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Messages - ColdLogic

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Freebooting Venus / Re: Orlando playtest group, first session
« on: November 05, 2015, 01:52:06 PM »
Oh, also!

8. I also can't stress enough how much fun it was to have that improvised absurdity of the circus get embraced by the table. Balboa's player ended up bringing it back into play when he bound his second ghost. The terms are that he'll make sure the ghost's masterwork hangs in the atrium, and we've established this circus is some obscenely big attraction. As I said before, I never would have prepped an element like that. For the players, I think going through treasure was the highlight. For me, the highlight was having that circus come back into play and legitimized!

Freebooting Venus / Orlando playtest group, first session
« on: November 05, 2015, 01:40:01 PM »
I struggled as GM, and we stalled a lot for rules clarifications and analyzing the game that seemed to go on forever. On the plus side, a lot of this was from us puzzling through the rules. You know how you think you know something until you see it in action? That's what this was. We're going to keep on it for at least another 4 or 5 sessions to get through the learning curve because the stuff that was fun was really fun!

Here are as many details as I can remember, some useful but most probably useless.

Character creation started out fine. I tried to steer it by going step by step  through stats, skills, belongings and lodgings, but once we got to skills there were lots of digressions to talk about/look up how spellcasting and necromancy worked, and from there we nose-dived into more analysis of the game as a whole. There was some discussion from a stealthy character about rolling up his unexamined treasure during character creation -- like, before choosing his belongings and rolling his lodgings. Thankfully the group nixed that on the grounds that examining your treasure is a move, not part of character creation.

When they were done, I had them read aloud the PAST & PRESENT section. We digressed for a bit here exploring the experiences and talking about them.

So, now we had 3 characters with lodgings, their lodgings' appointments and who they share them with:
Balboa, with necromancy and instincts.
Holt, with swordbinding and reputation.
Hale, with grace and stealth.

I was super tempted to ask questions like crazy and chase down the concrete details here, like 'Oh, so who owns this private home you're subletting a room out of? Which benevolent deity does the temple honor?' etc. We started in on that but thankfully the first person I asked stalled for a second, thinking, and I realized I actually didn't want to fill these details in right now because the text was going to give me a starting scene. So lucky me, I have unexplored hooks!

I rolled up the random table and selected:
Under the bridge, an unruly ghost, and their enemy's accomplice about to appear. (I was so gunning for the pterosaur, Vincent, but the dice let me down!)

I started to set the scene. Now, because everything is improvisation and explicitly built from contradictions, you should read '... for some reason, apparently!' onto the end of every sentence going forward.

We settled on 'stealing a succession of human bodies' meaning, like, animating/possessing recently-deceased bodies. One of the PCs had a prisoner, and somehow this ended up being a prostitute from Madam Bolivia's unnamed brothel who didn't realize her client was a ghost inhabiting a dead body, and somehow it ended up that the ghost had been visiting M. Bolivia's for a few days in different bodies before being discovered...? The players were trying to fill in background on the scene, and justifications for the scene, almost immediately. I didn't actively discourage this at first, but I cut it off once it started getting super in-depth so I could leave room to figure out what powerful person's bad decisions had created this trouble.

So, Holt had an unruly 'prisoner'. Hale had promised someone he'd take care of this situation, and it turns out that promise was to Madam Bolivia, naturally. Balboa was wounded and bleeding. He marked that his soul was battered and torn. We stopped to talk about that for a bit, and no one knew what it meant or how it might get expressed in play (they were concerned, I really didn't care at the moment). In the end, they agreed to treat it as a 'spiritual wound' and move on. Good.

In setting the scene, I wanted to have the ghost doing something, like they've chased it down here and it doesn't have a body of course and so it's cornered and threatened, attacking them, and on a rampage or something? Anyway, we stopped for a while and argued over whether anyone could actually see the damn thing. I was going to use the Mourning Ghost from the bestiary, and my instinct was to let them be able to see it. But after talking about it forever I went back on that and said they couldn't really see it. It was like a nasty 'presence' they could feel swirling around them.

Balboa's player was still confused about calling a ghost by name, contending with it, etc. He didn't realize that since the ghost was here, he didn't need to summon it or do anything special to be able to contend with it. He wanted to find out its name. I was tired of struggling over this, so when he said he wanted to jump behind a big pillar of the bridge and REGROUP, RECOVER, PREPARE to talk to his ghostly attendant about the binding name, I said go for it. He got a strong hit, and chose to 1) no longer suffer whatever the effects of his spirit being battered were 2) come up with a plan and 3) consult with his ghostly attendant. He asked his ghostly attendant what the binding name of their enemy ghost was. I didn't know what to do, but the text says his ghost must answer truthfully and so I spilled. In retrospect, the truth is probably that his ghost doesn't know another ghost's binding name, but I really didn't want to tell his player this after making him roll, so whatever. We paused on settling what his plan was for a second; his player was expecting a +1 or something, which I'm reluctant to do because I want to play strictly by the book as much as possible. And then when we paused in deciding the plan we forgot about it totally, so it never came back up.

Holt, Hale and their prisoner were still, like, where we started. It was clear that Holt's player didn't know he couldn't actually fight with the ghost, so I asked him if he wanted to SIZE UP THE SITCH. He failed, and got to ask one. I told him to ask me about where his enemy is vulnerable/strong, and revealed to him that normal weapons and armor are useless; only a necromancer can deal with a ghost. I also had the ghost rip into him, but the table suggested that instead of outright inflicting harm I should have him make a bold save to overcome fear, which he passed, so no harm.

Hale was determined to deal with this ghost somehow, and tried to INTERRUPT or delay it for a minute by way of gracious rhetoric. I was done with this damn ghost at this point; it seemed like we had spent so much time of this session analyzing, arguing, referencing how ghosts work! So I said he could attempt it. He succeeded, the ghost was confused for a minute, I went ahead and had it take visible form to get rid of the annoyance of it being invisible.

Balboa knew its binding name, and he just basically bound it right then and there. The rules read as if knowing its name is enough, no roll required, so that's what we declared. He's got a second ghost now, and I'm finally rid of the ordeal.

Okay! Now they're looking at me, and we're all stumbling, trying to get something going with this scene. Like, I've got nothing prepped right? They've got a 'prisoner', a prostitute from M. Bolivia's that they need to return. I look down and realize I never really brought in the 'enemy's accomplice' who was supposed to appear, and at the same time I was trying to think of someone rich who might somehow be tied to this whole mess through neglect or whatever. Also, I hadn't given them any treasure.

So yeah, I had a rich man show up with body guards, all anxious. Man, I never would have prepped something this absurd in a million years, but here's the deal. I guess this ghost, being invisible and all, is actually the property of the world's biggest circus. You know, like it's what's behind their magnificent acts of illusion, magic, acrobatics and the like. And yeah, it's gotten off its leash somehow in the last few days, going on a tear at the brothel with reanimated bodies. So here's, like, this rich circus owner and his attendant body guards, threatening to sue because necromancy be damned, the court of law will hold that Balboa has now stolen his property. His prized act, in fact.

They somehow end up going back with him to the circus, which is this crazy ostentatious colosseum in the heart of the citystate. Hale is walking and talking and wheeling and dealing with the guy on the way, and wants to SIZE HIM UP. He wants to know how much money they could sell this guy's ghost back to him for, so of course I'm like: 'Well, you know, he'd win in court, but that's expensive, so anything just shy of litigation costs and he'd settle. About 3 treasure, I guess.' So Balboa releases his newly-bound unruly ghost back to the circus' custody and they each get treasure out of it. I know it probably should have been examined treasure, but we all wanted to see unexamined treasure in action so I said the circus had this storehouse of chests and trunks and whatnot from, you know, their travels and trades abroad and they just blindly handed over 3 treasure worth without examining it.

Now they spend the last half hour or so examining their treasure. Everyone has 1 treasure except Hale, who started with an additional one, so he's got two. Here are the results:

Hale laid the foundations of his estate, an old outpost in ruin on the river with dockage and access to a highway. His other treasure turned out to be something dangerous to someone powerful. I said it was like probate papers, and from looking at them it was obvious they invalidated this powerful financier's claim to his inheritance -- which was what his financial institution was built on.

Balboa  had an item of historical significance and value. I told him it was a painting. It was in watercolor, but the colors changed and moved while you look at them, so the thing was animated. It was the long lost masterwork of someone who, you know, could have become a great wizard or something but instead had pursued mastery over oils and paints. Someone at the table named him Ygrid the Younger, who was far more skilled than Ygrid the Elder, obviously. After a few minutes of talking about this, we suddenly realized that this masterwork was a token of Ygrid's life, and I'll be goddamned if Balboa didn't use that to call him forth from death and try to bind him! Balboa offered to have this masterwork displayed before the the masses in the world's greatest circus if Ygrid would serve him, and that seemed pretty damn right to me so I said yeah. So yeah, it's there in the atrium of the circus as you enter.

Holt went back and forth between investing in a pie slice towards development vs investing in an enterprise, and now I don't remember what he settled on.

Okay, treasure done, they went through experiences and marked the ones that seemed appropriate. I think they marked 1 to 3 each.

Insights and questions:
1. It's neat how examining your treasure takes you into this other mode of play. It's not the normal kind of play you think of, like where we're talking about our characters doing stuff in the fiction. It's more like a combination of the kind of play you do when you're a) creating your character and b) world-building/character prepping. It was definitely fun for everyone, maybe the highlight of the night.

2. A ghost is here and it's going crazy. Is it, like, chairs flying around, or can they see it?

3. When you consult your attendant ghost and he answers your questions truthfully, can the answer be 'I don't know?' or is that a cheap shot? Like, the player rolled to do this, and 'I don't know' kind of sucks.

4. Is all interaction with a ghost considered 'contending with it', or just actually fighting with it? Is there any way for a non-necromancer to interact with a ghost, like talking to it, trying to stall it, trying to confuse it somehow?

5. The GM's job is to create trouble. Creating jobs is your job in the Hand to Mouth module. Does that mean that giving them jobs shouldn't be the main way I hook them into adventures here?

6. How do I create trouble? I didn't know what to do once the scene was over. Luckily, they soaked up the last part of the session examining their treasure, but if they hadn't I don't know what I would have done. When they look at me to say something, I don't know what I'm supposed to say. Should I follow them around for a day, nailing down the concrete details of their lives, and use that to make trouble? What should I be prepping for the next session? They've got lodgings, appointments, people they share those with. One has an estate, and maybe the other has an enterprise. Should I focus on threatening those things?

7. I can't stress enough how lost and at sea I was when I was improvising. The rules told me the first scene, but once that was done I just didn't know. Somehow, somewhere, this rediculous circus situation came to my brain, and we followed that for a bit. The players were gracious and found ways of embracing that, and it turned out super cool. But once THAT was over, again, I was lost. I didn't know if I'm supposed to follow them around, setting up a toppling world around them, ala AW. 

Freebooting Venus / Re: Trouble and the powerful people who cause it
« on: November 03, 2015, 12:12:45 PM »
I'm running it tomorrow, and I'm anxious/curious what I'm going to say when it comes time for trouble.

In an AW game, some of the tools I have for making trouble include:

1. Scarcity. It tells me the kind of trouble to create -- the kind where someone suffers from hunger, fear, despair...
2. Collaborative world building. The other players share the burden of fleshing out the world with NPCs and relationships for the MC to threaten or use as threats.
3. Fronts. The MC takes NPCs from the First Session Worksheet/Home Front, or invents new ones, and makes them into threats for a front or adds them to an existing front.
4. The snowball. The fallout/snowball of PC actions often creates enough trouble to carry a big chunk of a session, if not the whole session.

For the Freebooting Venus playtest, the guidance is to have a powerful person take malicious or thoughtless decisions through to their end. The opening situation has just a couple of hooks to help create more trouble (one of the players might be fulfilling a promise, or might have a prisoner, or might be taking the sitch personally). The text says trouble should be a practical problem for the PCs, not a moral problem, but there's no tool for making a web of practical relationships and needs to threaten. There are folks you share your lodgings with, and folks you are indebted to. Hopefully that's enough. In some traditional game, I'd probably have a powerful person give them a job, but that's explicitly not the GM's agenda for this module.

So I dunno. We'll see what I say when I say it, right? I'm registering this here for posterity, so I can come back tomorrow night and be all like: 'Duh! It worked out fine!'

Freebooting Venus / Sizing a situation up
« on: November 02, 2015, 03:04:50 PM »
There's no read a sitch move, but the incendiary booby trap references sizing a situation up... What's the move when someone is cautiously looking the room over? Patient save to be on the look-out for something?

Freebooting Venus / Re: Contending with a ghost
« on: November 02, 2015, 02:55:47 PM »
I think so. Only necromancers can contend with ghosts, got it. Can others attempt to bind ghosts by holding something over them or offering them something? I guess not, just checking.

Freebooting Venus / Re: End/beginning of session
« on: November 02, 2015, 01:43:56 PM »
2) Oh I don't know. I've done my share of worldbuilding without player contribution, so I guess I'll do that.

edit: It just wasn't nearly as good or as rewarding as building off of player contributions ala Apocalypse World. Now I'm going to have to break my recently-learned Apocalypse World habits!

Freebooting Venus / Contending with a ghost
« on: November 02, 2015, 09:27:26 AM »
Contending means fighting with it, physically.

1) Only necromancers, or anyone?
2) Your force of will is a weapon inflicting 1-harm. What about you armor? Useless?
2) For the Mourning Ghost in the Bestiary, this is how a player deals with it?
3) For binding, it's not clear if you have to a) deal 3 harm and also hold something over it or b) deal 3 harm or hold something over it.

Freebooting Venus / End/beginning of session
« on: November 02, 2015, 09:11:49 AM »
Vincent, at the end of session the players examine treasure by rolling 2d6 for each 1 treasure and selecting from the list.

1) A lot of the choices on the list lead to troublesome situations (hiring) or to a bunch of bookkeeping (estates, enterprises, lodgings). When a player choose one of these, are we to note it and explore them in the next session? Like, the next session starts with you rolling on the mercenary or burglar table, or the first part of the next session is a bunch of bookkeeping details on the progress of your estate?

2) At the beginning of the first session, is there any more guidance other than rolling on the random situation table? Like, collaborative world-building, for instance?

3)Are we supposed to start every session by randomly rolling on the situation table, or just the first session (See number 1)?

Freebooting Venus / Re: Fighting, interrupting, GM rolls
« on: October 30, 2015, 02:42:21 PM »
I foresee some discussion, at my table at least, about how someone might interrupt an attack in a way that isn't just fighting. Like, locking swords or kicking them in the shins or something would seem to be fighting, in my book. I guess getting out of the way or something... Have you seen people interrupt each others' attacks in a non-fighting way in your internal playtest? If so, what did they do, just so I can get a general idea when explaining this to my group?

Freebooting Venus / Fighting, interrupting, GM rolls
« on: October 30, 2015, 12:19:37 PM »
You knew this was coming:

1) Can you fight another PC? The text reads like you can.

2) Does the GM roll too? If so, does the GM have access to all the moves, or just fighting? If not, who rolls when your enemy is an NPC?

3) How does this interact with interrupting someone?
On 10+, they just stop your attack?
On 7-9, you have to back down or fight back (ie, you're still fighting them) -- in which case you both roll fight with someone now?

[edited my pronouns]

Haha just noticed that while I'm searching my brain for play examples for this thread, I realized a lot of my 'statements' as MC are actually questions. You can't tell from my transcripts above, and I'm not quoting verbatim what was said for the purposes of these examples. But in play, I'm usually ending sentences with a question mark, and the implied question is some version of: 'Does that sound right? Does that sound reasonable to you? Does that make sense?' In other words: 'Is that okay?'

^ yeah of course you'd say that, Vincent lol! Your saying that is what has me looking for it in my own play.

Here's a scene. I'm the MC.

Chopper: [rolls the harm move] I got 7.
MC (me): Okay, so yeah, while you and your gang are fighting the advance raiding party, you collide with one of the buzzard buggies. You go flying, and maybe black out for a second? When you get your wits about you, you're on the ground in the middle of the battle, pinned under your bike. Like, it's laying in such a way that you're not crushed under it or anything, just pinned. What do you do?
Battlebabe: Oh, wouldn't it be cool if right now your dead wife came to you in a vision again?
MC (me): Eh... I dunno.
The rest of the table: Oh hell yeah! She should show up and give him a raw deal to get him out of this jam.
MC (me): Eh... okay. So yeah, from where you're at it's all chaos and smoke and diesel and, you know, fumes. And you know how the psychic maelstrom is always scratching at the corner of your senses? Well, I guess it's going to rip open your brain right now. So roll that...?

Ignore for now if my calls as MC were doing it right or whatever.

Assent v authority:
I'm the MC, the rules imply I'm supposed to be saying 'what happens next' or whatever, and a traditional RPG would even make that more explicit. But in this case, the players have pitched an idea. They want to see another scene where the chopper's dead wife shows up, and they want her to give him a hard bargain of some kind in exchange for helping him in whatever way. We've already established she's a malevolent agent of some kind in the maelstrom, but we haven't gone much further than that. I'm not particularly keen on seeing that crop up at this time, but the table is pretty in love with it, so I went with it. It turned out to be great. Actually, it turned out that once I looked at how things had been going, the chopper's dead wife had a lot to be restless about -- in particular, she felt wronged by two other PCs! So the hard bargain wrote itself once I thought about it for a minute. And we would have totally missed this very awesome development if I had, you know, focused on 'no I'm the one who gets to come up with that kind of thing' or whatever.

Oh, here's the real timeline for this one: the chopper player gets harmed, rolls the harm move, and loses his footing (maybe as MC I went overboard there, whatever). The table decides his dead wife will appear in the maelstrom and give him a raw deal. I decide this will happen as a result of him opening his brain, in addition to whatever the results of that move dictate. Then he opens his brain and we retroactively map what we've decided (the dead wife showing up) onto the results of that roll. Then I come up with the particulars of the raw deal. So, a little backwards compared to my preferred timeline in the OP. Weird.

Here's another scene, from maybe the first RPG I ever played. I'm the DM.

DM (me): So your people live underground. You're in your cave, going through the private, ceremonial cleansing that you all do when you're preparing for your rite of passage to be a member of the hunting class.
Player: what? No, my people don't live underground! We're cat people! We live in trees.
DM (me): Uh, I'm the DM. I get to say what the world is like, and that includes the cat people. You get to say what you do.
[some arguing ensues]
GM: Fine; your people live in these massive trees...

In this second example, two things. First, I had never played an RPG before, and here I am going to jump in and run one. So I was inexperienced. Second, the D&D community and the rule books were pretty big on rule zero -- whatever the DM says, goes. I might have even quoted that in my protest to this player. I did relent to this player's protest, but not without causing needless arguing and social upset first.

So, takeaways maybe? I guess the question in all this rambling is: what's a good, streamlined rule that preserves the player and MC responsibilities as we traditionally think of them while also encouraging players and MCs to run with a) MC-ish contributions from players and b) player-ish contributions from the MC (or from other players)? The unspoken rule in play nowadays when I run a game is: if the table pitches something that encroaches on my responsibilities, don't casually dismiss it. Instead, embrace their contribution and try to find something in it that's interesting to me. It's not exactly be a fan of the PCs... it more like be a fan of the table's ideas.


Aha! Excellent, Rubberduck!

In reality, our actual play was similar to what you said about the thief player not really having an idea of what to do to disarm a magical ward, and the GM waived it off until the roll and then helped come up with things the thief could have tried. But this speaks to some of my concern over that timeline:
The GM should preferably have at least an idea about what is happening in the fiction, before the roll. Otherwise he has no idea whether the thing might be possible to begin with. And if reality depends on the dice rolles, then player choice loses meaning, with everything coming down to whether you have the right moves and manage your dice rolls.

Also, having 'no idea whether the thing might be possible' was exactly what prompted me, in the example, to push for concrete details, obviously. The GM just didn't pick up on that, or sympathize with it, either/or. And that's my other concern -- leaving the concrete details of a player's actions until after the roll will possibly increase the likelihood of things I don't like happening in the future. More disarming magical traps or whatever.

I have more to say about assent, from a different angle, but I need to write up a different play example. I'm interested in assent when a) the rules say you have the authority, but you assent instead and also b) you're assenting to something you don't really like.

Here's a scene. I'm the Paladin.

Thief: I'm looking for traps.
GM: You found one. It's a magical rune inscribed on one of the tiles on the floor. It's like a ward against intruders.
Thief: I've got a move called Disarm Traps. Can I use that?
GM: Sure! Roll +Dex
Paladin (me): Whoa. You're 'disarming' a magical ward? How? What are you actually doing?
GM: Oh you know... we'll figure that out after we see how the roll comes out.

Okay. A couple of things going on here.

Assenting to something you don't like... This is the minor thing. I'm the one objecting to the thief 'disarming' a magical ward. But, you know, the other player didn't mind it, obviously. And the GM didn't mind either; maybe he just wanted to give the thief a trap and when it was his turn to talk he accidentally let his imagination get ahead of him until suddenly, it's not just a 'trap' -- it's a cool magical ward. So yeah, there was some social pressure and thus I didn't put up a lot of resistance.

The two timelines...
Here's Vincent on Two Timelines:
Here's another one:

In my example, here's the fictional timeline:
The thief looks around, finds a trap, and disarms it through some interesting means.

In the real timeline, the exchange I described above happens between the players and GM, then we roll, then we retroactively narrate both what the thief tried as well as its effect.

Here's an alternate real timeline: the thief player describes what they attempt, then we roll dice, then whoever is supposed to interpret the results does so and we find out what happens as a consequence of the thief's attempt.

Both of these real timelines result in the same fictional timeline. The game didn't break down because our real timeline was the first one and not the second one. And yet! And yet -- man! I really hate that first real timeline and prefer the second one.

So, discussion points:
1. Let's ignore whether the GM made a good or bad call regarding letting the thief disarm a magical trap. Instead...
2. Let's talk about assenting to things you don't like. Vincent, I've tried to be more conscious of this since last week or whenever you mentioned it to me. I'm not sure how much it happens in my group, but on reflection I can think of a few times in the past it's happened. And obviously last night it happened for this example.
3. Also, let's talk about the various 'real' timelines I described (one that actually happened, and the alternative one that I would have preferred to have happened). You can ignore my actual play example and sub one in of your own, if you want. I'm interested in where yall stand in terms of what needs to be established before the roll vs after it. Is it okay to retroactively describe the specifics of your attempted action after you roll? Like 'Huh, I guess I tried to pour water on it and that obviously didn't work because I got a 6.'

roleplaying theory, hardcore / Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« on: October 19, 2015, 01:30:31 PM »
Haha Jesus F, Vincent! Why did you let me waste yours and everyone's time with the above interrogation when it was here all along:

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