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Author Topic: Playing (and reading) Away Jordan  (Read 14678 times)
Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 389


« on: July 27, 2008, 10:44:38 PM »

Hi!

Yesterday I played, at last, Steal Away Jordan with some out-of-town friends. We didn't have all the day and so we could not finish the stories of the character, but we enjoyed the game very much. This post is not so much on that actual play as much as about some observations and questions about the text of the game and some confusion we had about some rules.

Nothing I signal here was really a fun-breaker: often, when a game text leave something not explained or explained in a confusing way, the players can be left without a clear idea of what to do and play become difficult, but this did not happen here. Every time we had doubt about a rule it was rather clear how there were two or three alternative interpretations, and we only had to choose one and continue playing. Half of the players did not have read the rules beforehand but even this was not a problem after a while and after seeing some examples. This is a very easy and fun game, and even after having read about this in other threads I was a little surprised about the level of...  simply "fun playing" we had at the table, even with the Slavery issue hovering on the story. From the practical pleasure of dice manipulation and rerolls (the skull die was a big success) to the new experience of keeping secrets from the GM to the amount of humorous (or darkly humorous) situations that crept in the story, this was not only "fun" as in "very interesting and useful for creating good stories" but even in the "entertaining and funny" sense, too.  At no time I think somebody saw his or her character as helpless (the skull die is,judging from this game, a very empowering mechanism), and the amount of plotting and scheming PC vs PC was massive.

And, talking as a (sometimes) GM that really hate any sort of prep work, I really liked the creation of the characters for this game: we decided the date and the place of the story, then I went out to get the pizza for everybody, and when I returned with the food the players had already created the characters (PC and NPC) by themselves leaving me only the choice of names for the PC (the NPCs are named by the players, right? It's only their own characters that they can't name) and worth, and some fleshing out for the NPC that I did during the game anyway. This is service! It's even better that the usual "no-prep game" deal where I usually still have to do much of the work in character creation for the players...  ;-)

So nothing in this list of doubts and observations about the game text should be seen as indictment of anything really problematic about the game or the game presentation. After having read some polemic thread in other forums and the only two game reviews in rpg.net (that were about the first edition, while I was using the revised) I expected to have a much more difficult time with the book

Page 20, "How Much Are You Worth?": A question that surfaced during the game (about a character who did know how to read and write but kept it a secret from his owner), the worth is objective or it depend on what the owner knows, even if it's wrong?  (seeing that the slave owner get a valuation, too, I did choose to consider the worth of a character, PC or NPC, as an objective game truth)
As an observation: the "appendix A" lack some of the advices given on page 23-27 (like the modifiers for knowing math or how to read and write)

Page 31: "Spell prices". When the game talk about "never done a spell" or "done 3 successful spell" it mean "during the game", or "in that character history"? Common sense would push for the first interpretation, but then, how many witch doctor would have done less than three spells in their life? So I decided to consider it experience during the game, but we did not use these rules anyway because we preferred to bargain directly in character (using the house rule in the site) instead.

Page 36-37, "Goals, Task and motives". This chapter was rather confusing for me at first. Many of the doubts were solved by reading to the end of the book (for example, from this chapter I did not understand what it meant "write the suggested task on your character sheet without Motives", the phrase puzzled me, until I did read the explanation on page 44), but not all. For example, from the bolded text on pag 37 it would seem that the GM has to know the list of Motives, but not task or Goals. But from the text on the last line of the page it would seem that even Motives have to be secret from the GM. (we played keeping everything secret)

Some other doubt about task, goals and motives: lets' suppose that you complete one task and then you change the goal (for example, the goal as to marry someone, but she died after you have completed only one or two task), Does this mean that you
1) have to erase the completed task (lowering your worth by one?) and choose another task for the new goal
2) you can keep that task, but only if you choose another goal that is tied to a motive that can be tied to that task.
3) you leave the task checked, and the new goal will only have at most two motives and two tasks
4) you leave that part of the sheets alone, with an abandoned goal with only one task competed, and add another (fourth) section for the new goal with three motives and three tasks.

One of the players did choose as a goal for his character "save the farm", and in the motives and task he did indicate that the overseer was robbing the old widow who owned the farm, and he did kept the true logs that proved his crime in a locked room in the house (one of the task was to get these logs). When, at the end of the game, we discussed the goals, we discussed how something like this could be played, without reaching a consensus about it. In his opinion, if he did win a conflict about "finding the logs" then the logs would exist and be found even if the GM did know nothing about it. I disagreed, in my opinion in this game the players can't change the backstory with the rolls, the rolls can only say what they can do or fail to do, the backstory (after character creation) is fully in the GM control. My first suggestion was that he would have to tell me, talking about the overseer (one of his enemy NPCs), that he was stealing and keeping the logs, and then play to discover them, but thinking about it afterwards even this doesn't seems to me the best solution. The best would have been writing a more generic task ("discover why the farm is suddenly in debt" for example) and let play go on from there, pushing the story in that direction.

I am not really sure about this point, anyway. The game text don't specify what can be narrated with a roll, who has authority on what, if a player has veto power on what another player narrate his character doing, etc (we decided to play with a explicit "bullshit rule" that could be called by anyone). At first I assumed that the players could only narrate what their character did, but I saw that in real play it can't be so simple, in many bargains the player who win the roll has to narrate more than simply what his character do.

Another thing nor specified is who can call for a conflict/bargain and how and when (we had in many occasion bargain between PC that were really decided very fast using dialog - "what you want for this? That? OK", but the players wanted to roll a minor bargain to get dice). During the game they asked and I always agreed, but I am not sure this is the way to play (if they have to ask the GM and if the GM should always agree)

Page 47 "quick luck rolls", here and many other conflict description is often used the phrase "extra die to roll in the next conflict or bargain". Now, this could have really confused us about the way to play the game, if I did not have read some threads where it was specified that the bonus die can be saved until the nexr MAJOR conflict or bargain. The text should really say this, to avoid confusion.
The "quick luck rolls" chapter in "appendix B" talk about "double sixes" that give "little narrative luck" but I didn't find references to this in the game text.

"simple bargain and conflicts": the game texts say that if it's with an ally is a bargain, if it's with an enemy it's a conflict. And if it's with somebody that you didn't list as an ally or an enemy? (we played it leaving to the players - GM included for NPCs-  to decide if a roll was a conflict or a bargain)

Page 51: "when a conflict or bargain will mean the gain or loss of your goal, consider it a major conflict in an enemy...". Here maybe we made a mistake, because we considered a major conflict/bargain any conflict/bargain where you could get a TASK done, not a goal.
It's possible to get a goal done without a roll, or it's required the use of a major bargain/conflict?

Page 52, "scoring": you can choose to not reroll the non-scoring dice and leave them standing after the first roll? (we decided that the second roll was mandatory, even if you had only a single non-scoring die on the table)

Breaking ties with the skull die: in one conflict, we had the a tie-break skull roll result in the death of a npc. At this time, who narrate? The rules say that who win narrate, but who play the character who die narrates the death. So, when the loser die, who narrates what happen? (in that occasion we decided that who won did narrate the conflict, and then the other player narrate the death. This resulted in me having to narrate the death of the NPC in the following night and not during the conflict as I wanted)

Page 53 helping. The help has to be given in-character (the character aid during the story) or can be given out-of-character without saying wehat he do to help? (we played requiring a in-character explanation, but I was very lenient, accepting even help given as "I remember something he did say to me a week ago"...)

Page 53-54: "pushing you luck": how many times can I do this for every conflict? Only once? At will?  The other character can do it too?  (we played with the rule that the loser could roll once, and if he did got a reversal of fortune or a reroll that made him the winner, the other player could ask for a "pushing your luck" roll. But only once for each one)

page 54: "determining punishment" the risk in the use of the skull die made me avoid using this for many little punishment (for example, one of the PCs was a little girl who worked as personal maid to the teenager daughter of the farm owner. She did a lot of little misbehaviors, but nothing that could justify death or permanent injury, so I avoided the use of the skull die and instead gave little punishments (like praying on the knees for hours). In these occasions I could have really like to have an "Alabama die", with different outcomes even for the other numbers rolled (but I would use the Alabama die only for these punishments, not for the other uses of a skull die)

page 54 : "using spells": if you got two or three cards from the Root doctor you can use them all together or you have to use only one?

- Goals, and the end of the story. The only other player who did read the book thought that the story of a character ended when he did get three goals. I had doubts (I didn't remember ell that part, because really I doubted that we could reach a conclusion in the little time we had and so I did only read once that part), but checking it it would seems that this is not true, the story end when it's ended, after a preplanned number of sessions, when it reach a natural conclusion, no matter who did reach their goals or not. And the personal story of a character end when the player don't play it anymore after he flee or die or get freedom. It's right or I am missing something?

Because that player's reading of the rules started a discussion between us (while he was waiting for his train to get home)  where, talking about the good and bad of the game, he did express doubts about the mechanical way of reaching goals by completing task, and he didn't like very much the "fact" that (in his perception of the rules) you could basically get any goals by selecting three tasks and completing them, even if they were goals like "I learn to fly". My answer was that in this game you could totally play a character who did learn to fly, and that if you did choose three nonsensical task to get to that goal that would have ruined your game, it was your fault, because the GM can't help you in this (and after having to "save" so many players from character choices that they really did know would have ruined their game but they tried to do them anyway, because "give more points", I have to say again how much I like the way this game free me from that responsibility...  ;-)

This discussion was colored by my trusting his impression of the rules, and the idea that there was a mechanical connection between task, goals, and the endgame. But from my latest reading, after the discussion, there isn't one. Right? I can complete three task, and still not get my goal. I will get my goal only when in the story I will get my goal. The only limitation is that I can't reach my goal until I have completed the three connected task.  And reaching a goal has no "game effect" (apart from the satisfaction of having reached it, naturally). I am reading this right? 

P.S.: In this thread, Julia said:
Quote
Besides, when a PC wins a conflict, he frames the next scene he's in

If this was in the book, I missed it. Where it's written?
Logged

Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 389


« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2008, 05:40:01 AM »

Page 31: "Spell prices". When the game talk about "never done a spell" or "done 3 successful spell" it mean "during the game", or "in that character history"? Common sense would push for the first interpretation, but then, how many witch doctor would have done less than three spells in their life?

Sorry, I meant to write "the second interpretation". (price tied to the character's experience, not the player's)
Logged

Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Parthenia
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Posts: 63


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« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2008, 01:00:09 PM »

Hi Moreno,
I just saw this. I will try to answer your questions on Sunday, when I'm at work. I'm glad you had a fun time playing!

Stay tuned!
Julia
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 389


« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2008, 07:10:09 PM »

Hi Julia!  Did you forget? (understatable, in the Gencon hurry...).

I am posting this not only to bump the thread, but to add a new question, too. I asked a friend to calculate the exact statistical probabilities for major bargains and conflict (win, lose or skull die) including the reroll, and checking the book again to tell him the exact algorithm I noticed that the text of the rules says at page 52 "you have two chances to roll as many lucky 7 you can [...] You cannot reroll aces in the second roll", and from this it would seem that in the reroll you only count lucky sevens. But in the example in the same page you count the aces in the second roll, too.

What is the correct way to count dice in the reroll?
Logged

Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Parthenia
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 63


WWW
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2009, 10:30:44 AM »

Okay, here we go.
Quote
Page 20, "How Much Are You Worth?": A question that surfaced during the game (about a character who did know how to read and write but kept it a secret from his owner), the worth is objective or it depend on what the owner knows, even if it's wrong?  (seeing that the slave owner get a valuation, too, I did choose to consider the worth of a character, PC or NPC, as an objective game truth)Quote
Page 31: "Spell prices". When the game talk about "never done a spell" or "done 3 successful spell" it mean "during the game", or "in that character history"? Common sense would push for the first interpretation, but then, how many witch doctor would have done less than three spells in their life? So I decided to consider it experience during the game, but we did not use these rules anyway because we preferred to bargain directly in character (using the house rule in the site) instead.

Experience in the game. So if you play a the game over several sessions, Conjurers can get better at their trade and charge more for their services.
Quote
Page 36-37, "Goals, Task and motives". This chapter was rather confusing for me at first. Many of the doubts were solved by reading to the end of the book (for example, from this chapter I did not understand what it meant "write the suggested task on your character sheet without Motives", the phrase puzzled me, until I did read the explanation on page 44), but not all. For example, from the bolded text on pag 37 it would seem that the GM has to know the list of Motives, but not task or Goals. But from the text on the last line of the page it would seem that even Motives have to be secret from the GM. (we played keeping everything secret)Quote
Some other doubt about task, goals and motives: lets' suppose that you complete one task and then you change the goal (for example, the goal as to marry someone, but she died after you have completed only one or two task), Does this mean that you
1) have to erase the completed task (lowering your worth by one?) and choose another task for the new goal
2) you can keep that task, but only if you choose another goal that is tied to a motive that can be tied to that task.
3) you leave the task checked, and the new goal will only have at most two motives and two tasks
4) you leave that part of the sheets alone, with an abandoned goal with only one task competed, and add another (fourth) section for the new goal with three motives and three tasks.Quote
One of the players did choose as a goal for his character "save the farm", and in the motives and task he did indicate that the overseer was robbing the old widow who owned the farm, and he did kept the true logs that proved his crime in a locked room in the house (one of the task was to get these logs). When, at the end of the game, we discussed the goals, we discussed how something like this could be played, without reaching a consensus about it. In his opinion, if he did win a conflict about "finding the logs" then the logs would exist and be found even if the GM did know nothing about it. I disagreed, in my opinion in this game the players can't change the backstory with the rolls, the rolls can only say what they can do or fail to do, the backstory (after character creation) is fully in the GM control. My first suggestion was that he would have to tell me, talking about the overseer (one of his enemy NPCs), that he was stealing and keeping the logs, and then play to discover them, but thinking about it afterwards even this doesn't seems to me the best solution. The best would have been writing a more generic task ("discover why the farm is suddenly in debt" for example) and let play go on from there, pushing the story in that direction.

Yes. Make tasks more vague and generic.

Quote
The game text don't specify what can be narrated with a roll, who has authority on what, if a player has veto power on what another player narrate his character doing, etc (we decided to play with a explicit "bullshit rule" that could be called by anyone). At first I assumed that the players could only narrate what their character did, but I saw that in real play it can't be so simple, in many bargains the player who win the roll has to narrate more than simply what his character do.

I'd say that participants in the game should use discretion when they narrate an outcome. Players narrate what they do, other players can and should chime in with the understanding that the person who won the conflict has narration rights, but since we'll sitting here telling a story as a group, suggestions and additions are welcome.

Quote
Another thing nor specified is who can call for a conflict/bargain and how and when (we had in many occasion bargain between PC that were really decided very fast using dialog - "what you want for this? That? OK", but the players wanted to roll a minor bargain to get dice). During the game they asked and I always agreed, but I am not sure this is the way to play (if they have to ask the GM and if the GM should always agree)Quote
Page 47 "quick luck rolls", here and many other conflict description is often used the phrase "extra die to roll in the next conflict or bargain". Now, this could have really confused us about the way to play the game, if I did not have read some threads where it was specified that the bonus die can be saved until the nexr MAJOR conflict or bargain. The text should really say this, to avoid confusion.
The "quick luck rolls" chapter in "appendix B" talk about "double sixes" that give "little narrative luck" but I didn't find references to this in the game text.Quote
"simple bargain and conflicts": the game texts say that if it's with an ally is a bargain, if it's with an enemy it's a conflict. And if it's with somebody that you didn't list as an ally or an enemy? (we played it leaving to the players - GM included for NPCs-  to decide if a roll was a conflict or a bargain)
 Quote
Page 51: "when a conflict or bargain will mean the gain or loss of your goal, consider it a major conflict in an enemy...". Here maybe we made a mistake, because we considered a major conflict/bargain any conflict/bargain where you could get a TASK done, not a goal.
It's possible to get a goal done without a roll, or it's required the use of a major bargain/conflict?

No, you need to roll for your Goal. The confusion may have come from the typo on p 36.

Quote
Page 52, "scoring": you can choose to not reroll the non-scoring dice and leave them standing after the first roll? (we decided that the second roll was mandatory, even if you had only a single non-scoring die on the table)
Quote
Breaking ties with the skull die: in one conflict, we had the a tie-break skull roll result in the death of a npc. At this time, who narrate? The rules say that who win narrate, but who play the character who die narrates the death. So, when the loser die, who narrates what happen? (in that occasion we decided that who won did narrate the conflict, and then the other player narrate the death. This resulted in me having to narrate the death of the NPC in the following night and not during the conflict as I wanted)Quote
Page 53 helping. The help has to be given in-character (the character aid during the story) or can be given out-of-character without saying wehat he do to help? (we played requiring a in-character explanation, but I was very lenient, accepting even help given as "I remember something he did say to me a week ago"...)Quote
Page 53-54: "pushing you luck": how many times can I do this for every conflict? Only once? At will?  The other character can do it too?  (we played with the rule that the loser could roll once, and if he did got a reversal of fortune or a reroll that made him the winner, the other player could ask for a "pushing your luck" roll. But only once for each one)
Quote
page 54: "determining punishment" the risk in the use of the skull die made me avoid using this for many little punishment (for example, one of the PCs was a little girl who worked as personal maid to the teenager daughter of the farm owner. She did a lot of little misbehaviors, but nothing that could justify death or permanent injury, so I avoided the use of the skull die and instead gave little punishments (like praying on the knees for hours). In these occasions I could have really like to have an "Alabama die", with different outcomes even for the other numbers rolled (but I would use the Alabama die only for these punishments, not for the other uses of a skull die)Quote
page 54 : "using spells": if you got two or three cards from the Root doctor you can use them all together or you have to use only one?Quote
Goals, and the end of the story. The only other player who did read the book thought that the story of a character ended when he did get three goals. I had doubts (I didn't remember ell that part, because really I doubted that we could reach a conclusion in the little time we had and so I did only read once that part), but checking it it would seems that this is not true, the story end when it's ended, after a preplanned number of sessions, when it reach a natural conclusion, no matter who did reach their goals or not. And the personal story of a character end when the player don't play it anymore after he flee or die or get freedom. It's right or I am missing something?Quote
his discussion was colored by my trusting his impression of the rules, and the idea that there was a mechanical connection between task, goals, and the endgame. But from my latest reading, after the discussion, there isn't one. Right?


Yes and no (see above)

Quote
I can complete three task, and still not get my goal. I will get my goal only when in the story I will get my goal.


You need to roll to get your goal. (mentioned up-post)

Quote
The only limitation is that I can't reach my goal until I have completed the three connected task. 
And reaching a goal has no "game effect" (apart from the satisfaction of having reached it, naturally). I am reading this right?

Yes. I firmly believe in not flogging a dead horse of a story.

Quote
If this was in the book, I missed it. Where it's written?Quote
page 52 "you have two chances to roll as many lucky 7 you can [...] You cannot reroll aces in the second roll", and from this it would seem that in the reroll you only count lucky sevens. But in the example in the same page you count the aces in the second roll, too.
What is the correct way to count dice in the reroll?
Don't count your dice until you have rerolled.
First count the pairs of lucky sevens. 1 pair=+1 point
Then count all aces on single dice (1 pips). 1 ace=-1
Don't count anything else.

There you go. Let me know if you have other questions!

Julia
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