Barf Forth Apocalyptica

ecretsay orumsfay => Freebooting Venus => Topic started by: Rafu on October 05, 2016, 09:34:59 PM

Title: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 05, 2016, 09:34:59 PM
As a GM, I've never had as much fun preparing as I do with our current weekly Freebooting Venus game. Ever. On workdays, I keep looking forward to the few minutes I'll eventually get to spend in intimacy with my GM notebook like they were the sweetest of treats.
I'm starting this thread as a place to write about my prep (I'm not going to copy and paste my actual notes, especially considering most of them are handwritten, and in Italian) both as a data point (I figure it may be useful to Vincent to know how people are handling this part of the game, especially since more is implied than described in the current draft) and in preparation to eventually blogging about how much lonely fun I'm having.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 05, 2016, 10:46:48 PM
First session

For our first session, of course I didn't have anything prepped beforehand. In fact, we hadn't even agreed on a game to play: we spent maybe 30 minutes discussing various options before choosing Freebooting Venus. It had been a long time since I'd actually read the draft booklet, and nobody else had.

First, we went through character creation, with me acting as a rule-interpreter. This was mostly smooth, with any hiccups to be blamed on me not remembering how the game worked. The one thing everyone found difficult, though, was to come up with a name: they all saved this for the last step, and lamented not having a name list or something. I suggested using the Questlandia trick of writing down random syllables and picking from those, but by the time this tool was ready, everyone had chosen a name some other way. I kept the syllable list to use for NPCs and double-checked all syllables from the PCs' names were in it.
We had:

I immediately proceeded to roll on the opening situation table:
Pretty straightforward! I described the kitchen garden to set the scene, then introduced the enforcer and described her as: "a woman with scars on her face and obviously from the Half-Bat gang - you can tell from the make and color of her armor. They run the gambling racket, you know. She's armed, and..."
I also described the character accompanying her (I opted to put out everything I had upfront) as a lanky man in a robe the color of jasminite, with remarkable tattoos all over his bald scalp, and "obviously a necromancer, in no way trying to be subtle".

My unstated idea was that the woman (much later, I named her "Kamrissa") was there to murder somebody and the necromancer (soon named "Tinius") had a business agreement with her to be a witness to the killing and harvest the ghosts of the freshly slain.

Then I asked the other players questions. This wasn't as smooth as I had expected! I felt it was clunky. One player later said she'd hated this step, although one other player told us he loved it. But between this and some spontaneous, out-of-character chatter we'd soon established that Dix, Nictus and Vetin were there as hired workers (as a kitchen hand, security guard and announcer tasked with introducing guests, respectively) and just relaxing in the kitchen garden, while Iago was waiting in ambush for Kamrissa to appear: it was "personal" between them in that she'd been hired to carry out a murder he'd hoped to carry out instead. Also, Vetin was already wounded and bleeding, so we quickly established Kamrissa was armed with a crossbow and had shot her first upon her arrival.

Interesting detail here: Iago's history with her suggests Kamrissa is here to kill a specific target, while her opening fire on Vetin first suggests an indiscriminate, random carnage. This dissonance later proved good.

They dealt with the situation, of course, and we ended up with a dead Tinius the Necromancer, Kamrissa fleeing the scene basically unharmed and Dix "owing one" to Kamrissa. Meanwhile, Vetin had tried a bluff of mentioning a random name - "Vettonius" - to add weight to a threat. Of course, when she was brought in to be medicated, some other guest paid her handsomely for a hint about how to recognize Vettonius at the (masquerade) party - the sum was enough for her to eventually lay the foundations of her estate!

This was the entirety of our first session. Then, everything went snowballing from there.
[to be continued]
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 06, 2016, 08:19:27 AM
The notebook

During the first session, I'd been scribbling notes on a small piece of paper - mostly, the names of NPCs I happened to name.
After the first session, I fashioned myself a new notebook by stapling together a bunch of scrap paper and gluing any 1st session notes into it. Then I started making more detailed notes.

Musing about the details, I easily retconned what had happened in the 1st session as the effects of several bad decisions taken by powerful individuals - in a word, Trouble! While doing so, I named everyone and everything needing a name, and in doing so I elaborated freely on cultural details according to my fancy, writing several half-pages about such matters.

For example: I gave Kamrissa her name and, in deciding who exactly had hired her to kill whom (Trouble upon Trouble), I also decided "Half-Bat gang" was just a street-level nickname for an entity formally known as The Devout Brotherhood of the Wheel That Giveth and Taketh, itself an adjunct to the Wheel of Fortune clergy: the Wheel of Fortune temple effectively runs all the legit gambling operations in town, or gets a share of them, while the Half-Bat takes care the same is true of illicit, underground gambling. This way I settled on the concept that a lot of citizens organize around a number of cults which handle matters not necessarily religious.

Or: I definitely had to decide who "Vettonius" was, now that an NPC guest had made such a big deal of this name being mentioned at the party. I went for a powerful magistrate, and sketched out a big chunk of the city-state's law enforcement system.

At some point during this process, I named the city "Vanetys" and wrote down something about its basic geography as well.

Everything I made up followed from the events in the 1st session somehow, though sometimes only by freewheeling association. A huge snowball.

I had a really great time making these notes, so I wrote on my notebook whenever I could during the week, and by the following Sunday I had assembled a lot of playable material...
[to be continued]

Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: lumpley on October 06, 2016, 12:08:26 PM
Exciting! I'll be following this thread avidly.

-Vincent
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 06, 2016, 03:36:55 PM
Very interesting, indeed!

I am curious to hear more about the challenges of the first session, and if you have thoughts on how you might do things differently in the future.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 06, 2016, 10:37:50 PM
I am curious to hear more about the challenges of the first session, and if you have thoughts on how you might do things differently in the future.
Not much I can say in this area, I'm sorry.

For sure, if I could go back in time, I'd study the rules more carefully before launching into the 1st session: operations would've been smoother if I hadn't so frequently stopped to flip through the booklet and try to understand what I was doing, right?

As for the roll for a situation + ask questions thing, the problem is just that not everybody digs it. Those who do, do because they want to be thrown into the action without thinking and are OK with "finding" their characters after a while, through attempts and missteps. To those who don't dig it, though, it feels like too much of a cold start, and when asked questions they stare back at you like "I dunno, whatever", because it's just too much, too early - these people need to be eased into the game before they can start performing as their character, etc. I don't think this can be fixed, really.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 07, 2016, 09:47:30 AM
A closer look at my notebook

First thing is, it looks like a mess. It's made of loose pieces of paper folded and stapled together in the middle, but not all of the pages are blank (some are just junk paper, some I put into the stack on purpose, such as printouts of some "Miscellanea" pages from Worlds Without Master). Some pages are a patchwork of smaller pieces of paper stapled on top of each other. The whole thing is grease-stained from being carried around in my bag and being too close to a turmeric bread roll.
It's got flaps on its cover pages - parts printed and cut out of the manual. The cover page flap is a square of paper which reads:
Quote
the Object of the Game
For the players, the object of the game is to mark as many good
experiences as they can and want.
For you, the object of the game is not to stop them, but instead, to
make them mark as many bad experiences along the way as you can
and ?nd entertaining.
Your Duties
• Make life on Venus vivid.
• Make life on Venus concrete.
• Play to see what will happen.
• Do your duty to the game you’re playing:
For H??? ?? M???? ?? ??? C??? ?? N???????, create jobs.
For F?????????? V????, create trouble.
For T?????? ??? J???????? G????, follow the characters’ fates.
For B?????? ?? W??, create rival war-bands and battles.
For T?? G???????, respond to the wizard’s endeavors.
For ? W?????’? S????????, develop the seclusium’s phases.
For E??????????, create rivals, challenges, and opportunities.
The back-cover flap similarly has the remaining test from that same page, including "An opening situation" on a side, plus a carefully handwritten reminder that the moon of Venus is called Neith (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neith_(hypothetical_moon)). These flaps I made when I first fashioned the notebook, as a carry over habit from having an MC Reference Sheet and a lot of other bits of paper in Apocalypse World. I found that I'm not really using them - haven't been since the third session, for sure. Maybe I don't need them anymore because I've familiarized with the game, or maybe I've never needed them at all because the 1st Draft booklet is so slim and quick to page through, who knows.

Inside the notebook I write my notes, but not in a very orderly fashion. I skip pages, then go back to them. I fill some pages starting from the top, some other starting from the middle and I leave the top for later. I usually fill in a right-hand page before the facing, left-hand page in the same spread. It all makes sense to me: the physical notebook is my mind-palace, sorted according to a thought-map of sorts (within its hard limitations) and I can usually find whatever I'm looking for without too much flipping back and forward. Except for a couple, infamous pages which have sorta get lost, off-map, and I can never seem to find them - luckily, the notebook isn't too big. I use black ink sometimes, blue ink sometimes - sometimes they happen to be mixed in the same line or sentence, where I'd left a blank for a word I've then filled in later - and I'm actually surprised nothing's in pencil so far. My handwriting is famously impossible to read: as most of these notes were hastily scribbled, sometimes I can't make out a word or three myself - but that's OK, since I'm familiar enough with the content that, most of the time, I just need a quick refresher, a reminder, a hint, and I fill in the blanks in my mind. Two years from now, though? This will probably be useless crap (and that's OK I suppose; I'm actively trying to reconcile myself with the transient, ephemeral nature of reality).

During play, I'm more likely to scribble notes in pencil on an additional piece of scrap paper, though I can make a small fix here or there - same as AW Fronts, most notebook maintenance happens between sessions. I hadn't thought about it before starting this thread, but now in principle I believe all of my notes fall into one of three categories:
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 07, 2016, 06:16:24 PM
Fantastic!

I'd love to hear a little about the transition from "awkward, in media res beginning"  to the "mature" form of the game. While I'd imagine that a lot of that happened in-between sessions (how did the second session feel different from the first?), some of it must have taken place during the first session, as well.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 07, 2016, 10:58:33 PM
I'd love to hear a little about the transition from "awkward, in media res beginning"  to the "mature" form of the game. While I'd imagine that a lot of that happened in-between sessions (how did the second session feel different from the first?), some of it must have taken place during the first session, as well.
Oh, I see! Now I "get" it.

One thing is, there's this perpetual ongoing debate within our group, about how much of your character you need to have defined before you start playing. Fact is, the individual proponents of the most "extreme" viewpoints ("I sorta miss writing a multi-page character back-story" vs. "starting in medias res w/no character definition at all is teh awzom") actually converge, in practice, in that they need some time to "find" their characters through play. Thus, for the most "anti-medias res" player, in between the first session or three she makes up her mind about who her character is and what kind of past, baggage, etc. made them behave the way they've behaved in the 1st session... and now she feels she's really playing. Meanwhile, the top "pro-medias res" player is playing a character who doesn't know who they are and are trying to find themselves - it takes a session or three for his character to find themselves well enough that the player is finally satisfied he isn't playing an insipid character. This dynamic has played itself out over 4 sessions of Freebooting Venus almost identically to how it did in our previous AW game, down to the point that these two players' characters now appear to be flirting with each other. So, it's just us.

OTOH, as a more general thing, it's just the transition from "setting a starting situation" to "following up on it" that equals a transition from awkward to alright play. In FV you're very explicitly beginning in medias res and creating a starting situation backwards, so this had to be awkward for a few minutes? In that we weren't, like, playing our characters, but more or less debating why those characters were there. It was an extended scene framing moment with everybody participating, but not everyone contributing equally. Once we were done framing the scene, and we were just playing our characters, then the awkwardness was gone and the awesome had begun. In other words, we had to push the snowball into motion, but once it was going, it was going.

Does that explain it?
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 08, 2016, 01:36:18 AM
That's a pretty good overview from a 10,000ft level, yeah!

I'm curious what it looked like, and what it felt like, at the table, though!

What kinds of decisions did you find yourself making?

What did the players struggle with, and what did they pounce on?

How did it feel to transition out of the immediate scene into the rest of the first session?

If it was easy, why? Were there dangling bits or unresolved story to pursue? If so, how did they come about? Are there some 'best practices' we can distill from that?

Thanks for the thorough answers!
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 08, 2016, 07:24:54 AM
Paul, I hadn't originally planned to post an even more detailed actual play account of my first session, both because it's time intensive and not quite what I envisioned this thread to be... But if you're struggling with FV 1st sessions, I can do that -- produce an in-depth account for the records. Just be warned that I don't really have a recipe or any solutions to any specific problems, besides my usual "keep faking it until you "get" it" which sorta applies to everything in life.
Since it appears there are a number of threads around here with 1st session APs, maybe you could start a thread with a collection of excerpts from those, pointing at things you're looking for guidance with? And I'll chime in with mine (my AP, not my guidance which I don't really have).
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 08, 2016, 09:51:07 PM
Hmmm.

To be fair, I just reread your AP (above), and it sounds like the resolution of the first scene (and its immediate consequences) pretty much WERE the first session. That gave you time to go prep afterwards, for the second session (I don't know if you've played again?).

That's... not an entirely bad guideline of its own: "play out the starting scene, and stop there." Kind of like a "teaser" of sorts.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 08, 2016, 11:27:52 PM
it sounds like the resolution of the first scene (and its immediate consequences) pretty much WERE the first session.
You're correct. By the time that immediate situation had been resolved, we'd run out of time.

(I don't know if you've played again?)
As a matter of fact we have. The session scheduled for tomorrow is our 5th, if I'm not mistaken.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 09, 2016, 05:54:26 PM
Great, thanks! What shape has the game taken over these five sessions?

Has it been mostly a game of the MC causing trouble and the players interacting with the MC's prep?

How does it feel different in play from, say, AW?

Have you tried my little magic hack, or are you playing it as-written?
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 09, 2016, 10:43:54 PM
Great, thanks! What shape has the game taken over these five sessions?

Has it been mostly a game of the MC causing trouble and the players interacting with the MC's prep?

I definitely hasn't. Because, when I prep trouble, it's always as a consequence of something they did, or a distant consequence of something already in play, or to make sense of something I had to make up on the spot when they rolled a 6 or less. So it feels more like a game of them inviting their own trouble, and trouble inevitably honoring their invitation. It feels like an extended Fiasco, except that their hopes for success are much higher.

How does it feel different in play from, say, AW?
The main difference is in the kind of world they're interacting with, its feel and sheer scale.
AW was a "small world" game to us: no faceless crowds, almost everybody on screen had a name, everyone knew everybody. Outside this small circle, the world was a blank slate, with literally everything being possible. But, on the other hand, we were very serious about it being a SF game - a near-future SF game with an environmental main theme - and we very consciously kept to our real-world expectations. The threshold for our suspension of disbelief was a very strict "this could fucking seriously be our world 50 years from now". Plus our Maelstrom was fucking scary, arthouse horror film stuff, with a damn strong undercurrent of "something's wrong with both the world and our mind". Every PC's core motivation was to "fix" their world at some very fundamental level, and their own human frailty was what held them back - while, as the MC, I was concerned with highlighting what's wrong with our contemporary, real wold.
Our FV is set in city of 1 million people with a sophisticated culture and lots of social complexity. You can literally hide in plain sight in the middle of a busy marketplace, and there are such things as bureaucracy, etiquette, banking... It's less personal, less scary, more lighthearted. Very close to a cyberpunk RPG "sprawl", if you'll just replace hacking and the cyberspace with necromancy and ghosts (but not the mercenary hit squad, "go on missions and be betrayed by your boss" playstyle I've learned from the Forge many roleplayers associate with Shadowrun), And we're constantly talking about how the wider world works, in general. The opposite of a "small world". And while a lot of people are fucked up, it's also a place of beauty. The PCs are mostly concerned with bettering their own lot in life and fulfilling their own ambitions, some of them also with doing what feels right for its own sake, but they aren't trying to change the world in any fundamental way.

Also, in AW you have all these different playbooks meaning PCs each deal with their own, specific concerns, possibly on a wholly different scale. In FV they're all playing the same character type, for now at least (my understanding is that in the long term the various "modules" will become the equivalent of AW playbooks: a PC wizard establishing their own seclusium has very different mindset and perspectives than a PC who's leading a warband, say).

Have you tried my little magic hack, or are you playing it as-written?
Playing it as written, for now. But, to be fair, there have only been two spells cast  so far over 5 sessions, one by a PC and one by an NPC, thus we haven't really felt the need for any added variety or flexibility.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 10, 2016, 03:54:25 PM
Great answers, Rafu! Thanks.

If you don't mind, I have further questions. If these are bugging you, feel free to ignore them. :)

I was curious about the differences in game roles:

* You've already discussed how the shift away from playbooks changes your players' interaction with the game. Does the design of moves make the game feel different, too? If so, how?

* Do you ever use "saves"? (It just occurred to me that "saves" are FV's version of "act under fire".)

* Aside from the fictional and stylistic requirements (which you've covered nicely), how does MCing it feel different from AW? Is your role somewhat different, in your experience?

* How much further input from the players do you draw on in play, after the first session?
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 10, 2016, 04:48:10 PM
In this earlier conversation, Vincent says that FV is a more "rules-first" game than AW (my words, not his):

http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=7471.0 (http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=7471.0)

I'm curious if that's something you've seen in play, or not.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 10, 2016, 10:37:28 PM
I actually enjoy the attention! Though maybe some of these questions and answer are carrying us pretty far from the subject of thread and my original intent for this thread... But whatever.

* You've already discussed how the shift away from playbooks changes your players' interaction with the game. Does the design of moves make the game feel different, too? If so, how?
Well, it's a different game, tops. I'm not sure it's that fruitful to make a detailed, point by point comparison with AW - or, at least, no more useful than such a comparison with any other RPG would be.
But speaking of moves, I think the array of [basic] moves in FV actually does play a very similar role to the one in AW, which is: they shape player's affordances (is that a word? I've heard it used as a game design word) according to a specific mindset and outlook of the designer's choice, which is thus adopted as all PCs's default outlook and world view. Thus available moves subtly shape characters.

* Do you ever use "saves"? (It just occurred to me that "saves" are FV's version of "act under fire".)
I'm using saves a lot. Like "Act under fire" in AW, I'm using them to cover all cases non covered by moves - but unlike "Act under fire" in AW, it's usually me who initiates saves, though often in reply to a PC's initiative. When MCing AW, it's never my job to initiate a player's move for them.

* Aside from the fictional and stylistic requirements (which you've covered nicely), how does MCing it feel different from AW? Is your role somewhat different, in your experience?
At a very bare-bones level, I think my role in the conversation is, in the strictest sense, the same in both games.
But stylistic and fictional stuff is quite a big deal: they do feel different, inasmuch as they each are a different game, make no mistakes.
I later want to get more detailed about my prep, which incidentally will show how exactly this aspect of play

* How much further input from the players do you draw on in play, after the first session?
I'm not sure I understand the question. We all have input, or that's what I like to think. Do you perhaps want to know whether I ask them any "Mountain Witch" questions? As a general principle, I don't - though there have been, and there might again be exceptions to this.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 11, 2016, 04:02:58 AM
Rafu,

Good answers. I'm enjoy these conversations, too; glad you are as well.

I believe (I could be misremembering!) that Vincent said somewhere he was dissatisfied with the moves in FV, and planned to upgrade/change them. Has that been done, or are you playing with the original versions?

When I was asking about the effects of the moves, I was hoping you'd have more specific observations. Of course having different moves shapes the game differnetly! I was curious if you had any specific thoughts on how this was happening, or how it shaped your game, specifically.

I would definitely like to hear more about your prep!

As for "player input", this is why I was thinking about it:

http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=7475 (http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=7475)

AW popularized a form of play where "provocative questions" did a lot of world-building for the group, allowing all kinds of input into the world, what it's like, and sometimes even its nature (via the psychic maelstrom).

However, here Vincent is very clear that this isn't this kind of game.

In terms of how you've been playing it, where on that spectrum would it fall? Certainly the first session sounds like it was a collaborative, free-wheeling kind of thing, with everyone throwing in ideas. Am I guessing right? And how did that change (if it did) after the first session?

Cheers!
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 11, 2016, 08:29:17 AM
Paul, about your two latest posts, which both happen to include links to other threads, I'm thinking maybe I could move these parts of the conversation to those other threads, if that makes any sense to you?
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 11, 2016, 04:07:02 PM
That's fine by me!

To me, "how much of play is improvised based on player input" is very DIRECTLY a "game prep" question, but it's no problem to have the discussion in the other threads, too, if you want to address in a more general sense, as opposed to specific to your game.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 11, 2016, 11:56:27 PM
That clarifies a lot, thanks!
It's going to take me some time to answer all your questions - mostly because I have precious little free time on my hands and I'm trying to save as much of it as possible to actually prep for the game - but I'll get to them eventually and keep posting the much longer posts I had originally envisioned as well.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 12, 2016, 03:21:24 AM
Cool! Looking forward to it.

There's a significant chance I'll be running a game of this in about a week and a half, so it's not entirely a theoretical question.

Cheers!
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 12, 2016, 10:23:08 AM
Trouble Snowballs, part 1: tracking the 1st session snowball uphill

Told you one important thing in my notebook is Trouble. Most of the time it's a note written on a left-hand page, marked with a little bubble with the word TROUBLE in it. Ex.:
Quote
TROUBLE: Magistrate Vettonius Arduino Komtec was actually at the party at the House of Blue Steps, disguised as a slave, to spend some time with a younger male lover.
For someone of his standing, that counts as a thoughtless decision.

How does this come to be?
After the first session (which, remember, was just one extended scene involving conflicts with multiple NPCs, plus a little follow-up scene involving wounded Vetin and one additional NPC) I sat down thinking and tried to rationalize everything which had just happened "on screen" as the consequences of unseen Trouble - that's what the booklet told me to do. Sort of tracking the snowball uphill. It wasn't hard, really.
First thing, there was Kamrissa, the enforcer, who was a gang member (a gang running a gambling racket: I'd stated that as public knowledge), had attacked a house of luxury during a party, wounding Vetin, and who'd also "stolen" a job - a murder - from Iago. It wouldn't make sense to me if Kamrissa's gang, the Pious Brotherhood aka Half-Bat, had thought of hiring Iago before deciding on using their own enforcers, nor did it make any sense to me that Vetin was a target (remember how these two details had come from players answering my setup questions - and were in fact at odd angles with what I had on my mind a minute before that, when I started setting the scene). I went for what was to me the most logical explanation: Kamrissa was carrying out two jobs at once! That's two pieces of Trouble, right here:
Hey, in retrospect, that's actually three pieces of Trouble. And two separate threads I had to explore, to follow uphill to their source.

A third such thread concerned Vettonius... This name had been made up on the spot by Vetin's player, when Demanding that Kamrissa ceased her attack. The roll was a mixed success and one of the conditions I dictated was "if you deceive them". Vetin's bluff consisted of literally saying: "Lord Vettonius would be very disappointed" - "That's just a name I made up", Enrico added out of character, "but I hope this sounds threatening enough". Since the bluff sort-of worked, I felt it was too good an opportunity to pass, and I made a mental note that "Vettonius" probably wasn't a name Vetin made up, but rather a name which was on her mind because she'd heard it somewhere - a name nearly unconsciously associated with power. That was entirely my idea, not required nor suggested in any way by the rules of the game, but I felt like I had to do something to add weight to what would otherwise have been quite a cheap throwaway use of part of a move. I acted on this thought by doing my job, that is, by introducing and playing NPCs - specifically, a guest of the house going by the name of Lady Luillia ("that's quite a common name", I added, "and doesn't necessarily have to be her real one") who visited Vetin in the servants' quarters, where she was resting and recovering from her wound, and graciously but excitedly asked her:
"I've heard from somebody who's heard from someone in the kitchen staff you've dropped the name of Lord Vettonius, just minutes ago. By any chance, is he here, at the House, tonight?"
(This also created an opportunity for treasure - as a bribe or reward from the lady. I'm glad this happened, because otherwise we'd totally have been missing out on an Examine Treasure moment at the end of our - relatively short - first session.)

[TO BE CONTINUED - next up: Even further uphill]
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 12, 2016, 10:11:13 PM
Trouble Snowballs, part 2: snowballs come down from high mountaintops, don't they?

It usually pays to climb a step further. Why does the gambling-racket gang want to hurt a house of luxury so hard? The answer's obvious, and obvious is good:
Quote
TROUBLE: the Hosts in Black, who run the House of Blue Steps, have allowed or encouraged gambling at their parties, but have never payed the customary fees to the Temple of the Wheel of Fortune, nor the equivalent illicit fee to the Half-Bat Gang.
How thoughtless of them! Now, why do I care, exactly? I care because, if they've made troublesome decision in the past, they can definitely do it again. So far we've only tracked the snowball uphill - exploring the background of what's already happened - but now that we enjoy a clear view from the top we can get new snowballs started too.

At this level, it's just a matter of playing my own characters (the NPCs): the Hosts have made their troublesome decision, the Pious Brotherhood have made their move, and the PCs thwarted it, but now it's the Host's turn again - what would they do? I consider:
Quote
TROUBLE: the Hosts in Black want to retaliate against the Half-Bat, and start looking for killers to hire.
That was already a pretty good setup to session #2, but you know how there's lots of other stuff in my notes besides Trouble? (more about this is to follow) I had decided, of all things, that the Hosts in Black were husband and wife. What about putting them at odds? It thus occurred me to make this piece of Trouble even better:
Quote
TROUBLE: the Hostess in Black wants to retaliate against the Half-Bat, and starts looking for killers to hire. But she doesn't tell her husband - the Host in Black - who's scared out of his mind instead.
But we know whom she's going to ask, right? That's apparently what kitchen staff is for - letting her know who'd thwarted the enforcer's attack and killed the necromancer. So, what about...
Quote
TROUBLE: the Hostess in Black wants to retaliate against the Half-Bat, and sends for Iago to do the job. But she doesn't tell her husband - the Host in Black - who's scared out of his mind instead.

See what I've done here? By tracking existing Trouble to its source, I've discovered opportunities to make new Trouble. That's actually just one big snowball, rolling over and over, connecting what has happened already to what might happen later. This process definitely plays a key role in my prep.

[TO BE CONTINUED - Next up: Who's a powerful person?]
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 13, 2016, 09:24:42 AM
Trouble Snowballs, part 3: small links in a chain of trouble

By tracking back the initial situation and other 1st session events to the powerful people who'd made troublesome decisions, and having them make malicious or thoughtless decisions again, by the time we sat down to play the 2nd session I had a lot waiting to happen: the Hostess in Black trying to get Iago to fight a gang-war for her, an annoyed Magistrate Vettonius mobilizing his forces to find Vetin - to ask her how did she know he was at the party (she didn't), some priestess somewhere still having a rival unmurdered to take care of, and of course the Pious Brotherhood making their next move...

But that didn't account for everything. There were actions wanting for consequences. For example, when the PCs - after Iago and Kamrissa exchanging volleys of crossbow bolts to no avail - Demanded that Kamrissa ceased her attack and retreated, it wasn't enough to deceive her (Vetin's "Lord Vettonius would be displeased" trick), but they owed her for it too: specifically, it was Dix, the reluctant necromancer, who shouldered this (I don't even remember who had rolled and who was helping with the move - that was a collective effort). There was an exchange like:
Quote
Dix: Leave us alone and I'll pay you back, somehow.
Kamrissa: You?! How?
Dix: We'll find a way. I always pay my debts.
Kamrissa: I'll know how to find you, kid.

What counts as Trouble, exactly?
Quote
To create trouble, have a powerful person make a thoughtless or malicious decision and follow through on it, to bad effect on people less powerful.
Alright, then the real question is: who counts as a "powerful person"?
So far in this thread, I've more-or-less followed the Job Framework in Hand to Mouth in the City of Nephthys, with its powerful persons of the 1st rank and the 2nd rank: a governor of the city, the priests of a powerful cult, gang bosses and lords of the underworld, the owners of a well-established house of luxury, people related in various ways to one of the city's princely families... That was great, a source of inspiration, and provided me with hints to a whole other part of my duties: adding vivid and concrete detail.
However, while thinking about how Trouble and its consequences snowball, and how PCs are caught in the snowball, it occurred me that this is a chain with a lot of links - that sometimes people not generally in a position of power get to make decisions which "steer" the snowball. I arrived to the following working definition:
Once we're on this train of thought, we can start following other threads: threads which have to do with Kamrissa's poor decisions and with Tinius the necromancer. By following these threads uphill I'm sure I can find an answer to one of the most pressing questions: what will Kamrissa, The Hand that Taketh, the ruthless enforcer of the Pious Brotherhood, ask of peaceful Dix? The answer ended up driving our 2nd session and colliding with other snowballs to make a storm.

[TO BE CONTINUED]
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 13, 2016, 09:29:19 PM
(Enjoying the read, thanks! A very helpful glimpse into your process.)
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: lumpley on October 14, 2016, 01:10:40 AM
Right on, Rafu! Thanks for writing this up.

-Vincent
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 16, 2016, 10:20:29 AM
* How much further input from the players do you draw on in play, after the first session?
The first session - or, rather, the setup to the first scene - wasn't different from the others in that I accepted more input from other players, but in that I demanded input from them without much context to build upon.

At all times during play we get input from each other, but usually we don't explicitly stop and ask for it, nor do we step outside the boundaries of our respective "jobs" to provide it. We've been playing together for a while and there are well established creative dynamics in place which naturally "port" from game to game, but don't ham-fistedly supersede the rules of the game. Some of these dynamics were forged by playing games which by design train for and require shared creativity, such as W. Person's Okult or, in different ways, AW. Others were probably born of playing rawer games where we had to step in and fill some gaps, such as Sorcerer, and a lot of playtests of unfinished designs of mine.

The beginning of the first session in FV was definitely a cold start, but it's the kind of beginning in medias res that some other games inspired by swords and sorcery try to do as well, including the suggestion of beginning with a Perilous Phase in Swords Without Master (which I've stopped doing, and now my convention one-shots are better for it) or even Dungeon World (which I haven't played) to the extent it's also informed by s'n's. Apparently, all such games struggle with beginnings a bit, including leaving it entirely to the GM in Trollbabe (I always fumble it) or how getting to a good first scene in S. Carryer's On Mighty Thews requires strong GM fiat and ignoring half of the collaborative prep you've done so far. FV wasn't worse than any of those, really.

Setting up the first scene was, on my part, cool. I just opened my mind-eye and started describing, and having rolled on the chart gave me an alibi for using my GM fiat, so I didn't feel guilty about exercising it. This was actually easier than in AW, where the equivalent of rolling on the chart is to have daydreamed about apocalyptica for a few days plus thinking about the intersection of the PCs basic needs and capabilities, based on their playbooks - and you have to exercise MC fiat anyway, with no alibi. But maybe I could only skip the days of daydreaming part because I'm always daydream about swords and sorcery stuff - that's part of who I am. And in AW the other players have been thinking about their own characters quite a bit already, by picking a playbook and compiling it, so that if you start asking questions right on they have a basis for answering.
Whereas FV was a cold start for the character players, maybe because the chargen part doesn't ask you to think about your character as concretely as in AW, but leaves all vivid and concrete details to be revealed - or indeed established - in play. Thus, when I started asking provocative questions from the provided list, it went like this:
Quote
ME: One of you is in a place distant from the others, in a position from which you can see what’s happening. Who?

LAVINIA as IAGO: Definitely me, 'cause I'm a stealthy fellow - I've got the Stealth skill! So I think I am... [definite, concrete details based on the location I'd described]

ME: Great! Now, one of you has only ended up in this mess, opposing a Half-Bat enforcer, to fulfill a promise to someone. Who? [That I felt the need to paraphrase this to fit it in maybe shows I hadn't chosen the best question for that scene.]

THEM: ...

ME: Anybody?

BARBARA as DIX: Maybe that's me? I think I'm the kind of person who holds to his promises. But I'm not sure what I've promised whom...

SOMEBODY: Didn't we say we're here on some kind of temporary job? Does that count?

BARBARA as DIX: Yeah, Dix is definitely working as a kitchen servant tonight. Does that count as a promise?

SOMEBODY: Probably not.

ALESSIO as NICTUS: I'm on security duty or something.

SOMEBODY: Do you have any weapons? Armor?

ALESSIO as NICTUS: I don't need any.

ENRICO as VETIN: I'm a page here! I announce guests by name when they arrive to the party.

ME: Cool! So you aren't wearing your armor, are you?

ENRICO as VETIN: Of course I am! It's ornate armor.

ME: Alright. So -er- Dix, what have you promised whom?

BARBARA as DIX: Er...

ME: Oh, well, while you think about it... One of you is wounded and bleeding. Who?

THEM: What? Seriously?

ME: Seriously. It's a question from my list, right here.

ALESSIO as NICTUS: Don't look at me.

ENRICO as VETIN: Wooo! That would be me!

ME: Great! So... uhm... as soon as the woman entered the backyard, she shot her complicated hand-crossbow and hit you. What kind of wound do you have? Is it serious? Go ahead and mark it as a bad experience.

ENRICO as VETIN: Cool. I have a crossbow quarrel sticking from my arm and I'm dripping blood. I'll mark "My blood flowed freely".

ME: So, what about that promise?

LAVINIA as IAGO: What about it's me? I'm thinking maybe I've stalked this bastard to this backyard because she's stolen a well-paid job - a murder for hire, I mean - from under my nose.

SOMEBODY: So you're a killer for hire, too?

LAVINIA as IAGO: Definitely. That's why I picked "Sword-binding" and "Stealth" as my skills.

ME: Actually, that sounds like the answer to another question from the list, "One of you is taking this more personally than the rest", but that's cool. Let's do it over and say I've asked you that question instead. Now I think we know more than enough and we're good to go. [I summarize the immediate situation then ask]: what do you do?
Not as smooth as it could have been, you see.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 16, 2016, 06:51:28 PM
Great summary!

If you were to do it again, would you do it differently? And, if so, how?
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 16, 2016, 11:38:03 PM
I don't know. I mean, I think we followed the procedure pretty much as intended, so the problem may be just that the procedure didn't "click" for us. If I did it again, it would probably be with a different set of people, so it may go differently.
But, overall, I think our game is doing really well, which means that setup procedure - clunky or not - has ultimately done its job of getting us started. I don't anticipate I'll ever need to revisit it during the current game, with the snowball of trouble already rolling.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 17, 2016, 01:47:04 AM
Ha, Rafu! You're trying awfully hard to avoid the question, it sounds like, to me. :)

(On the other hand, of course, saying that it's not a question which is of practical relevance to you, and therefore you don't want to consider it, would be totally reasonable. So don't take me too seriously!)

I was hoping you might have given some thought to how you would improve on that process if you were to go through it again with the same gang. Let's say Vincent publishes another fun game you want to play after this one, and it has the same starting procedure, for instance...

It definitely worked to get you a great game, but you keep like using words like "clunky", as well. You don't have any more observations or hypothetical suggestions?

(Like I said before, I might be playing this too, in the near future, so I'd love to avoid some of that.)

Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 17, 2016, 07:19:22 AM
What I mean is, I'm afraid I actually don't have any suggestions. It's too early. It's not something which is so obviously broken that a bunch of obvious fixes occurred me on first run - it's something which looked perfectly reasonable on paper that actually didn't play out as smoothly as I'd hoped for. If it were my own design, I'd have to try it again as written, and compare. In fact, I never meant to say I won't use this procedure again - just that, when eventually I will, conditions will be different enough to merit trying it again with no procedural changes. But, of course, if it were my own design I'd also know the exact intent behind each design choice, so I'd be much bolder in changing it to fix it. As it currently stands - not being my own design - I can only guess at the intent and I don't feel like I can provide any useful advice. The most useful thing I could do is what I did: provide a detailed account to be compared with other such accounts. In my opinion, that's what you should do as well, and there's a concrete possibility it'll work out flawlessly for you.
So my advice to you is simple: try it as written and then tell us about your experience. Also: don't worry too much about the first scene, because how you build on it is much more important.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 18, 2016, 04:11:48 PM
Good thoughts, Rafu. I have been pondering the same questions as you - I suppose time will tell where the fallout of all this will be.

I think that "play out the initial scene, and then break and prep" might be a very strong piece of advice for playing this game, so that's already something to take away from all this. I think that, if you don't do this, the game has a lot more potential to fall flat.

One interesting aspect of FV - unless I'm missing something in the text - compared to AW (and various descendants) is that it does not specify anything the relationships of the characters to each other. On one hand, we know that they are all involved in that first scene together. On the other hand, the characters explicitly live in different places, and are likely to end up moving in completely different directions (e.g. the various expansions or chapters to the game, which function as different games, like founding your Seclusium).

How did this pan out in your game? Did the players assume a "party" mentality, or do you follow each character around, a la AW, or something else?

Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: lumpley on October 18, 2016, 09:09:52 PM
They're explicitly neighbors and friends who see each other and hang out together all the time.

The object of the game is to fill in as many experience bubbles as they can and want, and to help their fellow players fill in as many as they can and want too.

Scattering = done with the game.

(And I'm not impressed with that particular thread over at S-G. Don't get bought into it, if you can help it.)

-Vincent
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 19, 2016, 12:51:38 AM
They're explicitly neighbors and friends who see each other and hang out together all the time.
Oh, by the way...! I pretty much missed that line (it only appears once in the current draft text, if I recall correctly) which says the PCs are each other's friends when I was running them through character creation, which of course added an extra layer of murky to our first scene recounted above. I noticed that after 1st session and we easily managed to ret-con that bit in (we actually established that not all of them had known all of the others before that fateful night at the House of Blue Steps, but that was a significant enough event to bring them all close together).

How did this pan out in your game? Did the players assume a "party" mentality, or do you follow each character around, a la AW, or something else?
I do follow each of them around (my "default" GM mode, unless otherwise specified by the rules), but they do spend a lot of time together... Well, not all together, really: more like in pairs and threes. There's something of a Fiasco-esque feeling about it. A routine has set in where I start a session by asking them what they're doing and, often, the answer is that they all regroup at someone or someone else's place to make a plan together. They talk a bunch, disagree on priorities or over moral issues or something - or occasionally say they agree but don't really act like it - then usually two of them go away on separate errands or escapades, asking one or two friends for their help.
For example, last Sunday they basically split into two separate "adventures": Dix had to fulfill an obligation to some ghost (as usual) by relocating an urn to a princely mausoleum, and the warden of that mausoleum had asked his help dealing with a dangerous poltergeist-like ghost in return, so he asked for Nictus's help and they went to the mausoleum together. Meanwhile, Iago and Vetin went on a get-rich-quick-scheme spree: after starting a publishing house for pornography and satire at his run-down house (as the result of examining treasure), Iago went back to the House of Blue Steps to brief with and squeeze some more riches out of the Hostess in Black. There, Vetin, who'd just tagged along, heard that the master of the house was looking for -er- human resources to test the new magical defenses he'd had installed by the wizard Aktebeth. Vetin and Iago decided to turn labor-providers and started scouring smoke-drinking dens for people desperate enough to accept the job and sign off the biggest share of the reward to them (basically, we played a Hand to Mouth scenario from the perspective of the middlemen instead of the jobbers).
We played these two very different "adventures" at once, framing alternating scenes between the two pairs of PCs. I made the best of Vincent's suggestion from some other thread to disregard "naturalistic" time simultaneity and happily contrasted a single "round" of fighting against a dangerous ghost with half an evening's worth of Iago and Vetin (now aptly nicknamed "Cat and Fox" in table chatter) conning poor fellows into what they believed was certain doom. The most interesting part was in fact the thematic contrast, centered around issues of morality. On a side of the table, it all revolved around naive Dix trying to "do the right thing" in humane terms and grim, grumpy Nictus reluctantly playing along, showing a bit of his human side - on the other, Iago and Vetin were being perfect amoral bastards and had us rolling on the floor laughing at their bold ideas and blatant lies.

Quite unusually for us, we've played sessions of this game with one or even two players missing. The setup of the game makes it easy to rationalize this: reasons for a PC to be absent from the action which don't sound far-fetched abound, and it makes sense to focus on the deeds of just one or two PCs from time to time. Then, when we next all get together, the social ritual of briefing them about the events they missed turns into a very playful, pleasurable moment - probably because everything there's to say usually sounds like implausible or humorous tall tales! In fact, some players have been texting absent players mid-game, reporting events in a joking or self-mocking way: "You wouldn't believe how fucked up this is", and so on.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 19, 2016, 02:41:29 AM
Good answer, Rafu.

I feel like I see a bit of a tension in the rules on this point:

On one hand, it says "they're friends" (which, you know, easy to overlook, when it's not supported by anything else, not even like AW's Hx rules, which do that much more overtly - getting to know each other better is a powerful driver), and it has clear rules for "regrouping with your allies" (sounds like the PC party to me!) and each move explains how another can help you. All these things point towards a "PC party" kind of play.

On the other hand, nothing tells us about the characters' relationships to each other, except that the first scene features them all together (and the sample questions strongly imply they're working on the same side). They live in different places. They (likely) seek different experiences. The experience rules seem like they would drive them apart over time:

* The various expansions seem to move on to different parts of the game. For instance, is there room for a wizard founding his Seclusium if we're playing "Warbands"? (Maybe... but it's hardly clear, and likely not.)

* The experience rules push is along different destinies.

As a simple example, it wouldn't be obvious to have one character found their estate, and then offer for the others to move in.

First of all, can they do that without mechanically upgrading to better lodgings and so forth? Second, sooner or later they will roll "found your estate" themselves, and they'll be pretty tempted to do it.

These rules suggest, to me, that each character has his or her individual path (and these are random, not chosen like AW's advances).

Vincent, I don't know what you mean by "that S-G thread"! What's the topic we should be wary about?
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 19, 2016, 07:46:26 AM
I dunno... The rules say "you're friends", not "you're a family" or "you're a crew". Your example of moving in together sounds more like an (elective) family or a crew/gang/warband to me than just friends. Friends live their own lives. And if they later go their own separate ways, well, why not?
Despite the initial fumbling about the actual rule, I'm happy with the way we're playing it: the PCs having their own separate pursuits, ambitions and moralities, but ultimately regarding each other as their most trusted confidantes, business partners or partners in crime, whenever the need arises and despite their differences.
If in a distant future Nictus had retired into his own seclusium to pursue wizardly immortality (which we now know to be his ultimate ambition, BTW) while Iago, say, had become a mercenary captain, Vetin had seized the government of the city through charm and wits and Dix were still wandering, trying futilely to escape trouble - well, I think that general dynamic would still work, in principle, just on a more diluted (fictional) time-frame. And that wouldn't differ much from how we tend to play AW except in one thing: that in AW we don't start from an assumption that the PCs are friends.
But that's it: a starting point! In the very smaller social word of AW they don't need such a starting assumption to naturally gravitate around - or against - each other, whereas the default setting for FV is a populous city where others would fade into the crowd, or the game would soon slide into implausible coincidence, with no such assumption.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: lumpley on October 19, 2016, 10:51:13 AM
Here's my take on it. I find it a little frustrating! Forgive me.

Paul: Vincent, games are more fun when the characters are on screen together.
Vincent: Sure.
Paul: In this game, there's nothing forcing the characters to be on screen together.
Vincent: Well, they're friends...
Paul: But that doesn't FORCE them to be on screen together.
Vincent: Sure.
Paul: In fact, if they single-mindedly pursue their own pursuits and don't help their friends or get their friends' help, they won't be on screen together at all.
Vincent: ...Sure.
Paul: So what makes sure the characters are on screen together?
Vincent: Didn't you just say it? It's more fun when they are.

One of the basic moves is to get back together even if the GM has worked hard to separate you.

I just can't see this as a problem with the game design. If you want your characters to take turns being on screen alone, you can make it happen. If you don't want that, for goodness sake, have your characters meet up and go together.

-Vincent
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 19, 2016, 07:39:29 PM
Oh, dear! No. Ha!

I'm not criticizing the game here... I haven't even played it yet; I'm hardly in a position to offer a critique.

I'm just curious about it, and how to best play it. Looking over the rules, I'm seeing some things which seem to pull in different directions, and wondering how to reconcile them. As Rafu says, in AW, there is an assumption that a) it's totally OK for the characters to be doing separate things (and the larger Fronts and PC-NPC-PC triangles will eventually bring them into contact, if nothing else does), and b) there's a small, limited community that they are a part of. And, ultimately, they are dealing with the same larger issue (rebuilding civilization in a broken world, dealing with the maelstrom).

Freebooting Venus looks to me like a "characters all appear together" kind of game, but the rules seem to be pulling them apart in places. The Experience rules are likely to send you in different directions. The various expansions ("Warbands", etc) don't seem like something the characters would do together. So I'm curious how the game is supposed to evolve in this respect!

I figured you - Vincent - might have some vision to share here, as the designer. And Rafu might have thoughts on this topic based on his experience with the game so far.

For example, I could imagine some useful MC principles or techniques along these lines. Something like this:

* When different characters encounter different kinds of trouble, consider how they might have been - ultimately - caused by a larger, common problem, higher up in the ranks of the City.

Or, perhaps:

* The characters are all friends, but with lives and ambitions of their own. When you sit down to play this game, you're going to be playing the bits where their lives intersect. Feel free to zoom back and forth in time to focus on those times in their lives.

Other than that, I dunno.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 19, 2016, 10:29:28 PM
* When different characters encounter different kinds of trouble, consider how they might have been - ultimately - caused by a larger, common problem, higher up in the ranks of the City.
Definitely!
I promise I'll get to this part, too. Or have I already? Well, anyway: an effect of the methods of prep I'm using (and I'm trying to describe in this thread) is that everything eventually ends up being connected with everything else. Or maybe that's just how I generally see the world (the real world, I mean)?

* The characters are all friends, but with lives and ambitions of their own. When you sit down to play this game, you're going to be playing the bits where their lives intersect. Feel free to zoom back and forth in time to focus on those times in their lives.
I like that! That's not how I'm playing, but I like the idea.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 20, 2016, 01:21:39 AM
an effect of the methods of prep I'm using (and I'm trying to describe in this thread) is that everything eventually ends up being connected with everything else. Or maybe that's just how I generally see the world (the real world, I mean)?

It seems like a good Principle for this game!
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 21, 2016, 04:30:17 AM
Thinking about this a bit further:

Apocalypse World pushes the idea of community - or, at least, of communities - and underpins it with the idea that "something is wrong". The world is wrong, there are no status quos, everything we love has been destroyed, and the psychic maelstrom attacks everyone. There is an implicit struggle here, one that all the characters are engaged in together.

The implied endgame is of piercing the maelstrom and building something lasting (or to die trying).

In Freebooting Venus, my 'reading between the lines' is that it's a game, rather, about the individual, and his or her progress. Every little piece suggests that my progress is about advancing myself in the world, on my own path, which is not entirely in my control, but will definitely take me somewhere (and, by the looks of it, somewhere interesting).

What is the implied endgame of Freebooting Venus?

(I can imagine a few of my own answers, and they're all a bit D&D-like... but I'd like to hear your thoughts first!)
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 21, 2016, 08:19:37 AM
I've been wondering about the endgame too. As written, the end condition is like: you're satisfied - or bored - with your achievements, there's nothing more you want to get out of it, so you stop playing. But open-endedness is really genre-fitting, and new chapters are going to come with expanded experience lists, so why not? We know in a not so distant future we're going to put FV aside in favor of some other game, possibly to revisit it when new materials become available.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 21, 2016, 03:39:26 PM
Indeed!
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: lumpley on October 21, 2016, 08:05:17 PM
You will never believe it, but I'm under an NDA that prevents me from talking about the endgame.

-Vincent
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 23, 2016, 01:01:17 AM
Incredible!

The plot thickens.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 23, 2016, 09:32:42 AM
You will never believe it, but I'm under an NDA that prevents me from talking about the endgame.
Wait! What?! This was a LOL moment for me. Made me think you Americans really live in Sea-Dracula-land. :D

Trouble Snowballs, part - is this part 4 perhaps? When Trouble Finds 'em + Is It All Connected?

My thought process as described so far provides a nice picture of who the movers and shakers are, what they've done so far and what they're about to do.

Knowing "what they're about to do" (i.e. anticipating my own characters' moves) means I'm equipped for "driving with bangs" - and that's what I did to start session #2, when Kamrissa just appeared at Nictus's door and basically said: "Hello there, you with a Reputation, who was the easiest to find. Take me to your friend who owes me one." Afterwards, while I could have started all sessions like this, I refrained from doing that and allowed them the initiative instead. Next time, though, I may opt for a change of pace and do that again - I pretty much know who's going to be at their door next, for each of them.

"Having trouble find 'em" is one of my moves, and other than as a beginning of session move I'm always waiting for my turn in the conversation to bring it, especially when they roll a failure on their moves.
Of course, part of the game happens at a closer, zoomed in, "tactical" scale where, when they roll a failure, it's obvious what's going to happen. When Vetin's attempt to Interrupt a meddling not-really-a-noblewoman from casting a spell went awry, say, I didn't have to think about which move to make: the spell went off - and, as it was an Irresistible Slumber spell, Vetin just dropped unconscious, lights out.
But part of the game happens from a more zoomed-out perspective, a bird-eye view or at "strategical" scale. When the PCs are scattered around the city and want to rejoin and they fail their Recover, Regroup & Prepare roll, or when Nictus and Dix are sitting under a bridge amongst the city's lowlife with Kamrissa's dead body wrapped in a carpet, waiting for the perfect moment to just leave it there and get away with nobody paying attention to them, and I ask for a Patient save and they fail it... That's when I have trouble find 'em.

To have trouble find 'em I usually browse through my notebook looking for the most applicable piece of trouble, then have it make a move against the PCs. Usually this requires choosing (or, less commonly, making up) a suitable NPC for the trouble to make a move through. Most of the time, having a PC meet said NPC is hard enough a move - a charged interaction, potentially though not outright dangerous, which interrupts whatever they were trying to do.
Sometimes I can't immediately find a connection with existing trouble or NPCs, though, and I improvise something on the spot. When I do so, I tend to operate "color first": what kind of encounter would fit the sword & sorcery genre? What's missing from the current situation, or we haven't had enough of so far? I ad-lib everything according to a sketch of a plan which starts forming in my mind... Later, between sessions, I give this "random" encounter the same treatment I gave the first scene, looking for trouble uphill, snowing down more trouble from there, considering the middle link of not-so-powerful people who can still fuck it up royally. I revisit whatever outline of a "plan" I had, reinforcing it or changing it as I see fit, stopping at nothing short of blatant contradiction.

For example, in the corpse-disposal situation I described above, under a great bridge, either Dix or Nictus failed one of their saves to go unnoticed. I had already mentioned smoke-drinkers and pushers as part of the derelict humanity crowding the scene, and for some reason - probably because of a song I'd had on my mind - I had noted that our game hadn't had any dwarf NPCs yet. So, naturally, I made up an NPC - a shady dwarf who was a drinking-smoke pusher - and had him approach the PCs to meddle. Stuff like: "Hey, are you new to this? Because your carpet is leaking blood - it's obvious you're doing it wrong. Do you need any help there?"
They of course Demanded to be left alone, and what's interesting about Demand as a move is that, even on a full hit, I still have to look for applicable trouble to bring to bear. "Sure," I said, "he'll leave you alone and maybe even keep his mouth shut about it (but no promises), if you do something for him in return. He just wants you to keep an item for him until tomorrow." I was totally ad-libbing. I had this idea that the dwarf was involved with a very big and powerful smoke trafficking gang and that he'd stolen something from his own bosses, but currently he was trying to escape purchase and not having the thing on himself when they'd finally get him was his current priority. The PCs having agreed to his terms, I described a masterwork Chinaware container in the shape of a skull, with a keyhole and seam but no key to be seen - I was totally ad-libbing, with just a half-formed idea on my mind, and the closed container was of course my stalling tactic.
Later in that quite eventful session, Dix and Nictus were facing an enraged necromancer gone on a murderous spree (this was Barabas the butcher, deceased Tinius's long-time partner in crime) and his host of ghostly helpers - a dire predicament indeed. Dix was thrown down a stairway, rolled successfully to Recover, Regroup & Prepare and chose to check his own equipment as one of his options (it was quite important in the moment to establish where Dix's long knife was, as he had been Barabas's hostage just moments before). I saw a golden opportunity on a silver plate to tie it all together like a nice swords & sorcery tale, and told the player the Chinaware skull had broken open in the fall. I was ad-libbing based on my half-formed plan. I said the broken container was full of ashes and, in the heat of the moment, of course Dix went for a quick act of necromancy to summon the ghost of the deceased - he knew they needed all the help they could muster to defeat Barabas. Thus the pact between Dix the reluctant necromancer and the ghost of Rasluius Duendel was born (the first name I threw together from random syllables as usual, in the heat of the moment; a surname I added later, and found a good reason why the ghost hadn't mentioned it).
It was later, between sessions, that I connected the dots, doing of these events what I had done of the first scene, inventing details and climbing uphill and everything. I established vivid, concrete details about drinking smoke, its commerce in Vanetys, the Duendel family and the Dreamsellers cartel, the factions they've split up into, as well as a biography of Rasluius. Irony is, Dix and Nictus are characterized as being not from around town, and they also keep Dix's necromancy skill a secret from Vetin and Iago, who are from around town: if they heard the name Rasluius Duendel, they'd immediately know Dix is walking around with basically the ghost of Al Capone (if Al Capone had never been caught and had retired to his own castle to die of old age). I retrospectively established a lot of trouble, including who commissioned the theft of Rasluius's urn and why.

This way I created what amounts to a whole new "front", linked to the already existing ones via one node only: the PCs. Eventually, as I build upon them, these separate sources of trouble are going to intertwine in ways, but I definitely don't feel a need to artificially join it all into a big conspiracy: it's just the PCs' lifestyle that attracts trouble like a lightning rod. In a sense, though, it's all part of the same, huge snowball: it was a failed saving throw they rolled while trying to dispose of Kamrissa's body (the character who had attacked them in the very first scene!) that brought the stolen urn into play. At this rate, I don't think I'll ever need to roll up a new "starting situation": the snowball's going to keep splitting into more snowballs and roll on forever.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 23, 2016, 06:03:29 PM
Fantastic analysis and techniques, Rafu.

Questions for you:

1. How are the experience rules working out so far? I mean both "Good and Bad Experiences" as well as "advancement". How are they affecting play, and which parts do you find you use the most?

How do you decide how much and how often to put treasure in the characters' path?

2. Tell me more about "checking your equipment". It's an option in the Prepare move which has me a little puzzled. Do you create some tension, as MC, to make this particularly useful?

With the groups I play with, it's usually not on the table for the MC to make various substitutions or "surprises" based on the PCs' equipment. ("Oh, actually you can't find your knife today..." or "turns out that potions broke an hour ago, and is now spilled everywhere"). Generally, in the D&D tradition, characters' belongings are considered the player's prerogative, and are managed by the player. I like the idea in principle, however; it's got me thinking.

Do you think you do something like this, to make that option attractive to the players? Or has it fallen naturally out of an action sequence (e.g. "Hey, you tumbled down that railing just now. Want to check if anything broke...")?

The use of a Patient save to see whether they can wait long enough for a good moment is also an interesting game moment. Was it more like, "Let's see if you can bring yourself to do it!", or more like, "Let's see if you manage to do it without repercussions..."?
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 24, 2016, 12:35:55 AM
1. How are the experience rules working out so far? I mean both "Good and Bad Experiences" as well as "advancement". How are they affecting play, and which parts do you find you use the most?
That's... quite a big question, and I'm not sure I know the answer. I think we're thinking of Bad Experiences as a more colorful version of hit points, but we haven't ever gotten to the point where a PC had marked 5 different BEs once - I'm sure we'll learn more about those over time.
"Good" experience plays a role in shaping player expectations, I believe. Browsing the list tells them what kind of people their characters are expected to be or become, whether that sets a bar to strive for, a foil to strive against, or a legitimation of planned courses of action ("Fuck this gang war shit! I need to take a break, and you know what, that's my chance to mark this "leave the city at my liberty" experience!").
Examining treasure is a lot of fun and it drives the game a lot, whether it leads to "advancement" in the strictest sense (PCs acquiring new skills and belongings) or just to a bout of high living. I look forward to the most complex choices being made, as they enrich the game immensely - such as when Iago recently started a publishing house specializing in pornography and satire in his spacious, half-crumbling house.

How do you decide how much and how often to put treasure in the characters' path?
I don't, really. Whenever the fictional situation justifies giving them valuable loot, a reward, payment or a bribe, I do so, and it's 1 unexamined treasure to each character involved, barring exceptional circumstances. This usually translates to 1-2 pieces of treasure per PC per session, but sometimes they get none at all.

2. Tell me more about "checking your equipment". It's an option in the Prepare move which has me a little puzzled. Do you create some tension, as MC, to make this particularly useful?

With the groups I play with, it's usually not on the table for the MC to make various substitutions or "surprises" based on the PCs' equipment. ("Oh, actually you can't find your knife today..." or "turns out that potions broke an hour ago, and is now spilled everywhere"). Generally, in the D&D tradition, characters' belongings are considered the player's prerogative, and are managed by the player. I like the idea in principle, however; it's got me thinking.

Do you think you do something like this, to make that option attractive to the players? Or has it fallen naturally out of an action sequence (e.g. "Hey, you tumbled down that railing just now. Want to check if anything broke...")?
Your "tumbled down a railing" example is the closest to what we're doing. Even so, it's the least frequently used of all the available RR&P options - but I think that's fine the way it is. It's for those times when it's not altogether certain whether the PCs have all of their weapons, armor and other equipment with them. For example, when Vetin realized she was wanted for questioning, she decided not to go back to her inn, where guards were waiting for her - but it wasn't altogether clear whether she was wearing her armor and carrying her spell tablet, or those things were left in her room.

The use of a Patient save to see whether they can wait long enough for a good moment is also an interesting game moment. Was it more like, "Let's see if you can bring yourself to do it!", or more like, "Let's see if you manage to do it without repercussions..."?
Those uses of the saving throw were very similar to Acting under (metaphorical) fire. In those circumstances, the objective was to leave the corpse somewhere visible, to send the Half Bat gang a clear "message", but not to be seen with the corpse and later recognized. I asked them for both Bold saves - to bring themselves to do it and do it with a straight face - and Patient saves to wait for and spot the perfect moment to act... in that case, the perfect moment to leave. The failed Patient save meant they had attracted unwanted attention. With saves, I always state this out loud when asking for one, like: "pass a difficult Patient save not to attract unwanted attention".
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 24, 2016, 11:47:39 PM
Good answers.

When it comes to "check on your equipment", though, it doesn't actually help you decide whether it's available or not... or do you, in fact, parse it as "a successful Prepare roll means you have what you need"?
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Rafu on October 25, 2016, 07:50:26 AM
Let me think...

Well, RR&P rolls often include some explicit stake-setting on my part. Just like I now hold them to their commitment when they help each other on the roll ("Yeah, you can all use this roll, but you all have to spend one on regrouping"), I do also say things like: "Roll RR&P and spend one on checking your equipment to be wearing your armor - otherwise you've left it behind when you fled the bordello". So, yeah.

And I believe I also say things like: "When you tumbled down the stairs, of course the chinaware skull broke! Consider checking your own stuff to be aware it's broken and learn what inside". Ours is the kind of table where we use the dramatic tension of "Your character doesn't realize that..." a lot.

But as a general rule, that's true, using RR&P to check one's equipment doesn't in itself decide whether the equipment is there. In a context which makes it more of a "prepare" action, it might involve acquiring the equipment, but in a context which is more of a "recover under pressure", I might just confirm that no, they don't have what they wish they had. It's ultimately my decision only, informed by principles, etc.
Title: Re: A game I love to prep for
Post by: Paul T. on October 25, 2016, 09:33:43 PM
Interesting!