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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Darcy Burgess on April 13, 2010, 08:25:15 AM

Title: [In A Wicked Age] - Getting our feet under us
Post by: Darcy Burgess on April 13, 2010, 08:25:15 AM

Last night, our haphazard group kicked off an In a Wicked Age game.  I pitched it as "old, pulpy sword & sorcery lasting between 4 and 8 sessions, but who knows?"  I GM'd.

Here are some reflections on last night's play, as contrasted with the play I experienced about 3 (?) years ago, just after the game went into preorders.

Holy hannah, is this game sensitive to the number of players around the table.  When we played ages ago, we only had GM+2, and there just wasn't a critical mass of best interests to get the conflict "motor" running.  Play was forced and unimaginitive, and I was constantly searching for yet another NPC to kickstart things.

Last night, we had GM+5, and a completely different thing happened.  Too many balls were in the air, and there just wasn't enough screen time to go around.  No central storyline emerged, and I felt like we were bouncing around quixotically based on who looked the most bored, not based on what would be cool.  This was compounded by the fact that the Best interests were too intertwined and messy to the point of being unintelligible -- no one could keep each others' agendas straight.

I had a hard time drawing the line between concrete actions that involve talking and those that are "just arguing".

No one seemed to be angling to get on the Owe list; this is undoubtedly another symptom of GM+5 players.

Here's a thing: multiple characters are rolling over the resolution of some concrete thing, and let's say it's two characters double-teaming a third guy.  Mid-round, the underdog gets knocked out of the fight by being doubled (by the fist guy that round).  This leaves the third guy with an action pending.  Is it cool for the third guy to just turn traitor on his buddy and launch into something else mid-rolling?  Or, should the first set of resolution be set aside and a new set of rolls set up?


Title: Re: [In A Wicked Age] - Getting our feet under us
Post by: Noclue on April 13, 2010, 05:35:57 PM
Yes. I have noticed the sensitivity to number of players also. GM +3 or +4 is good.

I don't believe there is any mecanical enforcement of teamwork. If one character is out, the other guy still has a turn to do things and isn't bound by stakes or intent, only by whether someone is doing a thing and someone is interfering, as far as I understand the question.

Title: Re: [In A Wicked Age] - Getting our feet under us
Post by: Darcy Burgess on April 14, 2010, 02:41:15 PM
Hi James,

Yeah, we're going to have to pare the group down...5 is just too damned many (although, I'm tempted to soldier on and try to develop some techniques for making it work.  stupid temptation.)

The only thing I could see that would constrain the actions/teamwork angle are the forms you chose to roll going into the first round; they're supposed to reflect the kind of action you're taking, and I'm assuming that carries forward through the rounds.


Title: Re: [In A Wicked Age] - Getting our feet under us
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 20, 2010, 12:30:06 PM
With no particular claim to playing In A Wicked Age "the right way," and with no specific suggestion for you to emulate our use of the rules, I'm providing a rundown of what we do. For perspective, we've played seven or eight sessions, comprising three stories, and are transitioning into the fourth for the next session.

1. A conflict can only have two sides. You're on one side, on the other, or not rolling.
2. The status of "conflict" presumes that when you're in it, you're in it for real, and your actions are causally operating toward that end no matter how involuntary or indirect they may be.
3. A character may be knocked out through being doubled, but otherwise, and if the conflict continues onto a new round, each character stays in. If you want to "drop out," then you'd offer that as part of a negotiation at the end of the round (whichever one you're in), and hope you can convince the others on your side as well as the opposing players.
4. If a character on one side is knocked out but other characters are still in, then the overall conflict has not been resolved and is not over (unless of course those players successfully negotiate to stop, but here, I'm just talking about the knockouts).
5. We verbally flip some of the ways the ideas are presented in the game: we talk of 1-round conflicts ending in negotiation as the default, which can be extended to further rounds up to three total if anyone insists at the end of #1 or #2, and Exhaust/Injure is simply what you go with at the end of the third round if no negotiations have shown up before then.
6. Knocking out everyone on one side (which is what you described, with one guy on one side, getting knocked out) ends the conflict instantly. So in your case, this means the second guy on the winning side is simply aced out of the action. He doesn't have an action "hanging there" to be accounted for at the end. If he wants to do something else, then sure, go straight into free play following the various mechanical and narrational wrapping-up of the conflict, but that's what it would be.

I don't want to argue about this with anyone, but as I see it, the above rules are fully consistent with the various text and examples in the book, and go only a little distance, not much, to nail down some of the applications. One of my takes on the game is that "everyone jump in and say what you're doing," in a kind of multiple-agenda melee, isn't supported - it's oppositional like Dogs, not orthogonal like Sorcerer.

I'm getting ahead of myself just a little ... going back to prep, and specifically Best Interests, we've found that fuck-around messiness, or perhaps the best way to put it is arbitrary contrariness, is a lousy model for play. I think this may be a weakness in the book (and I think there are very few) - that in the big example of play that goes throughout, one of the Best Interests is itself too contrarian and utterly lacks engaging content. Specifically, Tajie's are to get pregnant by the god and no one else, and hence to stay hidden from Mekha, the boy who loves her. Everyone else's Best Interests are interesting, but Tajie is basically a big ball of "no" directed toward Meka and her uncle Esan. It's hard to see how I'd play her, if she were my character - "I avoid Mekha, why? Because it's in my Best Interest. Why is it in my Best Interest? I dunno, because I want to avoid him, I guess."

I think what I'm saying is that although our Best Interests do often cut across one another in funky ways, none of them are introduced only because they oppose someone else's. I'd like to see the Best Interests listed out for the characters in the game you're describing, PC and NPC alike, which you've already described as unintelligible, practically speaking. (Oh yeah - it helps that as GM, I list only one NPC with two Best Interests, and restrict myself to one apiece for all the other NPCs.)

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [In A Wicked Age] - Getting our feet under us
Post by: Noclue on April 20, 2010, 06:21:33 PM
Ron, I find Best Interests work differently for me. I do declare a Best Interest precisely because it cuts across another character's. "It's in Rafa Ban's best interest to destroy the slave cult leader." Then I fully commit to that being the best interest. I assume it's true. Why is it in my best interest? I dunno. I'll let that come out later. I often don't know enough about all the characters to decide the why of things. It's enough for me, and the other players, to know that it is so. By the time character creation is over and we've seen all the Best Interests, we've all started to get an idea of the Situation that the characters find themselves in. And I generally know quite a bit about why that Best Interest is what it is. Ah, the cult leader wants to wed the virgin sorceress, drunk on power and consecrate their holy sacrifice. Of course, my oppressive warlord needs to stop that.

Title: Re: [In A Wicked Age] - Getting our feet under us
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 21, 2010, 05:56:13 AM
Hi James,

I know all that and appreciate it. What you're saying is not disagreeing with me. Obviously Best Interests are written to cut across one another to form conflicts; that's what they're for. My point is that a Best Interest works ... um, best, when it is somehow applied, or will be applied, or is trusted to be applied more deeply, plausibly, and engagingly than just "against." In practice, Tajie's Best Interest might work out well. But in that particular text in the game, that's all we see about her and hence there's an arbitrary quality to her presence in the examples, whereas in real play, we'd know a lot more by then, even if that "a lot more" began only as potential or avenues for later use.

I hate arguing about In A Wicked Age. I even hate discussing it on-line, mostly. People get really twisted up into knots and interpret what others say in the most unsympathetic ways, routinely missing points of agreement. That's why I've been reluctant to post about my own current game. Please, I ask you and everyone else - whatever anyone says about the game, here in this thread, approach it in the assumption that the other person is not saying something stupid or contradictory to what you think or do with the game. No matter how much it looks like it at the outset.

That's why I'd like to see Darcy's list of Best Interests, and even that's only a start - I'd then want to see the characters' "opening concepts" from the Oracles or derived otherwise, and some notions about their various abilities. It all goes together. We aren't going to get anywhere in this thread if we speak abstractly about any/all Best Interests ever, because anyone can take whatever anyone says and twist it or bend it a little to arrive at an unproductive and probably inaccurate disagreement.

Remember, Darcy said outright that his group's list of Best Interests were unintelligible. That is very strong language! That's our starting point. You aren't helping the discussion by pointing out that in your game, you and others play the Best Interests such that they are intelligible, at least not at this point, before we get a better idea about what they even were in his game. Only until we understand that, will comparisons with your game (and mine, or anyone's) be useful.

Darcy, can you help with that information? Unless we get concrete and specific fast, this discussion will go the way of most on-line In A Wicked Age discussions - nowhere and stupid.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [In A Wicked Age] - Getting our feet under us
Post by: Darcy Burgess on April 21, 2010, 11:09:24 AM
Hi Ron,

I can help with that.  It's coming.  I am in the middle of buying a house.