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[BW] The Racism Campaign III of IV

Started by Bill Cook, April 03, 2005, 10:24:22 AM

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Bill Cook

Session I. Session II.

Apologies to my players reading this, expecting a similar format to last session; that was a bit of a lark and not something I could sustain.

This was a fun session. I've been doing some prep for a DitV one-shot, and its thinking colored my approach somewhat. Just before we got started, I wrote three things down on an index card: "give awards," "define stakes" and "frame forward." And that's what I did. The idea of paying the players to suggest awards really paid off. It got silly, too, but in a very enjoyable way. I was almost pedantic in my insistence on defining the purpose of play, scene by scene. I ended up using the Sorcerer rollover mechanic in the context of DitV follow-up conflicts. It didn't so much hand over winnings as it provided structure. I was aggressive in proving explorative potential by skipping past that material. If the players jumped up and said, "Wait! I want to first do such and such," then that proved that it would be worth doing. I interrupted the players, myself, a couple of times. (e.g. Luke N. framed a scene in which he confronted the commander of a regiment of Orcish archers. I interposed a preliminary conflict for him to get past the guards for the war council. Not trying to prove anything; I just thought it would be good story to include that event.)

Talk about a fountain of Artha! Jason infected Luke N. with spending for advantage. I paid two points each to Nick and Jason for a hilarious narration. Artus and Boren, the two conspirators from Darmet's band, had tracked him and his new company of half-breeds and Orcs. True to character, Darmet had found a spot away from the group, to rest in solitude. Then they coerced Jacob into magically entrancing the mumbling sleeper. He cast Persuasion and Darmet scribbled a map, voicing directions. The players acting this out was just too funny.

A strong sense of player vs. character mode was enriched over the course of this session. Sometimes there was too much talking and not enough stamping. Other times, there was a silly stamping  of everything. But most of the time, it was just the right balance; we chewed a bit on how we wanted to play it, moved forward and it led to something solid that propelled the next moment. For example, Luke was struggling with narrating resolution of a scene that had crossed him to Jacob (Nick). He went through two or three trials before I confirmed my speculation that he (the player) didn't want to kill Jacob because it would exit Nick (Jacob's controller) from play. To me, this freed us to exit Jacob and still maintain Surt's Orcish character.

There was a bit of valuable VCR editing that got done. One example: Darmet (Jason) ordered Braying Maw, a Defiler Chieftain, to travel West, in country, and camp outside Wessell, the capitol of Ennedor, as a preparation for later use of his band. After Surt hid among the Brehan war fleet to cross into Mora and made haste to the Axe Hand domain beyond its Eastern border, Jason (the player) wanted to head East, too. He began to formulate an argument to redirect Maw's band, and I suggested that we just delete the previous misdirection. Boy, was that sensible! Boy, did that work!

There was a surreal scene of almost pure IC dialogue in which Surt met Darmet. I loved it for its nuance.
A half-breed, passing as emissary to the Troll Lords, in the company of battle-hardened Axe Hands, with another half-breed for a second, came to a raider camp with spoils of Thrumbey, in route to Muspel and the mountain fortress. A maimed and bedraggled Shaman, garbed in a Crow Field Sower cloak, riding a warg, with a Trophy Killer Chieftain, bearing a stone hammer, and ten intensely serious elite archers, joined the camp within an hour of the first party's arrival. They met. Neither knew what to make of the other. The half-breed highwayman had never seen a Troll Lord, much less a shaman of legendary power. And Surt could not make sense of the spectacle: a half-breed, commanding Axe Hands and claiming authority of the Troll Lords to bear spoils; and stranger yet, untouched by Darkness, and yet, not of the Light.

We did a lot with Orcish culture in this session. We took a number of timeouts and dished on implementation. That helped everyone know what to expect and how to play their characters according to each one's particular quaintness. I loved how Darmet was made to feel alien and had to wing everything in front of the Orcish captains of raider bands he ran across.

Jason drew a map in-between story threads and outlined a plan to sack Thrumbey. At this point, I prepared him for some pre-written material that I wanted to layer into his approach to drive Darmet's story arc towards a bloody confrontation with his rapist father. Jason was a good sport about the curve balls in Thrumbey and quickly assimilated to my direction. Meeting Braying Maw in the temple was nothing like what I thought it would be. (Damn, unpredictable dice!) There was this moment where Jason started asking if certain characters were present and started revealing things to me about the setting. You know that feeling you get when the GM lights up because you've come to an important room in a published adventure? It was like that, and I just listened, amazed, as he told me how my town was.

Who would have thought that Artus and Boren would get shot up by Orcish Sowers while plundering Darmet's safehouse? I couldn't write this stuff if I tried.

We also played mass. Cory played Elvish units, re-taking Pollee. The main force of Orcs had pulled out, leaving only a token bunch, whose principal function was for some of their member to escape and apprise. Jason played them. I ref'ed. I thought mass would be too much, but they were spoiling for it. (Search me.) Jason learned quickly. I pushed as hard as I dared, and they took it well. The Orcs were torn apart and fled, leaving a lone survivor, righteously tortured by Lord Protector, Vorzell. Jason was quite impressed with the setup and procedure. "It's well thought out, and it actually works." I about had sunbeams coming out of my head, I was so pleased.

We also ended up mixing individual PC's in. It happened so quickly that there was no time to fret. We just made up how to do it as we went. The players even felt that part went well, though I thought it was a bit spotty. If it were ever to be published or if I thought someone 1% less crazy as me would ever actually produce the setup, I'd wade back in and sort out mixing individuals. But as is, it's close enough.

We wrangled a bit to cliff-hang Nick and Cory's characters. They're moving into secondary alleys while Jason and Luke's characters are headed for the ultimate showdown. Cory hasn't gotten much in the way of cross-player interaction, but to me, his big moment has already hit. I feel there's a really natural kind of PTA-style screen presence thing happening, and he just got his '3' early.

Nick has been filler. And BTW, it's official: I suck at GM'ing Nick. That's right; it's not just a coincidence. I don't know why; the guy's hilarious. I just can't move him to the center of the stage. But he seems to be having fun.

Other things: we got off to a late start, but we still kept it under five hours. Tonight was Irish car bomb night. Sure, it's fun to drop the shot glass into the pint glass, but those things taste disgusting. We're talking about what to do next, having one session left to finish. It'll probably be TROS. We've neglected TFOB for too long:)