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Author Topic: False Prophets (Indie-Netgaming)  (Read 1874 times)
C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« on: April 05, 2004, 09:54:17 PM »

This is a pick-up game we started in the Indie-Netgaming irc channel tonight. As often happens we used a very system-lite game (game mechanic, actually), Jared Sorensen’s Clockworx. We also started with very minimal setting guidelines, which is another common factor in our pick-up games.

The Setting -  
Judea, just after the sacrifice of Christ on the cross causes magic to return to the world. Rome is torn by civil war between New Christians and The Traditionalists.

The Magic -
We decided to develop the magic details in play. We did determine that anyone with an appropriate trait could use magic and that even those without a trait could attempt it using the default no trait rules.

I made it clear before play that there would be historical and geographical inaccuracies. Yes, biblical inaccuracies as well.

The Characters -
Kaeso Viridius (Alexander/Lxndr) A rogue Centurion who abandoned his duties when the legions started turning on one another. Traits - Centurion 5/ Survivor 3/ Pet Hellhound 2/ Spontaneous Magic 2

Pomponius (Josh/suffusion of yellow) A Roman Beaurocrat. Traits - Rhetoric 5/ Denarii(money) 3/ Sandals Celeritas 2/ Seen the World 2

Fereydoun (Shreyas/willows) Shiekh of the Muhsin, a desert tribe. Traits - Wander Desert 2/ Frighten Heathens 4/ Ancient Wisdom 3/ Wealthy Sheikh 3

As you can see, there’s not too much in the way of issues or conflict built into these characters. Fortunately, the players are all skilled and have played with each other on many occasions. They’re working their characters into conflicts as we play, bigguns too by the look of things, so I haven’t had to work too hard to make things interesting. So far, I give them an opening and they run with it.

I started the game off in and around Jericho. I know all of nothing about Jericho, even less about it during the time of Jesus. Google is your friend.

Kaeso and Pomponius entered the city with a camel caravan. They’re not friends, more like enemies who’ve had to work together towards a common goal and haven’t decided to kill one another yet. That situation would continue through the first session.

Fereydoun started play having an audience with Pontis Pilate, concerning poaching and horse theft by people under Pontis’ employ on the Muhsin’s ancestral lands.

In both cases I asked the players what kind of scene they wanted and added detail to their loose suggestions. That’s how I continued throughout the game for the most part. Sometimes I needed to add more detail, sometimes less.

During play we discovered that Kaeso is being hunted by the Brotherhood of Judas for being a deserter, that the Emperor was killed by one of his own Praetorian Guard, and that the city of Rome itself is in shambles. Pomponius has designs on seizing control of Jericho during the chaos and is trying to enlist Kaeso’s help in return for hiding him from the Brotherhood. Fereydoun received promises of satisfaction from Pontus Pilate but has yet to see any results. He and his retinue are staying at one of the most expensive inns in Jericho on Pilate’s dime until the issue of the poaching is hashed out.

We ended the session with our conspirators, Kaeso and Pomponius, discussing plans over expensive wine in the courtyard of the Flower of Judea, the very same inn where Fereydoun and his retinue are staying. (No, it wasn’t my idea.) Kaeso and Pomponius have just noticed a heavy smoke being blown by the night breeze over the courtyard. And as always, the plot thickens.

The game setup discussion and character creation lasted about thirty minutes and we played for about an hour and a half. We’re all jazzed about playing again and will hopefully do so within the next week.

-Chris
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Lxndr
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Master of the Inkstained Robes


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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2004, 01:23:25 PM »

This is sort of a gratuitous post - the Forge Birthday Forum is, I think, causing some interesting threads to get lost in the shuffle and I'm hoping this isn't one of them.  But I want to put SOME content here, because I hate doing things that are completely empty.

I'm definitely looking forward to playing in this some more.  I tossed out the "the sacrifice of the christ brought magic back to the world, and we're in Judea" thing as, pretty much an "off the top of my head" sorta idea, but it's really working out well, and I got to try out a new system!  (I'm not sure what keeps Clockworx in the "it's only a game mechanic" ghetto that Chris put it in - any commentary there, Chris, on why it's NOT a full system?)

The characters are working out really well - although I think a deserter of the roman legions isn't entirely without conflict.  I decided that Kaeso Viridius - Green Cheese, Shreyas nicknamed him - was paired with Josh's roman bureaucrat before I found out he was one.  We had a somewhat slow first scene, then an absolutely excellent second and third scene.(And, no offense to Paganini/Nate, our potential fourth player, but the flying buttresses holding my disbelief in place are glad that there's no muslim anymore, despite how interesting his character was).

I love that Pontius Pilate is not only a character, but poised to be the perfect foil for Pomponius (whose praenomen is Postumius, a little joke of mine).  And it's interesting that, for whatever reason, Judas is still alive and, in fact, hunting down traitors.  His guilt obviously has taken a turn for the worse.  More setting exploration included the fact that Rome itself had fallen, the Emperor murdered by his own guards, the Senate scrambling for power, every man for himself.

And the implications that my character, Kaeso, has a hellhound as a tentative pet, and none of the secondary characters even seen fit to go "my, what a strange animal you have there", are astounding.  They've led me to believe that when magic came back, things got even stranger than just "wow, people can use magic now."

It just occurred to me that I missed out on an opportunity, though.  I should have given my character "Stoic" as a Trait.  Too bad.
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming
C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2004, 04:46:49 PM »

Actually, I'm still undecided (and rather indifferent) about whether Clockworx qualifies as a "full" game. I mean, Jared states in the very first sentence of the text that Clockworx is a diceless game mechanic, so that's good enough for me. Mostly I was just giving you a hard time, Lx. :)

As for reactions to your hellhound, yes, things have gotten just a wee bit strange for your pet to gain too much notice. But I'll leave evidence of that for actual play. :)

-Chris
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suffusionofyellow
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2004, 05:42:08 PM »

So I wandered into this game like I've wandered into most on #indierpgs: Just as it was starting. Contrary to my typical experience, this one did not involve some east asian theme. Anyway, Pomponius was a 1 minute character, and we had actually started play before I defined his last trait. As such, I'm discovering his personality mostly through play and Lxndr's description of his relationship with Green Cheese. Should be a fun play, I'm looking forward to more.

Response to Lxndr: You've never brought the hellhound up as anything more than a trait. when he(she?) begins interacting, then people may start reacting. Please don't start by biting off Pompnius's leg.

Quote from: Lxndr

I'm not sure what keeps Clockworx in the "it's only a game mechanic" ghetto that Chris put it in

I talked to Lxndr about this in person, but for the record:
It is only a game mechanic because it does not sufficiently influence play to be considered an actual game. But it's not a ghetto, The Pool is in the same catagory.

-Josh
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suffusionofyellow
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2004, 08:46:52 PM »

We played another session tonight. Dana joined us with Claudia Prima, the owner of a local bordello. Lots of cool stuff happened; the game seems to be taking a very political bend, which I can't help but enjoy.

Dana integrated seamlessly, gathering gossip for use as blackmail before one of her girl's was horribly murdered, the client she was with apparently being torn apart. Shreyas manuevered quite well, scoring an interesting audience with Pontus Pilot on his own terms and turf. Lxndr (Sorry, man, but I'll never be able to think of you with vowels) finally unleashed his hellhound ... at a door. Hopefully he'll get through next time, and we can catch us an assassin. I say 'we' even though Pomponius's single action was grabbing his wine and diving under cover at the first sign of trouble.

I came away somewhat dissatisfied with this session. Chris tends to end the scenes with cliffhangers, which just makes me want to keep typing right then and then leaves me unsatisfied. I'm not currently a fan of it, but I'm sure I'll get used to it and find away to take advantage of it. Chris also used slightly longer scenes this time around, but I didn't feel that was much of a problem. I enjoy watching the other characters deal with their conflicts. Juggling seperate characters is not an easy task, and my hats off to him. My real problem is that I felt my character did not get enough play. Chris and I discussed this, and I do have to admit that diving under the table illustrates Pomponius's character very well. A pictures worth blah blah.

-Josh
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C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2004, 09:28:11 PM »

Getting to continue play tonight was a happy coincidence. We're going to continue with the pick-up mentality and just play when we play.

As Josh said, Dana joined us with Claudia Prima, a Roman madam. Her traits are Attractive 5/ Deceptive 3/ Money Sense 4. She seems to be heavily into blackmail and information gathering.

Since Josh hit the high points of the in-game action I'll talk a little about how and why I'm attempting to adjust my GMing technique in irc.

My name is Chris and I'm a heavy-handed scene framer. My reasons are two-fold. I think less is more. To elaborate, I'm in the "a picture is worth a thousand words" camp. I'm not big on large amounts of rambling dialogue. Show me who your character is with action, or very few words. It's not necessarily good or bad, it's just what I like.

The second reason concerns the enjoyment of others. I know that as a  player I don't want to be left sitting for too long without being able to play, particularly when playing over irc. Even when you're really enjoying other players scenes the time in between your own scenes can really drag. Irc play happens at only about half the pace of face to face play so a game with 4 characters in seperate scenes can leave a player not playing for quite a few minutes. I try to mitigate this with "speedy" scene rotation amongst the players.

I've played with everyone in this game in several other games. I know that for the most part they like a slower pace to the scenes and more time to develop the content within those scenes. Of course, if it was all up to me I'd be firing scenes off like a gatling gun and woe to the player that can't keep up! ;)

So, I've basically slowed down my scene changing pace to a degree and am trying to give more opportunity for character dialogue and interaction. The trick is doing this while still keeping everybody playing and not sitting. To that end I'm going to attempt to give a little more time to scenes before I cut them and pick up a lot more scenes where they left off instead of switching scenes on a character entirely.

Heh, now for the cliffhangers. I consider this a sort of "bang at the end" approach. It gets you interested in what's going on, and hopefully keeps you that way until it's your turn to play again. I think the jury is still out on the cliffhangers but with some of the scene adjustments I'm making there will likely be less in the next session.

Still jazzed about this game and looking forward to next session.

-Chris
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Shreyas Sampat
Member

Posts: 970


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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2004, 06:17:50 AM »

I think we may be playing ...around... the system rather than with it. This comes more or less from the "three Traits" thing; most of mine are as broad as I could make them while still revealing character, and the frequency at which they're irrelevant is astounding.
Nonetheless it's a lot of fun, and I look forward to playing again.
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C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2004, 10:07:46 PM »

Another cool play session was had tonight. Before I get into the meat of that I want to address Shreyas' post in regards to how we're using the "system".

Since Clockworx is ultra stripped down when it comes to most aspects that normally help expedite play (such as IIEE, guidelines on trait use, etc.) We've been coming up with many system bits on the fly. This works fine for us because we're all friendly, rational people. ;)

Some examples of the add-on system bits include allowing a seperate guess for up to three traits that are relevant to the situation at hand, a loose "victory level" based on ratio of successful/failed guesses, allowing characters in the same scene to augment each others guess results, and a very wide interpretation of character traits.

That last one, the loose interpretation of traits, is probably the most important. Characters have so few traits to start with, at least if they want to have a decent shot at success, that I feel it's necessary to let those traits apply in as many situations as possible.

One example from tonight's session involved Fereydoun's scheming. He and Pontius Pilate had arranged to meet and discuss some sensitive matters that could benefit both of them if handled correctly. In case of treachery by Pontius at the meeting, Fereydoun hired an assassin to sort matters out should anything go wrong. I had already planned to have an assassination attempt made on Pontius at the meeting.

So, long story short, Shreyas used Fereydoun's "Ancient Wisdom" trait to see if his preplanning with his own assassin would aid him when the assassins sent for Pontius rushed in. It did, Pontius is still breathing, so is Fereydoun, and the shiekh's hand grows ever stronger.

As for the rest of the session, Kaeso and Pomponius dealt with some assassins themselves. That being the first attempt on Kaeso's life by the Brotherhood of Judas. We learned that Kaeso's hellhound likes to eat an occasional fez. Pomponious shorts the inkeep on damages and arranges for his own meeting with Pontius Pilate. Since he's still alive the meeting should actually happen.

Dana came in at the very end of the session, so her character Claudia didn't have a chance to do much. It turns out that her girl, Copera, is alive and well, although the poor guard she was with looks like he was pureed. I'm looking forward to seeing how she handles explaining a mutilated guard to the authorities.

We had the first attempts at magic use by the PC's tonight, both of which failed. Fortunately neither was an attempt with an incredible amount riding on it. The players always seem to guess quite well when the chips are down.

As always, it felt like I dragged on the scene rotation but I ignored it and tried to keep a slower pace. Apparently that worked out just fine. Not as many cliffhanger scene switches tonight, or at least the cliffhangers were only mild and not "WTF?!".

As far as I'm concerned this game is just getting better and better.

Hopefully the others will chime in with their own views and input.

-Chris
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Lxndr
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 1113

Master of the Inkstained Robes


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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2004, 06:11:30 AM »

Yeah, Clockworx is definitely the ultra-bare minimum of a system; but then again, it never claimed to be more than that, so I suppose there's not much room to complain.  It's very... "freeform with numbers", I suppose, which is nice because, well, I like numbers.  They're part of what makes playing a roleplaying game fun, to me, even if they never do anything more than just sit on the sheet.  (Yeah, I'm weird.)

Yes, I agree with Chris in that the loose interpretation of traits makes a lot of sense and is vital for clockworx to, well, work; although it should be combined (and Chris is, I believe, combining it) with a different meaning of "victory" depending on what the trait is/does.  My Centurion trait might get me a victory in a lot of situations, but that victory GENERALLY is going to do some damage to something.

Chris, I like the way that scenes are progressing, but if you feel they are dragging, try speeding it up a bit?  I don't think I'd mind, and if there are complaints about the speed, you can always slow down again.

For Kaeso specifically, he started off as just a concept - a rogue centurion with a pet hellhound and some minor talent (not really skill) at magic.  I'm really enjoying how he's fleshing out.  Very hard as nails (not surprising considering he's Centurion 5; I hadn't fully considered how powerful a trait of 5 would be, and a trait of 6 is, effectively, "yeah you win no matter what you guess.") and a very practical sort, considering he hates Pomponius and yet is still willing to deal with the devil.
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming
Shreyas Sampat
Member

Posts: 970


WWW
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2004, 08:16:18 AM »

I'll comment that what Chris seems to be doing implicitly would be a good thing to be explicit in a game built on the Clockworx mechanic.

There seems to be a little conflict about scene length - the players have different tastes, and Chris is accustomed to playing very fast, with hard cuts. This is awesome. It's possibly the most positive clash of differing tastes I've ever encountered in a game. For my part, I'm content with scenes of any length, as long as whatever scenes my character is in actually involve him - I hate being the audience, and, tuth be told, I'm not actually sure what the other characters have been up to, since I have been working on games between my scenes. It's been great.
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C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2004, 11:49:58 PM »

We played again last night. It was a rather short session, my main goal being to bring Dana's character, Claudia Prima, up to speed with the other characters as far as being embroiled in some sort of interesting situation.

Josh was absent, so Pomponius will have to meet with Pontius Pilate next time we play. But Alexander, Shreyas, and Dana all got in a couple scenes during the short amount of time that we played.

Basically, the situation around each character became more robust. Fereydoun is going to have to deal with the fallout from his own people for allying with Pontius Pilate, Kaeso Viridius received what may be a bit of wisdom or advice from a mysterious messenger in the form of a bird with a lion's shadow, and Claudia Prima discovered that the guard was mutilated as a result of a spontaneous magical outburst from Copera who has shown no magical talent or aptitude up till now. Claudia also managed to deceive a guard captain in order to keep his men from finding the rather messy remains of the unfortunate guard.

I ended up calling the session short. My concentration seemed off and I was having a little trouble projecting ahead of the in-game action. What I mean is that when I GM I normally have all these threads of possibilities constantly being laid out in my mind and they get "updated" as events taking place in the game world cause permutations. That way I can project ahead of the players to a degree, inserting outcomes, events, and NPCs that stem "naturally" (plausibility) from the in-game action.

Projecting usually allows me to do this without much thought. I don't have to leave the players sitting while I try to cook up a reasonable response to their actions.

Well, my possibility machine was out of wack. So rather than struggle through and try to force things (which NEVER seems to work for me) I called the game after everyone had played through a couple scenes a piece. I think that call was for the best.

Other than that hiccup, everything seemed to go well. I feel like I still need to slow down on my scene rotation a bit, but all in all a good session despite its brevity.

-Chris
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