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Tales from the Arco: We side-step into another game

On Saturday, I ran my Fate game, Tales from the Arco.

When last we left the adventurers, Garosh and Symon had recovered a powerful and dangerous artifact from Fennel Mostick, and turned it over to Mauriss Shadowriver of Agency Y in exchange for certain material goods.

This week, Andy (Garosh) brought a friend of his from out of town to join us.

We started late, and then the friend spent about an hour drawing up a character and asking questions. Fate character creation needs to take less than 15 minutes for one-shots. If you can’t figure out who you are by then, start playing and make it up as you go along. He also went, in my opinion, backwards, starting with stunts instead of his high concept and name. I assure you, if you know your high concept and trouble, the rest of your aspects and stunts will fall into place. Going the other way feels very much like someone who is looking to make a mechanical advantage. There was also the issue of him trying to build a character who was very much like Symon, but shadier. That was less of a concern to me, though– Symon is a much more interesting PC, if only because of his curse, and the fact that Kyle role-plays that curse well, every session.

Anyway, I finally told him that I was going to let him keep working on his PC while I started my regular players.

The PCs received from Mauriss two entry tickets to the Bluescarp Cliffball Championship– one contestant, one coach, and a note suggesting that there’s an artifact to be had, worthy of a bounty. They attended the event, ran into an old friend or three (the new PC, plus Belle Juniper and Rathnor, among others). Belle was coaching Olaff, a merchant from the Snowmelt district, while Rathnor was competing as one of the athletes. The favored to win contestant is Gillian Bluescarp, whose sense of balance is impeccable. Insults between Rathnor and Garosh are traded, almost-friendly barbs about each others’ family and carnal relations.

During the dinner reception, Garosh discovered that the soup– which none of the veteran players from the previous year had consumed– was poisoned. He threw it at Olaff, who ducked, which meant the soup landed in Belle’s face. She ducked out onto the balcony while Symon dashed out there to remove the poisoned soup from his system.

As she was wiping her face off, Symon greets her and, lowering her handkerchief, she looks up at him…. and for the first time, he sees her face, unmasked.

Belle Juniper’s face bears hideous burn scars around her eyes and forehead.

He startles for a moment, and she quickly turns away, embarrassed. They exchange pleasantries for a bit, and he reaches into his jacket to get a handkerchief for a moment of gallantry. His fingertips brush the White Rose, and he does… something… to learn her Trouble. Satisfied, and perhaps a bit pitying, he leaves to catch Garosh before the barbarian goes to bed. The competition, after all, starts at midnight.

The competition begins. In-game, the athletes and coaches team up to give the referee a “rule” that they then demonstrate in a physical expression. Each subsequent contestant must the demonstrate the rule in an attempt to identify it. As an example: “The contestant must carry the ball at least 10 feet.” The contestant making the rule carries the ball all the way down to the next ledge, performs a somersault, then throws the ball back up to the top ledge. The rule is satisfied, but there is a lot of other stuff going on that may confuse other contestants. At the end of a contestant’s turn, they can guess what the rule is. Coaches participate in the mental part of the game, often deciding and deducing the rules for their team-mates.

Although there was once a requirement to use the actual cliffball in the game, that requirement is no longer used, and participants have a wide variety of equipment available, and all contestants have equal access to the equipment.

Out of game, rather than reduce this to dice rolls, we played Zendo, an inductive reasoning game that is a tabletop version of Cliffball.

Two thirds of the players loved it. Kyle enjoyed it a bit less, mainly because he didn’t get to create an expression (yet). We played a couple of rounds. As the ref, I would read the Zendo rule, and get the player to tell me what their physical rule was in-game. They’d describe the physical expression while creating their koan. If they met the rule, I would describe their physical expression, making sure to include the rule that the other players had set out. If they failed to meet the rule, I would against describe the expression, somehow not meeting the rule.

We wrapped up for the night at 9 PM, when the players determined who would make it into the four finalists. Three were set by plot. For the fourth, Garosh beat Olaff by a thin margin. During the last round, both Garosh and Symon, who had both been watching for anything that might be an artifact, noticed that Gillian (role-played by Andy’s friend) had made a running leap that really didn’t have as much momentum in it as needed. Garosh immediately pinpointed it– Gillian is wearing boots that are also a magical artifact.

I felt it was risky to introduce a completely different game into the adventure, but I feel like it paid off. Next session, Kyle gets to start out as the Zendo master, and the PCs will have some opportunities to ferret out the artifact, perhaps steal it, or maybe even win it off of the current Cliffball Champion….

ConTessa: My first time GMing Dungeon World

I GMed Dungeon World yesterday, online.

I’ll start with my #1 frustration, which overshadowed most of what I could have learned and enjoyed about this experience.

GMing online is hard, especially when everyone at EDC starts to come out of their drug-addled hazes and starts flooding the network with their photos and delayed tweets and Facebook posts. Because the Internet in Las Vegas went down yesterday about every 5 minutes from 4:30 PM until about 6.

My game was supposed to run from 3 to 7. You can see how that would be a problem, right?

Anyway, the flow of Dungeon World is such that having it interrupted repeatedly was rough. As in: I spent 10 minutes trying to say “Hey, I forgot to mention the other exit when you came in– there’s stairs!” TEN. MINUTES. What should have been quick and punchy tended to slog down because I had to spend 5 minutes on every little thing, repeating myself until my players could hear me. Worse, I could hear them all perfectly, so I had no idea that there was a problem until I heard them say “whelp– we lost her again.” Over and over and over.

I feel like I asked for too many rolls, and not enough questions. I didn’t keep the game story-driven, and I relied too much on the D&D standby of “take hit point damage” when someone failed or rolled a 7-9. My lack of solid familiarity with all the Dungeon World moves meant that I didn’t always know all the mechanical consequences, so particularly at first, there was a lot of winging it.

I felt that I did clues pretty well– whenever they failed at a Discern Reality roll, I favored “you learn something unpleasant” over “you learn nothing.” That kept things moving forward, I felt, and always opened up more clues and information for them to piece together.

And here’s the video. Don’t watch this if you plan to play next weekend… or if you don’t want to see me say “fuck” at inappropriate times… or, actually, don’t watch it. It sucks.

ConTessa: What a Giant Mess (3h17m)

Friendly Fire Isn’t.

Journal entry for Lt. Gwenn of the Harriers….

I feel so bad! Firiel, I’m so sorry! Gods, you would think this was my first time on a job, stabbing an ally in the neck! I’d blame the darkness, the tension of the house… but to be honest, I think I was startled and still tired from not resting well last night. Nonetheless, it was a terrible accident, and I hope she’ll forgive me.

The Tanlin Job went down well, though our extraction was less than smooth. Ordune and I sneaked in through the tunnel to Olos’ quarters, left him a note to finish retiring already (based on his personal ledger, it’s clear he could do so any time he wants to stop gambling!), climbed to the roof, across the wall, and into the keep. We probably should have asked ourselves why Olos would have an escape route, when not even Tanlin has one… well, we would find out before the night was out!

Can I say right now that Ordune really surprised me with his reflexes tonight? He was cat-like and stealthy as a shadow. I wonder if Firiel and Emilien have been giving him pointers?

Firiel disguised herself as Fermina and bluffed her way back into the keep, dragging Tristram along behind her, as though he were her lover. We had that clever idea when it became clear that the real Fermina has a bit of a crush on him. I’m going to let the two of them sort that out on the road to Sava. I think I’ve already interfered enough with Tris’ personal life, just by asking him to negotiate with Ryan the halfling.

I have no problem using the talents my team offers. I will use every skill and talent they possess, both physical and mental. I’ll leverage any relationship they may form of their own will, too– if Emilien makes an “ally” out of a bored and lonely widow, I have no problem using that alliance. But affairs of the heart are personal at their core, and I won’t ask anyone to play a role they’re uncomfortable with. There may be only one benefit to having my former life stolen from me: having someone else decide who will someday share my bed and my body is no longer a threat. I won’t ask that of to anyone under my command.

I vandalized some of Lord Tanlin’s papers on his desk before heading down to the ground floor. Ordune and I sneaked through the rooms before encountering Firiel and Tris– which is when I accidentally stabbed Firi in the neck with my rapier. Ow– it had to hurt, and I was just stunned by the sight of all that blood gushing from her neck.

We found Tanlin’s seal inside the study desk, which made the next part easier, I must say. Also a few notes begging for financial aid from other nearby lords. I don’t think Lord Tanlin is going to be in power much longer. I’m concerned about who might replace him, but… we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.

We went down into the vault and worked on the door. Firiel did a great job there, but once inside, she tripped a pressure-plate trap, and the room started to fill with water.

Thanks to Ordune’s recon, we found two drains and opened them. While I’m sure this resulted in an obvious downspout out of the cliff, it had the advantage of buying us some time in the vault.silver-bars

The vault itself was not very full. Just a pile of silver bars, arranged neatly in the middle of the floor.

Tris summoned the magical chest and we put 35 heavy silver bars into it before banishing it again. One bar went into my pack, and the remaining four remained in the vault– payment for a month of the Goblin Merc Company’s services, but nothing more than that.

The four bars also kept the last trap at bay– thanks to Fermina for warning us about that one.

We left at that point, going back up to the study, which now had guards trying to break down the door. Up the stairs, into Olos’ room, where Emilien joined us. Out the tunnel–

And into Olos’ face.  Turns out the elder halfling is not so thrilled at having his heist stolen out from under his nose. We bantered back and forth a bit, but since there was no way we could pay him off with one silver bar, I told him to take the three thousand he already had banked, and retire off of that. Emilien was impressed and annoyed at the halfling– apparently, Emilien thought the captain was trying to pull together a little bit of scratch to just get by. Not a small fortune.

Well, no matter. Olos is going to be well-employed in the near future. Too bad it’ll probably be for the other side. I could use a man like him in my army.

Anyway, we made a quick stop at the black cats to convert the silver to cash, then headed up to the shrine, where Sasha, Fermina, and the horses awaited. Blessedly, Fermina was actually there– I don’t want to imagine the headache if she’d betrayed us or simply left. Or worse, been captured. Whew!

I gave the shrine the gold from trading the silver bar– they’re going to need it, and a big part of our plan is to give the money we’ve stolen to the poor. Sasha gave us her letter, and told me that, if we are who she thinks we are, we can open the letter once we’re out of town.

I told her our name. It’s time to start spreading the word. We’re the Harriers for Ilyria. Despots and Regents will come to fear our name.

Tales from the Arco: The Mask of Hallowed Life

Friday was our first actual Fate game on the Arco! Kyle and Andy showed up at 4, and we got started after cracking open a couple of beers.

I am really proud of how the adventure went. The system-specific stuff needs work. Fate isn’t failing us, but we’re still new to the system, and it doesn’t flow naturally yet.

Our heroes for this game are:

Symon Ashworth, the youngest son (“almost 17!”) of one of the less-respected noble houses. The Ashworths control and maintain “the Ash,” the enormous furnace that keeps the Arco running. Without the Ash, the Arco would stop and, eventually, die, but that doesn’t really earn them the respect they deserve. Not that that’s any of Symon’s business– he’s the black sheep of the family, and the bearer of the White Rose of Ashworth, an artifact that, from what anyone can tell, is cursed. Powerful, but cursed. Played by Kyle.

Garosh of the Flayers, the eldest son of a dying barbarian clan. Garosh is a big, tough, brute of a man… but he’s also very cunning. He has a great deal of pride, and a driving motivation– will this help save my clan? If not, I have little use for it.

Now, let me tell you about this adventure.

Continue reading Tales from the Arco: The Mask of Hallowed Life

Horror Dreams

A brief entry in Gwenn’s journal.

I woke up this morning with a splitting headache and a night full of dreams of blood and fire. Ilyria haunted my dreams. The twisted corpses at the circle of fire… what horror has caused that? It’s as if my memory wants me to recall the dangers we’ve faced, and the horrors that might await us ahead. A reminder not to be complacent about who or what I trust? If so, it is far too late to return from that path.

Nonetheless, I feel awful today. My body aches like it did when I first learned to sit a horse astride. Everything hurts, even my eyes are tired and dry.

I refilled Firiel’s vials last night before bed, and the cut on my arm still hurts today. It wasn’t much more than a scratch, but… it feels worse than I’d expect. Thankfully, she seems to have slept soundly after her late adventures last night.

Hopefully a bath and some breakfast will restore my vigor.

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