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[Scarlet Wake] Endgame

Started by Ben O'Neal, October 18, 2004, 09:49:22 AM

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Ben O'Neal

So we've finished our first game of Scarlet Wake. All up it took 6 weekly sessions, with a few weeks missed here and there due to unforeseen complications. Sessions were run at my house, and the other members brought snacks. Each session ran for about 4 hours on average, and during that time we had about 2 or 3 turns each, depending on how much socializing we did and how much time we spent reliving old gaming moments. There were 3 of us in the group:

Ian: Ian has been my best friend for 4 years. We met at uni, and he introduced me to gaming about 2 years ago. A long time AD&D3e DM. He is 22, so by "long-time" I mean 5 years running the same campaign. I've played under him before in a seperate campaign, but whilst his game was great and the group was fun, I loathed the D&D rules for how shit they made my character in the beginning. Unfamiliar with the system as I was back then, I chose a Monk/Sorcerer at 1st level, with an awesome concept: he was a dark moon monk masquerading among the "good guys" as a bodyguard for a scholar NPC seeking out an ancient tome of knowledge. I was dying to betray the group, but after I reached 4th level I realised that doing so would be impossible because I was splitting my character between two classes and they were all following only one. So I left the game and it dissolved. But I digress. Ian spends a great deal of time and effort making sure that his campaigns are richly crafted with intricate plots. His GM style is very much participationist, and his players are more than happy with this arrangement and are rewarded with complex plots. Ian has rarely ever been a player, and loves the oppurtunity to let someone else drive for a while.

Matt: I met Matt shortly before we started our SW game. Matt is a good friend of Ians, and is fast becoming a good friend of mine. It's almost like the three of us are different sides of the same person sometimes. It's uncanny. He has been a player in Ian's D&D3e campaign for the entire thing. He's really into martial arts and Japanese traditions. He is very much into honourable characters, and I've learned that he has a remarkable aptitude for creating engaging and hilarious character portrayals.

Me (Ben): As I've mentioned I've been gaming for about 2 years, on and off depending on uni and what was possible. My most recent games were my development of Eclipse and when that sorta dissolved I didn't game until I had a working version of SW. It's really hard to critically analyse myself as a gamer, but I guess I'd have to say that my original characters were all the "dark brooding rational loner" types. Then I went through a witty swashbuckler stage, followed by a few characters who exhibited a conflict between reason and emotion, and more recently I've been making serious haunted characters who succumb almost entirely to emotion. I've learned that I try very hard for a strong sense of internal character integrity, creating them from the inside out. Sometimes I think this may hold me back from truly enjoyable and fun characters, but it has allowed me to create very despicable enemies. But I'll get to that a bit later.

Our Characters
Ian's character was a Japanese school-girl with all the technological accessories a modern pop-girl needs (I can't remember her name, it was Japanese). She has no parents, and her brother was her only family, until he was poisoned at a competition. Whilst she had no real fighting skills of her own, she was granted these skills by her brothers naginata, which was her Weapon. Her lucky charm was a photo of him she kept in her bra (near her heart... you pervert). Her List consisted of the other members of her brother's fighting team, who collaborated to kill him, and Tengu.

Matt's character was a Japanese martial artist with blonde hair. I can't remember his name either. His parents died in a car crash when he was very young, and he was raised by his sensei, who was murdered by the yakuza at the order of a very old and powerful master, who trained with his old sensei under the same master. His weapon was his fists, and his lucky charm was one of those coins with the holes in them that hang around his neck: a gift from his father before he died. His List consisted of his sensei's peers, some yakuza bosses, Tengu, and his sensei's old companion.

Tengu was shared between their lists at #4.

My character was created on the fly (hey, it's my game, I can break the rules if I want to :P ). He was an American businessman who's family (wife, two daughters) were murdered to keep him silent about a dangerous product his company was making. Actually, he was supposed to be killed too, but he wasn't home when the hitmen came. His weapon started off being a pair of chunky MP5s in a briefcase that also held grenades and all sorts of other useful gadgets, but were later replaced by a pair of Dhampyr Blades (from Blood Rayne). His lucky charm was his wedding ring. His List consisted of his CEO and regional manager, who did the hiring of the hitmen, and the group of hitmen themselves, who were some of the most hateworthy characters my twisted mind has ever concocted.

Matt and Ian had created their character's individually before the game, so it was a lucky surprise to find them both in the same time period and country, and also the same genre, which made sharing a Boss easy. I created only a tiny portion of my character before the game, but I too had settled for a modern, slightly unreal (cinematic) genre, only set in America.

Game Overview
Every session was a blast. It was easily the most fun, and most continual fun, that I've ever had gaming. I think the others would agree, if the post-session and post-game comments were anything to go by.

There was a little bit of a problem with Ian and how credibility was distributed, which I think stems heavily from his constant experience of being a D&D DM. At first, he would unknowingly try to narrate what happened to PCs when he was an Antagonist (typical D&D DM role), but this went away fairly quickly. Then, after a two week lapse in sessions, he sorta slipped into the reverse: saying what he was planning to do when he was a PC and relying on us Antagonists to narrate the outcome (typical D&D player role). However, once I reminded him of the credibility distribution again it was all good for the rest of the game. Ian seemed to have a knack for coming up with inventive and wicked Binds. The most sinister of these that I can remember involved the Boss tying me to a chair in a small room surrounded by tvs, all of them hooked up to a non-recording camera in a room where he raped and slaughtered some innocent teenage girls with my weapons, before calling the cops and leaving me to be framed for the crime.

At first, Matt had similar difficulty, with taking on the player role and looking to us Antagonists to drive events or cue him to react, also expecting us to narrate consequences of dice rolls. This was fine by the end of the first session, and never appeared again. In fact, he took admirably to the rules and really ran with the creative freedom they allowed, much to the delight of Ian and I. We soon discovered that Matt had an uncanny ability to generate and portray hilarious and unique characters. In fact, we have since decided to keep three of his characters and have them appear in every game from now on, regardless of genre or setting. One of them is an old eccentric chinese man, hunched over on his walking stick and always rambling excitedly about how crazy his wife is and the dangers of ginseng, yet able to perform remarkably adept acrobatics and clarity of thought when he wants to. Another is a man we've termed "confidence guy", who is a loud-mouthed barrel-chested footbal fan, with no inhibitions at all and who is constantly attributing extreme confidence to things like his beer, guns, and anything else people can hold in their hands. One of the classic lines for a session was "I gotta get me some more confidence!", said as he waved an empty beer can delibrately. The third character was a ranting fat woman who loved attention so much she'd make stories up just for the spotlight. She came in during a scene where my character had just started a riot at a football game, and she was being interviewed by the news crew, ranting like an idiot about terrorists and "towelheads" dropping in from the sky and shooting randomly into the crowd, while she gave one an earfull of her sass.

Obviously I didn't have any trouble with the rules :) But I did find that I was very good at portraying and generating characters in such a way as to really make Ian and Matt hate them, so much so that they actually spoke aloud on many occasions, "I fucking hate this guy, you totally have to kill him". No point in the game illustrated this more than my character's last turn. I will give fair warning right here, that when I say "hate", I really, really mean it. What I am about to describe as the final scene of my character's story may very likely be extremely disturbing to you. It takes quite a lot to disturb or offend me in the slightest, but this scene managed to evoke an insatiable hate, the sort where you think "no punishment could ever possibly be harsh enough for this fucker". So if you value your emotional stability, I suggest you don't read the following section, and return after the next big gap in the text.

We were on a subway, and I had followed a gang of assholes in military attire who were hanging out with the last Boss. This Boss was the leader of the group who killed my family. The other two were a huge tough guy; the "basher", named "50 Cal", and a cockroach of a man who was a peadophile and rapist, named "Fun-Side". This last Boss was named "Pyro-Manic", and he enjoyed long walks along moonlit beaches, ballroom dancing, and using a combination of flame-retardant gel and lighter-fluid to burn bits and pieces off people (two of those things are a lie). So anyways, a fight breaks out and like an idiot, I had forgotten to burn my Fuel against the Peons, so one hit and I was in a Bind. No problem, I thought, I can build up my Luck (I had previously maxed out my Style). So Ian narrates the Bind, and I find myself tied with rope and hanging precariously at a 30 degree angle out the back of the moving train, covered in lighter fluid and stripped of my weapons. I'm also looking in the open door, at Pyro-Manic playing with his lighter, while one of his thugs holds a young girl they were previously harrassing on the train (the cause of the fight in the first place). While I try to struggle against the ropes, Pyro-Manic decides to start telling me, in detail, about the last minutes of my family's lives, while illustrating the finer points on his captive passenger. That's when I come in, to narrate my escape. So we see the lights in the subway slam to a sluggish stop, like time itself got stuck in a puddle of glue, and the inside of the train becomes my old livingroom, and the thug becomes 50 Cal, and the girl becomes my wife. I see Pyro-Manic smearing some gel all over her arm, then squirting some shit on her hand, and setting it alight, while 50 Cal holds her still like iron clamps. Her screaming is soon drowned out by my screaming, as time returns to the present, and I see Pyro-Manic flicking his lighter and grinning like an idiot, but the girl is not yet burning. Now, if you use a History narration to escape a Bind, you get two rolls for every one that you would normally have (you normally have 3). I fail both of mine. Ok, try again. Again, time slows to a halt, and I can see in my livingroom, as my wife has only a sickening black appendage for a hand, and she has passed out from the pain. Pyro-Manic waves some smelling salts under her nose, jolting her awake again, and laughs as he sets her hair on fire. Screaming and struggling with all she has, she can't move for the strength of 50 Cal holding her like a ragdoll.... and Fun-Side starts raping her thrashing body. Back to the present, I find only a second has passed, and the girl is screaming histerically as Pyro-Manic taunts her with his lighter. Again, I fail both rolls. At this point, seeing the possibilty of my character failing to escape, I say "If my character fails this Bind, I want you to kill him", to which Matt responds, "If your character fails this Bind, I'm going to kill you!" So for the third and final time, time slows to a halt, and this time my wife's face is half melted and burned, but extingiushed. 50 Cal is holding her head foward and her remaining eye open, and I look to where she is staring, hoarse screams tearing their way out of her throat, to see Fun-Side raping my daughter's limp and heavily burned body, holding her bleeding head in one hand and her jaw in the other, mockingly making her scream "help me mommy, his cock is hurting me!". Needless to say, we were all visibly loathing this character, and many suggestions were made that we just ignore the damn rules and say I escape the Bind so I can kill this fucker. So time returns to normal, and now the passenger's hand is on fire, but I can't hear her screams from the thousand screams reverberating inside my mind and being torn from my throat, terrifying enough to frighten Pyro-Manic. I roll once, and I fail against a 19. Quickly calculating the possibilities of my dice pool, I work out I have exactly a 50/50 chance of winning. I roll the final time.... and I fail agian. I could see tears in Ians eyes, and Matt looked like he wanted to murder someone and sink into despair at the same time. Ian narrated the consequences of the Bind, and began doing his best to make me survive so that I could get my vengeance right there and then, but he knew he was just scrambling for "closure", and Matt reminded him that I wanted my character to die if he failed this Bind. So they paid the Kick, and we all got our wishes. After recovering from his momentary fear of the pure rage in my scream and my face, Pyro-Manic quickly lit the ropes that held me, and I cought on fire in a fwoosh. In that moment, the girl reached out with her burning hand and pulled the burning rope as hard as she could, falling backwards as she pulled me up into the carriage. Without the taughtness of my weight, the ropes went limp and I dived onto Pyro-Manic, crushing his head against my chest with all my strength. His thugs did their best to get me off him, but only managed in kicking us both screaming off the back of the train and setting their pants on fire. Pyro-Manic and I died there, burning to ashes with the help of his flammable chemicals.

Dramatic, no? We mused that the only thing missing was an explosion.

Ok there's no more horror from here on in. Matt's story ended on a much lighter note, as he learned about the true and honourable motive behind his sensei's death, from the man who ordered it. He faced a Dilemma of whether to continue and kill the murderer of his beloved sensei, or to relinquish his senseless grudge and seek to honourably pursue the nature of life. He failed the roll, which meant he didn't kill his Boss, which was exactly what he wanted after the excellent and deep scene he had just narrated with Ian (who was the Boss). It was quite cool, involving the master carefully painting caligraphy as he explained the metaphor of how swordplay and physical combat is merely a reflection of the truth, and the pursuit of physical excellence and perfection were flawed without an enlightened focus, much as caligraphy is. That's a horrible mutilation of the scene, but you get the idea. I was too involved in the mood to recall the exact words.

Ian's story ended with his character dying by the blade of her #5 Boss (by his own choice), while he died from being impalled on her naginata, in true equal-skill samurai fashion. I wish I could have recorded the session, because there was some great story in there, but I can't think of any one part that wouldn't require me telling most of the rest just for context. It ended in one of those twist endings, where everything comes together in the end.

In all our stories though, we saw our characters start off as these relatively innocent and wronged people, then mutate more and more into the monsters they hunted, and in Ian's and Matt's stories, we saw a final reversal at the end, like an epiphany, and in my story, we saw the penultimate truth of where that path leads. It really was quite interesting to see the downward spiral so strongly.

One thing I realised that I will be placing in the final rulebook is a type of scene we made use of regularly, and that is a sort of "Boss-development" scene, where the Antagonists roleplay some scene involving only the Bosses, to give back-story and depth to their characters, kinda like they use in many movies and books all the time, where you see what the bad guys are doing, seeing hints of their plans, or even just letting you know about them. I'm thinking of some sort of rule of regularity, like maybe that sort of scene has to pop up at least once per session for each player, or maybe once per 6 scenes.

We all had a great deal of fun, and we are planning a new game to be started this week (we finished last friday). This time we will probably have a 4th member: Ian's girlfriend, who has roleplayed in his D&D3e campaign for it's entire length, and who is a bit of a wallflower. She loves the stories, and imagining the events and interactions of the characters, but isn't so into actually contributing. Which is odd because she is an aspiring author. But we'll see how things turn out.

For our next game we have all decided on staying with the modern time-period, but with a supernatural bent. We are planning on integrating our stories alot more, and sharing more Bosses, and we'll probably have some strong angelic/divine themes. We're mainly looking forward to really flexing our creative muscles though with our kewl powerz and inventive characters.

Oh, and it turned out that Matt and Ian tied for 1st place, so they rolled off and Matt won. So Matt officially won the game, having improved his character the most, so he has to suffer next game by starting off with the standard 8 points to make his character, while the losers (Ian and I) get to start with half our character's points, which I think was something like 10 for me and 11 for Ian. This prompted Matt so say "Man, winning [/i]sucks[/i]", which I thought was hilarious. It is also an interesting stategy, IMHO, of having to raise your character enough to be cool, and enough to have a tough character for the next game, but not enough to be the winner. A difficult strategy.