Crown of Towers Playtest

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Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2014, 08:14:34 PM »
Tablesaw, by the way, I just want to say out loud that I'm your biggest fan in the world right now. Playtesting is one thing when the game's flying, quite another when it's not clicking and I'm just here watching unhelpfully to see when and how it breaks. Your thoughtful, careful, really conscientious feedback has been above and beyond.


Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #16 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.



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Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2014, 01:48:17 AM »
So Josh, were the fronts cobbled from AW ideas? Or simply targeting PC's rights? I know you can't share until post session, but I'm curious to your methodology? Was it time consuming?

Thanks so much for all your AP so far. Just for what its worth, as an audience member I have such an awesome vision of the setting, characters and milieu of your game, just from the write-ups in this thread. It oozes theme, reminding me very much of the defunct TV series Camelot. Bravo!

Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #18 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.

Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #19 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.

Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #20 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?

Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2014, 08:32:24 PM »
I don't know if it's been mentioned yet, but we've been consciously playing Size Someone Up as something that happens a little bit into a conversation - which is different than our intuition of the move's written trigger, which is that it should happen when you first encounter someone. But rolling it effectively when the *player* says "wait, what's he want?" seems to work well.

It seemed like a possible reading of Call for Aid is: the text says "a player's character" which sometimes might be intended to include NPCs as the MC is a player - but that seems like a stretch.

The biggest difficulty with a small table Co-MCing was that front/threat/things that impact the Stronghold really impact your own character really easily, so not talking to yourself becomes tricky. The thing with Agerzam as the pawn to advance a front rose out of that - at least I wasn't talking to myself.



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Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #22 on: September 25, 2014, 01:01:26 AM »
Great insights guys - it seems to be shaping up to a wonderful story! Are you finding it easy to play to see what happens with the switching roles thing going on?

Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #23 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.

Re: Crown of Towers Playtest
« Reply #24 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.