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GenCon 2010 - Arnold

posted Aug 19, 2010, 3:15 PM by Arnold Cassell
For GenCon, it fell out as follows:
Kagematsu plays first, with each game skipping a few hundred years into the future, more or less.
We began in a distant past, struggling to wipe winter away from a valley that needed spring. A supernatural beast was squatting there, and only with the aid of the priest Kagematsu could anyone hope to drive it away. Half the cast, and countless other villagers perished in that desperate time, but it ended as a fairy tale, with one cunning old woman being restored to youth. She and her "priest" left and wandered the earth, convinced they were immortal.

The secret of this adventure, revealed to the player of Kagematsu, is that whole elaborate scheme of forcing women to entreat promises from Kagematsu is "her" (that nameless power living in the cave) way of finding him "respect and companionship." This time it worked, more or less. Last time (ConCarolinas) it ended in disaster, and that time "she" had far less confidence in future episodes that she should be using her power on mortals at all.

My Life with Master ran in a dual session with Unending River. The minions in this game were serving a brutish teacher of a "vastly superior" form of martial arts, as he began to spread his teachings to distant lands. An envoy from the capitol arrived to survey his work, and everything fell apart. The other table also provided ample opportunity for antagonism, not to the players' efforts directly, but to the Master's. He would, in turn, take it out on the minions.

My Life with Master went pretty well for me. To be honest, I have a hard time running a game of MLwM when one of the players is trying to destroy the tension with the use of flippant humor, but it seemed most everyone had a good time. We did manage to get a few cross-talk actions going between this Unending River, and we have ideas to better the interaction next time.

Behind the screens here, the Master was gaining power from the "her" in this cave, and the Unending River monks were sent there to investigate, and possibly seal this font of power to restore balance. We ended the MLwM session with the Master dying at one of the minion's hands (she later reincorporated into society.) Two other minions were destroyed by the town, as their only option, and the last ran to the hills, finding another master to serve (and more than likely spreading this terrible combat form along the way.)

This was the first time we added this part into the story, so without the feedback sheet in front of me, I'd be hard pressed to nail down what "she" learned from it, but I know I took away several characters from this session to populate into later episodes.

I hear Dogs in the Vineyard went well for Paul, although I still don't have all the details. He reworked Dogs into a dungeon crawl, eliminating the d10 for gunplay, but stepping up all fallout if there's magic involved. So a magical duel of words deals d6, for example. Tragedy strikes as some village children disappear, and the only lead is into a cave in the mountains. I know he used "trapped rooms" and such as raises, treating floors of the dungeon as NPCs, but I didn't catch the game so all I know for certain was what was on our feedback and summary sheet.

DonJon, dear DonJon. I see what you are designed to do, and you do it well. Players are empowered to explore whatever they are interested in, and impose their willpower onto the stage. And you were picked because of that. But too many times now, we've seen that when players are allowed to get away with anything, they want to get away with silly. DonJon, you won't be missed.

The session description for this episode is that it's only a generation after the events of the DitV game. Where as the players in DitV are encouraged to be respectful of the trials ahead of them, and of the danger and muddy morality presented to them, it's fun to have their kids adopt a "Whatever you say, old man. I'm goin out adventurin for ale and whores!" stance. In the end, we had an Ogre, and Orc, a (fabulous) Elf, and a Beholder leave behind the pig-farming town of FarTown (a name carried forward from the DitV game). They smashed up some skeletons, looted each other (both in the middle of, and outside of combat,) talked down a Windigo and convinced him to show them the way to the cave, pummeled a truckload of Kobolds, and pretty much got exactly what they were looking for.

Two of them were there primarily for money, and got tons. One was looking for wives, and found enough to found and empire (which is totally staying in the fiction, as it was awesome.) The last of them discovered the true hiding place, and came in contact with the she who is not yet named, and demanded to know the secret to her power. We rolled it, cause it was a great ending either way, but the player lost. Such a pity.

No secrets here, they came in direct contact. She learned how utterly fun mortals are as toys.

Ingenuous? Wherefore art thou? Maybe Paul can catch me up soon... I know it's steampunk, and last time we got to this point, he had the agents on a quest for a more reliable power source, delving into forgotten depths of the mines.

The Usagi Yojimbo game I had was the best one of the bunch, and that's saying a lot. Before the background noise got unbearably, disruptively loud, we got some good roleplaying done and laid pretty good foundations. I felt more in tune with Jeromie and with the Keiko character than I have in the past. (Both explained in a moment.) I had one exceptionally good player (you know who you are, Greg) who, intentionally or not, always opened the door for me to drive the plot and have a good time.

So by now the story has caught up with more or less modern times, and Jeromie has wished he could play this game he has (Usagi Yojimbo) with his friends in a "more real" way. Wish granted, with some complications of course. The Little Fears game runs simultaneously with this one, hence the kid characters. All four of the players instantly bought in to the double layer of this game, and we were talking at the table as the children, not as the players/GM.

Jeromie doesn't know why this is all working the way it is, but his friends are inside a virtual world playing this game (OMG! This is so awesome, guys!) when he picks up a signal inside the game that looks like a girl trapped there. The kids storm the castle to find out who, and discover Keiko, the avatar of the unnamed goddess. Except she really likes it in here, because there aren't any real people, and she doesn't have to grant any real wishes (now that she's set this gig up for Jeromie.)

At the same time, the kids in Little Fears are dealing with what's left of her power. Without a head to control it, it's causing nightmares and chaos, and kids always seem to be at the center of things.

So my table had to choose between letting Keiko get what she wants, or fixing the world at large. And, for perfectly childish reasons, they decided to let her stay, mostly to get revenge on Jeromie for sticking them in a computer game!

Misspent Youth, at 8am on a Sunday, I was impressed that I had three people. I believe we all understand the game better now than we did, and despite some "wait, what now?" moments with the resolution mechanics, it was fluid and dark. 5 times the characters chose to sell out, and always they were driven to make those descriptions and actions brutal and meaningful. As for how it related to the story? Only passingly. I have high hopes for DragonCon, but this time I don't think the players were aware that this was part of anything larger than them.

And that's totally okay. I picked it because this session takes place in the future, and the characters are kind of forced to inherit the crap that came before them, and they're fighting back! That, and the game has a lot of player framed scenes. Maybe if some of the players from earlier sessions had come back for this one, it would have been different? But we do tell people up front that each of these games can be played alone, and will stand up alone as whole stories.

Garage Band? Supposedly, the mountain has been flooded by now, and it's just an island resort. Supposedly, the players are band members, trying to make it onto the scene. Supposedly, when they start writing songs about the island, they are haunted by the ghosts of previous sessions. I really want to play in this session at DragonCon, but we'll see if I can. I didn't even get to do a review/feedback form with Paul before we got on the plane to head out, so I have very little information indeed.


So this time, by virtue of several events throughout, I think the ineffable "she" in this Cave of Wanders story delighted in the realization that "mortals are such fun toys" to play with. That helped characterize her actions in later games, and really sold me on the power of running this set multiple times; she was much different by the end of it last time. At ConCarolinas her interractions left her pretty much despondent and she was taking out her frustrations on the sessions rather than being much help at all. Before that at RoundCon, the players had more impact on locations and props than on her, but it was just a matter of gaining our footing, I suppose.

We'll get one more go of this at Dragon*Con, and then maybe to bed with it.

I've rambled long enough. Thanks for reading?