Author Topic: A game I love to prep for  (Read 3689 times)

lumpley

  • Administrator
  • User
  • Posts: 1262
    • View Profile
Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #45 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

Paul T.

  • User
  • Posts: 635
    • View Profile
Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #46 on: October 23, 2016, 01:01:17 AM »
Incredible!

The plot thickens.

Rafu

  • User
  • Posts: 71
    • View Profile
    • Orgasmo Cerebrale
Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #47 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.

Paul T.

  • User
  • Posts: 635
    • View Profile
Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #48 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..."?

Rafu

  • User
  • Posts: 71
    • View Profile
    • Orgasmo Cerebrale
Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #49 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".

Paul T.

  • User
  • Posts: 635
    • View Profile
Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #50 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"?

Rafu

  • User
  • Posts: 71
    • View Profile
    • Orgasmo Cerebrale
Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #51 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.

Paul T.

  • User
  • Posts: 635
    • View Profile
Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #52 on: October 25, 2016, 09:33:43 PM »
Interesting!