Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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October 2013

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Cat: iiiinn spaaaaaaaace!

92647Last night, my fledgeling Thursday group got together to play Cat: Revised, by John Wick.

Like Our Last Best Hope, Cat is a story game, so the main focus is on storytelling and “what do you do?” types of questions. Unlike Our Last Best Hope, however, Cat has a GM/Narrator who helps drive the story along and spring surprises on the players.

I was the Narrator last night, but the storytellers were definitely the players. A big part of GMing story games is “get out of the players’ way!”

Last night, we had 3 players: Lee, Justin, and Brian. Lee played “Cardamom,” an all-seeing feline whose owner runs a food stall in the marketplace. Justin played “Salvatore,” a beautiful long-haired creature with yoga-loving owners. Brian played a high-magic cat named Delphi who had a young girl as his human. His young girl’s mom was the head doctor in the medical bay.

Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that part. When we were deciding on setting, I suggested that our map be a space station.

At first, there was some hesitation, but once they embraced it and started planning out the modules and zones of the station, they really got into it.

Suddenly, we had a space station populated by dogs, a number of weird scientific lab animals, a few pests (cockroaches are always present), and of course, our three cat heroes.

I decided on a fairly simple premise: something bad had just been brought onto the station, and the normal cat dynamic of fighting boggins (unseen monsters that cats protect humans from) and avoiding dogs was interrupted for the day. What was brought on board was a strange, alien “goo” that did something to people in the dreamland, erasing them entirely. It may, in fact, have been the very essence of Boggin.

Things were further complicated as the medical bay and docking bay were shut down and locked into quarantine due to the goo.

As things progressed, the cats found that Delphi’s human was ensnared in this terrible goo, and one of the more crazed critters from the science lab (an insane gecko named only “THE GECKO… that’s MISTER THE GECKO, to you, bub!”) was somehow involved and probably working with the goo in some way.

In the end, they defeated the goo for now, by waking up the people who needed to be awoken (i.e.: we started running low on time, to be honest).

For the next time we play, I should definitely re-read the combat rules, since I didn’t run them at all correctly and the cats and other critters should definitely have taken a lot more damage through their shenanigans. Nonetheless, the game went fairly well, with very story-oriented play at the table overall.

Also: I did a pretty good job of staying out of their way in telling the story.

Lady Fenton’s Bow

Gwenn returns with her journals.

I wish Rob had never died. I wish I’d never run off, never joined the resistance. Some days, I wish I’d stayed in Kindel and politely discussed the world outside while nibbling on sandwiches and deciding what dress to wear to the next party.

And then I meet someone like Lady Cale, and I remember that I would have been perfectly content that way, but I would be embarrassed to meet myself.

We made it to Fenton’s Rest with no trouble. Learned that Felicia’s grandfather forbids “ladies of the night” from operating in the town (and later learned why– good man). Firiel met with Felicia to discuss progress, and found the woman was acting oddly, glancing at a stone embedded in her chair…. I swear, it’s as if Firiel hasn’t been paying attention to her very own hitch-hiker! Indeed, Felicia’s grandfather is clearly dead these 12 years, and was turned into or imprisoned in a stone where he now guides his grand-daughter in administering his domain.

Aside from the manner in which very old artifacts seem to become quite addled, I think it’s not such a bad way to live on, for all that.  But in truth, Will Fenton didn’t choose it, and I continue to be conflicted over those questions. Those who would choose such immortality probably do not deserve it. Including me.

Continue reading Lady Fenton’s Bow

Our Last Best Hope – An Old One Awakens

olbh_frontcover-200pxLast night, my newly-budding Thursday night game group played our inaugural game, Our Last Best Hope. We picked “Giant Monster” as the scenario, and chose to set it in modern-day Las Vegas, but a Las Vegas with a touch of World of Darkness to it (one of the players wanted to be a werewolf). We chose “A dread Old One awakens and rampages the city” as our scenario, and our complication was that, killing the monster would result in the death of millions of people. Thus, we determined to lure it to Yucca Mountain and seal it within the vault there.

Interestingly, our scenes never really moved us far towards the actual threat– a lot of our scenes were of the “talking head” variety. A note to self for future scenes– encourage something to be happening in a scene.

Mechanics: My post-mortem is that, mechanically, I still don’t fully understand how to play/run Our Last Best Hope. For example, I kept needing reminders about how to calculate effects from the dice (high dice pool minus low dice pool, divided by 5, round up). I needed to consult the book to remember to pay 3 story points to bank a white 6. I needed to remember to give 2 story points for banking black 6’s. And so on. The big rolls at the end of Acts 1 and 2 were especially difficult. Act 1 less so, because we understood the “banking dice to the pool” mechanic. Act 2 was much more so, due to very difficult nature of the final roll.

I didn’t find rules for what happens when your last hero dies during the last threat scene, before the final Act 2 die roll. We decided to roll for the end crisis anyway, and got a failure (no surprise), with an outcome that left it open for a sequel.

Narrative: Within the game group, we had a shy new player, which was difficult. She does not have the “hang” of role-playing yet, so a lot of her interactions were very reserved and, well, shy. She explained the setup of the scene, but then wanted to close the scene without actually playing it out. There were enough scenes and threats like this that, by the end, we were just “telling,” not “showing.”

I’m hoping that, over time, we’ll be able to get her to role-play more and come out of her shell. I also think it’ll be easier when we have more players in the group (we were down by one last night.)

Conclusion: I still love this game, but I need to simplify it more so when I introduce it to new people, I can run it so smoothly, they think it’s easy. Also, I need to find ways to engage our new player in role-playing. Although she wants to learn D&D, I want to continue to encourage more story-oriented games for a while, to give her a foundation of “story before mechanics.”

September 2013 Books

#29: The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

#30: Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, by Grace Burrowes. Regency romance, one of the Free Friday books from Barnes & Noble.

#31: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhrigg. Great book exploring the force that habits have in our lives and how to change them.

#32: Gakuen Alice #9 (re-read) Manga about a young girl in a school for kids with special powers.

#33: Goblin Quest, by Jim C Hines. Hilarious fantasy adventure novel about a goblin who gets caught up with a bunch of heroes and how he saves them all through cowardice, cunning, and more than a little bit of luck.

#34: Soulless, by Gail Carriger (a re-read) Steampunk novel about Alexia Trabotti, a Victorian-era spinster who can neutralize supernatural beings– much to the amusement of her vampire friends and a certain werewolf suitor!

#35: The Walking Dead, Vol. 18. This series is very good, but there are times when I read it and wonder how far can the atrocities go. I mean, with George R. R. Martin, you know that, eventually, the story will come to a climax and the world will explode or something. It feels like there’s an endgame in the making, so all the deaths of all your favorite characters will have some payoff, somewhere. With the Walking Dead…. it feels more like a series of hills and valleys, and every valley is littered with the (shambling) corpses of characters you’ve come to know and care about. We’re at the point now where I haven’t become attached to a new character since Michonne was introduced, and she showed up over 50 issues ago.

#36: Changeless, by Gail Carriger. Another re-read, book 2 in the Parasol Protectorate series.

#37: Blameless, by Gail Carriger. Book 3 in the Parasol Protectorate series. Also a re-read.

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