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[Mortal Coil] The City of Alexander

Started by Rob Donoghue, July 27, 2006, 05:22:30 PM

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Rob Donoghue

I don't usually do AP, but I figure it's a good habit.

So, Mortal Coil got played last night.  Everyone had fun, I think, but it was a bit of a mixed bag, but I'll get into that in a bit. 

First off, there were two issues that were outside of the purview of the game.  First, we had five players, which was one more than I'd planned, and for a new game, I think it dispersed attention a little bit.  Second, we were in a hard 4 hour window, so the fact that setting up the game ate a bunch of time meant we had much less time to actually play than I (and the players) would have liked.  One of them commented that it might have been better if we'd done it over two nights, and honestly, she was probably right.

For the game, we settled on a Fantastic game of High adventure, in the last  bastion of civilization in the war torn world.  The City-State of Alexander was build on a foundation of magic and was home to many magical traditions (Geomancy, Necromancy, Alchemy and Folk Magic, plus weird magical secrets held by secret societies).  The Main conflict of the setting was that the nations of Ur and Mu were at war, and forces were tugging at Alexander to get drawn in, with the church favoring one side and the nobility favoring another.  Alexander was egyptian in flavor, with the Church of Ra, while Ur was spanish, with strange steampunk technology and Mu was Communist/Imperial chinese, with armies of clay soldiers.

So, the players.  I explicitly brought in a strange cross section of players, with many fewer GMs than I would normally, and the results were very informative for me.  Passions were the most time consuming component of chargen, which is as it should be, and making it clear that Passions should point to what the players wanted out of me was helpful to some, though we definitely went round a bit trying to tie passions to potential action rather than purely as generic ideals.

K hadn't RPd in a while, and a lot of her experience is in LARPing, though she's done enough tabletop to demand that the game not be 7th sea. She ended up making a sort of hippy philosopher who followed around a ghandi/bhudda kind of figure who preached peace, and her passions were mostly tied to him, the church, her brother, and her ideals.

D has a lot of RP experience, but a lot of it is off kilter, including years running an entirely systemless game online.  She'd played PTA before and hadn't liked it much.  Her fun is in playing characters and their interaction, and while she will absolutely light up when a mechanic makes that better, any other kind of mechanic will just piss her off.  She played the duellist who had a 5 in fighting and a lot of other things at 1 to flag things she wasn't good at.    Her big defining passion was her unrequited love for the Urish ambassador.  Tellingly, she loved the magical rules system, and didn't really dig much of the rest of the system.

N is a rules lawyer, there's no other way to put it.  He's a good player, but he's also thoughtful and deliberate, and that was occasionally a problem.  Since resolution is based on resource allocation, he tended to take a while making his decisions.  He's the same way in every boardgame we play, so it's something I should have anticipated.  He had the most generic passions initially (Freedom and Equality) but we kicked around on ways to turn that into motivation, and he ended up as the leader of a secret society (Brothers of the Cloudless Sky) which he added some loyalty to, and he had actually removed the Ghandi figure and was currently using his facility at disguise to pass as him (this was because when I mapped out the characters, he really was thevone who needed a strong tie in, an dthis provided it).

J is a budding GM, and she was the first player to really click on the power of the magic rules.  She was probably the person happiest with the game as a whole, as the shift from play to narration to negotiation was least jarring for her.  She was playing the heavily magic-using bastard daughter of a noble whose passions were abotu proving herself and pursuing her work.

M was a little bit of a ringer. He's an excellent, inspired GM and hung back (probably more than necessary) on the ideas out of a willingness to play free safety.  He made a gypsy who had come to the city to learn, and his skills and passions were mostly about that and fitting in.

THe NPCs that came out of chargen gave me everything I needed to tie everyone together.  J's mother was havign a dalliance with the Ambassador who D was in love with (and J was engaged to the ambassador's son) while K's brother was in love with J's Mother, and M was helping him out in true shakespearean shy courter style.  N was tied to K by the disguise, and just to round thign sout, D was M's landlady.

Only ended up having time for two big scenes.  First one was a party at the J household, at which point we ended up discovering that there was a serious streak of romantic comedy running through the game, as J ended up going upstairs with her fiance, M ended up serenading J's mother in disguise (and running from her guards while doing so). D more or less kidnapped the Ambassador in the chaos so she could whisper really creepily stalkerish yet sweet nothings in his ear (_so_ disturbing) and K's brother hauling K off by main force after she attempted to admonish him to the subject of his affection which left an opening for N to give a rousing fire and brimstone condemnation of the nobility.  Oh, and of course, the fleeing M interrupted D and the ambassador, and resulted in M falling for D.

We had a few transition scenes, with the next big one picking up at the city gates as the caravan from the Army of Ur was approaching the gates for the formal wedding ceremony.  They had a bomb, though they didn't know it, but the combination of prophecy (N's crew had stolen, then lost, 5 true prophecies at game start) and the ambassador's reaction cued people into action. Final flurry of action involved M saving J's mother in such a way as to make it look like it was his friend that did it, and then D saving M after the ambassador ran off on her.  J tried to trigger the defense systems but K stopped her in her interest in saving lives, and in the end, N fought off a competing society, was revealed as an imposter, and managed to rush the caravan with his drunken cohorts, steal the bomb and run off into the desert where the ghandi guy, who K had rejected, took the bomb to die instead of N.

So short, but lots of fun stuff.

The Good:

* Everyone jammed on the magic system.  A lot.  It is even more holy-crap-awesome in play than it was to read, though it's worth noting that much of its power hinges upon proper price setting.

* Passions were solid right out the door.

* The more specific vs less specific skill rule eased a lot of headaches.

The Bad:
* A number of the players really did not enjoy  the resolution mechanic, feeling that it removed them from the "good parts".  They would be enjoying playing a scene, but shifting to the tokens was such a transition that it would jar them completely.

* Players lost track of spending vs. sacrificing and what it meant with the various currencies.  Notation on the character sheet would probably help with that.

The Mixed
* N really pushed the envelope on some of his prices when I put down magic rules, but negotiation settled that more effectively than bidding.

* I ended up using face down playing cards for the GM side of conflicts, just for convenience.  Worked out really well.

* Player enjoyment seemed to correlate pretty much directly to how much the player enjoyed narration. 

* We barely dented our magic stacks.  Despite being high end of middle magic, and magic being ubiquitous in the setting, we still had way more than we needed.


And just for reference, the magic of the setting:

* Magic is slow (ritual) but ubiquitous
* The priests of Ra have a prophecy, but there are 5 translations.
* All 5 Translations are true, but reading one will kill you by the next sunrise
* Folk Magic and Alchemy are the same thing, but no one believes this.
* Folk Magic can cloud or sharpen minds, but the target always knows who did it.
* Different magics can be combined in construction, but each strength must be balanced by a weakness.
* Brothers of the Open Sky can walk through walls, but only when drunk.
* Witches can give the evil eye, but the effect only lasts a day.
* Folk mind magic can affect a crowd, but tires the user.
* Folk Magic can create illusions, but they always have a flaw
* Ur has Giant bombs, but they're unstable
* (The first prophecy) "If the army of Ur enters the city, Alexander will fall, and Ur will fall with it."
* Geomancy can detect Urish bombs, but risks detonating them.
* Alchemy can brew liquor that makes you instantly drunk, but the hangover is a doozy.

All in all, I'll absolutely be stealing the magic rules for something else, and I'll probably run it again, but only with a crew that's more inclined towards its style of play.

-Rob D.
Rob Donoghue
<B>Fate</B> -
www.faterpg.com