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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….

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