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[ORX] Forge Midwest Demo Observations

Started by greyorm, May 06, 2006, 03:03:59 AM

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Juli, Tod and Tim (Kleinert) were gracious enough to play a quick game of Orx with me at Forge Midwest. This was also a milestone in Orx play as the first ever tabletop session of Orx -- all the playtesting and so forth happened on-line via IRC -- and it was also my first short demo.

We decided to play for just about an hour, as I had to leave for home. As always, character creation took just a few minutes -- playable characters in five minutes! -- and produced some very "nice" orcs, such as Tod's, whose "Likes Fire" Descriptor received a good chunk of humorous playing up. We also had a sneaky tracker-type orc, played by Tim, and a strong, spear-using orc, played by Juli.

Instead of dumping all the rules on them at once, we went through the basics and slowly explained new rules over the first quarter or so of the game until we had covered everything, and the pacing with that went well, I think, even though a number of the rules I brought up did not come into play at all. Everyone seemed to grasp the mechanics and basic tactics quickly.

The group seemed to have a good time, and I certainly enjoyed myself, perhaps too much. I noticed a couple of times I jumped in and narrated outcomes when it was not my turn to be the rubber stamp for things; and being the gamemaster, I probably didn't get as many dirty looks as I should have but no one stopped me, so I am hoping it was alright with everyone. Apologies if I stole anyone's thunder!

I went with the "Raid on the Frost Giants Stronghold" demo that receives a very passing mention in the rulebook and also serves as a pretty straightforward introduction to the game, since the plot is cut-and-dried and thus doesn't need to be worried about (ie: "Your cruel leader has sent you out to rob the frost giants' treasury that lies within their frozen mountain hold"). Of course, we ran that one only because I managed to win the opening roll.

Though I had a vague layout for the fortress in my head, at least a couple of set-pieces that could be thrown down, I passed on narration a number of times, especially at the start, and let the players define the environment and conflicts. As such, much of the fortress was basically defined by the players. By example, Tod created a garbage chute and the kitchen it led to, complete with giantish serving wench. His orc went from almost boiled alive to convincing the giantess that he would make a much better slave than he would a dinner.

Meanwhile, waiting outside, Tim and Juli's orcs feared Tod's was robbing the treasure vault without them, and so tried to walk in through the front door. That ended with an amusing brawl between the orcs in front of the giant guards, a hilarious subsequent chase into the fortress (wherein Tim's orc was unaware he was being chased...he was just trying to kick Juli's orc's butt, and she was running from the giants behind both of them).

This ended with a fight in a giantess' bedroom where the two orcs were nearly captured. The bedroom included a piece of Loot on the dresser, whose retrieval led to an interesting situation involving prayers to the angry-and-mean-spirited orc gods, and a makeshift catapult made from the dresser (courtesy of an angry frost-giant's crushing sword-blow, probably helped along by those orc gods). Imagine an orc launched through the air and sailing face first into a wall, sliding down said wall into the gentle embrace of a soft bed.

Eventually, the three of them managed to make their way to the treasury and started looting it -- Tod narrating his orc into the scene, the trustworthy slave sent out for cooking supplies from the pantry. They made rolls to see if they could get away with some of the oversized treasure, and then the guards and the very upset giantess showed up. Tim and Juli's orcs managed to flee down the mountain with their oversized loot, but Tod's orc lost the conflict roll to get the loot.

Instead, he managed to get himself buried in the gold and gained no Loot. During his later escape (once the other giants had left), Tod used his orc's "Likes Fire" descriptor to narrate how he started the fortress on fire, knocking over lamps -- deliberately as a player, even though not so much so as an orc -- and then hiding in a convenient cellar until the oil burned itself out.

This might just have been me, but I noticed the players getting antsy towards the end, so I think the game ended right when it should have. So that was the game. Tim won with his orc walking off holding three pieces of Loot.

For my part, because the demo was so short, I tried to make sure each player was involved in each scene of play. As such, I used up most of the dice I earned from the players each scene instead of hoarding them and later focusing on hosing each orc one at a time (as would be normal in a longer game). This meant there wasn't a whole lot of backstabbing happening in play -- no Complications were called -- because no one was worried about me getting too many Fate dice and then hosing them.

Second, the short play period meant that no one took too many Critical Injuries, so no one zeroed and no one had to roll Fate. As well, I noticed the players were using Stats other than their highest, though there is no mechanical reason to do so, and I had mentioned that. That might have been a part of the other idea, in that I noticed they didn't grab as many dice as they could using their Descriptors. Juli had a big fur cloak as one of her character's Descriptors, and I think it was only used once in play, though describing her cloak swirling around her caught by the wind -- describing pure color -- would have been a completely legal narration for using the cloak Descriptor.

It seemed, to me, that they were trying to figure out how their Descriptors or Stats might be functional in the situations they encountered, how their Descriptors might solve the problems in front of them, rather than how they might just put these things into the narration.

I'm not sure if they didn't realize this, were too uncertain of the boundaries with it, or if there was something else going on, and thus if I need to be more explicit about how nearly boundless the narrative inclusion of a Descriptor or Stat can be.

Do I need a better way of describing how their use is descriptive rather than functional?

I also discovered a couple of things: Orx is made for long play -- three or four hours, at least -- players don't have a chance to kick the rules around enough in a short game because the triggers -- big injuries and zeroing -- really start putting the pressure on in the later phases of play.

Thinking about it, for the purpose of demoing, I might change the roll number for a Critical Injury from "1" to "1, 2, or 3" just to up the number of CIs occurring in play and thus ramp up the tension. I also think that ramping up the number of Scene dice available to the gamemaster for a demo would be a good idea, so he can get piles of Fate dice growing early on and also be able to include everyone at once, given the limited time. And heck, that's probably a good "short game" rules variant, as well.

Also, I didn't have any character sheets available, nor any tokens for the sheets and other things like I'd prefer, but as usual, play went well without them and the book-keeping was not a problem. I did start running out of dice towards the end-game, though (I started building up a Fate pool so they could see how it affected play)!

All-in-all, I thought it went very well, and was very fun.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio