The Forge Archives

General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Frank Tarcikowski on April 30, 2007, 01:55:33 AM

Title: [Artesia] Sons of the Spring Queens
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on April 30, 2007, 01:55:33 AM
I really wasn’t going to post about my Artesia game anywhere. I was going to savor it just for myself. Anyhow, here’s a bit that is just too cool. Well, to me, anyway. You may consider this part of my plead for the coolness of Simulationist role-playing.

About the group, suffice to say that we are all 30+ and role-playing fanatics of the new school. We’ve been trying out a lot of stuff and have decided to settle with Artesia for a while, give it the time it needs. I have to say that I am awed by Artesia. The book is beautiful like nothing I’ve ever seen before, the writing is really excellent, and the game design is intelligent and sophisticated to the smallest detail. Artesia is beyond doubt one of the finest RPGs I’ve ever seen.

So, it is the fifth session or so in our campaign. The GM is running a generic adventure from the 80s, but being extremely knowledgeable of the Known World, he has found a way to integrate it perfectly. The elusive Elven realm becomes a place in the Erid Wold which has been existing in the Otherworld for ages and where the children of the Spring Queens still live. When one of the PCs summons a fairy spirit to bind as a Guardian (which can only happen if both are willing), the GM seizes the opportunity and the spirit asks us to help those children of the Spring Queens. (The GM is not quite able to get over all the lame standard elements from the scripted adventure so elegantly, which challenges my suspension of disbelief at times, but that is not what I want to talk about here.)

Two of the PCs (one mine) trace their roots back to the Spring Queens and so are deeply honored to receive this quest. Later, as we meet the first children of the Spring Queens in the woods, both of us activate their “Spellbinding Form” Gift in order to get a positive reaction. Normally the women should respond to this by making a roll to see if they get a “Desire” Binding. Instead, they react by greeting us cheerfully, bidding us welcome.

Only later do I realize that the reason both of us have this Gift in the first place is our Spring Queen heritage. We have the Gift at 2 or 3. The original children of the Spring Queens probably have it at 10+, which means that they are totally not affected by our petty efforts. However, the Gift worked as a sort of distinctive mark, as the GM quite logically ruled. When we activated the Gift, we unknowingly revealed to them that we were kin, which is why they did greet us friendly.

And this is only one small example of how the rules and the game world interact, down to the smallest detail, to create a really colorful and consistent fiction. Sometimes the little things really make the difference.


Title: Re: [Artesia] Sons of the Spring Queens
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on April 30, 2007, 09:16:50 AM
That's a good and conscise description of the kind of satisfaction one may get from a simulationistic game. Let me tell you about my own... actually, it would be totally rude to start going on about my own recent experiences with simulationistic games. So let's just say that I like your example, and agree with the night unspoken assumption that sim games can be fun, too. Not that anybody is saying otherwise ;)

Title: Re: [Artesia] Sons of the Spring Queens
Post by: Valamir on April 30, 2007, 10:54:02 AM
Yeah, its great when details like that click into place.

I'll add the semi-obligatory caveat that its great when details like that click into place in any gaming (narrativist or gamist too) because exploration hitting on all cylinders like that is a good thing across the board.  Sim is just when hitting exploration on all cylinders is the entirety of the point of play.

I'd love to hear more about the interfacing of the mechanics with your experience.  All too often descriptions of sim play start and stop with descriptions of the exploration elements of setting and character and color and situation, but often leave out (or address piecemeal) system...(particularly mechanics).

I love Artesia as a comic and a game setting, but have to admit I found the choice to go with Fusion somewhat questionable.  I haven't had a chance to play it, but the rules seemed unnecessarily fiddly for a setting that is really focused on some very primal emotions.  Did you find you drifted the rules much, just let them sit unused, or do they really contribute to the experience better than simply reading the book would suggest?

Title: Re: [Artesia] Sons of the Spring Queens
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on April 30, 2007, 12:46:09 PM
Ralph, we play Artesia as written, and the rules stuff is heavy. Still I maintain that it is one of the finest pieces of game design I know. I mean, it's one thing to design a cool meta rule that can handle anything. But building the whole mass of Gifts and Arcana, bloodlines, regions, birth omens, social levels, rituals and so forth, and make them all just fit is huge. That's what I mean by "sophisticated". And there remains not much more than the core mechanic of Fuzion, the rest is tailor made.

Sure, Artesia requires a fair amount of rules mastery (as well as setting mastery) to unfold its potential. We are going through a score of Arcana paths at the end of each session. We are using four different schools of magic to boost our combat impact. When we stepped into the Otherworld in order to retrieve the soul of one of our comrades, we actually rolled for every step on the lunar path to see how much time would pass in the material world. I needed an invocation of Yhera Invictus in order to be able to lift my sword and shield for combat when in full plate, until my comrade furnished my helmet with a ram's horns and a folk lore charm. The game is really complex, which is not everybody's cup of tea.

However, the system is extremely consistent with the Artesia comics and the Known World, to a degree that using the system really makes the SIS more Artesia-like. Here's some associations on system at work:

* If you want to survive some serious combat, you best wear heavy armor and invoke your Gods.
* Our characters are making offerings and sacrifices all the time because the system rewards it.
* One PC was buried in a cave-in, and his leg was seriously injured. We tried to stop the bleeding, but couldn't. For a moment it really seemed that he'd bleed to death right there, until our scribe remembered a rune that could help.
* One PC enchanted another's sword, tapping the energy of a beautiful waterfall in the Erid Wold in order to do so. We interpreted that the waterfall lost its thunder while the sword now seemed to reflect a breaking wave peak.
* We handled a lot of corpses in the first couple adventures, and my PC used the Death Arcana points to buy the gift of Second Sight, making him able to see ghosts and stuff.
* In the lifepath character generation, I rolled "betrayal", meaning that I betrayed a family member. We ruled that it had been my mother, so my relationship to her turned from "friend" to "enemy". Apart from making for some nice character background, this means that I get a Guilt Binding at 2, which is huge because it's always active and subtracts directly from several Attributes. Therefore, I must heed the Arcana path of Justice in order to rid myself of the Binding. So I try to be a lawful man and also try to win my mothers affection back, making a relationship roll in the process into which I am prepared to boost all my Fool Arcana points as well, so I manage to get her back to "sceptic". Soon I am going to beg her forgiveness, make another relationship roll and win some 21 Justice Arcana points in the process.

Especially the last one has some powerful thematic content in it, but in this case, it's clearly frontloaded and it's more about "how the world works" than about "what that means".

I guess these bits could be an accepted part of the fun in any CA, but it's really a long way to get there. Plus, Artesia is streamlined 1000% toward celebration of the source material. Which is achieved by taking the front door in. You know, I never really got what "Exploration of System" meant until I played Artesia.


Title: Re: [Artesia] Sons of the Spring Queens
Post by: Callan S. on April 30, 2007, 11:09:01 PM
One possitive element about it (amongst the many I'm sure you could find) is how the GM and players arrive at this causal train of thought together. It's not like the GM figured it out five days before the game night and was guiding players towards it. It's not like players figured it and were trying to, over time, guide the GM to the same realisation. It happened to everyone at the same time together. Making it a genuine group experience.

Well, that's a striking thing I'd note about it :)

Title: Re: [Artesia] Sons of the Spring Queens
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on May 01, 2007, 01:40:44 AM
Yes. I think it is key that we all have read the comics and the rules, and work together as a group on making our SIS Artesia-like. With having the rules to guide us as to what is Artesia-like. It wouldn't work if the GM would be the only one in the know.


Title: Re: [Artesia] Sons of the Spring Queens
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on May 01, 2007, 01:56:48 AM
Oh, an one more point to Ralph: We did struggle a fair bit with all the rules in the first sessions, and still the ride sometimes gets bumby when we have to look stuff up. But I mean, no one was a master of D&D 3.5 after five sessions neither, right?