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ROS: Free Artis!

Started by Bankuei, May 17, 2002, 07:46:51 AM

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Tonight we began Clinton's ROS campaign and had a great time.  We also ran an entire session without combat.  Yes, I said both of those in the same breath, for those who might believe ROS is just about combat.

Ok, that out of the way, the situation is as follows:  Martin, the halfblood bastard of a baron is in love with the unapproachable Deanne.  He enlists the help of his associate, the man of confidence, Savaric, to help destroy the rival suitors' chances. This works fine until one suitor, framed with adultery with a serf woman, is killed by the angry husband, Artis, who is then arrested and set to be executed.  Both Martin and Savaric are unhappy with the web spiraling out of control, and seek to see that the poor man at least live.  

Enter Jocelin, Savaric's aquaintance from his youth(ok, Jocelin was a bully), but has had a change of heart and seeks to help Savaric out of his trouble.  Savaric attempts to use Jocelin's connections with the local folks to get a better handle on the situation sets in motion Jocelin's newfound sense of justice and morality, leading him to seek a way to see that Artis escapes.

Add a buttload of scheming, lying, and a good dose of mayham, and everybody escapes(at least for now).

Interesting things:

Most of the game, none of the PC's really shared many scenes.  Jocelin and Savaric played two scenes together(although Savaric was in disguise, so Jocelin never knew) and in fact, Jocelin hasn't actually gotten a chance to "meet" either of the two PC's in game time.

Most of the skills were used in very interesting ways.  Savaric was using disguise against Jocelin for a few scenes.  Jocelin got to use Leadership to get serfs to organize to fight a fire, and Tactics to convince guards that it would be easier to drive an arsonist into a trap than kill him out right(and then later helped said arsonist escape).

The only weapon drawn and used was a shortsword, for breaking a lock hinge.  Although many sharp tongues duelled throughout the night between Martin, his half brother, Simon, and the various servants.

Clinton played one of the best "love to hate" antagonists I've seen.  The son of the Baron, Simon Duvall, the half brother of Martin.  He's one of those guys you want to beat down from the first 5 minutes of screen-time in a movie.

I'm looking forward to our next game, and if anyone else has some input, please drop it in.


Ron Edwards

Hi Chris,

It reminds me a bit of my group's first session of Dust Devils. The player-characters did not meet, except for one brief and neutral exchange between two of them. There was a tad more violence, but it was setup rather than climactic. The hinge for the whole run was an NPC who was encountered directly by two of the player-characters and indirectly (through dialogue with someone else) by the third.

Playing in this fashion will puzzle some traditional role-players. Where's the group? What's the point? Why bother?

However, I think that such play turns into amazing confrontations very quickly. The characters become proactive very rapidly and drive toward one another, without the GM having to push them. Depending on the game, the conflicts flare into action some time in the second session, maybe a bit later. And when it does, even something as basic as a punch that does minimal damage can raise shouts of response all 'round the table.

After that, when sword-edges are brought in and blood is let, the fictional violence is ... well, nothing like anything people see in traditional play, no matter how many Drow they "kill" or how carefully they calculate initiative.


Clinton R. Nixon

I definitely get the feeling that the first time someone swings a sword, it's going to be stunning, especially as we haven't yet.

Ron's advice  yesterday about multiple-scene play really worked. These three were all working towards the same goals, but rarely set foot in the room together. (Chris' character, Jocelin, doesn't yet realize one of the fellow PCs is there, or that the other one exists.) The scenes where they were together were that much more powerful for it:

- the opening scene, where Chris' character goes to confession - and is confessing to another player's (Dan's) character

- the same two characters, later, with Dan's character (Savaric) disguised as a serf, as they walk along the road to the Baron's farm together, with Savaric trying not to speak too much and give himself away

- Martin and James' character, Martin, finally meeting up to plan a midnight jail-break on the serf Chris mentioned.

The story actually worked even though these were the only scenes that the players spent together, especially since the players weren't at all shy about using information gained from each others' scenes.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Clinton R. Nixon

Just because last night's game jazzed me up so much, I've decided to post a little summary:

Player: James "Yasha" Cunningham
Character: Martin - a minor landless noble, the illegitimate son of Baron Duval that spends most of his time in the the capitol, Mouren, drinking fine Farrenshire wine and gambling and practicing with the rapier, which definitely makes him stand out in Farrenshire, the land of armored knights. He is in love with Deanna, the totally unapproachable daughter of Duke Gregori, and he remains celibate in order not to dishonor her. He has been working with Savaric on several cons, schemes and pranks, but has recently been worried and racked with guilt as their last prank went sour - he helped frame a rival suitor of Deanna's for sleeping with a serf woman. The woman's husband, Artus, killed the suitor out of anger, and is now in the stockade waiting to die for killing a noble. He's actually in the stockade on Baron Duval's farm, as he worked there. While Martin could probably talk to his father, his father recently died and his half-brother has assumed the barony.

Player: Dan Root
Character: Savaric - a low freeman who's done pretty well for himself because of his winning personality and ability to make anyone believe just about anything. A total conman and gambler, and an associate of Martin. He has become worried lately that somehow the serf woman may know who he is, and may finger him for her husband's crime. He grew up with Jocelin (and got his block knocked a few times by him).

Player: Christopher Chinn
Character: Jocelin - a low freeman, trained as a Stahlish mercenary, but working now as the groundskeeper and huntsman for a small church not too far from Baron Duval's farm. Savaric has come to him recently asking him to find out what the serf woman knows (she goes to church there), playing on the fact that Jocelin's taken a turn from his boorish youth to his mannered self now. Jocelin's torn because he doesn't really like Savaric and knows he's up to no good, but also feels bad about how he used to treat Savaric, thinking he should make up for it now.

The story so far

We opened with Jocelin going to confession. Savaric had snuck into the church and was on the priest's side of the booth and smoothly pumped Jocelin as to what he was going to do about this convicted serf, Artus. Jocelin's conscience had started to overwhelm him, and so he was planning on trying to help Artus, but didn't know how to yet.

At the same time, Martin, a day away in the capitol, was handed a printed flyer by a stranger. It was seditious anti-church literature, and when he consulted one of his philosopher friends, they decided it was most likely from Gelure. It was most obviously written to incite serfs to rebellion.

The next day, both Jocelin and Savaric planned to do what they could to help out Artus, albeit without each other's knowledge. Artus was a leader among the serfs and one of the best workers, and so Jocelin decided to go to the farm's foreman to convince him that there would be unrest among the serfs if Artus was killed. At the same time, Savaric disguised himself as a serf and fomented unrest around the farm, trying to work things to a fever pitch so the Baron would let Artus go.

Martin, on the other hand, decided to go straight to his brother, Baron Simon Duval. His brother was, to put it mildly, unreasonable. He promised to lunch with Martin, and then left Martin to eat with the servants after throwing a bag of gold coins at him to scatter around the floor. Note that Simon wasn't ever overtly evil, though - he just emphasized his standards of morality, based completely on the laws of nobility and chivalry, with no room for humanity.

The characters moved around a bit more, with Martin and Savaric finally meeting and deciding to rescue Artus, and Jocelin meeting Artus' son, who was understandably angry, and acted like a fuse ready to blow.

After retiring for the night, all three were alerted a fire on the farm - as they found out, Artus' son had set fire to one of the Baron's fields. All three did cool stuff at this time - Jocelin helped organize the serfs into a fire line and then took off to help save Artus' son, who was about to be killed by guards. (And he did it without fighting, which was pretty cool - he mock-fought with the son, had the son dive for the ground, camouflaged him and pretended to be hurt, saying the kid must have run into the woods.) Martin and Savaric disguised themselves in Gelure dress and rescued Artus in the confusion, sending him north, and then finding his wife to send her to the same place.


That was the total adventure - two days of argument, confusion, and action. It was by far the most rewarding experience I've had GMing, as it went smoother than any game I've had, even with the characters separated most of the time. (Actually, I think that's part of the reason it went so well. Even though three different plot lines were going at the same time, they were all connected, and we were able to solidly focus on one thing at a time.)

Everything's set up for a great second adventure, too - you've got quite a few interesting NPCs that came out of this, including Artus' son - an angry young serf that either (a) doesn't know his father's alive, or (b) if he finds his father, will think that Gelure spies must have rescued him. Given a little charisma and a push in the right direction, this kid moves to dangerous really quick.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Mike Holmes

QuoteIt was by far the most rewarding experience I've had GMing, as it went smoother than any game I've had, even with the characters separated most of the time. (Actually, I think that's part of the reason it went so well. Even though three different plot lines were going at the same time, they were all connected, and we were able to solidly focus on one thing at a time.)

That's a pretty resounding endorsement, Clinton. How much of the success was due to the System, and how much was the new technique, and how much was just Serendipity?

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Clinton R. Nixon


I'd say it was 25% system - the system is actually pretty easy to use, and rewards the players heavily for actually using it. What I mean by that is: instead of, say, holding dialogue and just acting based off it, players want to make skill checks - their skills improve rapidly if they do. Also, they want to make hard decisions based off their Spiritual Attributes - the attributes increase rapidly if they do.

It was about 25% serendipity - my players made great characters that were all tied together well, and I had a really great night in terms of my own creativity. I didn't have a full traditional adventure planned with Thing A happening, then Thing B, then Thing C. I had about two to three crucial scenes, a couple of key people and their attitudes and then a situation and I let the players move around all this.

It was about 50% new technique. While Ron's post that I linked to above was short, it was jam-packed with the best GMing advice I've ever read. By making sure to jump back and forth between PCs, breaking scenes at really tense points, and then having them all meet the same NPCs at different times, it all felt really connected and focused.

I've never really liked GMing, in large part because I never felt like I knew what to do. The last couple of months playing and talking on the Forge have been a re-education, and an excellent one at that.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


QuoteThe story actually worked even though these were the only scenes that the players spent together, especially since the players weren't at all shy about using information gained from each others' scenes.

And, I think, Clinton, that this is a very interesting thing, in that the info used OOC wasn't used for personal advantage(ala "I know what kind of beholder that is, page 123..."), but instead like the traditional set-up/foreshadowing that you see in theatre and movies.  That whole bit where you JUST KNOW everything is leading up to a big mess.  I think that worked great.

Also, I think it definitely go tme thinking about scene framing, as in: the GM frames a scene when things are going to happen to a PC(reaction) and the player frames a scene when the PC is going to take initiative(action).

Very cool stuff.