Despite crazy schedules and a newborn to deal with, Chris and Tim and I managed to get together last night to for a little gaming. We were looking for something one-shot-like, and *I* was looking for something requiring minimal prep (and possibly minimal brain function; I’m a little short on sleep). After looking at a few options (Annalise, Dead of Night) we settled on Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, written by Daniel Solis with some heartfelt bows in the direction of animated series like Avatar: the Last Airbender.
Local friends will know Daniel’s work through Happy Birthday Robot — a game that I introduced at a local food and fun day at the Consortium back when it was a charmingly illustrated webpage, and have since given as Christmas gifts. Do is a game somewhat in that vein, though a bit less strict in terms of how much everyone’s allows to contribute on each move; on your turn, constrained somewhat by which color (and how many) stones you draw from a bag, you write a sentence about your character’s actions, and everyone else then counters your heroics with some appropriate troubles and problems.
I’ve become somewhat disenchanted with the ”storygame” label for the indie-published games that I’ve mostly been playing for the past <mumble> years, but I want to be clear about this point — Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple is very definitely a story-telling game in the purest, non-jargony sense — in fact, I would call it a story-telling game far more readily than I would call it a roleplaying game, and I don’t think that would upset the author very much; certainly, I intend it as a compliment.
On to the Game!
Tim and Chris showed up promptly at six pm, and after a quick game of Yikerz and a discussion of its potential uses as a resolution mechanic in an RPG, we got started with Do by creating pilgrims. The game has no GM (or rather, that role is both shared and rotating), so I made up one as well!
Chris presented us with Pilgrim Yawning Porcupine. Yawning Porcupine gets into trouble by being lazy, and helps people by browbeating them into doing the right thing.
Tim came up with Pilgrim Loquacious Heart (earning him the first acronym designation in my journal). PLH gets into trouble by talking too much, and helps people by showing them how to love. (Awww…)
I made up Broken Stone. Pilgrim Broken Stone gets into trouble by shattering things accidentally, and helps people by being steadfast.
Here’s how play went.
(I will make some notes about what stones we drew and a few rules observations. If you haven’t played the game, that won’t matter very much to you, but I’ll try to format it so it won’t interfere with the story.)
Three young monks gathered before the Masters in the Flying Temple at the Center of All Things. The masters looked them over, and didn’t seem very impressed.
“Letters have come, asking the Temple for assistance,” they finally said. “Take them, go into the worlds that orbit the Temple. Fix their problems. Try not to make anything worse.”
The three monks – now three pilgrims – were given a stack of letters and sent on their way.
Usually, someone picks out a single letter beforehand, but I really liked the part of the color text for the game where it mentions the masters handing the pilgrims a stack of letters and tell them to get to work, so rather than picking one letter, I printed out three. We each read one aloud, then decided in character who to help first.
The three letters were Spun of Crystal and Gold, Worlds Collide, and Swallowed Whole. We decided to “deal with the smallest problem first” and chose Swallowed Whole, so I’ll include the text of the letter here (since it’s short):
Hi how are you! My name is Melanie. I come from a very small planet.
There is me, my house, my cat, and two trees (see drawing).
I am not so good, because my planet has been eaten by a whale.
It is a very small planet. I woke up and I was inside a whale. I don’t want to get (more) eaten.
Melanie (age eight)
P.S. Drawing is on the other side.
P.P.S. I will make you cookies.
Every story has a number of “Goal Words” that we have to ‘check off’ by earning the right to use them in either our helping sentences or trouble sentences. If you cross them off before anyone draws a total of 8 white or 8 black stones, you succeed in your task in a way that makes (most) everyone happy. Swallowed Whole is perhaps the easiest of the letters on Daniel’s site, in that the list of Goal Words is pretty short:
Play begins with the oldest player, which is (ahem) me, so I drew stones from a bag. I got three white, which meant I could do something helpful without getting into Trouble. Also, I got to use-and-cross-off a Goal Word.
Pilgrim Broken Stone meets the world-swallowing whale in the middle of the sky, and brings it to a crashing halt with a strong block.
No trouble happened, so my turn’s over and we moved on to Tim, who drew a statistically-likely 2-of-one-color, 1-of-another-color. He chose to keep the two stones, which means he does something helpful (either help a worldly person, or get another pilgrim out of trouble), then gets into trouble himself.
Loquacious Heart spends twenty-five minutes explaining the small world the whale has swallowed, and the fate of the girl Melanie, who now needs the whale’s love and mercy.
Then the troublemakers (me and Chris) wrote:
The whale, annoyed by PLH’s droning lecture, swats him with its tail, sending him flying into a tree-covered forest moon.
Chris’s turn. He drew three stones of the same color, so he could either keep them all and be helpful, or keep none and get himself in trouble. He chose trouble.
Pilgrim Yawning Porcupine flies off in search of PLH, but is lulled into a nap by the forest’s soft leaves and tasty honey hives.
Chris could have used and crossed off a Goal Word here, but he chose not to, just cuz.
At this point, it should have been Tim’s turn (the first person in each round is the 2nd person from the last round), but we forgot about that, so I went again, drawing and keeping 2 black stones, which let me get someone (Yawning Porcupine) out of trouble, but would then get me in trouble in turn).
Broken Stone, annoyed, shouts to Melanie that they will be right back, and goes to wake Yawning Porcupine, as a good friend must.
Broken Stone’s shouts to wake Yawning Porcupine shatter the thousand-year sleep of the carnivorous flying dreadmonkey’s, who race to eat him.
Tim drew… I’m not sure. Something that let him get out of trouble, but nothing else.
Knocked unconscious by the swat of the whale, PLH awakes at the screams of the flying dreadmonkeys… some of the finest conversationalists in all the many worlds.
Chris draws “help someone, get into trouble”, and opts to get me out of trouble.
Imitating the yowl of the omnivorous purple-spotted cat (natural, if unlikely, predator to the dreadmonkey), Yawning Porcupine manages to divert the swarm’s attention long enough for Broken Stone to escape.
Realizing Yawning Porcupine’s deceit, the monkeys wheel his direction, even though the pilgrim is not running away (too much work).
Now we moved the round forward so that Tim would start it. He drew and kept two stones.
Flying back to the crying whale, PLH proceeds to lecture the great beast on inappropriate dietary choices.
The whale swallows him.
Chris keeps one stone.
The monkies, seeing the prey is not running, fly elsewhere in search of less boring prey.
Me. Two white stones.
Broken Stone, seeing PLH’s fate, steadfastly blocks the skywhale’s escape, and demands the beast relinquish the girl, the pilgrim, and all the other parts of the world it swallowed.
The whale inhales him with such force, his impact within the creature’s stomach shatters Melanie’s house.
Chris keeps one stone, which gets him trouble then right back out again.
Yawning Porcupine, seeing his friend’s trouble, finally goads himself to action, regaining the attention of the dreadmonkeys.
Unfazed by the flock-troop, the monk berates them, ordering them to help him rescue the cookie-baking Melanie from the whale.
Chris used cookie here, but he didn’t have the required stone-draw to actually use it up. This set off a chain of actions on everyone’s part where we all used the word cookie, but had to keep going because it either didn’t count, or wasn’t the end of the round we had to finish.
Broken Stone stoically crawls out of the cottage wreckage, unspilled plate of cookies in hand.
(Right about here, the note-taking job shifted from me to other people, as my ability to transcribe the action takes a ten-dice penalty, thanks to my kid. As a result, my ability to read the notes takes a similar hit.)
Flinging the small planet ahead of him, Loquacious Heart gets everyone free of the whale’s maw, tossing a few of the cookies back to keep it satiated (while extemporizing on any living thing’s love of cookies).
Broken Stone takes the plate of cookies and flings it toward the approaching monkey horde, solving the problem in the most efficient way possible… but breaking the plate.
Melanie is out both a house and a plate, thanks to Broken Stone.
Loquacious Heart flies to the pack of cookie-frenzied monkeys and tells them of the universal love of cookies, then tries to distribute them equally.
The monkeys, tired of him lecturing them on love and sharing, begin to fling poo. Accurately.
Melanie looks for support as she scolds Broken Stone, and turns to find Yawning Porcupine asleep on the back of the whale, in a cookie coma.
Awakened by Melanie’s scolding, Yawning Porcupine joins in on berating Broken Stone.
Back to back, Broken Stone and Loquacious Heart face the torment of angry words and flung poo.
That wrapped up our rounds, and when it was all said and done, we had earned a “parades” ending by crossing off all our Goal words before anyone got eight of any single color of stone. Here were our individual epilogues.
Standing on Melanie’s small world, in front of a new house (made of sticks and dreadmonkey poo), Loquacious Heart watches as the girl pulls a fresh batch of cookies out of the oven.
[Seriously? No one’s gonna eat those…]
Yawning Porcupine returned to the forest moon to tuck the dreadmonkeys in for their next thousand-year hibernation (and maybe join them for a few weeks).
Unthanked but satisfied, Broken Stone leaves the tiny world in search of the next letter writer…
We then got to see how our pilgrims changed, based on how many of which color stones we’d each kept.
Loquacious Heart kept more black stones (6) than white (2), so his “banner” changed; he became Hungry Heart, who gets in trouble by… indulging in vices.
Yawning Porcupine kept more white stones (4) than black (1), so his Avatar changed. He became known as Yawning Dawn, who helps people by showing them the light.
Lastly, Broken Stone also kept more white stones (7) than black (4), and became known as Broken Bear, who helps others by being protective.
We started playing around six thirty, and wrapped up around eight. It was a remarkably fun and enjoyable time. I look forward to seeing the (assuredly gorgeous) print edition, later this year.
Great game, Mr. Solis.