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[TSOY] Swashbucklers

Started by Matthew Glover, June 15, 2006, 10:01:59 PM

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Matthew Glover

So last night was our very first TSOY Swashbucklers game.  It was a blast, even though I didn't get to reveal nearly as much of my preparation as I'd hoped.  This is my first AP post and it ended up going waaaay longer than I expected, so please bear with me.

I'm Matthew.  I'm still somewhat new to indie games, but I've run a 5-episode season of PTA and three or four sessions of Inspectres and played Capes a bunch, though not as much as I'd like.  I've also run half a session of DitV and I've read a handful of other Forge games.   My other players are:

Bobby, with a rakish scoundrel (Bragon Robel) who's been posing as a particular noble and was tossed into jail when that noble returned from vacation and found out about it.  He has Key of the Impostor and Key of the Churl (1 XP when you perform a public faux pas; 2 XP when people above you in status ridicule you publicly for a faux pas; 5 XP when you perform a faux pas so bad that it causes you and your companions great harm.)

Deirdra, with the daughter (Matilda "Black Mattie" Arcpenny) of a shipping magnate.  Mattie would really rather be a pirate than a noble or a businesswoman.  She rebels against her family and responsiblities by fraternizing with blackguards and lowlifes.  She has Key of Renown and Key of the Black Sheep (an inversion of Key of the House, 1XP when you being shame upon your family/house/clan. 2XP when you bring shame upon your family in order to benefit yourself. 5XP when your actions cause great finanical, social, or physical harm to your family.)

Jay, with a pirate captain (Bartholomew Dampier, aka Bubonic Bart, aka Thaddeus Legree) whose ship went down with important information in the holds.  He's trying to get a crew and a ship and get that information back.  He's also trying to avoid the naval officer who sank his last ship and is still hunting him.  Key of the Impostor, Key of the Mission.

Jake, with a wannabe adventurer (Kale Sands) who grew up hearing stories from his treasure-hunter grandpa.  He's seeking the one big treasure that his grandfather always talked about.  Also, his family farm's been taken for back taxes and he's been tossed into jail with Bobby.  Key of Glittering Gold, Key of the Mission.

To prepare for this game, I had a little trouble just using the Keys and Secretsand Abilities as Flags.  To try to get a better picture, I drew up a conflict web using the backgrounds and supporting characters that the players came up with during character creation.  I tied together a lot of the supporting characters.  It very rapidly started to look like a soap opera (or maybe a blood opera).  That really helped me to come up with ideas for stuff to throw at the players, but I'm still a little concerned that I'm not hitting their Flags well enough.  Anyway, from the conflict web I was able to develop the NPCs really well and noted down what each of them wanted and some roleplaying notes for each one.  I jotted down some ideas for things to do in play.  Stuff like "Bobby and Jake get sent to trial."  Not exactly Bangs or Key Scenes, but some ideas for direction.  I purposely kept them vague so I could interject them anyplace that seemed appropriate. 

We got started with Bobby's guy getting thrown into a jail cell with Jake's guy.  They make introductions and do some interacting, exchange backstories, etc.  I may have let this scene go on too long, but they seemed to be having fun talking.

I cut to Deirdra's character raiding the pantry at her father's estate.  He calls her into his study and strongly criticizes the way she's dressed (which she's said is very pirate-inspired, rather than properly ladylike).  She takes XP for Black Sheep and seems to be loving it.  He informs her she'll be attending dinner Sunday night.  It's very important, blah blah, important guests, blah blah.  She asks who they are and he tells her that it's the head of another noble house (Lord Ducell) and his son, an officer in the royal navy.  She scoffs and refuses, suggesting that he invite some of the many other young ladies of the town who might be more interested.  He insists and informs her that she WILL attend because it will be the announcement of her betrothal to the son.  There's a lot of glaring, then he dismisses her.  She uses Secret of Contacts to know a guy who'll let her stay at his place and she moves her stuff out, stealing all kindsa stuff from her dad.

I'd spoken with Deirdra earlier about using the conflict system for social stuff and I was somewhat hoping she engage with that for this scene, but in retrospect I didn't really make it clear when or how to do that.  It worked well to set the tone, but I think we were both a little frustrated by my heavy-handedness.  I would've liked to go back and forth a little more.

We went to a very brief scene of Jay's character departing the ship that brought him to town and getting directions to a tavern mentioned by his old first mate, the only other survivor from his shipwreck.  I wanted to give Jay some screen time here, but I was reluctant to spend too much time because I was also trying to pace his introduction to coincide with something else that I
expected to happen.  That never happened, though, so I think I screwed this up. Because of this and because of the way a couple of other things turned out, Jay got much less opportunity to impact play than everybody else.  I don't like that, and I hope to give him more spotlight next session to make up for it.

We cut back to Jake and Bobby.  I say it's Sunday morning and Deirdra interjects that she wanted to refresh her Instinct and we fuss back and forth for a minute until I realize that yeah, I'm being a stickler needlessly so sure, we toss in a pool refresh scene for her.  So back to Sunday morning, and Jake and Bobby are being rousted to get taken to trial.  They want to escape, so we get our first real usage of the system.  I have Jake roll his Unskilled Scrapping to give bonus dice to Bobby, which I think was backwards because Bobby's Adept at Scrapping.  Right?

Anyway, they take down the guards and truss them up, putting on guard uniforms.  They're heading back to the room where their stuff was taken from them and Bobby asks me if they encounter any guards.  I don't much care, so I'm inclined to say they don't, but at the last moment I realize what's happening.  Bobby has Key of the Impostor, he's put on a guard uniform.  Flag! So YES, there are half a dozen guards.  Bobby successfully uses Deceit and passes as a guard, so he pings his Key.  He seems to be having a blast.

They find the place where their stuff is kept, but Jake's sword isn't there.  It's valuable, that sword, handed down from his grandfather, points the way to some treasure or something, and the ledger says that it's being held as a payment on his debt.  They collect the rest of their effects, along with everybody else's effects, steal a horse and ride off in search of a "seedy inn."  This is where I was startled, because I expected them to head for any one of several NPC contacts that they talked up during chargen.   That's what I was expecting.  That's where I was going to have them run into Jay and give him some big screen time and lots of fun for everybody.  Rats.

Anyway, we go back to Jay and he's found his first mate and they chat for a while and catch up and make some plans to put together a crew to go find the shipwreck and salvage the important whatever is in there.  Jay pings his Key of the Mission.  Jay also says he's going to go look for an alchemist to come up with some sort of potion or something to let them dive down into the shipwreck.  Holy crap, I didn't plan for alchemy.  Everybody loves the idea, though, so we run with it.

Back to Jake and Bobby.  They're going to look for a fence to sell off all the extra crap they sold.  Heeeey, Deirdra's new roommate is a fence, she said so explicitly.  That's the one they hit up.  At 9am on a Sunday, after she and the fence were out all night refreshing Instinct.

There's some funny conflict between them all, and Bobby gets to ping his Key of the Churl a little.  A lot of discussion later, Jake's pushing to head off to the public square where they were due to be tried publicly for their crimes so that he can steal back grandpappy's sword.  All the characters think that this ideas is insane.  All the players think that this idea is insanely hilarious.  Deirdra's character under no circumstances wants to be seen with these two bumbling criminals, but Bobby drops a conflict to Sway her to go with them.  She loses.  I suggest that she Bring Down The Pain.  Deirdra's convinced that I'm trying to get her hurt and I'm eager to test out the system and we nearly get into a fistfight about it before we both ease back.  Whew. 

So back to Jay, who says he's been hunting down an alchemist's shop, and has found one.  He's made up a name and everything.  These guys barely need me at all.  He talks with her about his idea for waterbreathing potions or breath-holding pills or whatever, and she agrees that she'll work on something and they work out a deal.  He didn't even haggle with me, sniff.  He did pose as a representative from the shipping authority, though, so he pings his Key of the Impostor.  Then he heads over to the public square where a crowd is gathering to watch the weekly public trial.

Which is exactly where the other three are heading now.  They've got a plan to swipe Jake's family sword from the table behind the Head Bailif where it will be kept.  There's a crowd of spectators and a bunch of soldiers and half a dozen prisoners awaiting trial and a gallows and a raised platform for the three High Justices (which happen to be Mattie's father, the father of her intended bethrothed, and the guy that Bobby was impersonating) with a big awning over the top to keep the sun off.  Jake thought of the awning and everybody started nodding and grinning.  I smelled trouble.

This was our last scene for the evening and it got big and complicated.  It was also a blast.  I'm not going to go into details.  Suffice it to say that Jake tried to steal the sword unnoticed, failed, and Brought Down The Pain.  I failed to explain how it worked for a while, and then we just dove into it as best we could.  Nobody tried changing intentions.  I did a half-assed incorrect job of the gestalt style for the first volley, couldn't find the gestalt rules and did the second volly individually, then found them for the third volley and did them correctly.  It seemed like the players were a lot more effective at dealing out Harm to the soldier they were trying to distract/smooch/fight/flee from/etc when they were individually doing harm rather than passing on bonus dice to each other.  Deirdra also managed a move that had everybody in stitches and hit her Renown for 2XP at the same time as hitting her Black Sheep for 5XP.  Black Mattie won't be coming to dinner tonight, Father.

Anyway, eventually I saw there was no way for my soldier to win, so I gave up.  I think everybody had a lot of fun, though there were some rough patches.  Jay only managed to ping his keys a teensy bit, which was mostly because I didn't give him enough of a chance.  Bobby hit his a little more, but I'm having trouble targetting his Key of the Churl.  I spoke with him about that and he says he knows exactly what to do to make it work hard for him, so I feel okay about that.  Jake only got to tag Glittering Gold once and I think he's going to ditch that because it didn't quite work the way he thought.  He only pinged his Mission once or twice, too, but we really didn't get very far into the elements about his mission either.

I'm going to go re-read BDTP again a few dozen times, because that was the toughest part of the evening.  All in all, I'm pretty pleased.  It was a lots and lots of fun, and I can only imagine it getting better as we get accustomed to the system. 

Ricky Donato

Hi, Matthew, it sounds like you all had a great time!

Regarding BDTP: it is not very complicated, but you do have to read the instructions several times to understand it. Here is a very good explanation of it.
Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli

Matthew Glover

Thanks, Ricky, that looks pretty helpful.