I'm pretty new to independent RPGs and I'd like to contribute a little bit to the hobby with some Actual Play reports from Southern Exposure III. I was disappointed with a D&D game at DEXCON so I had been looking forward to playing different games at Southern Exposure. Bottom line: I had a great time!
This AP report is about Michael S. Miller's pseudo playtest of a game in development with the working title 'Foresworn'. The convention blurb read, in part, "laser pistols, energy swords...ancient technology, grand romances that span solar systems..." that translated to me as space opera—cool! Prior to the game we players learned that Mike was not satisfied with the state of rules development for 'Foresworn', so instead he used Sorcerer rules to test some of the setting ideas—double cool: getting to learn Sorcerer in a Star Wars-like setting.
In addition to Mike, the players were myself, Shawn, and Rich. Shawn and I had played PTA together at DEXCON, and I had played 'With Great Power' with Mike earlier at Southern Exposure. The setting was the planet Boros that had been taken over by the Intergalactic State 'Unity' after a short, bitter war. Formerly an independent monarchy, the planet's new constitution established a, uh, constitutional monarchy that was pretty much a puppet government for Unity—complete with Unity Ambassador to oversee things. We chose pre-generated PCs from a pool of five potential PCs: the former king, blinded and crippled by Unity torture but somehow free in the bowels of the capital—Capital City! (Lots of these details were made up on the fly—by either the GM or the players—we didn't spend a lot of time pondering perfect names); the former queen, who fled the Unity forces and found refuge within an off-planet alien monastery—or perhaps we'd call it a think-tank. Anyway, like Linda Hamilton between Terminator and Terminator II, the queen was back on Boros and in the best shape of her life. The Crown Prince, who had been off-planet for schooling but now was missing; General Mikhail, senior officer to the Royal Military Forces, and the Princess, who as the sole remaining royal family member known to be alive was designated as the heir to the throne and would be crowned as Queen, provided she was married. We chose as PCs the princess (Rich), the queen (Shawn), and the king (Mel). I'm drawing a blank on the actual character names.
Let me focus this AP report on the application of Sorcerer to the 'Foresworn' setting. Powerful NPCs and campaign instrumentalities were treated as 'demons'. At start, the princess' demon was a cybernetic 'loyalty module' implanted in her temple with a need (as best I can recall) for indications of the princess' deference to Unity. The queen's demon was her alien monk adviser, with a need for explanations of human behavior. The king's demon was the planet's central computer, which still recognized him as monarch and communicated with and monitored the king via the multitude of computer terminals and cameras throughout the planet. The central computer's need was for displays of deference to royalty (to the king). I was very surprised at the impact of the need to appease the 'demon' CPU on the choices of actions I took as the king. Starting play, I planned to keep the king in the background as a mysterious, solitary figure, influencing the course of events through intermediaries and subterfuge, while keeping his true identity a secret. The king had a new title as 'Maimed Prophet', and that seemed perfect for a life in the shadows. The CPU thought differently, and in interactions with NPCs, in order to avoid a contest of wills with the CPU, the king took a much more aggressive course of action than he would have otherwise. The binding ritual (I believe) made clear that the CPU would challenge the king's actions that seemed to disregard the king's monarchal status. In the binding ritual, the king stumbled across a remote maintenance terminal in the city underground and, having no recollection of his immediate past, used the computer voice interface to query the CPU. The CPU wanted to spread word of the king's survival throughout the planet but the king wanted to remain in hiding. The king won the resulting contest of wills, but it was a near run thing, and for the remainder of the adventure the king had to balance his desire to remain in hiding with the CPU's need for pomp and ceremony. I imagined the king, by establishing his bonafides as a soothsayer, would eventually establish a 'pseudo court' of city riff-raff that would help placate the CPU. But the need to prove to the CPU that the king was, in fact, king meant the king did a lot of finger pointing while saying sternly, "Do as I have ordered. I have seen this as your fate..." We realized in the play of the game that the king would perhaps be better titled as the 'king-in-exile' rather than as a prophet.
There are two instances that stick out for me highlighting Sorcerer mechanics in the setting. The first was Shawn's character, the queen's, efforts to introduce a substance into the planet's water system that would transform the local population into 'super-soldiers'. The locals had a different water source than the occupying forces. This seemed like a great idea. The oppressed Boron people would gain the power to strike back against the Unity occupiers. To introduce this substance, the queen and her alien mentors developed the substance ('contact' and 'summoning' rituals) and introduced it into the planet's water system (binding ritual). Cool! But in the development of the substance, it became clear that an additional effect would be that the transformed humans were reduced to mindless savages. Although Mel (me, the player) was aware of the plan and the development of the substance, the king only became aware of the queen's actions and the negative impact on the people—the king's subjects—as the plan was put into action. This led to a second use of Sorcerer mechanics. After some hesitation (after all, the plan would lead to the elimination of the occupying forces) the king realized that he must stop the substance from entering the water supplies. At first, we simply ruled that the king could order the CPU to filter the substance and that would eliminate the threat. But then, in a flash of the obvious, it became clear that if the queen had to Bind a demon to introduce this substance, then the king had to Banish that demon to filter the substance! Thankfully, the banishment worked! Unfortunately for the queen, her act of developing the substance and introducing it to the population's water supply cost her her humanity in a series of failed humanity checks.
In the end, our heroes were able to free the planet from the occupying forces mainly through the actions of the princess. Throughout the adventure, the princess was manipulating the Unity forces so that Unity thought they were in control, while the princess had real power. Having wrapped the Unity ambassador around her finger (through binding him as a 'demon'), she convinced him to invite the senior Unity leadership to the planet for the princess' wedding ceremony. At that time guerrilla forces—gathered by General Mikhail, who had been bound by the king—struck!
The planet was once more free!
It was a super game that was great fun and I appreciate the opportunity to have played it with all involved.