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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Tony Irwin on January 20, 2003, 08:59:24 AM

Title: Paladin First Session
Post by: Tony Irwin on January 20, 2003, 08:59:24 AM
First a bit of background, some friends of mine who play mainly White Wolf products had invited me to make up the numbers for their vampire game. My usual L5R group was taking a break so I happily accepted their invitations.

Sadly it just didn’t work for me, to the extent that I actually felt miserable during the games! It was definitely my loss though as everyone else seemed to be having a whale of a time. Two of the guys in the group were keen to try other games and encouraged me to run something for them (to my shame actually – I still regret not being able to gel into their Vampire game and yet their so keen to experiment with the games I play). Sadly Universalis has spoiled me for running RPGs. Curse you Ralph and Mike. The idea of gms and adventures became a complete turn-off (hence no L5R for a while). However I scouted about, buying different things, and found Paladin. It seemed like the first game in a long time that I thought, “Cool – I could really enjoy GMing this for a whole campaign.”

I’ve been thinking about the session and would be grateful for the thoughts of anyone who has successfully run a paladin campaign.

The Game: We went for the Boxer Rebellion scenario and toyed about with the laws and setting so that we could get a “Once Upon a Time in China” setting going. We created everything together as a group and the guys really enjoyed this opportunity to set things up their way. I discussed with them the Scene structure used in Trollbabe and they were very taken with this and we used it in play to great effect. They were able to request scenes that highlighted the conflicts they had in mind for their characters, but also enjoyed sometimes just letting me narrate a scene and events without getting their characters involved (but retaining the right to jump in anytime they wanted). Anyway it went great. Both players were very intrigued by the Paladin system in action and the play it produced. One player enthusiastic, the other thoughtful. Here’s what I personally got out of it.

Paladin is the first game I’ve played in where you don’t maintain two characters. Ever since my red-box D&D days I’ve run two characters. I’ve had the guy on the sheet with all his numbers that I use for combat and magic and any other kind of conflict that the system deals with. Then I’ve had the guy in my head who is the one I used for “role-playing” which basically covered everything the system didn’t cover.

Eventually I found my way into L5R where the system covered so many more types of conflicts. The guy on my sheet and the guy in my head became much closer and interacted better. When I wanted to role-play a witty courtier type the system could actually help me with that. When I wanted a gruff ronin, there were mechanics to represent that. But still for a lot of the inner conflicts that were central to “Who/what is my character” they existed in the way I narrated for the character, not for what was happening with the dice. I was still running two characters at once.

Vampire was a big shock to me for this. I don’t want to WW bash, but… I came up with several characters concepts that exemplified the awful war between humanity and the beast that goes on within the soul of a Kindred. I did this at the behest of the book. My GM chose one that would fit best into his campaign and we started on the character sheet. This was so disappointing. I had written screeds of background about my character in terms of his personal conflicts, but what the system actually needed from me was to decide what my character’s Drive skill was compared to the average person.

What the f*** does my ability to drive a car have to do with an eternal inner struggle with Humanity and the f***ing beast?!?!?!?!

Anyway I was stunned by Paladin because when we were creating characters you could actually get your character sheet to be the person you had in your head (as opposed to the character sheet “filling in the boring bits” like your Drive skill and the number of languages you know)

One of the players caught onto this during character creation – during play he was thrilled to suddenly see how his angsty character was truly represented in conflicts. Picking up the dice actually explored the internal conflicts he had created in his character concept.

The other player hadn’t taken this approach, he had kept his “character” and “character sheet” very different. His character concept was full of all kinds of great conflicts for exploring (his monk was dedicated to fighting the foreign invaders but he was in fact the bastard son of an English trader) but for attributes he had picked things that he wasn’t really interested in exploring but he felt would still be necessary for his character, like “Strong arms” as a flesh attribute. Just in the same way that “Drive” had nothing to do with being a Kindred but it’s still necessary (I’m told) to exist in the setting.

Anyway what this emphasised for me was you have to take special care to ensure that your character sheet mirrors exactly the kind of conflicts and ideas you want your character to explore. The dice system helped one player to do this. He was excited picking up the dice and narrating the conflicts. The other player saw the dice as an interruption to role-playing. And in fact he’s right, the conflicts were an interruption to what he wanted to do with his character, because the attributes he had chosen didn’t tie into what he wanted his character to be doing.

The difference between task resolution and conflict resolution was highlighted. Again, both players have been used to the system dealing with the boring little bits of play, like “I try to pick the lock” and then getting a yes or no answer from the dice. We had to work at using the attributes for a series of rerolls and back-and-forth narration but once we were in the flow both players really enjoyed it and saw how any conflict can end up exploring the light/dark theme.

Laws: The lesson for me here was to consciously provide situations that would highlight the laws the Paladins had meant to follow. Because it was our first game (and we were enjoying just exploring the setting) I neglected to do that, with the result that many of our conflicts didn’t have the thematic punch that they should have. Paladin looks great for having extended conflicts full of meaning, but to get that I’ll need to find ways of tying those conflicts into the laws the characters are bound to.

Similarly I think we’ll revise the laws we have now that both players have very concrete ideas about who their characters are. I think I’m right in guessing that we’ll have more fun if the laws are tuned to emphasise the conflicts that the players have built into their character concepts. For example the system won’t really help us explore the character who’s father is an Englishman, unless we have some laws that especially bring this issue into focus (like “Always honour your parents” and “China belongs to Chinese” or something). We had started with the laws and then built characters after, but as both these guys are really big on “deep” characters, I think we’ll have some fun by tuning our laws to highlight the issues in their character concepts.

Anyway I’ve rambled on, but like I said above Paladin is the first game I’ve come across in a while which I’ve thought, “Yeah I could really see myself Gming that long term” (as opposed to just playing). I think with a bit of reflection on how we’re playing it, the three of us can make a great campaign out of this, and regardless of whether we take it forward, I want to learn lessons on how to run this so I can do so in the future.

Any comments and advice are very welcome,


PS: Have I said how great Paladin is? Its great! I’m very hyped about it. Neither of these two guys have played anything like it before and really enjoyed the world creation sessions, and the first play session we’ve had.