Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 34, part 3 – Daddy Issues

Mercury and Concord attempt to heal Silver Streak’s mind, and discover a severe guilt complex, possibly amplified by exposure to a Keynome. The attempt is thwarted by the presence of three hostile Concordance agents within the psychic space. Back at Has Beans, Lucius recommends that Ghost Girl recruit Armiger for future cleansing efforts. She witnesses Rossum robots launching from stores nearby. Link and Ted Waters escape the black site, plowing through AEGIS agents along the way. Seeing an army of robots flying toward the site, they go back in to extract Rossum from his cell before the robots can rescue him. Charade suits up with new equipment, including a repurposed Vyortovian hover-cycle. She is ordered to deal with Link, who at this time is presumed to be working with Rosa Rook and Rossum. Link orders everyone to Rook HQ. Once done, he reveals the real Rossum to Rook. Rook, realizing Rossum’s racket, reluctantly but reasonably reverses. However, the clone/imitation Rossum she has somehow takes control of the bots remotely.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 34, part 2 – Daddy Issues

Mercury and Concord attempt to heal Silver Streak’s mind, and discover a severe guilt complex, possibly amplified by exposure to a Keynome. The attempt is thwarted by the presence of three hostile Concordance agents within the psychic space. Back at Has Beans, Lucius recommends that Ghost Girl recruit Armiger for future cleansing efforts. She witnesses Rossum robots launching from stores nearby. Link and Ted Waters escape the black site, plowing through AEGIS agents along the way. Seeing an army of robots flying toward the site, they go back in to extract Rossum from his cell before the robots can rescue him. Charade suits up with new equipment, including a repurposed Vyortovian hover-cycle. She is ordered to deal with Link, who at this time is presumed to be working with Rosa Rook and Rossum. Link orders everyone to Rook HQ. Once done, he reveals the real Rossum to Rook. Rook, realizing Rossum’s racket, reluctantly but reasonably reverses. However, the clone/imitation Rossum she has somehow takes control of the bots remotely.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 34, part 1 – Daddy Issues

Mercury and Concord attempt to heal Silver Streak’s mind, and discover a severe guilt complex, possibly amplified by exposure to a Keynome. The attempt is thwarted by the presence of three hostile Concordance agents within the psychic space. Back at Has Beans, Lucius recommends that Ghost Girl recruit Armiger for future cleansing efforts. She witnesses Rossum robots launching from stores nearby. Link and Ted Waters escape the black site, plowing through AEGIS agents along the way. Seeing an army of robots flying toward the site, they go back in to extract Rossum from his cell before the robots can rescue him. Charade suits up with new equipment, including a repurposed Vyortovian hover-cycle. She is ordered to deal with Link, who at this time is presumed to be working with Rosa Rook and Rossum. Link orders everyone to Rook HQ. Once done, he reveals the real Rossum to Rook. Rook, realizing Rossum’s racket, reluctantly but reasonably reverses. However, the clone/imitation Rossum she has somehow takes control of the bots remotely.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 33, part 3 – A Team Divided

A few days pass, and assorted school shenanigans take place. Mercury talks to Tempest and convinces her to allow Concord to examine the comatose Silver Streak. Concord has a plan. Ghost Girl teams up with Lucius to try closing the hole in Oakland Cemetery. She is partially successful. Mercury manages to secure a date with A10.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 33, part 2 – A Team Divided

A few days pass, and assorted school shenanigans take place. Mercury talks to Tempest and convinces her to allow Concord to examine the comatose Silver Streak. Concord has a plan. Ghost Girl teams up with Lucius to try closing the hole in Oakland Cemetery. She is partially successful. Mercury manages to secure a date with A10.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 33, part 1 – A Team Divided

A few days pass, and assorted school shenanigans take place. Mercury talks to Tempest and convinces her to allow Concord to examine the comatose Silver Streak. Concord has a plan. Ghost Girl teams up with Lucius to try closing the hole in Oakland Cemetery. She is partially successful. Mercury manages to secure a date with A10.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 32, part 3 – Future. Tense.

It’s a Link and Concord session! Link talks with Waters about Rossum and Vyortovia. Adam talks with his folks. Link and Adam actually talk to each other (!?!), give romance advice to Otto (?!??!?), and question the future-speedster who tried to kill everybody.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 32, part 2 – Future. Tense.

It’s a Link and Concord session! Link talks with Waters about Rossum and Vyortovia. Adam talks with his folks. Link and Adam actually talk to each other (!?!), give romance advice to Otto (?!??!?), and question the future-speedster who tried to kill everybody.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Actual Play snippet: Dungeon World one-shot, Gauntlet Con

I’ve been GMing the same Masks game for over a year. Before that, there was a PBTA-based Star Wars game that ran for over thirty sessions.

This isn’t to establish bona fides – I just want to point out I really like running PBTA stuff – as a game system, the mechanics suit me better than anything else I’ve ever run – and I will happily laugh in the face of anyone who says it can’t handle long-term games.

WITH THAT SAID, I do appreciate a good, tight, one-shot or short-arc game, and I’ve been intrigued to see more of that kind of play using PBTA, because I know a lot of people run their games that way, and I rarely/barely have.

Also, I just don’t get to play as a PLAYER very often (I think the last time was a couple years ago), so that would be nice.

All of those desires came together last night, when I was able to jump into a Dungeon World one-shot at Gauntlet Con, which runs yearly, online, thanks to the Gauntlet community.

Here’s the game introduction:

A structure of softly-glowing stone appeared suddenly upon the sands outside of a small oasis city during a moonless night. From the freshwater springs, it appears to float hazily above the desert like a mirage. While at first people talked about its mysterious arrival and appearance, now they only whisper rumors and hushed secrets out of fear of those dwelling within. Others, bolder, have made pilgrimage to camp beneath the temple, believing it to contain a divine being they call Shil-Muar. What secrets and riches await you within its luminous walls?

The GM also noted he was aiming for “a heavy sword-and-sorcery style; expect bloody gore, weird and potentially unsettling magic, and quite possibly scantily-clad people and creatures of all genders.”

So, I mean… yah gotta do a barbarian, right?

That was where I started, but (after checking in with the group) I drifted things a bit, making my barbarian (Clovis Bonebreaker) a dwarf from kingdom several continents away. His barbaric drives were all about amassing fame, glory, and wealth, which looks SUPER shallow at the outset, but for which I felt had cool reasons.

Why did he seem weird and barbaric? Extensive facial and body tattoos, fastidiously clean (washed up every morning, commented on peoples unpleasant odor, et cetera). Well-spoken, polite, and generally “polished.” The fighter in the group was convinced I’d soon see the foolishness of my own behavior.

Dude… my WIS is a -1 – I’m never going to see the foolishness of my behavior. It’s what got me into this mess in the first… never mind.

One-shot Dungeon World players have developed a very solid method for running VERY LOW prep sessions and getting a super-focused game. Our GM followed that general ideal very well, and continued asking the players questions about their background and world as we went on.

The key bits I need to mention about the game setup, to get to the part I’m most happy about, are these:

  • The divine being Shil-Muar was basically a mix of djinn and quetzalcoatl. A powerful trickster flying snake… thing. Mirages and illusions dominated the themes of the temple.
  • The treasure we were all ostensibly after was the enormous ruby that bound Shil-Muar to this world.
  • Shil-Muar’s immediate servants were mostly snake-like yuan-ti types and “harpy-dactyls” that made getting into the temple pretty perilous. Also mad human cultists, but that’s typical.

The relevant bits of character background I need to mention are:

  • Dwarven society is a RIGID caste system.
  • The tattooing is based on one’s caste and various subsets of role within that caste, and might begin as soon as the age of one. Clovis was covered over most visible areas.
  • Ancestor worship is the one and ONLY deal when it comes to dwarven religion. It confers no supernatural powers.
  • If you leave the homeland, you cannot come back unless you “bear with you fame and wealth commensurate to your position.” To come back empty-handed is to inflict that debt (in the broad sense, both spiritual and monetary) on the homeland, and is never allowed. “Blessed are they whose return is remunerative… etc etc.”
  • The higher your place in society, the greater the debt you must bear if you return.

Anyway.

The evening was a series of misadventures (we all nearly leveled just from the XP we each earned from failed rolls; it was ugly, but glorious).

By the time we staggered into the holiest of holies within the floating temple, our fighter was missing an arm, and we were all well done-in.

NONE of us liked our chances trying to beat up a flying snake deity and taking his stuff.

We had ten minutes left in the game, so the GM gave us time for each of us to lay out our play.

The druid basically went belly up in front of the snake god and shifted into a miniature copy of the god – offering abject servitude, just don’t kill him. He was accepted, but locked in the snake form forever.

The fighter demanded reward for breaching and defeating the temple defenses, and demanded just rewards for what we’d done. He rolled snake-eyes (appropriate!) on this demand, and we jumped right to him rolling Last Breath and negotiating his new role as semi-reincarnated, cringing servant of the deity.

I went a different route.

“Shil-Muar, I have crossed continents to find you. I call on you to cast aside this unworthy, once-yearly worship from sand-scrabbling peasants, and join me. I will take you to a land of wealth – fabulous wealth – power, and prestige; a land where the only opponents you face in the spiritual realm are the powerless, empty bones of the long-dead. You can reign in the temples of my people, unopposed, and to do so you need only ally yourself to me, the crown prince of Tuor Kalvek, as I break my homeland apart and reforge it.”

And I rolled.

Fucking.

Boxcars.

Clovis was the crown prince, you see, and had stormed out of the city after yet another argument with his father, only to realize that in order to return with fame and wealth commensurate to his position, he’d literally have to found a kingdom, and then bring the whole bloody thing back with him.

Or… you know… something similar.

I then got to narrate returning to the gates of my city, many months later, clad and cowled in rags, walking alongside an old mule and a creaking horse cart. Clovis is confronted by the guards, and yanks aside the tarpaulin covering Shil-Muar’s ruby. The serpent, wreathed in flames, spirals into the sky over our heads as Clovis strides up to and through the gates behind the fleeing guards.

So, so good.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 32, part 1 – Future. Tense.

It’s a Link and Concord session! Link talks with Waters about Rossum and Vyortovia. Adam talks with his folks. Link and Adam actually talk to each other (!?!), give romance advice to Otto (?!??!?), and question the future-speedster who tried to kill everybody.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 31, part 2 – A Moment of Silence

The Team (plus Alycia Chin) is gathered at the Quill Compound. Various talks happen, and someone from the future tries to kill everyone. So basically a normal Monday night.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 31, part 1 – A Moment of Silence

The Team (plus Alycia Chin) is gathered at the Quill Compound. Various talks happen, and someone from the future tries to kill everyone. So basically a normal Monday night.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Fate: The Demolished Ones, Session One

Because I didn’t have enough going on, I decided to start an online game of Fate, using a combination of Google Hangouts, Roll20, and (after the fact) YouTube (to share the recorded game sessions).

This is what I sent out to a long list of potential players:

You wake up in a room.

The floor is cold, stone, dry. The lights – three bare bulbs dangling from the rafters – do little to dispell the gloom. It takes time for your eyes to adjust.

You stand, brushing grit and dust from the front of a tailored jacket you’re sure you’ve never seen before. There’s a red stain on the sleeve.

Don’t worry. It’s not your blood.

I’d like to run a short rpg game, via Google Hangouts. Somewhere between three to six sessions, once a week, probably on a weeknight, after dinner and the kids are in bed, and wrapping up in time for everyone to get to sleep at a reasonable time. Don’t worry about the system or anything – the scenario is set up to teach the game and create characters as we play – it’s a method that works particularly well with this system.

The italicized bit is the basic set up.

If you’re interested, let me know. If you’re not, for whatever reason, don’t reply. 🙂 Easy peasy.

If we get enough people (I’d say three), we’re good to go.

I ended up with four, we agreed on a good night (Mondays) and started play last week.

Poster_1600x1200px

Now, as I said, we recorded the game session as we were playing (check out session one, here), but while it was a nice recording, it doesn’t capture what’s going on in the Roll20 window, so the handouts that I’m laying out in the virtual tabletop area can’t be seen by anyone watching the video later.

The upside: that means I’m still going to end up doing written play reports.

You Wake Up In A Room

I started with everyone unconscious and lost in unpleasant dreams. Each character’s dreams were different, and I slipped ‘notes’ to each player via Roll20 to let them know what sort of images they were struggling with.

Kim: A strange looking needle, coming toward your eye.

Reggie: The sound of a deadbolt sliding into place.

Amanda: Someone standing over you, shadowed, a knife in their hand.

Dave: The feel of something in your hand: a straight, hard handle, slightly curved and rough to the touch.

Reggie wakes up first, and after getting his bearings a bit…

Furnishings are sparse. Three bare bulbs hang from the ceiling: one in the center of the room, one near where you woke up, and one near the door. The bare bulbs are bright enough to give some illumination to the room, but there are shadows and dark corners everywhere. Along one of the long walls are a desk and chair. There are three steel drums in one corner; from here, they smell of oil.
Furnishings are sparse. Three bare bulbs hang from the ceiling: one in the center of the room, one near where you woke up, and one near the door.

… he turns his attention to the other three people lying on the floor nearby.

warehouse 23

Still on his knees, he moves over and tries to wake up Kim who, upon seeing Reggie, freaks out – to her, right then, he seems a horrible monster – and crab-walks backward and right onto/over Dave, who starts to stir. All this ruckus (Dave trying to get out from under the scrambling woman, Kim trying to get away, and Reggie trying to calm Kim down) wakes up Amanda, who is furthers from Reggie and closest to the door.

The bare bulbs are bright enough to give some illumination to the room, but there are shadows and dark corners everywhere.

Along one of the long walls are a desk and chair. There are three steel drums in one corner; from here, they smell of oil.

I stop at this point and have each player give us the most notable physical feature about the character belonging to the player to their virtual ‘left’. Here’s what we got (with pictures that came later):

  • Dave: (via Kim) Thin and wiry, 30ish, going gray. Violet eyes.
  • Reggie: (via Amanda) He’s huge. Hulking. Well over seven feet tall.
  • Amanda: (via Dave) She’s Irish – just definitively Irish. Red hair. Freckles. Et cetera.
  • Kim: (via Reggie) She’s tiny. Clearly a grown woman, but about the size of a ten-year-old girl.

The four, still a bit on their guard, start poking around. Their clothes are bit odd to them – Victorian style garb – comfortable, but not familiar. Kim is struck by the clothing in contrast to the electric light bulbs, and by the rotary phone on an old wooden table-style desk on one side of the large room. Incongruous.

Amanda messes with the phone a bit (the phone has a dial tone, but 911 yields no response, and she knows no other numbers), and heads to the other end of the room to check out a stack of fairly new and smelly oil drums while Reggie tries the nearby door (heavy, metal, and apparently barred). Dave’s trying to ask questions of everyone, but no one really wants to chat, at least in part because no one really remembers who they are, how they got here, or why they all seem to have a few bloodstains on their clothes, but no injuries.

Amanda Investigates the barrels and I have her tell me what rating she’d like the skill at. She selects 2 (Fair) and writes up a Character Aspect to go along with the skill.

“I investigate everything.” (Lovely, and nicely compellable.)

She discovers someone else behind the barrels, sitting an old wooden chair and asleep.

Or… no. Not asleep. She can’t say how she can tell with just a glance, but the mystery man is definitely dead.

Exhausted
Dead tired.

Also interesting: Amanda doesn’t announce the dead body, and instead quietly searches him for clues and information, snagging a wallet from an inside jacket pocket, and a key from a pants pocket. Also: a very ’cause of death’-looking stab wound on the back of his neck that completely severed his collar and tie.

Meanwhile, Reggie can’t get the door open, and Kim (perhaps trying to get further from Reggie) heads toward the same end of the room as Amanda, where there’s a large cargo-loading sized door all along the far short end of the room, chained and padlocked.

Kim pulls few bobby pins out of her hair and starts going to work on the lock (making some notes on her character sheet):

  • Aspect: I’m Used to Getting out of Tight Situations
  • Good (+3): Burglary

The lock is huge and stiff, though, and while the bobby pins can move the tumblers, actually turning the lock will require something a little more sturdy. Kim casts around for something like that and sees (over by the oil drums, but on the side away from crouching Amanda) a knife.

A bloody knife. Oh good.

Kim, like Amanda, is quite unfazed by the evidence of violence, picks up the knife, wipes it down a bit, and goes back to the lock.

Reggie, after struggling with the locked door and eying the windows fifteen feet overhead, growls to himself, stalks over past Dave toward the desk, and picks up the chair next to desk in one hand.

The phone rings.

Reggie stops, obviously nonplussed, but Dave reacts with little surprise, picking up the handset and answering with a cautious “hello?”

“The police are coming,” says a female voice. “You need to get out of there. They can’t find you with the body.”

“What body?” asks Dave, but the line has gone dead.

“Ahh… apparently the police are coming,” Dave announces, loud enough to carry. “And… is there a body in here?!?”

“Yes…” Amanda answers, waving distractedly back toward the barrels she’s now abandoned.

Reggie growls, turns, and whips the chair at the window above and to the right of the door.

  • Aspect: When I get mad I get REALLY mad
  • Good (+3): Might

The chair is destroyed, as is the window.

The two-tone sound of police sirens is distant in the foggy night air, but getting closer.

“Do you need help?” asks Dave? “Should I climb up on your sh– Oh. We can use the desk.”

He moves the phone to the side, starts to pick up one end of the light desk, but Reggie simply picks the whole thing up and carries it beneath the window and starts to climb up.

Dave climbs up after him, then takes the boost up to the now-clear window sill. The room – a warehouse, Dave realizes – is sunken a bit on this end of the building: it’s a fifteen foot drop inside, but only 10 to the street. He makes it easily – he’s surprisingly fit for a gentleman.

  • Aspect: Priest’s head on a soldier’s shoulders.
  • Equipment: A sharp pen knife with a rough wooden handle.
  • Good (+3): Athletics

From the outside, Dave is easily able to unbar the door (just as Kim finesses open the lock on the far end of the building and slips off the chain) – the door was bar, but the bar wasn’t locked in place – almost as if it was only meant to keep someone in.

Reggie heads out once the door is open, but Amanda stays for a moment, suddenly curious (Aspect Compel) about the lone drawer in the desk. She snags Reggie and says “Can you break this?” indicating the desk.

He doesn’t even pause. Once hammering fist and the desk is in two pieces. Amanda snags the two newspaper clippings inside and tucks them in with the rest of her collection of Odd Things.

Meanwhile, Kim has stepped out into some kind of loading yard at the back of the building and (after spending a Fate point to declare it’s there) hotwires a truck parked in the back.

horseless

The other three, gathered in front of “Warehouse 23”, hear an engine getting closer from the alley alongside the building (see crude map) and stare as the tiny woman in the truck lurches to a stop next to them.

“Need a lift?”

“Shotgun,” Dave immediately replies. Amanda grumbles. Reggie was already climbing in the back – the only spot he’d fit.

They pile in, and Kim instinctively heads away from the sirens.


I stop here and ask each player for the most notable personality trait of the person to their virtual right:

  • Amanda: (via Reggie) Scatterbrained – a flibbertigibbet
  • Dave: (via Amanda) Always looks like he’s plotting something
  • Kim: (via Dave) One damn determined woman
  • Reggie: (via Kim) Kind.

The players each note these observations on their character sheets.


They ride in silence for a few moments, then Dave says “So… where are we going?”

“615 Beacon Street,” replies Amanda. Everyone looks at her, sitting in the back seat, reading a card she’s pulled from a man’s wallet.

She holds up the card – some sort of ID for one Jack Smith. “I found it on the body.”

“Riiiight,” Dave says, then, “Anyone know where Beacon Street is?” He looks around at the quiet, fog-shrouded night streets. “Or where we are?”

A good question, which we'll get to next session!
A good question, which we’ll get to next session!

Actual Play of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple — “Swallowed Whole”

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.

Continue reading “Actual Play of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple — “Swallowed Whole””

Mouse Guard: The River at Elmoss, and making players cry

Got a chance to go back and play some Mouse Guard this weekend with Dave and Margie and Kate and Ka(y/therine).

This session was a continuation of action that took place in “Not much Use as a Postmouse” and “A New Route to Ivydale”.  Margie’s character Lucia was still Angry from the last session, so she took the “Summary of previous events” intro to the session, which lets her get rid of a condition on her sheet.

As the patrol was getting ready to set out to their next delivery point (Elmoss), they were met by a traveler/messenger from Elmoss who was looking… well, not for them, exactly, but for a Patrol that was supposed to have arrived in Elmoss several days ago, escorting a much-needed grain shipment from Ivydale.  The messenger hadn’t spotted them on his trip here, so he asked Our Heroes to see if they could find them as they traveled what SHOULD have been the same route.

Asking around Ivydale, the patrol learned that the other group of Guardmice was led by Warwick, a patrol leader with a good reputation and Rosamund’s (Kate) mentor back in her tenderpaw days.  Also, the last Aelwyn (Dave) heard, a female guardmouse of his acquaintance (“Brynn.” sigh) was a member of that patrol.

The group set out their goals for this mission;

  • Rosamund: Locate my old mentor, Warwick.
  • Aelwyn: Rescue Brynn’s patrol!
  • Lucia: Make sure the grain shipment makes it to Elmoss.
  • Graystripe (we haven’t met her yet): Impress her mentor enough to be made a full Guardmouse.

Scouting rolls were made as the patrol tracked the grain cart across quite rocky terrain, well away from the usual path (necessary, since from the tracks they could tell that the wagon was overburdened and very bad off in muddy areas).  This led to a ‘twist’ in which the patrol caught up to the wagon not far from Elmoss.  Warwick’s patrol had tried to ford a stream that had surged with Spring runoff at exactly the wrong moment… leaving the grain wagon almost tipped over next to the ford, and Warwick’s patrol clinging to a hummock of grass and detritus downstream a ways.

Dice were rolled, and the situation became further complicated: Lucia struggled to lever the grain wagon’s wheel out of the mud, Aelwyn struggled with tying off a rope from the shore while Roz swam out to the other mice, midstream. (Where she was pulled up by Graystripe.)

This complicated situation took us into a full-on Conflict with the river.  The river’s “Goal” was “wash the wagon, the grain, and both patrols down river”; the player’s goal was “save the mice, save the grain.”

This was a very challenging conflict to do, initially, and as I had quickly scripted my actions for the river, I should have stayed with the players and helped them ‘translate’ their actions into scripting… because it’s hard to see what an ‘attack’ looks like versus a river, or what skill to use… or what a maneuver looked like.  It just took awhile to get going.

Anyway, after two full exchanges (involving a lot of rope slinging and hauling mice up to the branches of a tree overhanging the river), the patrol managed to get almost everyone to relative safety, but they’d been pretty badly beat up in the process. (They only had two Disposition left from a starting 8).  Everyone was Tired.  In addition – Lucia (who was still basically in the River when it threw its final big surge) had to made a health check to see if she got sick from being, basically, half-drowned as she clung to the grain wagon (which got its wheels snapped off and was basically grounded out at the ford).  She failed that check, so in addition to being Tired, she was also Sick.

Once the water level had died down again, the patrol made its way up to Elmoss to get the town to send people out to help unload and transport the grain (and get medical treatment for the injured).  They ran into the useless, hampering, feudal-style bureaucracy of Elmoss, and got in a show-down with a nasal-voiced administrator who didn’t want to open the gate after dark, OR send anyone out after the food the town ACTUALLY NEEDED.

Aelwyn headed this showdown up with a stirring call to action, but everyone helped out, from Roz and Lucia’s persuasion, to Gray’s deceptive story about dangerous, hungry, grain-stealing weasels in the area. The administrator was unmoved (we got a tie), and Aelwyn tried to outstubborned him (Will vs. Will tiebreaker), mentioning that the ruling family who had paid for this shipment to be delivered would surely be curious who had prevented it from arriving.  When Lucia added “good point… what was your name again?” the adminstrator folded.

Their duty done, the patrol limped into town. Aelwyn acquired lodging for everyone (Resources check, also taking care of the “Tired” condition for everyone), and Roz tried to tend Warwick’s injuries, but the older mouse was pretty badly hurt, and all the water and his cracked ribs means he’ll probably always have a cough (missed Healer check lowered Warwick’s health by 1).  Lucia was also feeling a little drowned, and continues to have a nagging cough (failed Will check means she’s still sick, but with no lasting stat-damage — she’s hoping to get some medicinal help in her home town of Sprucetuck).

Gray tried to convince Warwick to make her a full Guardmouse – an argument Roz supported – but War was having none of that. Instead, he put Roz in charge of her training, since he’d be sick in bed for several weeks at least, and “the girl needs to get back out on the road”.  Roz accepted the job, and the next morning put Graystripe through the first of likely many hard swordmouseship workouts. (An instructor check for Roz, which in turn gave Graystripe a “failed” check on her Fighter skill.) There’s a new sheriff in town.

Meanwhile, Aelwyn went window shopping for Brynn and ended up spending way way way too much on a gift for her (a nice gift, but the failed Resource check resulted in Ael’s Resource score dropping by one – which in turn clears all his accumulated checks to advance that stat).

So: a bit bruised, a little waterlogged, but victorious, the Patrol prepares for the next leg of their journey – across the spring-snow-covered open meadows to Sprucetuck.


A few observations:

  • We hadn’t played in several months, and it took us a long time to remember all the nuances of the game we’d learned the last time. I forgot to encourage the players to earn ‘checks’ by using their Traits in ‘negative’ ways for one, and that hampered folks during the Player’s Turn in Elmoss.
  • The Conflict with the River was cool, in that it really showed what the system can do with weird conflicts, but that conflict totally took the system off the map in terms of “what skills do we roll” and “what does this kind of action look like in this context?”  Cool, but it slowed us down and caused a little frustration (see the title of the post).
  • The players still struggle with the idea that failure doesn’t mean “I don’t get X”, but instead means “I get X, but at a higher than anticipated cost… or with a twist.”  (And I struggle with remembering to POINT THIS OUT. :P) This led to folks pushing harder than they needed to in order to win conflicts, when “losing ” would have still gotten them what they want, but with interesting consequences.
    • Related to that, the Conflict with the River was temporarily frustrating, because it felt like “We won, but it didn’t FEEL like we won, cuz we’re still sick, tired, and the Grain is still stuck in the River.”
    • Once I pointed out that “you won, but I won a lot of rolls too”, and used a kind of “hit points – you lost a lot of em” analogy, then getting beat up and hurt while “winning” stopped being a problem for folks.
  • We worry a lot about getting the rules right.  This leads us to saying things like “Okay, on my Check, I want to use Healer on Warwick’s Injury…” instead of “I want to go see Warwick and have a scene with him.”  I think that’s just a matter of familiarity.  Right now, we’re Playing the System a bit more than just playing a game… I think that’ll come.
    • Lucky for us, while we’re perhaps “playing the system” overmuch right now, it’s a pretty GOOD system.

Mouse Guard is definitely a game where you get beat up and really struggle to pull out a victory.  It’s both heroic and not-heroic.  In once sense, it’s not-heroic cuz EVERYTHING is bigger and badder than you.  On the other, it’s very heroic, because in that face of all that, you soldier on ANYWAY, to protect the Territories.  That last point is a big one — it just may not be a game for everyone — but I hope we get a few more sessions to find out.

[PTA] Ironwall, Episode 1: The Ambassador

Wow, it’s been awhile since this episode aired, but as Episode 2 is playing tonight, I thought I’d better get a summary down.

I covered the pilot episode of this post-apocalyptic, fairies-are-back-and-they’re-pissed, survival drama here, in case you’re looking to get caught up.

Previously on Ironwall:

  • Shot of Sienna going all black magic scary in The Fairy Hill; children looking at her, horrified.
  • Shot of Cam meeting his shoulder-fairy for the first time out in the suburban ruins. “I want to come with you!”
  • Cam turning on Lennox in the cabin of the train. “Would you just back off?”
  • The Duke of the Fairy Hill, talking to Joseph. “My goodness; you’ve gone entirely native, haven’t you?”

OPENING

The camera zooms around the post-apocafunky island of not-Manhattan, showing us various settlements.

  • Where Upper East Side is today, we see patrols along the banks, a guardpost at Hellgate Bridge and on Roosevelt island (the bridge that crosses the East River at the island is torn out over the island, so that people have to cross by dropping down to the island, going through the guards, and then back up). There’s also a ship dock here that we take a little time looking at, so maybe that’s important.
  • Where the Upper West Side use to be, there are crumbling but well-maintained brownstones with anachronistically-dressed people (kind of feudal post-apoc chic) walking around the neighborhood, nodding and smiling to each other and looking secure.
  • All around Grand Central (where the sign over the doors just says CENTRAL), a bustling town-within-a-city, with lots of activity – working machinery, construction, conversation… some electric lights flickering to life as a generator sputters to life and a small group of people cheer while JOSEPH (J. Rhys-Meyers OMG) looks pensive.
  • We see the skyscrapers to the south end of the island, kestrels and other birds circling and nesting in the rusting framework. Most of the floors are open to the weather, and high up, a pair of watchers scan the horizon. One gets the others attention and points out to the sea. The second person pulls out binoculars, looks out to sea, and nods to the other, who goes over to the far side of the tower and starts ringing a bell.

We zoom back to “Central”, see Lennox (Viggo) turn toward the sound, looking first up at the iron towers, then in the direction of the sea. There are many buildings in the way, but by his frown and the look in his eyes, it seems he can see, or at least guess, what’s out there.

The camera zooms through those buildings (a big church, the NYC library, etc.) out to the sea, where we see a large sailboat, modern, but sort of gone primitive, with a kind of US gov’t emblem on the sail; again, a bit primitive. On the ship, in the prow, there is a woman in quasi-military, weirdly formal white attire, looking out at up at the city. The camera slows, starts moving more smoothly, pans around to look over her shoulder from her POV, and we see the City in silhouette as the sun sets behind it.

The silhouette goes black and we see it turn into the logo for the show as “IRONWALL” and the faun’s head fades in over it, the theme music fades in, and the OPENING CREDITS ROLL.


COMMERCIAL BREAK: Ironwall is brought to you – at least in my broadcast area – by Xcel Energy Wind Power, and the new Solarum hybrid from Kia. Someone got the word out that the show has a “you bastards blew it all to hell” eco-theme. Huh.


AND WE’RE BACK.

We start on the docks on Roosevelt Island, beneath the shattered span of bridge. All the key people are waiting for the woman in white to get off her fancy boat. Joseph (Rhys-Meyers) is there, but in the background: standing to the foreground of the crowd is the Old Priest and Lennox (Viggo). Our other principal actors are scattered around the crowd. There’s also a big fat man in a fancy coat and a lean, rangy looking guy, both standing next to the priest.

Here to help you. Not at all evil. Promise.
Here to help you. Not at all evil. Promise.

The woman in white looks too-clean white, and the first shot of her is almost upskirt, standing under a flag made by an aspiring Betsy Ross Jr. with old naval insignia and a couple of stars, maybe some stripes. Her first line is a little classic: “Don’t worry. We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.”

She smiles to show it’s a joke, but no one’s really laughing.

Oh, it’s Bridget Regan. She introduces herself as Elizabeth Montclair, and makes a speech(standing on a stack of old computer monitors): she’s an ambassador from Washington-that-was, and she wants to establish an alliance with the settlements of “your city”. (She doesn’t call it Ironwall, but she doesn’t say New York, either. It feels like she wants to, but doesn’t.)

The speech is followed by scattered applause – a lot of people turn around and go about their business without clapping, but some people (the fat man in front) are SUPER PUMPED.


The Ambassador suggests a more private place to talk with the Leadery-types, and leaves her soldiers (did I mention she has a bunch of soldiers on the boat?) on the boat and goes with the Priest, the fat man, the lean guy, and Our Heroes to talk at The Church.

The Church is a little weird. There’s aren’t a ton of religious trappings, and I feel like their pretending it’s one of the cathedrals in NYC, but it’s not one I recognize. Most of the iconography is missing, and the front doors just have these BIG iron spikes mounted on them, like it means something. Hopefully we’ll find out more later.

Right now, it’s not important: the Church is just the Scoobies’ Library for now.

Lennox and Cam (rawr) sit in the pews listening, JOSEPH (again, Rhys-Meyers) is up front next to Father Ezekial. Sienna the Spooky Witch stands in the back, looking through the modest library.

The Ambassador comes clean (right) saying that actually, she needs the resources of the city to track down a threat that has escaped from her own city and was headed here – is probably here already. She is chasing a traitor from her settlement who is some kind of ‘skin-changer’. A human, but one who can shapeshift – ‘co-opting the worst of fey magic.’ She wants to bring her people (did I mention the soldiers) off the boat and conduct the search.

“We have an excellent success rate in tracking down fey hidden within humanity.”

Which sounds about as creepy-inquisition as it should, I think.

The fugitive woman (name: Veronica Jacobson) has an ‘everyskin-cloak’. The Ambassador indicates that the ‘needs’ of the cloak mean that the woman is probably going to start feeding on the locals in some way. Maybe she has already.

“So she is human?” – Cam
“I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment anymore.” – Montclair

OUR HEROES look for additional information, some to avoid a witchhunt (CAM), some curiosity (SIENNA), some guilty consciences (JOSEPH), and to make sure who is really in danger (LENNOX).

The Ambassador mentions, during the questioning, that part of the reason the coat is important is because it includes not just the black magic of torturing animals, but also the skins (and thus, associated abilities) of the fey.

So, there’s… like… fairy parts in this cloak? Like… torn-off flutterby wings and such? Eww.


OOC Comments

“‘Pensive’ is very big this year.” – Doyce, overusing the word.

“She’s an Ambassador. She’s here to Ambass.” – Doyce

“Snuffleupaghi?” – Tim, musing on the kinds of skins the cloak might incorporate.


Next, a MONTAGE scene showing posters going up, people being talked to, observations being made in whatever way is most appropriate to each character.

All this leads to someone getting a lead.

“Good news, we found her, bad news is, she’s taken Clemens.”

Right… who’s that again?

“We think we found her, but Clemens is missing…”
“…and there’s a lot of meat on Clemens.”

Ohh… Clemens (Gailard Sartain) is the fat man — who is also probably the guy in charge of the fancy Upper West Side people.

There is some planning about how to take this woman-monster thing down, which gave up a good line:

“You can’t go in loaded for bear if she’s going to be a bat.”


Anyway, Lennox (who apparently has Fey-dar) leads the way to a warehouse somewhere along the Hudson shoreline. The whole place is kind of boggy, because the Hudson has reclaimed a lot of the lower-lying areas along the southwest side of the island, but it’s not totally underwater.

So there’s a chase/fight in a warehouse. It’s dark and tense and everyone has crappy old flashlights that barely work (except for CAM, whose flashlight is awesome and can SEAR THE RETINA.

Now, here’s the thing; according to the Buffy Bible of Show Order, everyone should get their asses kicked by this monster, and only beat her in the second attempt at the end of the episode, but … no. The woman goes down without a huge fight. Sienna reminds Lennox he needs to +DESTROY+ her coat.

“I wouldn’t trust me with it.”

They pull the coat off the woman (which apparently REALLY REALLY HURTS), and then Lenn pours oil over it and makes sure it burns. It does, but it also writhes and screams while it does so… which is creepy.

Lennox is frowning – showhow, he thought this would be harder.


COMMERCIAL BREAK: Ironwall is brought to you by Kiva, who bought the whole 90 second spot so they could really explain the charity. Huh. Good idea; Ironwall is nerd-tasty, and Kiva is the kind of Charity nerds would probably like.


Sienna is with Father Ezekial and captured girl as they bind wounds caused by pulling the coat off of her skin. (Also: OW.)

“So, who do you think gave her the coat?” Sienna insinuates.

The priest demurs, noting they don’t have enough information to imply anything.

Sienna points out that if the girl was so good at the black magicks, there would have been a lot more in the way of, say, injury, let alone hot, crunchy death. Projecting much, Si?

The father points out the politics of it – that too sensitive a situation to accuse anyone outright, but that they should maybe… umm… hold the girl while they do a little more investigation.

Sienna agrees and offers to ward the room in addition to having the guard.

So… that’s interesting – she admits to a little bit of magic to regular people, at least, and the priest doesn’t bat an eye.


Lennox and Cam chat a bit about how easily the woman (they start calling her Veronica, so we know we’re supposed to see her as a person) was captured, and if it was that easy, how did she haul off Clemens-the-fat?

Cam goes to talk to Clemens, because he thinks there’s more information to be found in how he was caught by this wisp of a woman. After an argument with his SHOULDER FAIRY, he discovers The Ambassador has troops in the city – within the village of Upper West, specifically. After seeing the relative luxury that Clemens enjoys, he gets to the bottom of the situation.

Seems as thought Upper West has already been in talks with Washington, and drawn up some agreements.

Also, these aren’t the troops from the boat, these are OTHER troops – MORE troops – who marched up to the city overland (suffering some losses) and were let on the island over the Great Bridge (which Upper West is supposed to guard).


Lennox finds about about the new kids in town, and meets with Logan-the-Lean of Upper East to gain some kind of Solidarity.

Logan agrees, and comments says, “Wouldn’t it be a shame if the soldiers they brought accidentally ran across our `friends’ in the Ramble. Oh no, that wouldn’t be right.”

Lennox agrees. Is he agreeing that it wouldn’t be right, or that the soldiers should have an accident?

Yep, that was deliberately ambiguous.


Joseph has a high-larious moment in the church confessional with his Sekrit Ironwall Fey Contact, who uses the name “Joseph” like a weapon.

Sekrit Contact wants to know what Joseph wants to be, what he wants being “the Kerrigan” to mean. Where he wants to fit in. If he’s going to take on a role in the fey politics, how much self-delusion is he willing to give up?

Just as things start to get interesting, The Ambassador shows up to cop a feel on the local politics and starts insinuating things about our city, trying to draw Joseph out into talking about Our Heroes.

She doesn’t seem terribly impressed with Our Heroes. But she has noticed some “odd things”.

  • One of the most senior borderer in your settlement (Lennox) failed to notice his own nephews had been replaced with Changelings?
  • Cam doesn’t farm, yet he goes to the Park every night?
  • Serena does magic? How? From books? We have many books, but none of our people can do what you say she’s done.
  • Did you know that even the best-glamoured of the Fey still leave a tell-tale, no matter how close they come to appearing human? Something to give them away — a strange birthmark, perhaps, or unnaturally colored eyes, like yours, Joseph…

Yeah, she is not of the comfort-making.


Commerical Break: Ironwall is brought to you by the new Kodacell.


Sienna is in with the animal-skin woman, who wakes up while Sienna does magical stuff — draws wards or something.

“Your magic works?”

Sienna seems nonplussed. “We don’t burn witches here,” Sienna says, maybe over-hopefully.

The girl seems darkly amused – also, apparently, The Ambassador is her sister. The girl’s story is that she stole the skin-coat (part of a Washington R&D about working against the fey) in retribution for Elizabeth Montclair (the ambassador) having lost her moral compass, as well as the Program having devoured the rest of the girl’s family.

Not sure if “devoured” is literal or not.

Sienna feels the girl out to see if she notices anything about the magical wards or any magics around either of them.

Veronica gives no indications that she can feel anything of the sort.

The last visual of this scene is a pan back to see that indeed, the girl is in the middle of some nasty-looking wards, completely oblivious to that fact.


Thanks to Father E, there’s going to be a trial… a not-trial, to see if there SHOULD be a trial: if Ironwall needs to keep Veronica around to stand trial for crimes against the city itself before she is released to The Ambassador.

BEFORE THE TRIAL, CAM’s earring… erm, shoulderfey notices Joseph. The two have lots of side-whispers and facial gesticulation while Cam, Sienna, and Lennox compare notes. Cam and Joseph are sent to make sure that The Ramble (read: the Queen of Flowers, Cam’s Fey-with-Benefits) is alerted to the troops that may cross from Upper West and down to Central if the not-trial doesn’t go The Ambassador’s way. There’s some talk about getting those soldiers to disappear. Permanently.

Cam and Joseph head into the Ramble to make deal with the Queen of Flowers. The deal is voiced such that the QUEEN makes it clear that “If 30 men are taken care of, I will be owed 30 men worth of work.” Somehow, she makes it sound like a group sex scenario will be partial payment.

“She is surrounded by the scent of musk and elderberries and wine…” – Doyce

“You cut-and-pasted that straight from my forebrain…” – Tim

In the meantime, Cam’s “pet fairy” (who is NOT present) is mentioned and the Queen acts unconcerned the influence of pets against her and Cam’s… ugh… connection. Also, she makes lots of allusions to Josephe’s status as “Kerrigan” but nothing outright is said.


Sienna tells Lennox she’ll stand at the trial to say Veronica would only know black magic if it bit her (and at that, only if it wasn’t subtle) – to indicated that there’s no way Veronica created the every-skin coat on her own. But as Father E points out, they don’t have any reason to hold her in protective custody since there’s no crime committed here.

Thus commences THE NOT-TRIAL.

[The conflict at “NOT A TRIAL” is just to find out if they can convince the Board to keep Veronica in Ironwall, against MONTCLAIR’S wishes. MONTCLAIR stands up and defends self. The players get lots of black card failure. FAILURE brings out Veronica to her sister MONTCLAIR’s custody.]

And, again, the show goes against what you’d expect, and Sienna and Lennox lose the argument to the council, who votes to hand Veronica over to The Ambassador.

Lennox, who disagrees with the whole thing and thinks Ironwall should just tell The Ambassador to sod off, and is CLEARLY thinking about just jumping in and “fixing things”, still escorts the Ambassador and Veronica across city to the Q bridge and, from there, to MONTCLAIR’s boat. They get within sight of the boat, looking down on it from the bridge and BOOM BOAT EXPLOSION!

There’s a shot of Lennox’s face, and Sienna’s… and we’re pretty damned sure THEY didn’t do it.

So who did?

END.


Next week, on Ironwall:

  • A voice, to Joseph: “You did have something that would help you remember… but do you remember where it is?”
  • Veronica, to Sienna: “You said you lost your child?”
  • CAM: looks at Joseph “Your eyes seem different somehow.”
  • Someone tells Lennox. “Some of the Board think you’re trying to pull off a coup.” Lennox doesn’t look like he’s denying it.
  • “Did any of the Ambassador’s soldiers enter the Ramble last night? Four are missing.”