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Topics - Evan Torner

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AW:Dark Age / Playtest: Tree Island of the Squirrel God
« on: October 13, 2014, 09:59:38 PM »
Overview: There is an island, on which stands a massive tree, where the two peoples who worship the Squirrel God – the 16 Warriors and the Acorn-Bringers – quietly feud over how to worship their deity the best.

The Cast:
• Azita (Dragon-Herald, Acorn-Bringers, played by Simone) -- Seer and eldest of 3 daughters (Nika and Asta being her sisters)
• Fiery Frank (Blacksmith, 16 Warriors, played by Alex) -- A fierce, straightforward blacksmithing type who recently the brat Orly as an apprentice
• Arsalan (Court Wizard, Acorn-Bringers, played by Michelle) -- A wise and brave magic-user, recently returned from abroad
• Hilda (Peasant Beauty, 16 Warriors, played by Kat) -- An heir of the Queen's of the old blood who likes to shirk labor, recently placed in charge.
• Farid (Wicker-Wise, Acorn-Bringer, played by Jan) -- Slightly-demented healer who lives underneath the tree's ancient roots
• Silas (Outranger, 16 Warriors, played by Timo/Alexa) -- Strong, silent type who loyally serves Ebrill

The NPCs:
• That Creepy Troll from the Darkness
• The Freelanders -- Keme, Eero, and Fulvius. (Keme presides over forestlands. Fulvius is ambitious and presides over prairie and owns a large fishing boat fleet. Eero has a beard and many herds on his land. All are dangerous and encircle the island.)
• Ebrill (Keep Liege, Acorn-Bringer) -- Manages the Feasts, recently left Hilda in charge
• Dev (War-Captain, 16 Warriors) -- Brutal, terrible man. Recently captured by Fulvius
• Zoish (Castellan, Acorn-Bringer) -- The person in charge of the island's defenses
• Abadi (Priest, Acorn-Bringer) -- A devout, affable priest whose son Orly is a total brat.
• Orly (Apprentice to Frank, Acorn-Bringer) -- A total brat.
• Henri (One of the 16 Warriors) -- One of the youngest of the 16 Warriors

What Happened: Arsalan returns from abroad with news that famine is affecting the lands outside the island. This may bring new threats, such as starving people invading the island for food. Meanwhile, Azita has been receiving strange visions of something dark beneath the island, as well as a potential invading force. Ebrill calls a meeting to assign the peoples to various tasks, and it becomes quite obvious that very different ideas about how to manage the place are at play. Fiery Frank turns his attentions to the island's weaponry, as Azita tries desperately to wrangle the ornery kids Orly and Henri. Hilda winds up getting out of any real duties, and sent Dev off to negotiate with Fulvius (as Azita also has a vision of Fulvius' warriors preparing for battle). Fiery Frank takes Orly as an apprentice. Silas sneaks off to do reconnaissance of the Freelanders, and winds up in Eero's court, negotiating a possible deal for the Freelander to invade his neighbor Fulvius. Dev is captured by Fulvius, and Ebrill goes off to save him, leaving Hilda fully in charge. Meanwhile, Arsalan and Farid head down to the catacombs beneath the tree to discover a dark passage that reveals a terrifying Troll. They are now both running away. Azita is mustering the rest of the warriors to meet the challenge of Fulvius' invading army, but it's taking some time.

That was first session, about a month ago. Second session is tomorrow night.

The main two questions:
• How do I get player-characters to be deeply intertwined from the start without something similar to Hx or Strings?
• How should we deal with the fatigue of reading through all these lists? (I think our group hit our "too much of a good thing" limit...)

AW:Dark Age / First-Time Players
« on: September 16, 2014, 07:40:27 AM »
As I announced on G+, I will be running AW: Dark Age tonight with an audience almost entirely new to the hobby of RPGs, some of whom don't speak English as their first language.

I will be posting my feedback on this thread, and I have largely ignoring other threads for the sake of an "authentic" playtest.

We'll see how this goes!


Sagas of the Icelanders / AP Report: A Cliff in Iceland
« on: April 16, 2014, 02:26:15 PM »
AP Report: A Cliff in Iceland

So we played a game of Sagas of the Icelanders in Iowa City, IA on Sunday, and here's a brief recap of what happened:

Our cast consisted of Helga (A Woman, played by Val), Isgurd the Lean (A Matriarch, played by Dan), Mjøl (A Shield Maiden, played by David), and Oddleif Red-Cloak (A Wanderer, played by Jim)

We used the standard family tree included with the Sagas Kickstarter centered around Reykhólar (Beneath the Seabird Cliffs), such that the following facts were established:
• Isgurd the Lean is married to Hrafn, a Go?i who is becoming fanatical about his devotion to Odín in his august years.
• Hrafn and Isgurd possess a Slave Thora, a capable young girl, as well as a Bound Debtor Tór, who is bad news and well-and-truly hated by the spirits.
• Hrafn and Isgurd also have three children (that they know of): Helga, her brother Orm, and youngest sister Unn. Orm is an adventurous sort who’s looking for the hidden treasure near Pelle Strand together with Tór. Unn is a precocious young girl who is best friends with Thora.
• Mjøl was betrothed to Orm in order to tame him and make him a man. (And GRANDBABIES - Isgurd wants some of those.)
• Helga is married to Gísli Greyback, Iceland’s most boring and hardworking husband, and has a foster daughter Ísar Pálldottir, who is a Shield Maiden in Hrafn’s warband.
• Also included in Hrafn’s warband: Orm, Gísli, Tór, Mjøl, and Mjøl’s ugly drunkard Huscarl Ref (son of Sturla the Bald, who was good friends with Mjøl’s far-flung-but-generous father Magni Salt-Beard).
• One of Mjøl and Helga’s dear friends Solveig the Sei?kona hails from Aedaklettar (Island of Monsters). She is traveling in the area, exchanging her medicines for hospitality.
Hafni Hafnisson is a bold, rich go?i with a band of Huscarls, searching for the hidden treasure on the Pelle Strand.
• Last, but not least, Oddleif Red-Cloak is related to no one… but has just recently arrived.

What happened:

It’s spring on the Reykhólar settlement. Mjøl can be found sewing in her small hut away from the main homestead lodge where Isgurd and the rest dwell. Orm suddenly bursts in, bearing a nasty, bleeding cut on his right hand. Shivering, he lays down and Mjøl quickly stitches up his wound. Orm is evasive about how he received it. “I fell,” he says, and she can’t get anything more out of him. She uses the opportunity to have him promise to no longer seek the treasure on Pelle Strand, as it is taking him away from his other household duties.

Meanwhile, Helga and Gísli are at home, with the latter having just returned from chasing a goat all day. Helga has been managing the household very well, and has saved up some silver. They discuss what should be done with the silver, and Helga makes the case that they ought to purchase a gold armband to adorn her arm, so as to increase her visibility and prestige in the community for being such a good keeper-of-house. Gísli acquiesces to go have one forged for her, but only if Helga takes it upon herself at some point to talk to Hrafn about being more present in the daily lives of his own family.

Isgurd is making yogurt with Thora as Hrafn moves a boulder from the garden, grumbling all the while. Thora accidentally drops something in the yogurt and, in her irritation, curses Odín’s name. Hrafn hears this, flies into a rage, and comes over to beat Thora. Isgurd intervenes and defends Thora against his wrath. It is during this exchange that Oddleif approaches the family. Very quickly, Hrafn begins to assume that Oddleif is Odín in the flesh and acts servile toward him. He brings Oddleif up to the temple, and gives to him a gold anklet (for women) that he is nevertheless to wear concealed under his clothes… were he the true Odín. Oddleif takes the anklet, but says little.

The family all sits down for a meal, welcoming Oddleif to the homestead. Isgurd uses the opportunity to offer Mjøl her fine dress for her wedding to Orm. Thora and Mjøl are both enamored with Oddleif, but it is only Thora who makes an overt gesture to try to seduce him, which he rebuffs. Mjøl nurses her passion quietly.

Summer arrives. Mjøl knows that Oddleif bears some sort of secret, but she cannot quite get at what that is during their many long conversations. Solveig arrives at the homestead expressly to heal Orm. The reduced warband (Tór, Ísar, and Ref) were sent on a trivial task and now have not been seen for several weeks. Meanwhile, rumors of the treasure at Pelle Strand have spread, and now numerous warbands from various families are there, looking for the treasure.

Helga and Solveig nurse Orm, whose condition has considerably worsened, as they get some fresh air on the Seabird Cliffs. It is then that Solveig suggests Helga go down to the Pella Strand to retrieve some rockfur – an herb that grows on a butte there – for an herbal remedy for Orm. Because the warband is gone, Helga has to enlist the help of Mjøl for her journey to the Pelle Strand. Mjøl has just prayed to Odín and received word from the wind spirits that she must beware her own heart, and should take up some activity to distract herself from her feelings for Oddleif. Helga’s task is just the remedy needed. The two of them borrow a boat from the three nearby fishermen who live and sleep together and head to Pelle Strand. There, they see the trading post at Pelle Strand in flames. Not deterred, they make their way to a nearby part of the beach (where the butte is) and climb halfway up the butte to retrieve some rockfur. No sooner have they retrieved it, however, when Hafni Hafnisson and his loyal Huscarls come marching down the beach. After a heated exchange of words, it is obvious that Hafni’s designs on the two women are less than noble. As they gear up to kidnap the two women, they are suddenly ambushed by Hrafn’s delinquent warband. Ísar and Tór manage to each kill a Huscarl, and Mjøl plants her spear in such a way as to stab Hafni’s horse and crush him under it. The three remaining Huscarls flee dishonorably and in duress, swearing revenge. Mjøl most notably takes Hafni Hafnisson’s sword as her own. Ísar looks pregnant, and it is established that she is having Tór’s baby.

Isgurd sends Oddleif to go find word of the treasure, as she is increasingly interested in what wealth it may bring to her family. She also then confronts Gísli and makes him re-affirm his commitment to Hrafn’s warband, should the others never return. He reluctantly signs on. Oddleif meets the rest of the party – Helga, Mjøl, Tór, Ísar, and Ref – and then presents them to Isgurd. Mjøl and Helga rush to Solveig and then create the herbal remedy for Orm. Orm immediately starts feeling better. Some chaos and confusion ensues around what is going on with the treasure, etc.

Later, Helga meets Ísar and establishes that, no, Ísar doesn’t actually want to settle down with Tór. So Helga agrees to deal with her foster daughter’s child in her own house. Oddleif is seen talking to himself on a cliff, talking about how he’s keeping his promise. Mjøl has a tender scene with her forbidden crush Oddleif and gives him Hafni Hafnisson’s sword as a gift. Isgurd oversees the wedding between Orm and Mjøl, and ensures that they go off together to lie together and conceive a child. However, they did so in Hrafn’s temple to Odín, which bears many many ill portents. Orm will pass away within a few months after their marriage.

What will happen to Oddleif and Mjøl’s simmering, suppressed passion?
How will Isgurd seize power from Hrafn?
What unique piece of adornment does Gísli wind up bringing to Helga?
What manner of revenge do Hafni’s Huscarls have in store for them?

Find out next time!


Monsterhearts / AP: The Mirkshires
« on: June 11, 2012, 09:18:48 AM »
Kat, Meg, Vincent, Julia and I are playing Monsterhearts now. It's a blast with everyone drawing on their angsty teenage years – much pathos to be had!


The Setting: The Mirkshires, a range of woodsy mountains in New England, at Mirkshire Regional High School, an awful place.

Our cast of characters thus far:
Olivia -- a brooding Ghost with piercing eyes who died when her drunk stepfather flipped the car off the road back in 1965. She's 15 forever. (played by Meg)
Ping -- a mysterious Fae with piercing eyes who was born to a fae family out in the woods that is thoroughly amused by the prospect of Ping "trying out" human high school for a couple years. (played by Julia)
Six -- a haunted Hollow with wide eyes, brought to this world as a product of a wish for a doll-like teenage daughter by a single mother (played by Kat)
Gerard -- a brooding Witch with smirking eyes who dabbles in witchcraft. He's got a defiant streak in him, and resents his live-in uncle, who seems to be drawing red eyes on some of Gerard's drawings (played by Vincent)

What's Happened Thus Far:
Exploration of where everyone lives and what sucks about getting up and going to school, as well as part of the first day of class after some kind of break, including homeroom with Mr. Vanze (a snooty politics/econ. teacher) and chemistry with the ever-welcoming Ms. Suka.  Other students in their homeroom thus far are Mike the clueless football jock, Ashton the charming class jokester, Asha the bossy honor student, and Rita the quite blonde girl with amazing eyes.  In brief – Ping has turned Gerard on with a drawing, Gerard has shut down Mr. Vanze with his snarky comments, and Six has gazed into the abyss during chemistry class only to find a vision of a previous version of herself "Three" making out with Ms. Suka.

other lumpley games / Murderous Ghosts
« on: October 20, 2011, 12:31:49 PM »

Vincent's new 2-player game, Murderous Ghosts, is on its way to us for Halloween.

Just to do a little hype for it, Murderous Ghosts... kinda like a choose-your-own-adventure, but corrects all the bugs.

 ...takes less than half-an-hour to play, but seriously could take a lot longer too.

 ...produces spooky collective fiction that'll keep your spine tingling.

 ...will probably murder you.

Happy Halloween!

Apocalypse World / Roll+cool...
« on: October 13, 2011, 09:26:01 PM »
... is what all the Occupy Wall Street protesters have to do tomorrow morning.

Sometimes your hard MC move is to beat them up with horses and tear gas them.

Other times, it's just to say: "We have to clean the park, sir. Oh, and you guys can't lie down here anymore."

May God help us sort this all out in a clever way.

roleplaying theory, hardcore / The Big Debate about the Role of the GM
« on: August 02, 2011, 11:13:25 AM »
It turns out Apocalypse World is at the center of a huge debate on GMing on Story Games (unsurprisingly, really):

Case in point – the game made us think about how to GM differently, so now we have to debate the "death" of GMing and so forth.

Thoughts from afar, anyone?

(Barf Forth Apocalyptica itself comes up here:

brainstorming & development / Rifts
« on: August 01, 2011, 12:33:15 AM »
So I was once very stupid and somehow acquired 33 Rifts books.  Kevin Siembieda probably bought himself several nice dinners thanks to me, maybe put a down payment on a house.

I noticed Jonathan's off-hand comment about doing this on Story Games ( an AW adaptation of Rifts.

Well, this afternoon I paged through my vast Rifts library at my parents' house and started scribbling some notes.  I likely won't be posting much to the forum about it (spotty Internet here), but I DO plan on making mutant capybaras playable (like they do in the South America worldbook).

Oh, what crazy creatures we humans are.

Apocalypse World / The Unwritten Rules of Apocalypse World
« on: June 07, 2011, 04:17:29 PM »
(Hey all! This was written up as a 500 word 'zine article for Joe, but he's no longer doing a 'zine, so I think I'll throw this out on my group blog ( or somesuch. But you're part of the target audience, so I ought to start here first).

Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World has captivated indie and mainstream gamers alike with, among other aspects, its clear articulation of duties between the player-character and the MC.  Players wanting to take a certain course of action must brace for the sometimes catastrophic shocks of partial success or failure on their die rolls.  The MC, who needs roll no dice, in turn must follow a prescribed diet of intervention in the player-characters' lives, advancing their Fronts and deploying specific strategies that maintain PC control over the crucial points of the narrative.  And if you somehow find portions of the game text to be unclear, hell, you can just ask Vincent about it on the Barf Forth Apocalyptica forum.

But if we consider his own "Lumpley Principle" – that role-playing games are largely determined by social ephemera of actual play – then a few etiquette suggestions may improve your game for all involved.

1. Three Moves in a Row - Don't!

Sometimes you want to pick the dice up right after you've rolled them.  Two consecutive Moves means you're following up something pressing in the fiction.  Three consecutive Moves becomes rudeness, even if you're still in the middle of the most interesting scene in the world. We know you have an investment in improving your character via your two highlighted stats this game and exploring the fiction as it happens.  So does everybody else. AW is a multi-protagonist game, and it derives power from refracting conflicts and maneuvers among the player-character group.  Let it do so.

2. Social Graces Do Trump Rules

Moves are contracts:  if you do it, do it.  Of course, you've also made a social contract with those players expending time and resources to be there.  Though AW is sometimes a brutal game, you gain a lot by keeping all lines of communication open.  Humans are fickle, and sometimes grabbing the dice at the wrong time or bringing out-of-character conflict into the game will blow someone's top.  You want players to get involved with what's happening in the scenario, rather than what's happening between the players.  Thank your host, coordinate bathroom breaks with breaks in the action, and take the gas mask off to speak while you're at it.

3. Do Push Your Boundaries A Little

AW is about sex and survival in a continuously hostile scenario.  The game will push your boundaries concerning intercourse, violence, social taboos and bodily fluids if your game is worth a damn.  Pursue the level of detail that is at least slightly disturbing (frequent utterances of "Oh God!" are to be expected) while preventing it from total fiction disruption.  "Let's not go there" is something you can say to draw the line, but only if you feel something more than a chill on your spine.

4. Don't Meta-Game the Fronts

If you've read the book, you know the MC has Fronts they're advancing.  Like cooperative board games such as Arkham Horror or Castle Ravenloft, the threats arraying around you become obvious fairly quickly.  It disenchants the fiction, however, if you as a player explicitly point it out in game.  Think of the Fronts as the Great Unmentionables: their daily troubles and their imminent crises mixed together in one shit sandwich.  But if you begin to point out the ingredients, the MC ought to advance the Front right then and there, or add some twist to it that evades your description.  You know the zombies are threatening you, but have you seen what they can do with their tongues?

I realize I'm sounding like a shotgun-toting Dear Abby here with all these bits of fluffy social advice.  That's fine, as long as they stick in the back of your mind like Brainer implants when you gear up to play.  Your fellow players will thank you while you shank their characters.

the nerve core / Apocalypse World in Playground Magazine Issue 2
« on: June 06, 2011, 07:57:30 AM »
Matthijs Holter's second issue of Playground, an arty Eurozine about role-playing, has a prominent feature on the Sex Moves of Apocalypse World.

Check it out:

It seems like he takes all our nerdy forum and convention-based discussions and make them sound like radical new discourses on an emerging field of art. Great PR!

Apocalypse World / Custom Move: Red Rover
« on: May 24, 2011, 12:52:17 PM »
SPOILERS: Those who are signed up for the "Red Rover" scenario @ Origins 2011 (as per LOOK AWAY!

Okay, so Red Rover is an AW convention scenario based loosely on Needful Things, Faust, and all the other myriad "devil's bargain" fiction out there.  Effectively, I'm having the players generate a holding – against which I already have a few general Fronts – that then meets the lone individual Red Rover who seems to have everything they need (and who cannot just be murdered and looted).

Anyways, here's how it works:

• Every time a character fails a Move roll, they get 1-temptation.  A point of temptation means they cross paths Red Rover somehow in their next scene, and each point subtracts one from the Devil's Bargain move below.

• If a character calls Red Rover by his true name in dealing with him, they get +1 on the Devil's Bargain move.

Devil's Bargain
When you make a devil's bargain, roll+weird-temptation.  On a 10+, you get whatever it is you want from the devil and the devil gets 1-hold on you (as per the Touchstone playbook), which you can get rid of by exposing one of the other characters in the holding to harm/cost or doing what the devil suggests in a future scene to mark 1-experience.  On a 7-9, you get what you want, but only over a hard bargain AND the devil gets 2-hold on you (see above).  And if you fail...

(BTW, the scenario largely centers around playbooks with low weird scores...)

the nerve core / Apocalypse World @ Origins 2011
« on: May 11, 2011, 11:01:58 AM »
For those of you attending Origins 2011 ( in Columbus, OH this year (barring the real apocalypse, of course), Apocalypse World will be featured at least once.

* Red Rover - Thursday 1 pm - 6 pm - GM: Evan Torner

Against the harsh post-apocalypse, who trusts a benevolent stranger? A pre-loaded convention scenario for Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World

Out of the destruction and decay of the apocalypse, you have forged lives hardened against the scarcity and want that surround you.  You have learned how to do without, how to cut loose parasitic individuals, how to kill in self-defense.  But now that Red Rover's in town, things are changing.  He has ample provisions and is sharing the wealth.  Minds are shifting in his favor, and you are becoming alienated from your own tribemates.  But what's the price for this benevolence?  Who will be sent over to Red Rover?

* Apocalypse World will also be available at the Indie Games on Demand area on Friday and Saturday morning and afternoon (times and location TBA).  Simply show up with a couple of your friends and we'll get you a GM and a creepy gaming experience!

Apocalypse World / AP: Appalachia, Windmills, Treehouses
« on: November 24, 2010, 04:23:26 PM »
So, Jim mentioned our game with my wife Kat, Meg and Vincent a couple months back (see below).

Re: Your Group's 'Feel' of AW

When we sat down to start our new game, I mostly had the standard wasteland kicking around my head, but sort of amorphous and unrefined.

When our MC said, "OK, here's what you need to know to start: Appalachia, Windmills, Treehouses..." it was sort of like a bomb went off in my head.

The idea of a skinny, inbred, albino Chopper leading a gang of redneck teenagers on mud-encrusted fat-ass 4-wheel ATVs wearing mining helmets with headlamps threw itself up in my mouth immediately after.

The water? With the pretty rainbows? Seriously, don't drink it.


I've been the player keeping the utterly informal play reports.

Vincent and/or Meg - shall I post them here as well as by e-mail?

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