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AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: October 09, 2014, 01:50:48 PM »
We continue, even though the Bakers have moved on!

We played what turned out to be a short session on Tuesday.

First, we finally playtested the Battle Moves in our thrilling engagement between the Abrika and the dastardly Clan Ixone.  Except, since Tinitran scattered their horses and deprived them of cavalry, it wasn't so much exciting as ghastly.  Turns out the Ixone relied on their horses more than we realized; losing them knocked their Harm and Armor down considerably.  With the addition of a good roll on our side and a mediocre roll on their side, the Abrika war party dealt 6 harm to the Ixone while the Ixone failed to inflict any harm at all on us.  In other words, it was a rout.  In one exchange, one war party lost all its harm levels.  Their one pick on their Come Under Attack was to scatter the Abrika, and while the Abrika did that, the Ixone surrendered.

A few observations here:

1. Since the Ixone was Judson's front, and since Judson's PC was blinded, we had Tablesaw take on absent Adam's PC to lead the war party.  While this did mean that Tablesaw answered some questions and made a few decisions as Idus, the impact of one PC leading instead of another PC was almost negligible.  You don't roll your own stats, and there's no rights that give you a +1 to War when you're in command, or give you more options in battle, or the like.

2. Even with our crushing single exchange, we were a little confused on whether the Ixone war party could continue the battle if they wanted to.  Common sense said no, they were routed, but since they had not yet Counted Their Fallen (and it's also a question if NPC War Parties even do that), their numbers existed in a weird quasi-state of being in fighting form and also being routed.  Schrödinger's Infantry.

3. Do NPC war parties Count Their Fallen?

4. Our war party included the Abrika warriors and the Forest band which we made to round out our garrison, totaling 21 warriors; the Ixone was just the one clan with their 8 warriors.  This huge numerical advantage is one of the reasons we squashed them flat.  But was our game-building prep, where we just threw in a whole new people so that we could fill our garrison, a legit thing to do?  Or did we inadvertently overpower our defenses back in session one?  (Obviously, moving forward, the proper solution is to come at the Crown of Towers with a three-clan war party!)

After the fighting was over and their champion taken as a thrall, we put him to work building a nice curtain wall around the stronghold.  I got to roll Tatbirt's "muster workers" right, but the weak hit seemed a little consequenceless.  I filled in a bubble, and that was more or less it.  It didn't feed into the story as much as I might have liked.

Meanwhile, Agrezam went to Tinitran to ask her what she knew about the White Caps' god and how to fix his blindness.  She suggested apologizing to Vanora for warring on her people; this was not something that our proud war-leader was going to do. So Agrezam supplicated the gods of war, hoping that they could address his little blindness problem.  They responded that it was out of their purview, but they could ask the Lady of Changes.  Agrezam wasn't about to call on gods outside the Iron Triune (because then he'd have to roll his Weird instead of his Bold), so he called on Tatbirt to Consult the Other World.  She bathed in the springs, felt the interconnectedness of all things, and pledged to the Lady that she would affect an alliance between the Abrika gods and the White Caps' god.  Agrezam's sight was immediately returned, and as Tablesaw said, "And so you are in debt to the gods to make that happen, Tatbirt."

One observation here: while Open Your Brain in original Apocalypse World is a lot messier and less clear than Consult the Other World, it does ask questions of the PCs in ways that Consult doesn't, and that seems like a missed opportunity.  Later in the evening, Tablesaw regretted not using the Consult as an opportunity to get details on Tatbirt's child, but I don't think there was a great deal of opportunity that he missed.

From there we decided to hit the End of Season button.  This, combined with doing the XP from last session (since we forgot), meant we did a round of picking new rights.  Agrezam chose the right to speak wisdom in counsel.  Tinitran chose the right to whisper to ghosts, spirits, and the otherworldly.  Tatbirt chose to bump her Strong up +1, because most of the New Nobility rights she was picking from were of the "here's a right that you can have denied, and has little concrete effect otherwise" variety.

Since we'd hit the end of the season and will probably have Adam back to play Idus next week, we decided to call that the end of the session.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 25, 2014, 12:05:35 PM »
Co-MCing is a skill we are feeling our way through developing.  Sometimes it's easy and natural, other times it requires a little explicit coordination, and a few times (as above) we fall on our faces.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 24, 2014, 07:49:02 PM »
Assorted questions and observations:

There don't appear to be any rights defined for inheritance or property.  Which seems a weird lacuna.

Should custom moves be a thing?  Do they have a place in the game?

Call for Aid specifically says it only works when player characters help you.  However, there are a number of rights (especially in the Wicker Wise) which talks about getting the Aid of NPCs and gods.

The "bounties" of various goods are vague to the point of uselessness.  How valuable is a bounty of coin?  Of furs?  Of food?  When we were dealing with the clansman who wanted to ransom our guy back to us, we had no good idea what we should offer him, and what any of that might actually mean.  AW has that nice few paragraphs that talks about "1-barter is worth x, y, z; 2-barter is a, b, c, and so on."  That would be useful.

We ended up using Size Someone Up on a representative of an entire People, in this case Gorka from Clan Ixone.  But when I asked "how is he vulnerable to me?" and wanted to get a diplomatic-political-economic answer, I got "you could probably seduce him."  How might we go about understanding broader sociopolitical contexts?

Co-MCing with 3 players is a little iffy, but almost certainly better than playing with 1 MC and 2 players.

One of the neatest tricks of Apocalypse World is to Announce Future Badness when a player flubs a roll against one front, and you reveal information about another front.  This kind of cross-cutting makes for a really neat, organic, lived-in sort of setting feel.  However, this is very hard to do under Co-MCing, when you may only have one "front" (or front-like thingy-thing that hasn't yet been designed) to pull from.  One solution may be to ask a third person at the table if they have any good Future Badness that they could Announce, but at that point it's a fishing expedition.

Leap Into Action and Undertake Great Labor do not seem to be firing on all cylinders.  What falls under one and not the other is a good question, and we aren't sure the options under Leap Into Action really address all the different situations in which that move might be used.

I'm particularly unhappy with Undertake Great Labor, which seems like a wasted opportunity.  10+ you succeed, 7-9 you succeed but it was really hard, 6- you fail.  Very little guidance to the conversation that you're having around the table.  7-9 is nearly consequence-free.  I'd really like to see some concrete options to make that move pivot the story in interesting ways.

Running Away… is that a Great Labor?

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 24, 2014, 07:35:27 PM »
Okay so first, Fronts.  Making and using fronts made it very clear that there is a hole in the design.  Making fronts was incredibly helpful in focusing the fictional stuff we had generated and turning it into actionable threats with strong themes.  Right now the Peoples sheets are very static, very simmy things that describe the setting; using them as fodder to create fronts helped us tell a story.  Having countdowns gave me, as an MC, something to make happen and a fallback for when I didn't know how to press forward.

However, as much as fronts revealed that there was a hole, it was also pretty clear that it's not a fronts-shaped hole.  The mood and feel of a front, especially the Kinds and Impulses that I pulled straight out of the Apocalypse World book, are skewed off of the proper mood and feel for Dark Ages.  AW fronts are all half-mad clamoring desperation throwing themselves at the PCs.  Dark Ages seems like it should highlight schemers, bullies, supernatural monsters, cults with mystic traditions that are more respectable than Hocus gibbering, and foreign armies.  Maybe a different set of Kinds and Impulses would make Dark Ages fronts pop, or maybe the game needs a different piece altogether, here.

What fronts gave us, though, that was incredibly useful: they helped us turn a status quo into a dynamic story setting by giving incoming threats a personality and an agenda.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 24, 2014, 07:14:00 PM »
Thanks for the kind words, noofy! :D

So we–Tablesaw, Judson, and myself–sat down to play our third session of Dark Ages.  Things progressed much better when we took our time, treated rights as sacrosanct, and used fronts.

We kicked off play with Abregaz and Idus heading down into the catacombs to chase the Magdolna intruders there.  Since Idus' player wasn't able to make it, we had Tablesaw play him for this scene part of the conversation.  Abregaz and Idus used a number of the more actiony moves and a couple assists, and these cascaded and led into each other very well.  Abregaz attempted a Take Stock and got a 6; Idus assisted that by sneaking around behind, Leaping into Action, and seizing the interlopers.  (Quick clarification question: could Idus spend one to "seize hold of" both intruders, or did he need to spend two to seize hold of both of them?  We did the latter.)  Seeing that Idus was about to get knifed in the gut, Abregaz then Leapt Forward and disarmed the restrained Magdolna.  There was evidence that the Magdolna had been tampering with the old graves, but since they were under Irat's hospitality, Abregaz refrained from searching them like criminals.  They kept tight-lipped, themselves.  So Abgregaz and Idus escorted them upstairs to the Magdolna caravan that was just leaving.

At supper, Tinitran carefully introduced Vanora the White Cap priestess (and bandit leader) to her father the Keep Liege.  This was mostly Win Someone Over, carefully and elegantly done.  Tinitran got to the point where she could press her father into agreeing to extend the White Caps hospitality, though he wouldn't like it, or not pressuring him for an immediate answer.  She chose the latter, confident that he'd convince himself to agree with her in his own time.  Throughout this, Judson and I were tag-team MCing, with me as Irat and him adding color as Vanora.  Then Gorka, a clansman from the hostile and unconquered Ixone Clan, arrived at the stronghold under a white flag.  This was Judson taking the lead on MCing, and I played Tatbirt in the following exchange.  Gorka had come demanding ransom for one of our carpenters that the Ixone had captured, but a Size Someone Up revealed that he was here to make ridiculous demands that we wouldn't agree to, thus gaining the high ground.  Tatbirt grew tired of this quickly and told him to return to the Ixone and prepare for war.

Finally Agrezam came up out of the catacombs to join the rest of the family for dinner.  He showed up white-faced, though, claiming to have been confronted by our (quite dead) grandmother.  This felt off immediately, and we paused for a moment to untangle it.  Judson was effectively trying to push an MC agenda using his PC as a pawn.  It felt flat, awkward, and like Judson was denying the other players the opportunity to actually play out the scary encounter.  We resolved not to do that anymore, and keep "MCing" and "PCing" strictly separate.

After dinner concluded, Tatbirt went down into the catacombs to talk with the stronghold.  The stronghold was upset because something had been taken from it, and by Virag the Magdolna.  This was an interesting bit here.  Tatbirt was following the lead of the catacomb's restless dead, a threat on Judson's front.  However, when I looked for a culprit, Judson picked Virag off of my front sheet.  This worked out, mostly because I think everyone at the table assumed that Virag had taken something from the catacombs, even if that hadn't been established in the fiction.

While Tatbirt went down into the catacombs, Abregaz and Tinitran went up to the family shrine.  Abregaz planned to supplicate the gods of war, as is his right, while Tinitran was going to leave her earthly life, as was hers.  We stumbled across an interesting rules wrinkle, here.  We wondered if, in the morning when Abregaz made his battle moves, he could Call on Aid from Tinitran, and we could jump back in time to her scouting via astral projection, thus providing him Aid.  This seemed awkward, but without the +1 forward mechanic, doing a thing now to benefit a roll later seemed murky.  We then pieced together that, if Tinitran went scouting now, in the morning she would have the proper fictional positioning to give Abregaz aid.  She could tell him, for instance, about a deadfall across a path he intended to march, or where the Ixone had stockpiled their weapons or somesuch.  That would fall under the Aid that doesn't require a roll, but in this case she could do that only because she'd already made the roll.  This seems like it would work very well, but teasing it out of the rules as they stand took some doing.

However, all that went flying out the door when Tinitran stepped out of earthly life (rolling 10+) and landed in the Ixone camp, then immediately flubbed her roll trying to find our carpenter.  A guard was advancing on her, and Tablesaw decided that she couldn't take anything with her that wasn't natural materials like leather, cloth, or wood–so she had no sword or spear.  So instead she grabbed a brazier, set some tents on fire, and spooked the Ixone horses out into the moonless night.  Then when she was surrounded, she poofed back to the stronghold.

Abregaz then supplicated the Iron Triune, our gods of war Find, Fix, and Flank.  Except he rolled a 6, and so instead of our gods, he ended up contacting the god of the White Caps, who was not very happy with him.  When he remained defiant, the White Flame overwhelmed him with light and struck him blind.

And that's what we did.  Questions and observations to follow.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 23, 2014, 10:39:51 PM »
I just finally got the time to sit down and do up fronts for the playtest tonight, and this is exactly what I was missing.  The process helped me refine, sharpen, and organize the stuff that was happening into something really actionable.  The color and feel is a little off—a little more madness and desperate hunger than Dark Ages seems to imply—but process-wise, this is very helpful.

AW:Dark Age / Re: experience question
« on: September 18, 2014, 11:11:17 AM »
It's a much slower XP progression.  I think that's actually a good thing, since you could power-level AW to get two or more advances per session (Macklin famously earned an advance in the first half hour of play).

End of Session, you get two XP, but you don't pick what you get.
 - MC picks one
 - other players pick the other one.

End of Season is the only time you pick your own XP, and it goes along with a Season Move.

And then, yes, you can gain rights by petitioning elders.  I doubt this is often a permanent arrangement, however.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 17, 2014, 05:07:58 PM »
So last night's playtest started with Tablesaw saying, "I don't know if I can play this."

We spent the next few hours talking over his problems, reviewing the playtest document, and formulating a way through.

The crux of the problem was, to paraphrase Tablesaw, "The playtest document has enough gaps that it does not produce enjoyable play without us importing a lot of techniques from other games, and then it sort of works.  But at that point, we're not really playtesting Dark Ages, we're ad-hocing our own game, and if we're going to do that, we might as well be playing something reliable."

In concrete terms, Tablesaw's Tinitran is intended as a footloose wanderer and he'd like to see her travel around.  However, our play up until now has been scene-structured opportunities for the player characters to interact, mostly in the stronghold.  The scene structure is imported, and we might enable more travel and new vistas if we switched to a more Apocalypse World style questions-and-conversation format.  However, we feel unprepared and unsupported in asking questions and having that conversation.  The setting and implications of the rights is so nebulous we have nowhere to start with the questions.  Many of the rights do not provide strong support—and sometimes provide no support—for guiding the conversation in interesting ways.

We're in this situation where we can fall back on comfortable play styles that we import or we can flail around trying to make the AW-style provocative questions and conversation work.  The text as it exists does very little to dissuade us from bringing in these foreign techniques, and the conversation-and-questions has little to entice us with.

So we started drilling down into why the conversations-and-questions format is not working for us, despite the fact that it has worked for us before in games like Apocalypse World and Sagas of the Icelanders.

First we considered the absence of the First Session.  In AW, the MC sits back and lets the players bang about a bit, generating context, and then goes home and creates fronts to put pressure on the fault lines that were demonstrated in the First Session.  While we enjoyed the pick-a-season-action goads to inspiration and were hopeful for the implication that the game would kind of leap into action, it has severely under-performed compared to the AW First Session.  We do not have strong senses of what characters are "about," what they care about, or the broader context in which they operate.  (That broader context we expected to be provided by the system of rights that describe the setting, more on that later.)

For instance, my character Tatbirt the Castellan has just given birth to a child; there is no father in evidence.  But whereas this sort of implies something like a scandal, we don't have enough footing to really figure out if it is out of the ordinary or how to push on that in an interesting way.  Is it strange for a child to be born out of wedlock?  Is it shameful?  Does it have implications for the succession of the stronghold leadership?  And so on and so forth.  Obviously we could conjure up answers to all of these by asking provocative questions, but we never found a good place and time to do this.  The starter season move was over and done with before we were able to dig into things.  Then, once we started play in our second session, these all seemed like details that should have been addressed already.

Talking about the First Session inevitably led us to talking about Fronts and their absence.  Whereas AW provides a number of different kinds of fronts with which to threaten the PCs, the enemies-of-the-stronghold Peoples all feel incredibly samey.  Hostile clans who want to dethrone you.  Remnants of the former crown's rule who want to dethrone you.  Fractious landowners… who would really rather you weren't on that throne.  Especially with our sorcerous family theme, the lack of sorcerous threats is profoundly felt.  We also established a late spring freeze with Tablesaw's season move, but we don't really know how to push that in concrete terms.  Not having fronts, threats, and countdown clocks means that we are winging it every moment of play.  Just the simple support of having a list of progressing badness on the horizon would be welcome support.  Then we'd have a sense of direction for our questions and conversation—towards the badness.  As it is, any question we pose to each other gets a diffident and insignificant answer—or an overcorrection of latching onto something and making a big deal about it just so something has some narrative weight.

Apocalypse World functions on scarcities, but Dark Ages has a (ha ha) scarcity of scarcities.  Nobody needs anything.  There is no prompt for the players of problems that need fixing.  Asking provocative questions here again produces diffident and insignificant answers.  I almost feel like we should be responding with the perverse answers encouraged by Wick's Houses of the Blooded, if only to make things harder on ourselves so we have something to push against.  We have a bunch of characters in a stronghold who are quite content to be just competent enough to keep the peace and feed their families; we've no guidance for how to shake up the present status quo to produce interesting developments.

Lastly, the rights have turned into a quagmire for us.  What does having a right mean, both for the character and for the story?  Does not having a right mean something?  What if another player has the right that you don't?  What if nobody at the table has that right, but they might later?  What about rights not listed on any sheet?  Who in the setting cares about your rights?  Do NPCs have rights that our characters might care about?  And all of this might seem like fertile ground for provocative questions, but we can't find any stable ground from which to start.

Given all that, we resolved on our way forward.

First, we're writing up Fronts, with threats and countdown clocks, if only so that we have something to push towards and big changes to threaten the players with.  Judson is writing up fronts specifically with an eye to address, if not intentionally deny, the rights on players' sheets.  I'll be turning the current events into threats.

We are also going to back down our pacing and be a bit more leisurely with our play, to allow greater space and time for provocative questions and generating context.  Hopefully this will help us come to a better understanding of what these characters are all about, the better to present them with interesting choices down the road.

Lastly, we're adopting the table rule that rights are sacrosanct.  They aren't just social conventions, they are hard-coded elements of the game premise.  Like the character on the television show who is in charge of the home base and nothing ever unseats them, or the character in the novel who is constantly meddling in others' love lives and nothing ever prevents them from continuing so.  The only thing that can confront a right is another right.  We're shifting "Denied Your Right" to "When Rights Conflict." And we're assigning rights to NPCs to better define where they fit in the setting and refine how they will come into conflict with the PCs.

We'll see how it shakes out next week!

AW:Dark Age / MCing Agenda: Denying Rights?
« on: September 16, 2014, 02:16:53 PM »
I think I've put my finger on my confusion regarding Denied Rights, and that's how I'm supposed to approach that element of the game as an MC.

Obviously "deny their rights" is not one of the Agenda listed on the Master of Ceremonies sheet.  However, it's hardly difficult to argue that denying a character's rights is an easy way to make their life eventful.  You could also say that it's part of making things vivid or that you're trying to find out what happens.  There are easily half a dozen places in Principles, Your Moves, and Use Your Moves… that could also qualify.

By contrast, there's "Give the players' characters their due," of course.

With all the other Basic Moves, I read those as flags for where I should push the game.  I should introduce action that the PCs can leap into, warriors they'll need to muster, opposition to win over, single combat to join, and so on and so forth.  All of these things make for that vivid game where the PCs lives are eventful.

What I'm not sure is if I should be aiming to deny the characters' rights.  Is that a button for the GM to push?  Or is it really there for PC-vs-PC interactions?  Or is it a safety net for when events in the story push that way, and we have some recourse to keep us on the right track?

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 16, 2014, 01:45:06 PM »
We're also importing explicit scene-framing.  Apocalypse World is supposed to be all conversation and questions.

AW:Dark Age / Where Do Rights Come From?
« on: September 10, 2014, 02:42:13 PM »
So after our playtest last night, we were discussing the somewhat problematic space that rights presently occupy.

Rights seem to describe a sort of generalized public opinion and support; a liege lord is a liege lord because her subjects recognize her authority.  Or to go supernatural about it, the wicker-wise can perform enchantments because the Other World respects their wisdom/power/connections/what-have-you.

The only thing is, when the right is denied, that support and respect is more or less ignored.  This happens in the fiction—the usurper dismissing the lord's proper place—but it also occurs mechanically—the people who recognized you as their proper lord are suddenly looking the other way and making embarrassed coughing noises. All the support and respect implied by the fictional positioning is revealed as completely useless and ineffective.  Which seems weird.

Which got us to thinking—what if rights are specifically bestowed by their domains?  When they are denied, the "gods are angry" option is replaced by "the bestowing domain is angry."  So if you trample on the ancestral right and title to rule a stronghold, the ruler might declare that the people are revolting against the usurper's misrule.  If you disrupt somebody's good investments, then the Wider World gets angry at you for disrupting trade.  If your right to lead worshippers gets denied by your domineering liege lord, the Old Ways might surface to teach him a lesson in respect and humility.  If you prevent your war-leader from sending out scouts, War gets angry with you, which doesn't bode well for the battle you're about to fight.

This also puts a little more flavor into the fiction, so not just the gods get angry at the abused rights, but the Land Itself and the Other World and all sorts of juicy goodness.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 10, 2014, 02:23:45 PM »

We stalled a couple times on making a People.  The most egregious was the tavern scene, above, but we also dithered back and forth on whether Idus' household should have its own People sheet or not.  Tablesaw especially finds the Peoples unwieldy.

We really liked the assigning XP go-around.  It was a little weird under Co-MCing (I both MCed for and played across from Judson, so where does my input go in that process), but we sorted out a solution (which I… am sort of failing to remember.)

Dark Ages does not yet have the focus, both in character roles and in general premise, that Apocalypse World has. As Tablesaw said, "I don't know what this game is about and I don't know why it exists."  We cast around for the Barf Forth Apocalyptica or Spout Lore equivalents that would ground us in some context.

While there are a lot of rights there is no firm handle on the obligations that those rights come with.  The ruler has a right to rule, but no obligation to his people.  The war leader has a right to wage war but not an obligation to protect the stronghold.

Size Someone Up seems a little weird.  Unlike Win Someone Over, you don't mark and spend over the course of the conversation, which makes this into a weird pseudo-psychic mind-reading.  How do you know what they intend to do or how you can get them to do something from the very start of the conversation?  We suspect that the trigger of the move is the problem; at least by our read, you "size someone up" as they enter the room; this move seems more appropriate halfway through the conversation, when you're giving them a more considered appraisal.


A household option for healers, a hospital, or the like?

Some God moves (or God rights) in the MC moves might help make the favor of the gods more relevant.

A move for claiming a right that you don't have — something like Tempt Fate from Sagas.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 10, 2014, 02:06:09 PM »
We played our first roleplay session!  Yay!

But first I neglected to share the bandits that I made as prep.  These are the White Caps, so called because they are defined by the common experience of going on a spirit quest fueled by hallucinogenic mushrooms.  Due to their repeated usage of said white cap mushrooms, they're unformly tall, willowy, and bone-pale.  They're an outlaw band, so 12 souls in 1 household and 8 warriors.  They've got 0 Rites, +2 War, and -1 Wealth.  They're known for their veneration of their priestess, their insatiability in war, their loyalty, their physical prowess, and their generous hospitality.  Their priestess is Vanora, who aspires to loyalty and piety, and her conscience allows brutality, compliance, and robbery.  Basically they're a dangerous but friendly cult who've fallen on hard times.

I should mention that I copied over all our Peoples onto the People sheets with People on top, Notables on the bottom, and Warriors, Harm, and Losses along the right side.  We prefer this layout over the others.

But then we started play!

We kicked off with Agerzam coming home to find the Magdolna, our frequent rivals and enemies, milling about outside the great hall loading two wagons with food and supplies.  Judson prevaricated a little on how much Agerzam cared to engage, here.  How much of it was his business, and how much did he want to make it his business?  We played through some very brief interaction, with Agerzam learning that the Magdolna were there under Lord Irat's hospitality, and almost left it there.  A few minutes later, Judson realized that what he had been doing was Taking Stock.  Since we hadn't yet started the next scene, we had Judson roll. He got a 6 (the only failure in the session—more on that later), so he got one question.  (I forget which one he picked!)  So he came away with the distinct impression that the Magdolna were using Irat's hospitality as cover for something else.

Then I asked Adam, Idus' player, where the Champion would speak with Lord Irat when they spoke.  Was the enmity between them such that they only saw each other at court, or were their family ties strong enough to allow them private consultations in the Lord's chambers?  Adam went with open court.  We had quickly determined that everyone in Idus' household worships the Abrika gods, and that the thing that most pissed off the Abrika gods was a breach of hospitality.  So Irat informed Idus that a member of his household had denied hospitality to one of the family's elders (I quickly scribbled in Tagwizult as Agerzam's widowed mother).  The rude girl in question, Olwen, must be cast out of Idus' household.  Adam made a Size Someone Up roll and scored a 10+; he verified that Irat was speaking truthfully, that he really needed Idus and his spear to protect the stronghold, but also that the Lord was using this as a test of Idus' loyalty and his household's propriety.  If the matter wasn't resolved, Irat would use it as a wedge to shame and marginalize Idus.  Idus very carefully hedged on what he would actually do about this, promising to look into the matter.

Since Tinitran was home, I asked her player Tablesaw where she frequented when she was at the Crown of Towers, and where she might be found.  When she wasn't wandering through Agerzam's hunting grounds, she frequented the tavern in the town.  I asked Judson what the tavern looked like; he asked what the people of the town were like, we remembered that we hadn't made a people for the townsfolk, so he started in on that.  When that didn't happen quickly, we asked Judson to describe the tavern and then finish off the People.  Armed with a scene frame, I had Vanora, priestess of the White Caps', sit down and make her case.  Given that she was an acquaintance from Tinitran's travels, they established a comfortable friendship immediately (speculating that they "left earthly life" together a few times).  Vanora then asked if the White Caps could call on the Abrika's hospitality, but was worried about appearing at the Crown itself in person, since the White Caps had just been routed by Agerzam.  Tinitran resolved this by extending her hospitality and protection to Vanora while she was under the Abrika's roof.

Idus and Agerzam met outside the great hall and did some mostly incidental, character- and relationship-building roleplay.  No mechanics engaged, no real pushing of agendas on my part.

Since Tablesaw had mentioned the possibility of running into my character Tatbirt when Tinitran took Vanora into the stronghold, I framed that and then asked either Judson or Adam to MC for us.  Adam took up the role.  We indulged in some banter and cooing over the newborn, and then Tinitran asked Tatbirt for lodging for Vanora; I exercised my "commit or withold the stronghold's resources" right and found her a serviceable room.  Tinitran also asked Tatbirt to arrange a meeting between Vanora and Irat, using some choice phrasing ("Vanora has extended great hospitality to Tinitran and Tinitran has extended the hospitality of the household to her").  We had really fallen into a hospitality theme for the session!

I was somewhat surprised when Adam then swept Tatbirt along to speak with Irat, who was already speaking with Agerzam.  I got to keep playing!  Agerzam Sized Up Irat to understand the situation with the Magdolna; Adam deferred to me as to Irat's motivations there ("Irat thinks he's awesomely pious for extending hospitality to his former enemies").  I then used Size Someone Up on Agerzam to ask What do you intend to do (keep an eye on the Magdolna) and How might I get Agerzam to share what he sees with Tatbirt (express concern about the situation).  So Tatbirt had to make a very diplomatic statement about Irat's pious hospitality while also signalling to Agerzam that she was concerned, too.

Next Tablesaw and Judson wanted their characters to cross paths, so we moved to the sacred shrine where Agerzam and his men were receiving healing in the wake of their Soldiering season move.  I'm not sure if we did this right, but we used the People move Ask for Their Hospitality on our own people to give Agerzam the "sorceries and enchantments" we were known for.  As that roll succeeded, we moved on to the Enchantment page, where healing 1 harm requires 3 sacrifices.  The healing was performed [1] in a shrine sacred to our gods, [2] with an oath to our gods, and [3] passing the subject twice through fire and twice through water.  We elaborated that the shrine was a big garden with plants from our homelands and hot springs.  Judson then erased the strike through his first Harm line.

Tinitran and Agerzam then went back and forth on the topic of the White Caps, their virtue or lack thereof, and whose hospitality was being extended to whom based on whose rights.  Both Judson and Tablesaw rolled Win Someone Over and spent those marks across the conversation.  This seemed to work really well and was entertaining.

We hadn't seen Idus for a while, so we saw him return to his household.  Whereas he's almost a pariah everywhere else, at home he's a beloved benefactor and honored head of household, so that was interesting to see.  He called Olwen to where he was holding court underneath a tree and determined that she was a punk kid who shot her mouth off (more or less), and told her that she was going to throw herself on the mercy of Tagwizult in a final bid to not be cast out of the household entirely.  He sent a runner to Agerzam (a boy he wants to transfer over to Agerzam's war band) to arrange said meeting.

However, Agerzam, already being in the sacred shrine and all, decided to supplicate the gods of war regarding the Magdolna.  He described his counsel, invoking the Iron Triune, and got a 10+ for an answer and follow up questions.  He wanted to know what his enemies the Magdolna were up to; he received a vision of two Magdolnites breaking off from the other guests and sneaking into the catacombs to steal something.  His follow-up question was "Are they there RIGHT NOW?" which was answered in the affirmative.  Idus showed up with Olwen in tow; Agerzam postponed that business for the more pressing concerns down in the catacombs.

Tinitran also asked to Consult the Other World, asking after the god of the White Caps.  She received a vision of a dim, tarnished, and failing light.

…by which time it was 11 and we needed to wrap things up.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« on: September 09, 2014, 10:15:07 PM »
So this is what I ended up with for prep; we're going to play in an hour or so.

The first thing I wrote down was "What does Irat (the liege lord) want?"  He aspires to hospitality and piety.  So mostly I just focused on ways to make that problematic for our PCs.

Then I went through and copied over the characters' special rights, skipping the more prosaic +1s and whatnot.

- supplicate the gods of war
- wage war as you see fit

- step out of earthly life
- keep acquaintance with the people you meet

- confront betters for justice
- the spirit-pinning ash wood spear

Given that these are the things that the players have highlighted as things they're interested in, and given that this is our "pilot episode," I wanted to lay out opportunities for everybody to do their thing.  So I looked at our stronghold, the peoples, and the notables that we'd made, and the season moves we took.

First I figured, if Idus wants to confront his betters for justice, "his betters" is certainly Lord Irat.  So how can Irat move against Idus and prompt him to demand justice?  Idus has a weird, cosmopolitain household, and Irat pursues piety.  So let's say somebody in Idus' household is an apostate or a heretic or similar in Irat's estimation.  I jot down notes to ask Idus' player Adam what's the worst thing you can do before the Abrika gods, and then I'll tell him one of his household is doing it.  We'll see where that goes.

Tinitran gets to keep acquaintance with people, which is a right others apparently don't enjoy.  So let's have somebody call on Tinitran… like those bandits that Agerzam was fighting.  They need help, since they've just been routed.  And if the Abrika don't give them food and supplies, they'll have to turn to the Abrika's enemies, Clan Ixone.  That seems like a fun problem to put in front of Tinitran.

And if Agerzam wants to speak with the gods of war, and he can wage war on his own say-so, let's give him somebody to fight.  The Magdolna, for instance.  Except let's make Agerzam's wage war right a dicey proposition and let's say that the Magdolna are already in the Crown of Towers when Agerzam gets back from campaigning, and they're here under Irat's hospitality.  There's a late freeze going on, after all, and some folks' food stocks are low.  But that's an excuse; the Magdolna are almost certainly up to no good.

And lastly I have some vague plans for the Magdolna summoning up or quelling or hiding the shade of their ancestor Magda.  Maybe that's why they're at the Crown of Towers.  Maybe that has something to do with the apostate in Idus' household.  Maybe that spirit might end up pinned on a certain spear, or encountered by somebody stepping out of earthly life.

So we'll see how this shakes out.  At some point, too, I'll be putting my PC into a scene with another PC and asking somebody else to MC for me.  Fun times!

AW:Dark Age / Re: Denied right
« on: September 03, 2014, 03:52:17 PM »
I shied away from Liege Lord because its rights appeared to be a long list of ways to be disappointed and frustrated.

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