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Messages - davidepignedoli

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This is a first public Actual Play extract for A Land Of Ice And Blades.
(Of course - seriously influenced by the two versions of AW:Dark Age released by Vincent)

I brought this yesterday to our gaming session the Beta-002 version and played with Filippo, Tommaso, Guido and Marco.
This Actual Play extract will make much more sense to those who read the beta, but if anyone has questions I'll be happy to answer them.
(If you're interested in the beta; yes, contact me - davide dot pignedoli at - but I am not really looking for readers - at this stage: what I want is for the game to hit the table for playtesting, now)

So, the Actual Play - about the setting creation:

Tommaso and Marco read the manual, while Guido and Filippo needed some guidance. I used a special framework in this test: I've let my four playtesters be the real players, while I stood aside and just gave directions as a moderator, without taking part in the game itself.
It was not a blind playtest - and it was not meant to be one. I am lucky enough to have other groups in different part of the world interested in testing the game: they will provide me with the feedback about how clear are the rules and which are the possible common mistakes. Therefore, yesterday I was basically a "talking manual" (I made sure they followed the procedure but offered no creative advice) and a relax spectator.

It was actually so much fun to witness the setting and characters creation that I might even include this mode as a possible way of playing: someone who knows the rules well can lead the entire group, while not playing actively. The moderator can enjoy the game as everyone else, but in a different role. The moderator would keep an eye on the rules, speed up the game by helping everybody to make the correct mechanical decisions (i.e. what's the next step in the setting creation? what's the right move to activate here?), remind players of the options available (i.e. remember you can erase a fate instead of taking harm; if you perform your charm in your shrine, it counts as a free sacrifice), and fully immerse in the story as a witness of the events that unfold.
Note that the moderator would not be a GM: they do not frame scenes, they do not second the GM calls; all these functions remain in the hands of the players.

The first session usually should be able to fit a brief introduction, the setting and Cultures creation, the characters creation, and maybe the first scene for each character.
Yesterday we had a limited time (maybe 2h 30min, not more) and yet thanks to the moderator figure we accomplished everything except the first scene. This was a deliberate choice as well, since we're expecting a new player next week: Vittoria will make her own character during the week and find next week an already-made setting, but at least we will start with all the characters together.
So how did the game introduction and setting go?
First I asked the players to help me to cut the location cards, the Cultures' seeds, and other materials (there's a lot to print, to play, and some pieces need to be put together in the first session) - in the meanwhile, I explained a little about the atmosphere of the game without getting into the settings details, of course, since those change every time. Then we followed the procedure (and found a little... bug or oversight, but that will be fixed in the next release). The players came up with a setting that includes:

- The Natives - came to this land centuries ago, by divine guidance. They are the fugitives of some tragedy and are renown for witchery and corruption. They have an intricate genealogy system (youngest son inherits most of the magical power), they are divided in clans, they have a calendar similar to the Chinese one with every year dedicated to a different animal

- The Tribes of the Iron Gods - they are the leftovers of an ancient and broken empire, and came here as slaves of the Natives. They're a straight forward culture: ancient memories of their glorious past, vigor, ruled by veterans, patriarchal, with multiple divinities

- The People of the One Spirit - they came to this land a century ago, and are a steady, cold and formal, rational culture; known for its intricate politics and its wealth. They have a king, tribunals, nobles elected by the king, and a complex religion (which is perceived as politheistic although they define it as monotheistic if you ask them... I see plenty of chances for religious debate here, with the conflict that ensues)

- The Clans of the Blood Eye - came only recently to the land, they are mostly raiders and plunders and are known for their honor. They are a mathriarcal society of strong women warriors, with war-lords, ritual duels and the like...

If you've read the beta material I shared last month, you can see that the roles of the Natives (a weak local population) and of the Iron Gods (claiming already with their name a prominent role) inverted from the very start.
Natives are in charge and Iron Gods are their slaves. I am pleased to say I was surprised with this twist and I loved it: it felt like a bug at first, but it's actually good that the rules and prompts allow to generate such a rich setting, with unpredictable results also for me.

Everything was done as by the book: taking turns, making choices one by one. I had a bit of a hard time to keep the players focused: half of them spoke a little too much (in a good way, but they got carried away with many details and started to "tell the whole story" before we actually started to play).
A good moderator, here, is absolutely necessary (it could be one of the players that indeed paid enough attention to the setting creation setting in the manual): stick to what's on the paper. Yes, you can start building images and background stories and the like in your head, but don't waste time discussing it. It might influence other players too much, it might even be in contrast with what they choose when their turn comes. Instead of talking and then having to take back or edit what you said, just stick to the instructions.
Make your choice for the setting, say it out loud, pass the paper to the next player.

Then we moved to the map, the players have put names on the relevant places in the map and started to put down some location cards.
You can see a picture at this link:
(it looks small and indeed I'll print this larger, but it's actually an A3 size - or two A4, similar to 2 Letter paper sheets)
I printed map and cards in black and white but by next week I hope to have the material in full color. Glorious.

I wrote enough: I will leave the characters for the next post - hopefully soon enough.
Thanks for reading.

brainstorming & development / Re: dedicated hack forums
« on: June 21, 2015, 04:30:02 PM »
Hi Vincent

Can you open a thread for City of Judas? I'm interested in collecting feedback and comments from readers and players.
The game homepage is

AW:Dark Age / Re: What Is a Right?
« on: September 16, 2014, 10:33:05 AM »
I agree in general with the mix of interpretations that pointed out how much the rights system was built-in into the dark ages society. The list of rights is great to represent a fictional position of the character in regard to the story, the character's position in the society, and finally also to express a Player's interest.

But thinking about the rights system, I have another interpretation that struck me when I've parsed through them, not in order, the first time... Maybe this was even proposed already, here, but I didn't see it...
So this theory: especially for some of the rights, I am tempted to read them as "If it's not terribly important for the story, you just do it". Or in other words, if failure here is less than interesting - or you have no real opposition from the MC or other Players - you just do it.

For instance: "You have the right to rule your holdings as you see fit". This means that when I give orders within my holding, I don't expect the MC or another character to question me, and I expect NPCs to follow those orders. And especially for the MC, there must be a really good reason for him to negate that, a pretty valid reason for the story we're telling... otherwise he's just been a dick.

I have to admit I haven't tested this at the table yet, so I don't know if this interpretation would actually prove to be a mess.
But I actually like the "fictional" rights even more than the mechanical ones: I would like to know if it's perhaps too much of a stretch to treat them (almost!) always as a 10+, basically.
This would make the actual event of negating, opposing a right, matter to call for the dice, and then, it would make both reasserting the right or failing to do so, an exceptional and therefore very charged situation...

AW:Dark Age / Re: Name lists
« on: September 03, 2014, 06:16:00 AM »
I would change "Grantiana" to "Gratiana", in the Latin list.

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