Okay, so I’m a dork who starts a blog and then does nothing with it for two months. I should have warned y’all: I do this, especially at the beginning. I get periodically obsessed about one of my hobbies and devote whatever free time I have to it. This last month I’ve been sketching. I’ve also been working. More in the last month than in the last year, I’d say. Anyway, on to the post.
Brand and I pretty much have the whole gambit of Nar games now, they’ve been arriving almost daily, in flurries, like snow. The only one we’re missing is Mountain Witch, and that’s just cause shipping to Canada was problematic, so it’s sitting at his folks house waiting to be shipped out in the next couple of days.
So Brand and I decided, quite spur of the moment-y, to play Breaking the Ice tonight. We spread out a big flip chart sheet on the coffee table, break out a mound o’ d6’s and set to work. We settled on something easy to start: Romantic Comedy – a PG 13 John Cusak-y kind of thing somewhere between High Fidelity and Gross Pointe Blank. We ended up nowhere near either of them. Our switch was gender.
Mo: Charles LaFleche
Colour: Purple -Royalty – Entitlement – Wealth
-Talkative – Writer
– Sunset – Lake
– Ending – Coffin
Turned into: Self: Metrosexual New Orleans Playboy
Work: Society Gossip Columnist
Play: Has a summer home
Crowned Prince of Mardi Gras
Beautiful Singing Voice
Conflict: Dead lover: Lorelai
Brand: Deneis King
Colour: Blue – Police – Brutality_________
> Bourbon Street – Stripper
– Saxophone – Jazz – Speakeasy
– Sadness – Rain – Farm
– Sky – Airplane
Turned into: Self: Grew up on a farm
I used to date a cop
Work: Window Dancer
Trained in ballet
Play: Jazz addict
Plays the Sax
Conflict: Jealous Ex
Overview: Background: Charles met Deneis at the club she works at on Bourbon Street, he asked her out, she accepted, he’s going to pick her up.
Date 1: Charles picked Deneis up, she took him to Pirelli’s for the best fried chicken in NO. While there, a couple of cops show up and give Deneis a little bit of a hassle, introducing her ex-bf Marcus (complication) and a finds a friend of hers has started working there, exhibiting her lower class background (re-roll). He handles both situations moderately well, they leave. Deneis plays her sax for him. They discover that they have a mutual interest in Jazz (compatibility), he comes on to her harder, they have a first kiss, he leaves. They’ve established a bit of Attraction to each other (2).
Between dates (reroll on perm attraction), we discover that there has been some rumours circulating about her ex-bf the cop dating a woman with ties to underground crime. Deneis earns new trait: Brother in a gang.
Date 2: It’s just after Easter, lent is over, the N.O. Mardis Gras royalty are gathering, and Charles has brought Deneis as his date. It’s a masquerade ball, and she has come as Odette the Black Swan. The rumour comes out, some society women identify Deneis, call her a slut, make overtones to the crime connections. Charles uses his mad skillz as the local gossip maestro to publicly embarrass the woman. Deneis sticks up for herself before running out. Charles humiliates the woman and then chases Deneis out. She tells him that she can’t live with his job, they part, not intending on seeing each other again. Their attraction grows more, mostly because they have resolved not to be together (4).
Between the dates the rumours get worse, the brother gets arrested and Charles refuses to print the story (re-roll), earning the ire of his boss and the trait: In danger of losing my job.
Date 3: On a suddenly rainy day weeks later, in the entrance archway of Preservation Hall, Charles is waiting out the rain storm when a soaked Deneis ducks in for a moment of respite against the deluge. They talk, and learn that they have more in common : that they believe that what is inside is what counts (compatibility). They apologize to each other, decide do give it one more go. They go for coffee at Cafe du Monde and run into Marcus, who was generally intimidating. Charles goes to stand up for her when she finally stands up to Marcus, and the pair go running off. Cafe du Monde is overrun with a traveling, damp, grumpy octogenarian tour bus load (reroll) so they take their Cafe de Laits and beignets to go and head down to the Jazz National Park. There is a crooner inside, and as they listen, sharing their love of jazz, they dance in the hall and out into the rain. When Charles’ boss comes upon them, who has been brought to witness by the woman who Charles humiliated at the club, Charles confronts him and quits. Deneis and Charles both agree that they are above all the Gossip (compatibility)
Deneis takes him home and after a sexy change of clothes, they have a fade to black. Afterwards, Charles watches her sleep and thinks of Lorelai and finally begins to mourn. She wakes and they talk about the accident that killed her. Deneis comforts him and he asks her to promise him that she won’t die on him, she tells him that she can’t promise that she’ll be there forever, or even that she’ll love him forever, but that she’s here now, and she loves him now, and that’s enough. She told him that it was a mistake to think he was driving then, or that he was driving now. She told him they were all just hydroplaning in life and there wasn’t any control to be had, and in their mutual comfort of each other, the credits rolled. Final attraction score: 6 Final compatibility: 3.
We struggled a lot to find a happy pace in the game. Because we were learning the whole new fangled dice process, we found that we would get distracted by that and drop the story. So, while the story turned out kind of neat in the end, it wasn’t consistent through the actual play. We weren’t entirely sure when we should be rolling dice, so ended up rolling them as we went (including Attractiveness dice and bonus dice) but this ended up getting us bogged down in vying for re-rolls by making plot go askew when we failed. On a re-read, we see that the book says that conflict/compatibility dice are to be rolled in-scene, but the others should be at the end. That probably would have made for a better focus in scene, but we also wondered if it would end up in a pattern of:
Good date interaction + good date interaction + good date interaction = lots of dice + bad dice roll -> bad date interaction + bad date interaction = higher attraction, and weren’t sure how that would affect the game.
I had some trouble because I’m really an immersivist at heart (and I think that this style of play can entirely be Nar, but this is for another post) and because our story was told in fits and starts I couldn’t really immerse – so I have a more intellectual appreciation for the story than an emotional attachment to it.
I also had problems with the switch, though I so did not expect this. I do not think it was strictly a matter of playing a male character, as I have done this on a number of occasions. I thought maybe it was playing a sexualized boy (less as trouble sexualizing the object of desire but as being the subject of desire in this context) but I don’t think that’s it either. I thing it was more the type of sexualized boy that I was aiming for. I was an envisioning a Jude Law to Brand’s Gabrielle Union, where usually if I had opted to play a boy I would have aimed for a butchier, less upper-crust high society man, and more a blue-collar rake, if this makes any sense.
We thought the word web was a neat chargen idea and liked having input into each other’s character. Now that I’ve seen it in practice, I’d probably apply a better focus and intent to it, and not been so random. We’d probably make more traits at the get go and add them more liberally in play to help shape the story more fluidly. That’s mostly a matter of getting used to how the game works.
We liked that we could decide at 6:30 to play, be about to start actual play by 7:00 and wrap up by 9:00 (with the freedom, of course, to go longer). It made for a fun, non-stressy way to spend an evening. We’ll definitely play again, especially since we have a better idea of how the game should flow, and we expect that when we iron that out between us, it will be loads of fun.
We both liked the idea of “suaving” to earn bonus dice and “flubbing” to earn re-rolls (we both look favorably on system support to reward players to be vulnerable and give), though we have trouble dis-associating the roll from the chronological event of the outcome. The re-roll system is really neither task nor conflict resolution, it’s social support and story generation, yet it determines the attractiveness score and compatibility traits, which are, essentially, the conflict resolution outcomes of the interaction (date). It’s not a bad thing, but it is a whole different take, and therefore requires some stretching to get your head around.
The Active Player/Guide dynamic was very interesting to us, and quite revealing about us. On my part, I’m someone who has rarely been a GM, and so it is not second nature to handle things like awarding bonus dice, determine re-rolls, etc, nor especially to keep track of those things while at the same time contributing to the story. I felt (especially at the beginning) a little torn between the two responsibilities when acting as the Guide. The fact that I was initially negligent highlighted how deftly the bonus die system is an approval generating mechanism. In the book it mentions that the dice you dole out are a method to give props to the Active Player, and it’s interesting to see how true that is. I kept forgetting to give them out, and Brand quickly thought I was not enjoying the game or his contribution to story, so would change gears. When I tried to follow, I would forget again about the dice, and so he’d think the change hadn’t been sufficiently interesting. He frequently had to prompt me to confirm if I had just forgotten to award the dice or if I needed more.
On Brand’s behalf, who has more GM experience than any other person I’ve ever met, he found the Guide roll to be difficult in an entirely opposite way. As a GM, he’s used to being the source of all opposition, the “push” that makes it possible for the characters to make hard moral choices out of which stories are born. In Breaking the Ice, there’s no pusher, and no push. The game is all pull, everything is contribution, collaboration and agreement. It drastically changes the way that story is created, and we both agree that it’s closer to a female mode of story creation, though neither of us are fully sure what that delineation will lead us to. Props to Emily for making a game that allows us to explore that differentiation.
We both found it interesting that as Active Players, neither of us in the course of play ever turned down or even really debated any suggestion made by the Guide. Brand wonders if we had never been each other’s GM’s before if we would have given more resistance, but in the end we think it’s just that the system effectively supported the collaborative aspect, rewarded it by mechanics, and we were both more interested in seeing the process than pushing the story this time around. It’ll be interesting to see where our next game goes.