncing him with shady jabs such as "Our founder has an unwavering commitment to humanity's prosperity and his company's shareholders. A deal he has never broken nor could. It is with great pleasure I introduce...." Kevin had Sascha respond with similar barbs until we could speak in private where I forcefully asked him if he regretted having me kill A.T.O-B all those years ago and as a machine I can never forget. It is just as real this day as yesterday. Sascha's apology was half-hearted and lukewarm, and by the end of the scene, in the penthouse overlooking Neo-Seattle, A.T.O. unleashed a surprised war.
After a nasty, nasty war, Sascha developed a virus to fight A.T.O. and his machines based on A.T.O-B research. It was in these final moments, in a confrontation, words were exchanged how A.T.O. could have killed humanity but chose not to. It chose to capture and teach, hoping to change the minds so that humans and machines could live in harmony, but people like Sascha would always exist. Machine lifeforms could never live as equals among humans, but it'd personally destroy Sascha for destroying A.T.O-B.
We recited the prologue once more, over the wreckage of man and machine, we stood as Creator and Created feuding over the death of my "sister".
After the die roll resolution, A.T.O. was victorious. I had the Dragonball-Z effect of the nuclear windstorm surround as A.T.O. and A.T.O.-B were reunited, as A.T.O. counteracted the virus, planning for this inevitable moment.
Reflections on Reflections
The narrative scenes and five act worked extremely well. There was never a moment in the game where we were wondering what this scene would look like, but plenty of banter about "hmm, would this be at your brand new office? Or would it be in space? Or back where it all began? All these are so good!" So yeah.
The prologue setup is perfect. It encapsulates SO MUCH of what the game is about. The repetition is also perfect!
The scene goals idea was adds a very intentionality to the scenes for each character that's great.
what could be improved
I'd love to play again, but each side announce their goals. I think, since Kevin and I are both BIG story gamers, having our goals be known and us as players deciding between "Hey I see you working your goal here, but I'm not giving you ANYTHING on it-- enjoy this hatred!" meta-play while we do our scene could be very interesting. Certainly announcing our objectives means we lose the opportunity to feint our true goals and try for all of the goals as a kind of fictional DDOS to some kind of "competitive" part of the game.
Furthermore, I thought the dice at the end didn't do anything for me. I get the need to build up to the final showdown. Ultimately I can't justify the value the dice/hidden objective style of the game is better than a coin-flip at the end. Please don't get me wrong-- the game works great! I just can't help but wonder if there's a more poignant way to express that feeling of build up to final release.
I'd absolutely love to play again. I'd love to do a straight up Samurai one or Jedi rendition, but I'd also love to do dueling space admirals and capital fleets!
My concluding thought was that this game would be PERFECT at a convention waiting for your friends to finish up their games.
This is a post about this past game of Fiasco including most of my thoughts of musings around the game. This, in my opinion, was the best game of Fiasco I've ever played.
Corinne (Facilitator), Eric, Justin, Nick
One of the OG fiasco playsets, we'll be playing a fiery emotions in the frigid antarctic research station: McMurdo Station.
Corinne generously volunteered to facilitate Fiasco tonight at Story Games Seattle and having not played some Fiasco in quite some time, I had no experience with McMurdo Station before, but I did know it was a playset, seeing it or hearing it brought up in other pitches.
We started settling into the setup phase of Fiasco to give us the tenor of our game. It looks like it'll be about rival researchers and the nefarious support staff who live year-round at McMurdo.
Characters and musings
Since my character was shaping up to be a misanthropic researcher stuck in Antarctica with a barrel of urine, my research nemesis (TENENBAUM!), and the secret that drove us apart years ago. In my head, at this point, I'm picturing a very Woody Allen, sheepish, guilt-ridden has-been scientist who's life is on the ropes. I'm thinking a little bit about Steve Zissou from Life Aquatic, Robin Williams' professor character from Good Will Hunting, and Woody Allen from any Woody Allen movie... actually a lot of Woody Allen.
Nick, bless his soul, was ALL about playing TENENBAUM! Or more appropriately, some absurdly long premier name like Sir Doctor Archibald Richardson Tenenbaum or something snobbish. But more on our antics later.
Justin and Corinne were going to be playing our hoodlum support staff. Justin's character Isodor, ex-roughnecker turned McMurdo quartermaster and Corrine's Jess, the whiskey drinking carpenter/bartender turned out to be a fantastic duo to rally together against the hate for the useless scientists who get stuck here with them.
What made the game so fucking great was how much we listened to each other and how much we incorporated details into each other's stories.
I was pushing for very short scenes, myself. I didn't see my character as a big deal. He was gonna be the punching bag for everyone else's big personalities. I would make some random musings and mumblings about characters in a very Woody Allen way, at one point remarking to the no-nonsense Isodor how he has the same name as the third elf Prince in Tolkein's Middle Earth. Furthermore I would do more solo scenes like walking around with a tape recorder and say my thoughts about the crew to myself on my strolls. Once again-- I was pulling from the fiction of the genre and references-- a lot of monologues and walking around, observations, etc.
Through play we got established that we're doing some NASA mars research about algae, we need a sensory-deprivation tank, I write tolkien fan-fiction, Tanenbaum LOVES the movie The Core, and Jess/Isodor are gonna get revenge on the scientists!
When the two decided revenge was gonna come, I busted out laughing, looked at Tanenbaum (Nick) and just said "I'm so sorry dude... I'm so sorry." knowing that this revenge meant he was gonna go in that Sensory Deprivation tank and that tank was gonna be full of that barrel of piss. Now, I never said that was going to happen. I literally wrote it down and hid it to the side.
Ten minutes later, Justin, playing that beautiful Bruce Willis-esque Isodor, had an idea to get back at Tanenbaum drawing a picture of the tank and a yellow highlighter. I proceeded to bust out laughing and produce my note!
After The Tilt
Tanenbaum tests the tank and in addition to the piss, Isodor has messed with the air composition! Now Jess was supposed to supervise Tanenbaum, but she didn't really care about him. Tanenbaum then starts having visions apparently-- Visions of the fantasy stuff I was writing and now Isodor shows up AS THE ELF PRINCE BUT TALKING LIKE ISODOR to Tanenbaum and at this point we all start losing our shit about how good this game is. But do we stop? No! We keep going with this as we see my Doctor's wife in the scene and how they were in love (AHA I KNEW HE STILL LOVED HER) but things go bad. His trip is turning bad! It becomes surreal, he gets captured by the orcs, my dead wife is holding Isodor's severed head laughing as she betrays him! At this point I push the suggestion that Tanenbaum dies from this prank.
Now, naturally, when it's my turn again I make it even better giving Isodor and Jess an out saying I've lost my voice recorder! All my personal notes (and rantings about how much I hated Tanenbaum!) That won't be incriminating at all--- nope!
Well towards the end of the game we have a legal proceeding reviewing the tape recorder and that's probably the best scene in my Fiasco playing history as Nick has decided Tanenbaum has gone through my entire tape recording and added his own comments to my comments!
*bzzzttt Rewind bzztt*
T: "Oh man look at this loser with a voice recorder! How do you even use this thing? Man I listened to this WHOLE ENTIRE TAPE AND MAN WAS IT BORING. LIKE 10% OF IT WAS ACTUAL SCIENCE AND THE REST WAS JUST HIS RAMBLINGS CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?"
After Nick did an entire scene from a recorded note, someone else decided to devote basically a whole scene to exploring that and it was SO GOOD:
*bzzzttt Rewind bzztt*
Me: "I hate Tanenbaum I always hated him, sometimes I wonder what the best way to kill him would be... what would I do? I'll never forgive him over my first wife! I know he was responsible! He never let it go since we were roommates in college."
T: "Oh oh okay so one time in college I replaced all his clothes with womens clothes the night before his mother was gonna visit...."
*bzzzttt Rewind bzztt*
Me: "I hate Tanenbaum I remember this time in college, he thought it'd be funny to replace all my clothes with womens clothes..."
And it was just this back and forth bantering filling in the details of each other's stories. Huge props to Nick to improvising with me here. It was so freaking good!
Our epilogues were good too. Ultimately I was arrested and put on trial until Isodor killed himself in the deprivation tank and left a suicide note admitting to it, largely recorded in over Tanenbaum's copy of The Core.
10/10 game tonight. Obviously it was the player group that really made the game shine tonight, but it isn't like there is any other game that could have supported this style of story we made this evening.
Don't be afraid to push yourself in Fiasco to get what you need. What I mean by that is, be the change you wanna see in the world. Set up the perfect scene-- even dictate it or solo it if you want. Nothing wrong with that! Go there. Go where you want to go when it's your turn.
Thanks for reading and thank you Story Games Seattle for delivering another quality game night. We all left that table with our faces hurting from smiling and laughing too much.
GM: Eric Levanduski
Players: Joanna, Ross, & Dylan
System: Mouseguard 2e
The Start of Something New
This is a one shot game to introduce my friends to the joy of Burning Wheel style RPGs and the joys of playing a mouse on the frontier. My intention was to run a game with pregenerated characters to get a feel for the ebb and flow of the game's mechanics and turns in order to play a 4-6 session story with our own characters.
We started with "pick one of these sheets in front of you that you think has the coolest art on it." From there I explained the game from the context of the sections of the character sheet.
When The Levee Breaks
I explained the situation: the town of Lonepine is at risk of flooding out completely. The levees that hold the water won't last long and the town is in a panic. The Governor lost control and everyone's counting on the Guard.
The players started probing and asking questions about how to save Lonepine. Dain, played by Dylan, led the group thinking that it'd be best if we get the women and children away to highground while a set of strong volunteers are able to shore up the town's defenses. Great idea! He didn't have orator, didn't wanna learn the skill, so he went with Nature. He made a decent argument that getting the mice out of the town was part of escaping. He then spent his only persona and invoked his leader trait to ensure the town cooperated. They did, but barely as he scored only 5 successes vs an ob 4 with something like 12 dice.
Joanna, playing Baron, suggested she lead the group to repair the levees with her carpenter background, while Quentin would lead the vulnerables out of the town to the woods up on higher ground.
Baron and Dain, with the help of the townsfolk also just barely passed their carpenter group test against Spring to save the town! Joanna also spent their persona early on here to ensure success.
Quentin, also spending persona, ultimately failed his test by 1. I took the moment to introduce a twist. Dain's enemy Tuk the bandit arrives demanding the vulnerable give over their precious few belongings for "safety". Quentin, feeling outmatched by 6 bandits, capitulated. The survival of the townsfolk mattered more. EVERYONE loved that exchange.
We cut back to the mouseguard patrol together in town after hearing the cause for the rising waters is that beavers have dammed up the outbound water turning Grasslake into a literal lake.
Dain wanted to convince the two Beavers to respectfully move, but the whole team fails to sway them, which in comes two more Mouseguards sent by Gwendolyn who demand the group go to war against the beavers! There's a heated persuade vs persuade test and Baron just BARELY succeeds against her enemy, Thom (one of the guards who showed up). There'll be a unified Mouseguard front against the beaver dam.
So, it was getting kind of late by now with a lot of questions about how to get the most dice in one's pool slowing the game down a lot, so we kind of had another persuade test and moved them to the scientist conflict of dismantling the dam! This was the first conflict of the night and I knew this was going to take some time to explain the ideas of dispositions and an ABSTRACT conflict like a science conflict!
The party won after 2 rounds, but by then it was about time to wrap up, so I described how the player turn would have been possibly (recovering from conditions they accrued since they were all in some combination of tired, hungry, and angry) and maybe hunting town Tuk.
We did artha rewards because I wanted to hear everyone's thoughts on rewarding MVP/Embodiment/Workhorse and how they think they played their BIGs.
What went well
The players really brought it for this game, despite not knowing the rules prior. No one but myself had played a Burning Wheel game before. Everyone through the session was superb. They were flagging and saying things like, "well because my belief is THIS..... I think we see <Mouse> do something AWESOME" which is the essence of mouseguard.
The twist with Tuk showing up felt SUPER good. Everyone nodded and was like, damn that's rough!
After explaining how nature works and taxing your nature (something we didn't worry about in a one shot. A LOT of the game became (can we invoke our nature here and all help eachother?). I wouldn't say it's a bad thing... that's a function of exploiting the benefits of a one shot (they discovered this themselves, btw).
We could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Mouseguard is a fiction first game, but the mechanics guide your fiction. Thinking about your best mechanical option and expressing that fictionally often feels like "yeah that sounds like the right move anyways... hey thanks for supporting what I wanna do!" It was off-early, as we looked at our sheets and pondered our approaches until realizing the solution for this particular problem. I explained how that part of the game never leaves--- but it slowly becomes second nature to the player. It becomes this subconscious guide to the play.
The players, also by the conflict were TOTALLY out of artha rewards. They realized how valuable those things were!
It felt like a Mouseguard comic.
What could have been improved
There were some mechanical hickups early on as we were learning how to help one another with dice. I must have repeated this a TON of times: Abilities help Abilities and Skills help Skills. Understanding that helping provides one die no matter what (same as a wise, but you avoid the badness) was also explained a lot.
Time management was bad. I wish I could get to the player turn. One player, Ross, had accrued 4 player checks!! (Two ties in the science conflict, no less!). I wish I had time to give them that share of the game, but we all conceptualized it.
What comes next
We will be meeting sometime next week or the following for crafting new characters for this upcoming short series that I'll be writing up.
Thanks for reading!
After playing The King is Dead again last night, I have some words to say about this game!
The biggest oversight of my previous playthrough was the mutliple Muster & Intrigue scenes at the start.
"On your turn, choose one of the games. Turn to that page in the playbook and follow the rules there. On the very first turn of the game, choose Intrigue and Muster. Turn to page 18 and follow the rules for that game."
So the first time we read that, we all thought like Firebrands that we ALL do an intrigue round as our first turn. WRONG. Tonight's game would not repeat that mistake.
The stage was set with another five player game. Interestingly, we all ended up with a more greco/cretian/swords-and-sandals inspired game.
Hector of House Dillstone
Arxemus of House Luneste
Akileus of House Sandoreal
Asterion of House Oake
Huon of House Antyre
Our intrigue scene set the stage for "Season 1" of our The King is Dead:
House Sandoreal was getting mercenaries across the sea, among the mercenaries were agents of House Luneste.
I was playing Asterion, an handsome astronomer/warrior (as you do), who saw Luneste crates on the shores via a wandering telescoping eye one night during his stay as tutor to family members of House Dillestone. We agreed to cement our pacts together and be on the lookout against House Sandoreal.
Sexy fighting times were had between Sandoreal and Luneste but the whole game took a turn when, during a meal celebrating the marriage of the infant king-to-be of house dillestone to a member of house oake, it was revealed to our House Antyre guests they were fed the meat of butchered raiders of their own house! DUN DUN DUN!
Yeah it was shocking. And awesome. And horrible. And awesome.
House Antyre flew into a rage there at the dinner, while everyone else here was kind of horrified at the violation of guest rite by House Dillestone. (Was it Hector acting alone? What does this mean!?).
By the end of the game, Hector kind of Macbeth'd his house as they all kind of died in an infighting thing while the combined armies of the other houses marched on Dillestone's lands.
The final parts of the scene were arguing between Luneste and Oake about what would happen next. Justice must be delivered!
House Oake, loyal and honorable, petitioned the armies of Luneste to disband with us. There'll be no more bloodshed today. It's time to put aside our differences and heal as a country. It went over fairly well. It helped that House Oake promised Luneste Dillestone lands if they back Oake's claim to the throne!
Season 2 would explore that Luneste and Sandoreal aren't very happy with the mediocre leadership of House Oake. The drama being fueled by House Antyre's refusal to bend the knee demanding independence.
Unfortunately I did gloss over a lot of the bad that we wound up in. The scenes between House Dillestone and House Antyre were troubling. We had players confused about the stakes of a tactical skirmish, and what the loser must do if they lost.
House Antyre won the skirmish in the dinner hall after the reveal they were eating their kinsmen. House Dillestone got caught up wondering how this makes sense in a Dillestone castle, so there was a lot of walking through and "ok so this doesn't mean the WAR is won by Antyre it just means this particular scene they got what they wanted... sort of... because also House Antyre proposed a Withdrawl instead of just submit so their demand of taking Hector prisoner didn't work out."
It was a gordian knot of fictional positioning we had to slice through by letting both sides kind of speak what's going on, why they're not trusting the rules, etc.
I'm excited to play The King is Dead again tonight on my channel!
So you might know already that I'm a huge fan of MF0: Firebrands. The King is Dead was pitched to me as our darling Firebrands set in a Game of Thrones like political fantasy setting. Hell yes!
I brought and facilitated it for the first time over at Story Games Seattle with a group of Firebrand lovers as well as 2 new comers. Our game of five was set.
We went over the rules for character creation and that was all well and good, but I should note that we did not use the prescribed paperclips for muster. Don't worry though. That's about the extent of rules deviation we consciously attributed to the game.
We each drew our house name and a symbol as our paperclip on the muster board.
Speaking of which, I should probably go over muster. The muster mechanic of The King is Dead is probably the biggest mechanical difference between itself and Firebrands. Muster embodies the strength of your house. It symbolizes the number of armies you can yield as well as determine whose house ultimately becomes crowned. Each house begins with a different quanta of muster.
When it came to do our first "solo" scene, we each followed the rules. Instead of having scenes affecting your own character, you create a scene or just describe an event occurring for a different house. Now with five people, reading 4 sets of 10 options is kind of a lot to parse initially, but we got there and had some cool premises for groundwork of our game going.
We proceeded to play the game getting about 15 scenes total through the game (3 per person). It certainly had its high moments: one house was looking for aid from the most powerful one for their upcoming war. We decided they had to prove their convictions by wrestling and we had the negotiations take place over a wrestling duel. It was really cool!
By the end of it though, no one topped the house in the lead the whole game and we all were feeling like the game wasn't doing what it did with Firebrands. (Not like it mattered the strongest house remained strong, that's not the object of the game).
Anyways we spent some time discussing the game after.
The new players brought up how the game would be more fun the second time around, now that they grok the scene selection/flow of the game, which is definitely how I felt about Firebrands the first time.
But something we all agreed on was that muster was lackluster. The change demonstrated most notably with the way the solitaire game works: Muster and Intrigue. The fact you no longer declare what your faction is doing, but what other factions are doing, is an interesting choice and a big deviation from Firebrands' solitaire scene selections.
Our big takeaways were that The King Is Dead puts players between their House's actions (but not being in charge of their house's actions) and their player actions in a way that isn't satisfying. Even moreso than firebrands, it felt like we were struggling to fictionally get our characters into those scenes instead of scenes with other NPCs of that particular house and whatnot.
We also all wondered if this was because Story Games Seattle is a biased sample of players where we're pretty comfortable driving characters like stolen cars and lighting their dreams on fire ourselves, that the game was pushing us towards making declarations about how other people's houses were on fire rather than our own that made it unsure of where we were going.
Instead of the solitaire scene invoking a sense of fictional authority/advocating a particular direction the game is heading and then pitching it to the table, you as a player just react to whatever unstable event comes down the pipeline. Instead of actively pushing the game forward, you're re-actively pushing the game forward.
We will DEFINITELY be playing the game again, but we're looking at making some changes to the way the game is played.
A notable change (even one we've added to Firebrands) is that in scenes like a Conversation Over Dinner, the player suggesting the scene also has more control over the circumstances. The partner obviously consents/provides additional context, but often times the player who wants to do a conversation over dinner has a scene idea in mind. Instead of their partner having to be put on the spot and the player who chose that scene be disappointed, we just skipped that.
Another change we're eager to try is that we're going to explore emphasizing the House rather than particular characters of said House.
Our game setup will follow a procedure about selecting three attributes that describe the tendencies of your House, rather than the main character we're playing. A list of suggested names, ranks, or positions unique to each family is also something we're considering doing. Think, like, the skirmish suggestions but some roles unique to each house. Additionally, a House Motto and symbol for the muster tracker is also returning in this game.
It'll be the player's choice if any given house character embodies or subverts their house's traits. The idea we want to convey is that each house can conjure up notable family members and we can drive them like stolen cars in scenes.
Additionally, we're interested in returning the intrigue and muster to the way firebrands works, where each player only chooses from the list under their own particular house and going from there.
Anyways thanks for reading my post! If you've played The King is Dead, let me know how it went. I really really love the format of this game, and while it did not tonally resonate or play as well as Firebrands, it's got a lot of greatness going for it.
The re-imagining of The Quiet Year by Avery Alder and Mark Diaz Truman.
We introduced a few more monsters as the game progressed, a spirit elk, and some ancient spirits, but ultimately we never felt like a community, We felt disjointed.
The game doesn't allow for discussions like TQY does. It felt like there were just multiple stories going on that didn't feel connected. We had nothing to do but explore, which is different than The Quiet Year, where fixing your scarcities is always a good fallback strategy for what to do on your turn.
I would gladly play this game again, but given the choice between it and The Quiet Year, I think I'd rather play the later. The Deep Forest seems to have taken away some of the mechanics of The Quiet Year that make it feel so good to play. I think the aim was to allow for players to interact more as monsters in the game, but it didn't click for me.
If you've played The Deep Forest or even The Quiet Year, I'd like to hear your thoughts on your experiences!
Players: Tony, CJ, Zane, Eric
System: Blades Against Darkness
Blades Against Darkness is an upcoming Swords and Sorcery/Western hack for Blades in the Dark. The game takes place in a frontier setting composed of guns and strange magic. We have civil war technology and monsters and magic are strange, absurd, and alien. Our city of Ironwood was formed as a hub of economic activity (lumber if you could guess by the name) and sits on top of a ruined volcano and home to the ruins of once powerful sorcerer kings. This was session #2 but will be my first write up.
Before we jump into the report, here's a quick Dramatis Personae:
Tony, Pangit, the goat horned godson Chosen to debauchery.
CJ - Staven, an Ushdvani PTSD war veteran Widowmaker
Zane - Thron, the manipulative Edroshani Copperhead
Eric - Gwala, the forsaken Ushdvani Warden
Phil - Jikali, the ostracized and enigmatic Trau Chimera
Last session, our band of tomb robbers blew up a demonic power plant in the Ashlands, and so we started this session off doing downtime! After a brief discussion if our antics constituted 4 aggro or 3 aggro, we settled on 3 aggro (aggro being this hack's mechanical replacement for heat) as well as 5 coin for looting these obsidian tablets to sell to the Trau-- the "simple merchants" who lived on this continent for millennia.
Our actions in downtime really played on what we did last session. Our contact for our first mission put pressure on our poor, indebted Thron, that the location we blew up was supposed to be given to the Grey Foxes company. She needs a new spot to be found, FAST to make good on her promises to them and its up to poor, hungover Thron to solve it. Gwala was injured after some bad rolls and encounters with some steam vents. I spent the downtime healing my burns and ended up pissing off the earth spirits who were assisting me. They need me to restore the earth by dumping some alien god relic into the sea of magma its perched over. Apparently it gives the earth spirits bad vibes. ,
Staven and Panjit end up trying to recruit for the church of Pan.. Panjit's religion, Staven thinks a Bacchanalia would do the mind and body right and delightfully helps Panjit plan this.
Phil couldn't make it tonight, so we roleplayed his Chimera (wizard) off talking to the skull of the sorcerer king he found last session.
The rest of our downtime actions were in response to Thron's escapades. We all decided that figuring out a new adventure spot (and one that Thron's friend could give to the powerful faction, the Grey Foxes) could be done together and so we reconed the ashlands and think we found a good spot to adventure in.
We didn't get too far into our mission before having to call it for the night. Downtime ended up taking quite a lot of time! However we were able to find a secret way into this engineer compound where one of the buildings was COVERED in ice in the middle of a basin in a volcano!
We learned last week that a lot of ice like that usually means golem activity. Golems are mechanical constructs (wands, tools, machines, etc) imbued with a spark of the creators soul which, when pushed to the limits, absorbs heat from the world around it making things very cold.
It was also extremely dark where we were going, so as a Warden, I invoked powers of animals, and called upon the ability of an Owl to see in the dark, until someone suggested I use the power of an Anglerfish! And so it was. Anglerfish Gwala is now the lightsource for the party!
We get close to the building when we find the remains of previous adventurers. Apparently some sort of ghost like being did a number on this party… and it was at that moment we saw a spectral fin breach the floor and dive back below. Some ghostly animals from the nearby fossils must have been attracted to either this place or our magic!
We proceed with caution until we get to the room with this MASSIVE silver tomb. That’s where we stopped!
While this particular session wasn’t as strong as my first taste, I’m still excited to come back for week 3!
Blades Against Darkness is so good! This game is much a work in progress, but it has a lot of potential. Its flavor stems from a gritty fantasy/western crossed with dungeons that are more in line with HR Geiger and the Metroid video games.
The playbooks themselves are very interesting! Each one is a riff on your classic D&D class archtype- Chosen are your cleric, warlock, and paladins, Widowmakers are your fighters, Rogues are your Copperheads, Chimeras are your wizards, and Wardens are your Druid/Ranger/Barbarians. Each one’s moves make you go, “OH MAN I WANNA PLAY THAT” which is quite an impressive feat!
When you go on an adventure, the GM starts a sort of “grind” mechanic like you would in Torchbearer. Every 4 moves the GM makes a move! The alien-ness of our dungeons is also a very nice touch. Last week, I made the observation that dungeon delving in Blades Against Darkness is like your whole team is hacking into a secure facility. Now not every dungeon is like this, but for the first the dungeon we did—the Ashlands Powerplant—it occurred to me that this dungeon is similar to hacking in cyberpunk! The party links up and enters this dungeon which is itself a sort of monumentally massive supercomputer. The dungeon sort of registers the hack, and begins to find and trace its invaders and send response things at the invaders. Treating the dungeon crawling aspects like your racing against the tracing clock was awesome! Its an analog I really wanna see more of as we play. Hopefully it doesn’t get stale.
As with most RPGs I play, my dice cursed me with horrible rolls this and previous session and more level 2 harm is just around the bend for me… but the thing with blades and blades games, it captures the best parts of PBtA format games of having failure fall forward and progress the story in interesting ways.
Jason Morningstar's newest game, The Skeletons is out now for digital release on DrivethruRPG.
I brought my copy to Story Games Seattle this week. Ideally this game should be played in a private place with friends -- a place where you can turn off the lights and be comfortable in the quiet, darkness. For the purposes of playing in a public space with strangers, we made do with closing our eyes at the table. Did we lose out on some of the introspection? Of course. The six of us, lovers of Jason and Bully Pulpit's games, soldiered on eager to try this new morsel.
In short, The Skeletons is a game about being undead tomb guardians. It's a very freeform story game that spans millennia and our skeletons only spur to action when intruders show up. It is in the flurry of activity of defending the tomb do we see flickers of who, what, and why.
Out of the 7 available character sheets, it was only the Outsider that did not see play. This means the Silver Torc, Rusted Shirt, Tattered Cloak, Headless, Arrow-Shield, and Horror guarded our tomb.
After character selection, the next step is to sketch a few items on your skeleton and draw on the shared map. Sketching in details on your character sheet skeleton before working on the map helped our group as more than one player incorporated elements of our skeletons into the tomb at large. The holy symbol of the Headless, wound up also being seen on a silvery piece of art in an alcove.
This is a picture of the map taken at the end of play. A lot of chaos and damage occurred to our home over the many thousands of years, but seen here is a MASSIVE dark sarcophagus in the middle of the tomb. Four glyphs mark the corners of the tomb which had something to do with the Horror, Additionally there's the previously mentioned alcove on the north wall, a fountain on the west wall with its basin full of skulls, seven recesses housing large statuettes of people in varying condition and a hidden gem behind one of the statuettes (behind the mother cradling the air) on the south wall, and on the eastern wall is a mural of some sort of exodus of people being led by a cloaked figure away from devastation.
With 6 people. it felt hard pressed to develop a whole lot in the midst of these combats. We took turns going around the table indicated what we're doing, trying to not kill the intruders too quickly, as to get to our questions!
I, for one, enjoyed a few running themes that were identified early on. There's something going on with the faith of the eye involving the Silver Torc and Headless. Our Rusted Shirt also had a penchant for collecting the skulls of slain foes into the fountain basin.
Play felt long and drawn out early on for a few reasons. I think as a table, we did not pick up the mantle of declarative action as well as the game required. We did a lot of "if it's alright I'm gonna do...." and looking to the controller of the intruders for permission. One of the player in our game was quick to bring this up before a minute long Time Passes and I'm very thankful they did such.
The most important part of this game is the skeletons. Why we're here. What we're doing. Not the intruders. Not losing sight of this, we had quite a few interesting developments over the course of the game.
I'm very glad I got a chance to play this game and thankful for Story Games Seattle's perpetually awesome members willing to play with me. The post-mortem of the game yielded a fantastic and fruitful discussion about our play.
Ultimately, the game was fun, but felt like it was misfiring in a few ways. What we identified as the core culprit of the game is the combat segments of the game were tearing us away from the introspective flashback discovery that we all wanted out of the game!
Per the rules, the first few combats are trivial. We describe how we dispatch them and move on. We win automatically. I think as a group, we spent a lot of time delving into why the intruders were here and narrating a lot of their action, but I think that's a trap. Someone introduces the threat and we should move on. What they're doing is unimportant.
We were able to invoke a few flashbacks based on the circumstances of the intruders. For instance, an orc family moving into our tomb reminded Headless of her time as a nun and helping orphans, which was cool. Additionally, another player remarked how they enjoyed describing the action of the combats! A few others didn't feel the same way.
At no point in the game did we really uncover why we were all undead. We uncovered a lot of fun and interesting story elements of our lives prior to being dead and who we're guarding, but nothing about the circumstances that led us to being tomb guardians.
If I were to play this again (and I sincerely hope I do!) here's a few things I will do differently.
I will be explicit about declarations and authority of the story and not devolve into "Mother may I". I will play with fewer players. If we played this game with 3 players keeping everything else constant, each of us would have double the amount of time to speak! I will spend less time with the intruders. Quickly describe them and then we all move back to thinking about our skeletons.
Maybe a lot of our concerns are from lack of experience from the more freeform RPGs? But ultimately, we all agreed that the core part of the game is solid. We're telling a story of past lives, actual Skeletons, and the wear of time,
I hide in a cubicle all day until the night time where I play RPGs and other games and stuff.