Tag Archives: actual play

[BitV] Logs – Setup and Session 1

Hey all,

There were demands on Storygames for us to share the logs of the sessions of our All-Female Dogs game, affectionately called “Bitches in the Vinyard”.

Here are the logs, edited for clarity:

In case it isn’t clear from the context:

  • Lines preceeded by “OOC” are out of character.
  • Lines preceeded by “Dogs: ” are the dice and resolution effects.
  • “Sister Abigail” is “KJ” Jessica – kleenestar.
  • “Sister Clemintine” is “PJ” Jesica – peaseblossom
  • “Sister Hannah” is Nancy
  • “Sister Chase” is Mo

Also, we experienced some technical problems with our first conflict resolution tool, so if the numbers seem screwy, don’t worry about it.

Cheers!

Killing Sinners for Vincent

Over on Fair Game, Vincent Baker and Clinton R Nixon are interviewing each other and Vincent said something that made me blink:

“Nobody I know of has played Dogs and not killed sinners just for sinning.”

Now, John Harper at The Mighty Atom has already done this, but I thought I’d throw Jeremiah Wainwright, my first Dogs character into the fray as an example.

Jeremiah’s never killed anything, for sin for fun, or for any reason at all. In fact, Jeremiah’s got a trait to prove it: “I ain’t killed anything my whole life: 1d8.”

What’s more, Jeremiah’s whole premise is about the killing line: what it takes a person to get there and about how much of a man it takes not to cross it before the time comes and how much it takes to make that step when it does.

Through a series of escalating situations that line has been questioned, but the step over has never come. Brand will, eventually, get his ass into gear and run us some more of that campaign (she says, despite the fact that she currently demands 2 other games from him on a regular basis, so is really out of line with that “get his ass in gear comment”), and I am interested in seeing what’s the point that Jeremiah might actually have to kill something, or someone, whether or not he’ll be able to step up when we get there, and how it will change or destroy him.

There were two particularly memorable moments:

In the town, basically a man’s pride in refusing to give his wife children had escalated to a group of women forming a false priesthood, engaging men not their husbands in adulterous acts for the sake of insemination. One of the characters was a mentally challenged wall of a man in his 20’s one of those men beguiled by the women. He was angry, and confused, and Jeremiah, knowing August had sinned by fucking his brother’s wife, as well as another woman in town, was confronting him to try and get him to understand the error of his ways. Jeremiah talked, August got physical, Jeremiah talked, August got violent, and Jeremiah talked him down, just before things got really really bad for Jeremiah. As it was, he took a lot of fallout from the challenge.

Later, in the moment the murder was coming on, August’s mother, a prideful old convert was trying to kill her daughter in law after shooting the Steward who had started the false doctrine in the first place. Jeremiah tried to talk her down, and failing that, escalated to physical (in the face of her gunfire) and managed to eventually make her back down, getting in between her and the muzzle of his fellow Dog’s gun. Once again, much fallout, but he never once escalated to violence, never mind gunplay, nevermind killing.

That’s not to say he was easy on anyone. People were exiled, their houses were taken, they were put into public service, cut off at their knees in the public’s standing.

Brand said afterwards that one of his only dissappointments in the game was, that no matter what he did, he couldn’t force Jeremiah tto shoot anybody in the face.

Holiday Blues, Chargen, and Contextualization

So, at the end of all of this vacation, still no post. I’m a dork.

The holidays have been very strange and draggy for me. I’ve spent the time dreading going back to work. This is, of course entirely fruitless, I know, but telling myself that hasn’t worked very well to correct the behaviour. I’ve been back into masking a little, which is a good thing. I think I needed to do some physical creation and creativity. It helps me avoid thinking myself into circles – which is something work keeps dragging me into – it’s not the funnest time in telco these days.

So, what of the immersion posts, the MBTI follow-up, an up-to-the-minute update that 1000 Stories has advanced and is ready for playtest? Nope, none of that, my gift to y’all this holiday season is bupkis, I’m afraid. The only game-related things Brand and I have been up to this season is to be playing – one superlong, ring in the new year marathon session of Unbreakable (a sorta Unknown Armies campaign that’s inspired by the movie Unbreakable) that went really quite well, even if I still have not mastered the art of GMing combat, and several sessions of T&J that were very good and hit me right in my gaming “F”, so to speak.

I do have a couple of notes, though. Brand’s got in his copy of Nine Worlds and convinced me to give it a solo run. The character I’ve created is a departure for me. After all the MBTI talk last month, I connected some dots about my characters and used the typing system and the revelations to go somewhere new. The character is more like a character that Brand would be likely to play. She’s an Aether Ship Captain of Saturn’s resistance who is coming to the end of her hope that the war can be won. She doesn’t have any kind of vision of how the world could be made right, and is despairing that it can’t be done. She doesn’t so much have a sense of duty as she has a sense of inertia. She’s a character with a pragmatic past who can’t see a place for her pragmatacism to take her, so she’s flailing at the world and those few people she has left to force the world to act so that she continues to react.

In short, she’s an ISFP where I usually play notorious ENTJ’s. We’ll see how it goes.

I think I came to a realization because I made the character after reading Meg’s thread over on Fair Game and Vincent’s thread at the Forge. It’s that I can now understand why some folks strongly think that immersion is mostly a Sim activity (Not that Vincent or Meg are saying this, the reference to those posts is not entirely germane, they are just all the points on which my brain started musing). As an immersionist, I require a certain amount of world contextualization that is very easily mistaken for a simulationist agenda. This was really clear in the chargen for Nine Worlds. I haven’t read the book – haven’t even skimmed it. Brand had, of course, and described it as “a graphic novelesque mystic science fantasy game with aether ships and greek gods and cool stuff”.

We ran into some trouble along the way because I did not have a contextual sense of the world. Brand used a technique to bring me to chargen that he had seen work very successfully before (in our T&J game) – he gave me a folder of images that *could* be integrated into the game – some characters I could play, some NPC’s that might exist, some cities, some buildings, some items. It didn’t work this time and we both got very frustrated. The difference between T&J’s chargen and this was that T&J came with a set of assumptions that I could make about the world: it was going to be classic comic book style game, the world would be based on a world just to the left of our modern day earth, my backstory could be compiled out of real-life situations, blah… blah… blah.

So when we looked at images, they promoted strong, fast, loose chargen because they evoked emotionality that drew strings across the assumptions to make stories – I could see backwards and forwards from the picture to where the character had come from, and to where the character could go. The result was a quick, painless chargen that created a character that was on the brink of action, could fulfill the premise of the game, and that was ripe for me to immerse into.

In Nine Worlds, all the technique gave me was possibility out of the blue. Without a set of assumptions to put it in context, nothing was evoked by the images but a general sense of aesthetic appreciation for the pictures themselves. I kept asking how the world worked and what the world had in it, and sounding very much like I was begging for a Sim game, all the while frustrating the hell out of Brand, who was all ready to bravely adventure off into Nar land and make choices that no one ever made before!

But the truth is, I wasn’t asking for a Sim game. I wasn’t resisting the system or the game or Brand’s agenda, I just had no context with which to arrive at a character. I needed enough information to inform me in chargen so that the character I created could have a sense of depth to me as a player and be defined enough to have an immersion seat I could climb into. My enjoyment of the game comes from my engagement with the character’s emotional involvement (or alienation as the case may be) with the world around her, and in order for that emotionality to have any relevence or power at all, I need to have a context to apply it in.

Eventually we got to this cool character by having Brand give me verbal “splats” about each of the nine worlds, letting me pick the most interesting to me, hearing a brief synopsis of the state of the world and how it’s come about, and then returning to the images to let the emotionality flow. Even then, before we started playing, I needed to ask a good two dozen questions about how the world worked before I could feel right about entering play with the character. Granted, he didn’t end up answering them all – many we decided jointly – I just needed them to be answered before we sat down to play.

I know that there are some Nar games that do (loosely) this same kind of process (world idea, character idea, world detail, character detail) as part of chargen (Brand assures me that Burning Wheel is a good example here) and some that don’t. Ones that don’t often have ways to get around this. Dogs and Dust Devils have western associations that readily provide a jumping off place that facilitate getting to the action. Where the worlds have less direct or less cliche (I’m meaning cliche in a very good way here) cultural associations, like Nine Worlds that strives to have a cool melding of different feels in order to create a dynamic universe – there isn’t a quick way to get into the action – you practically have to read the whole book, or have enough splatted at you to be able to start.

So I guess this is all just to say: if you want to jump right to the premise with folks like me (that might mean most immersionists, it might not) then you should be prepared to begin with a little cliche or build a common ground to grease the wheels. Chargen is a way to get down a set of co-ordinates which are intended to deliniate your way to interact with the system, but it is also a ritual designed to get you psychologically positioned to play the game. If you are reving towards game and someone is asking a lot of questions about the way the world works, you may not have an agenda clash on your hands, you may just have a player or three that have not received enough information to feel comfortable and positioned to start. Starting without acheiving that comfort will lead to their dysfunction in, or non-enjoyment of the game.

Hey wow, whaddya know… Maybe I did get a post done while still on vacation. πŸ˜‰

Actual Play – Breaking the Ice.

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
– Gossip
– Rumour
– Sunset – Lake
– Ending – Coffin

Turned into: Self: Metrosexual New Orleans Playboy
Creole descent
Independently Wealthy
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.

Playing notes:

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.