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[Legends of Alyria] The Bag Strikes Back

Started by GreatWolf, December 05, 2003, 07:18:27 PM

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The Bag Strikes Again

I spent the last week in Erie, visiting family, and one of the planned events was to do some roleplaying.  Originally we had intended to pursue a session of Unknown Armies, using the (in)famous Jailbreak scenario.  However, scheduling woes nixed this idea.  But we still wanted to do some roleplaying.  So I broke out Legends of Alyria.

The time constraints of the situation resulted in some unusual decisions regarding game prep.  Ordinarily, I would take an entire game session to brief all the players on Alyria and to craft the storymap that will guide the gameplay that follows.  

However, due to the timetable of the trip, we had only the one evening to be able to play.  I was also going to be breaking in two new players, and I was not confident that either had the desire to pursue the task of game prep.  Therefore, the three experienced players threw together the majority of a storymap, which we then reviewed with the other two players before beginning to play.  It worked fairly well, so I really can't complain.

The initial stages of Alyria prep can be challenging.  Everyone is casting around for that fundamental conflict that will form the seed of the storymap, but nothing seems to be gelling....  It's hard.  And so I was glad when I remembered The Bag.

The Bag seems to be destined to be a minor part of unofficial Alyria lore.  It was originally conceived at Origins 2001, when I was demoing for several Forgeites.  (You can read about the ensuing madness here.)  As I recall, it was Ralph's idea.  The Bag is a cursed magical artifact created by the dragon cultists.  If someone reaches into the bag, he can receive whatever he wants...but what he gets will inevitably destroy him.  Moreover, The Bag is addictive.  Just think of the One Ring.  The owner of The Bag will seek to keep it at all costs.

So I thought, "Why not put together a storymap about several people fighting for control of The Bag?"  The two other players doing story prep with me agreed that this sounded like a great idea.  But the stroke of genius was this:  we would make The Bag into a character.

It seemed perfect.  One of our two new players had specified that he wanted a smooth-talking character.  You know, the kind who is faster with his tongue than with his sword.  Playing a corrupting magical artifact seemed to be just the ticket.  

Plus, we couldn't wait to see Jonathan's face when we told him that he was playing a piece of cloth.  Most of his RPG experience is with D&D and the like.  Imagine being told that you were going to play the Bag of Holding.  But we figured that he would take it in stride and enjoy the role.  We were right.

The final assignment of characters was as follows:


Jonathan--The Bag

Virtue:  New Moon

Determination:  Half Moon

Insight:  Gibbous

Force:  New Moon

    Lying Tongue:  New Moon
    Greedy:  New Moon

Gabrielle--Saul, the repentant dragon cultist who created The Bag, who is seeking redemption at any cost, even to those around him

Virtue:  Half Moon

Determination:  Half Moon

Insight:  Crescent

Force:  Half Moon

    Desire for Salvation:  Gibbous
    Immoral Pragmatism:  Crescent

Crystal--Claw, a Digger Paladin charged in a dream to destroy The Bag

Virtue:  Gibbous

Determination:  Crescent

Insight:  Crescent

Force:  Gibbous

    Active Faith:  Full Moon
    Compassion:  Gibbous

Jeremy--Roach, a gang leader in the Web who actually owns the The Bag

Virtue:  Half Moon

Determination:  Half Moon

Insight:  Crescent

Force:  Half Moon

    Arrogant:  Crescent
    Protector:  Gibbous
    Power Hungry:  New  (**gained during play)

It was also established that both Claw and Saul had some sort of mystic sense about where the Bag was.  The details of each varied, but the idea was that the pursuers would be able to track the use of the Bag, and we wouldn't have to worry about roleplaying the detective work of actually finding it.

A word about Jeremy would be in order at this point.  Jeremy was our other new player and is fairly new to roleplaying in general.  He has been going to the weekly D&D game that Jonathan runs, but he does not actually least not yet.  He had tried Unknown Armies once but that fell through for a number of reasons.  So he was coming into this game feeling somewhat unsure about this roleplaying thing, but he was willing to give it another shot.  He was a little concerned until I explained to him that, in Alyria, he is writing his character, not trying to be his character.  I saw the lightbulb go on, and all was well.

Now to actual play.

Actual play was not bad.  Jonathan started driving right away, pushing scene requests and generally engaging into the game.  Even though he was taken a bit aback by having to play a bag, he took to it quite well.  Gabrielle and Crystal did a fine job as the hunters, although the session ended too quickly for the chemistry (or lack thereof) between the two characters to manifest.  I would have liked to have seen Saul and Claw try to work together while still trying to maintain their separate principles.  As it was, Jonathan and Jeremy ended up with more spotlight time.  Gabrielle and Crystal ended up playing some incidental characters as well, which alleviated the problem.

Jeremy decided to play his character as generally going along with the Bag's suggestions.  I think that this was a result of a lack of confidence to contribute to the game.  However, I saw him becoming gradually more confident as the game went on, and he began to offer more input throughout the night.  So, even though Roach generally went along with the Bag's suggestions, I think that this was ultimately not a cop-out on Jeremy's part but a result of Authorial decisions that he had made.  This is good.

An example of this is in order, I think.  The Bag had helped Roach to escape from an initial attack by Claw and Saul, and it had brought Roach to a swank inn where the nobility gather.  It was the Bag's purpose to try to use Roach to gain influence among the movers and shakers in the Citadel.  Therefore, the Bag set Roach up with money and clothing and finagled an invitation to dinner.  While at dinner, one of the noblemen began talking about the Web.  Over the course of the conversation, it came out that this nobleman had led a punitive mission into the Web and had lost.  The nobleman was trying to avoid talking about how badly he had lost.  At this point, Jeremy pipes up, "I'd probably say something really insulting right now."  And so Roach did, continuing to taunt the nobleman until he had challenged Roach to a duel.  In the duel, Roach used the Bag to steal the nobleman's soul, which the Bag kept to torment for fun.  It was a good scene.

On the other hand, I'm still not sure what to think of the end of the game.

The scene had already been set.  Roach was in his hotel room.  Claw and Saul had arrived together, but each of them double-crossed the other and headed for Roach's room by separate routes.  Claw headed up the side of the building and burst in through the window.  Her initial attack failed, giving Roach enough time to pull a crystal ball filled with flame from the Bag (an attack that he had used before).  At this point, Saul kicked in the door.

Now, it was almost midnight at this point, and we knew that we weren't going to be able to finish the game.  So Jonathan says, "Why don't we have everyone die?"  There was some discussion and general agreement.  So I narrated the end of the story.  Saul blasted both Claw and Roach with green dragonfire.  Roach fell backwards and dropped the crystal ball.  In slow motion, the ball falls to the floor and exploded.  All the windows blew out and flame swirled and roared.  When people rushed upstairs, they found the bodies of Roach and Saul.  Claw's body was dead on the pavement outside, although he might have been taken to the Garden.

A servant girl found the Bag.  She took it home with her.

Fade to black.  Roll credits.

As I say, I'm not really satisfied with the ending.  It is the result of time pressure, rather than the unfolding of the story.  Nevertheless, I would still call the game a success.  We all enjoyed the game.  Jeremy gained some new confidence in roleplaying.  Jonathan also enjoyed it, although he said that he still preferred D&D.  This was good, because Gabrielle has been trying to explain her style of roleplaying to him, and he wasn't getting it.  Hopefully this will help their communication as they both return to the D&D game.

As I look back on the game, I think that I would have done several things differently, if I had more time.

1)  I would have worked on fleshing out Claw.  As it was, I thought that Claw was too one-dimensional.  The Active Faith Trait really should have been split into two Traits (maybe Devotion and Unreasoning Fanaticism), which would have produced a better mechanical representation of the way that the character was played.

2)  I definitely would have ensured that all the players could be involved in prep.  As it was, it worked fine, but it is still not my preferred way of working.

3)  I would have let the story unfold further.

But these are all mostly a function of time, so perhaps the moral is simply "Be sure to have enough time to prep."

Questions?  Comments?

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf

edited for minor formatting changes
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown

Jason L Blair

I want Alyria! I want Alyria!

Oh wait.

I have Alyria. ;)

I really like the dynamic you seem to have had in that session. And any mention of The Bag is a very good thing.*

*Not posted in Actual Play because it does not reference, play.
Jason L Blair
Writer, Game Designer

Jason L Blair

Quote from: Jason L Blair
*Not posted in Actual Play because it does not reference, play.

Um, actually, it was there, Self. Next time check the forum title just one more time. *sigh* Sorry, folks.
Jason L Blair
Writer, Game Designer