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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 77 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: [Ganakagok] Oanakak's Tale  (Read 2436 times)
Bill_White
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« on: September 21, 2005, 01:25:58 PM »

I tried out the new version of Ganakagok last night with one player, a fellow named Kevin.  He teaches things like feature writing (at the school where my wife is on the faculty) while trying to finish up his MFA by making a documentary.  He used to play things like D&D, Shadowrun, and Rifts.  I don't know him very well, but he's a cool guy and I like him.

I talked him through the character creation process.  He had a similar reaction to the one I've gotten from others whose roleplaying experience is limited to more traditional forms.  Since character creation requires players to read vague tarot-like images and weave them together into a coherent "back story," there's a tendency for people to say "Um...okay"--and that means "Uh oh, I don't know if I can do this."  But I think because I say, "Hey, I realize that this is a new thing I'm asking you to do, we're not used to doing it [at least, not explicitly], but it's not that hard:  give it a shot," people are willing to try.  And since we do this sort of pattern-creation all the time, it's actually pretty easy.

So we wound up with Oanakak, an "untested leader" (Body 2, Face 2, Mind 3, Soul 3) who was born under a prophesy of greatness and who hopes that the coming of the Dawn will give him the chance to prove himself, but fears that his people will not understand him.

The "village record" of tribal relationships was pretty simple:  Kevin created a mentoring elder named Kinatoq for Oanakak, and I (using his first burden card), created a relationship of "fear and doubt" between him and the village as a whole.  Kevin used his other two Loves to create a positive connection between Oanakak and the village as well as a tie between Kinatoq and the village.

I used the new "Game Record" to manage the metaplot, or background events to which characters could react.  It worked pretty well, I think.  The initial situation is defined by two cards, whose values also determine the amounts of "Good" and "Bad Medicine" the Village starts with.  In this case, it was even:  Good Medicine was Four of Stars, or "Fish in the Net," while Bad Medicine was the Four of Flames, or "Frozen in Ice."  As GM, I read that as a prosperous village torn by indecision over the coming of Dawn:  what should we do?  whom should we believe?

I told Kevin the Stage Change rule for determining when Night became Pre-Dawn and Pre-Dawn became Dawn, etc.:  to keep things moving, we'd only play one turn or "round" before moving to the next stage, and that event narration at the beginning of each stage (the "Event Narration rule") would be by him if there were as much or more Good Medicine than Bad Medicine.  I didn't reveal the Final Fate rule that I'd created, which was that Ganakagok survived if the amount of Stars plus Ancient Ones mana left in their respective "Spirit pools" at the end of the game was greater than the amount of Sun mana left in its pool.

We played out the full three turns, each of which proceeded similarly:  since each turn was the first of its stage, I revealed the event card on the Game Record and had Kevin interpret what it meant (since the Event narration rule said that he could).  Then I flipped a card to begin the scene; I need to add explicit language to the rules saying, "Things you say as GM when you frame a scene can be written down on the Village Record or Ganakagok Map and thereby gain the power to have game-mechanical consequences," because on the first turn that first "description" card suggested a rival who opposed Oanakak's ideas, so I popped him onto the Village Record and that rivalry then drove the plot of the game.

The climax of the story was Oanakak's confrontation of his rival Onikapu, and the tentative reconcilation between them.  Similarly, I allowed details that Kevin invented to show up as real things -- "There's a girl you're fighting over?  Okay, here she is."  We do this all the time in RPGs, but somehow drawing a dot on the relationship map and labeling it "Tartikop, rival's beloved" makes it more "real."

The mechanics of conflict resolution, with the "pipping" up and down of dice to shift the assignment of narration rights and the acquisition of positive and negative rewards, were as engaging in this game as they've been in the past.  It's fun to describe the changes in the back-and-forth of advantage and disadvantage, as resources are brought to bear on the conflict.

The new rule about distributing Good and Bad Medicine across the options had the desired effect:  Kevin had to work pretty hard to avoid putting Bad Medicine in the village, choosing at one point to sacrifice his mentoring elder rather than put the village at risk.

We got to the end-game, the Morning stage, and Oanakak had 2 Bad Medicine and 1 Good Medicine, the Village had 4 Bad and 6 Good Medicine, and the Stars plus Ancient Ones had 16 versus the Sun's 11 Mana.  At this point, everything is settled by players' narrating what happens in accordance with the Metaplot rules for happy or tragic endings.

So Ganakagok survived (Depths of the Sea, or to be troubled by the unknowable:  no human can know the end of the world, or the manner of its passing, we decided).  And the village thus continued to prosper, under the guidance of its now-tested and therefore wise leader (a use for Good Medicine I need to add to the rules:  change one of the elements of your persona), who married a young woman named Tartikop whom Oanakak had won away from his rival.  But, sadly for Oanakak (Kevin decided), his rival took his revenge and stole Tartikop away.  Pregnant, she miscarried and could not have any children thereafter--and so the promise of a beneficent new tribal dynasty spoken of in prophecy was lost.  The End.

All in all, I was pleased with how the Metaplot mechanics provided structure for the background of the game-world without taking too much control away from the player(s).  I'll be interested to see how they work with multiple players; the Event Narration rule will have to be framed so as to permit competition for narration rights (the player with the most Good Medicine?  the most Bad Medicine?  Try it different ways and see!) and I'm inclined to suggest that the less frequently the GM retain narration rights, the better (or at least, the more interesting things will be).
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2005, 04:18:34 PM »

Awesome, Bill.

 
The new rule about distributing Good and Bad Medicine across the options had the desired effect:  Kevin had to work pretty hard to avoid putting Bad Medicine in the village, choosing at one point to sacrifice his mentoring elder rather than put the village at risk.

Very nice. Was this what you felt was the greatest improvement over the old rules? As a transcript, it seems that it went pretty smoothly, with just a bit of clarification needed in the text, as you mention. Was there anything that didn't work as well as you'd hoped, or can we look forward to a print version in the near future?
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2005, 04:27:33 PM »

I was struck by how much the tale you ended up telling parallels Atanarjuat

I'm very interested in your player's take on it, after the fact.  It seems like he warmed to it (pardon the pun)...
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Bill_White
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« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2005, 05:00:31 PM »

Having rules for distributing Good and Bad Medicine across options has the nice effect of avoiding one of the problems I noticed at Dexcon, which was that a player could collect a huge windfall of Good Medicine and use it to create a powerful Gift that essentially meant they could effortlessly shape the outcome of every conflict in which they participated.  It also requires players to make some hard choices with respect to preserving themselves vs. preserving the village.

There are a few other things I want to tweak, but it's very close to being ready.

I pointed this thread out to Kevin; maybe he'll comment.  But I would say that warming up absolutely describes what happened:  after some initial uncertainty, he became comfortable with the idea of reading the cards and with the dice-pipping game.

And I've added Atanarjuat (aka the Fast Runner) to my Netflix queue; a buddy of mine had mentioned it before in connection with Ganakagok--I've been meaning to see it.

Bill

Bill
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