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Author Topic: Dying Earth  (Read 3587 times)
Zak Arntson
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Posts: 839


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« on: June 25, 2001, 11:55:00 AM »

None of our group has posted about this yet, and somebody's got to let the Forge know.

I played Dying Earth with Clinton Nixon gming, and two other guys playing (don't think they're on the Forge, though).

I believe that Dying Earth is the best roleplaying system I have ever used for telling a convoluted and ridiculous farce.  And that's something I've been wanting to truly roleplay since I first saw Paranoia and Ghostbusters advertised many years ago ...

First, a note on mechanics ... if your character wants to do something, you roll 1d6. 1-3 is a failure (1 is miserably so), 4-6 is a success.  You spend points to make a reroll (and to force others to reroll).  That's it.  But the beauty of it involves tying the rolls into actual play.  You have failures that turn into successes and vice versa, all somehow described by the players ... which leads to increasingly ridiculous situations.

So, long post on our gaming session follows.

Playing at "Cugel level" (read: penniless rogue), us three strangers wandered into a town, penniless and hungry.  Luckily for our stomachs, a Cooking Contest was to be held the next day.  Seeing as had no money, the three of us went about conning our way into wealth and food.

I'll let the other players (or Clinton, if you like) describe their actions (I'd hate to butcher anything they did), but here was why I had so much fun:

Poor and hungry, I immediately go to the City Registrar to discover the whereabouts of last year's champion, under the guise of a fellow chef who owes money to the champion.  Thus directed to Gnar the Repeater, I set out and immediately make friends, spending a long noon and evening drinking.  When Gnar sets out to the latrine, I follow and knock him senseless.

Carrying Gnar back into the inn, I declare that my friend has drunk too much and ask to be seen to Gnar's room.  I then tie him to the bed, gag him, shave his head, and use my imposturing skills to duplicate Gnar's appearance.  The only thing missing is Gnar's stringy hair, so I shave his head and fashion a crude wig.

With his recipes and cooking equipment in hand, and a disguise on my person, I enter the contest as Gnar.  To the immediate left of me is one of my travelling companions in a poor disguise and I try to let him know who I really am.  (What I didn't know was that this person is actually a youth too young to enter the contest who is magically disguised as my companion!)

Preposterously, I cook two of the dishes somewhat well (including a pie filled with live rat-spiders), and char terribly a third.  But then!  When the Duke is tasting my terrible dishes and expresses his distate, I exuberantly persuade him of the overworldly qualities that the terrestial palette cannot but discern the slightest of intricacy.  In short, I convince the Duke that his royal palette should appreciate the meals.

And I win first place.

Upon completion of the contest, I hurry back to the inn, remove my wig, and "save" poor Gnar, tied up.  "We were waylaid by bandits at the latrine!" I declare.  He asks why they didn't shave my head as well ... I reply, "Decorum and decency prevents me from displaying where their razors affronted my skin!"

So at the end of the scenario, not only have I won 1st place and impersonated the reigning cooking champion, but have convinced Gnar that I am his dear friend and confidant and that I should continue cooking the meals because I currently look more like him (not having a shaved head) than he does!




Anyhow, like any gaming story, it was probably much more fun than it sounds ...

_________________
Zak
http://mailto:zak@mimir.net">zak@mimir.net
http://zaknet.tripod.com/hmouse">Harlekin Maus Games

[ This Message was edited by: Zak Arntson on 2001-06-25 15:55 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Zak Arntson on 2001-06-25 17:17 ]
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2001, 12:48:00 PM »

That is so dead-on perfect...

"Decorum and decency prevents me from displaying where there razors affronted my skin!"

Was your tagline?
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Mytholder
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« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2001, 01:03:00 PM »

I just ordered this game. I think I'm going to like it. A lot. For my next trick, I'll find the right players to play it with...
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2001, 01:14:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-06-25 16:48, Jared A. Sorensen wrote:
That is so dead-on perfect...

"Decorum and decency prevents me from displaying where there razors affronted my skin!"

Was your tagline?


Man I wish.  That was retroactively written to make me sound more intelligent.  I actually said something like, "I cannot show you where the bandits' razors touched my skin!"

It's way easier to write big words than to say them lots.  I wonder if there's some way to practice?  I'd love to be able to spout out big words during play.  I may just wind up making them up.  I used the word "effrontery" during game play (hey, it's http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=effrontery">really a word) because it sounded good (I can't remember if I used it right).  Oh, and I made up "ovipositrum"

Lastly, one of the coolest words we came up with was ... (backstory) one player used the word saprophage to talk about eating dead people.  I then later remembered that suffix to tell the Duke about how the poached egg would delight the palette of any "oviphage".  To which Mr. Phage replied, "You mean huevophage?".

A bit of laughter and some discussion of spanish-latin words later ...




Anyway, any advice on using big, big words would be much appreciated.  I'm thinking of making a list with brief definitions for next session ...
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2001, 01:33:00 PM »

Mytholder said:
Quote

I just ordered this game. I think I'm going to like it. A lot. For my next trick, I'll find the right players to play it with...


Believe it or not, I don't think it'll be that hard to find the right players. Granted, I didn't know Zak before yesterday's game, but the two other people in the game are good straight-laced roleplayers--usually funny, but not especially daring. That's not a bad thing--Cameron runs a great 7th Sea game, and Lance plays a hilarious character in it. I still worried a bit--Dying Earth is pretty far out there as far as game designs go, and it breaks two standard player behaviors:

(a) You have to give up "character preservation." As a general rule, most gamers I know choose actions that keep their character out of trouble or harm. You really can't do that in Dying Earth. I'd purport that the more you keep your character out of trouble, the less fun you'll have. All three of my players immediately grasped this and ran with it, inveigling their characters in convoluted plots that had no real chance of not getting them into trouble.

(b) You don't have complete control of your character. Again, I expected this to be a problem. Instead, all three players let loose and let NPCs coerce them into bizarre plots. (And two of these guys had never read Jack Vance!)

The mechanics of the game--especially the tagline system--reinforce these two irregularities in a great way, rewarding the players for adding to the plot and making it as bizarre and humorous as possible. Any player that truly enjoys roleplaying could get into Dying Earth pretty easily, I'd think.

---

Notes from yesterday's game:

- First of all, Zak's description above actually happened, and was more hilarious than anything I've ever seen in a game before.

- The tagline system works like a charm. But--GM's should be well aware of what taglines the players have chosen, and players should work their hardest to force situation that let them use them. I passed out taglines randomly, and didn't read the players' self-generated ones, and so Zak never got a chance to use any of his taglines as an appropriate situation never occured.

- The mechanics are more complex than they look at first, but work well. I had to re-read the example in the rulebook of a contest several times before I completely got it. GM's should probably make a matrix of what trumps what beforehand, as well as a list of how abilities are refreshed. Looking these up takes up too much time during play.

- Absolutely no NPC is more fun to play than Duke Orbal of Cuirnif (from Cugel's Saga).

- The best thing my players did yesterday was keep their distance from each other. I had them all abandoned from a caravan at the very beginning of the game (the caravan master had hidden expenses they couldn't pay), and while they had to travel about a mile together, they really didn't know each other that well. Instead of doing the traditional D&D "hey--let's all hang out for no reason" thing, they used the fact that they all were out for a few terces to make the story more complex and amusing. Nothing was quite as funny as Cameron playing an NPC disguised as Cameron's character and Zak's character not realizing that he wasn't Cameron's character. It was pretty much mass confusion, and added to my favorite scene when I announced the end of the first day of the cooking competition. (It seems the players didn't realize it was a three day competition. The looks on their faces were priceless.)

Anyway--Dying Earth gets a thumbs up from me.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Zak Arntson
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Posts: 839


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« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2001, 02:18:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-06-25 17:33, Clinton R Nixon wrote:
(a) You have to give up "character preservation." As a general rule, most gamers I know choose actions that keep their character out of trouble or harm. You really can't do that in Dying Earth.


Which directly ties into my earlier posts here at the Forge about playing D&D with a decidedly ... terminal character among straight-faced players.  It's something I've done more than once to great effect.  (The samurai is going to commit harakiri!?  Somebody cast Hold Person on him!!)

Quote

(b) You don't have complete control of your character. Again, I expected this to be a problem. Instead, all three players let loose and let NPCs coerce them into bizarre plots. (And two of these guys had never read Jack Vance!)


One of the funniest things about the session was finding out that the session as written had all these ways to railroad the PCs into trouble.  And it seemed like you didn't need to do them, since we got in so much trouble ourselves!

Quote

The mechanics of the game--especially the tagline system--reinforce these two irregularities in a great way, rewarding the players for adding to the plot and making it as bizarre and humorous as possible. Any player that truly enjoys roleplaying could get into Dying Earth pretty easily, I'd think.


I think the tagline system is okay for players who are nervous about saying bizarre things.  It distracted me a bit, since I kept trying to find ways to include my tagline.  And when I did get into a situation where I might use it, I was too busy trying to improvise to use the tagline.

For someone like me, I'd like the option to say something that makes everyone laugh (like the "I can't show you where I was shaved") take place of a tagline, so I can have a chance at getting those extra points.

Quote

Notes from yesterday's game:

- The mechanics are more complex than they look at first, but work well


It just struck me today that I keep thinking that EACH roll should require some roleplaying.  Even if you spend points to force rerolls.  That would escalate things even further beyond belief.

Quote

- The best thing my players did yesterday was keep their distance from each other.


I was worried at first about running off fromt he other two, but you did a great job at giving each of us our turn (I felt).  And watching the other players get more and more muddled was really fun!  I think allowing us to talk to each other out of charater (and give suggestions for what to do/say) really helped the inclusiveness.

Quote

It was pretty much mass confusion, and added to my favorite scene when I announced the end of the first day of the cooking competition. (It seems the players didn't realize it was a three day competition. The looks on their faces were priceless.)


There I was, SO freaking proud that I'd lived through a day of this, ready to skip town and let the authorities find Gnar all tied up.  And somebody announces, "And now concludes the FIRST day of the competition!"  I about shat my pants.  But then got excited about how much MORE trouble I could cause, and thus ran back to "save" Gnar and further embroil myself.

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james_west
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« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2001, 02:24:00 PM »

You know, I've bought more role-playing games in the month I've been reading this forum than I had in the previous fifteen years?

And it looks like there's another I'll have to buy...

                 - James
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james_west
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« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2001, 10:01:00 AM »

Contrived camaraderie seems to be a Vance staple, anyway.
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Blake Hutchins
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Posts: 614


« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2001, 04:46:00 PM »

OK, that does it. I'm getting a copy of this game. Thanks, guys. I haven't laughed so hard in ages.

Best,

Blake
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