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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: David Artman on July 29, 2008, 07:50:59 AM

Title: [IAWA] At Trinoc*coN, Durham, NC
Post by: David Artman on July 29, 2008, 07:50:59 AM
In spite of Trinoc*coN having NO advertising or promotion of gaming other than a handful of RPGA games, I managed to corral a group of four (plus me) to run IAWA. This will be a bit of an AP report combined with some questions or requests for advice for future presentation to "trad" gamers--all my guys were big into Shadowrun 4E, to give you a notion of their idea of fun games: crunch, gear fetish, kaboom!

I couldn't get my phone online, so our option to fall back to a non-Conanesque  set of Oracles was kaboshed. So we went with the normal Oracles, and they (at first) showed some interest in The Unquiet Past, for its spirits and such. Had to use a d20 + d6 / 2 and a d4, because I forgot my cards--worked well enough in spite of slight bell curve in such a method. But the Oracles and characters/locations generated didn't stick at all--one guy just wouldn't pick a character or suggest a related character. We started over with A Nest of Vipers and ended up with a fairly cool situation... AFTER modernizing it for the same guy who wouldn't pick a character (methinks he'd have played something else if we weren't the only five gamers not doing RPGA--at the WHOLE con!):
* A rundown mansion with ghosts and demons, whose roadhouse (entry house, originally) is now a bed and breakfast with an unscrupulous landlord (PC1).
* A summer festival on the multi-acre front lawn of the mansion, cordoned by security and a few local cops (PC2). (Those of you who know the Jefferson Pilot place near Greensboro's border know the place *I* was envisioning.)
* Cultists (one PC3; leader NPC1) using the event as a source of sacrifices for a solstice summoning of--eh, why not--Baal.
* A deep-cover investigator (PC4) posing as a hippie at the fest, to try to lure a cultist into revealing too much--he's suspects the mansion is a site, but searching has found nothing so far.
* A deadholder (NPC1, never introduced due to rush of other conflicts) who was coming to, basically, bust the landlord for renting the lawn without actually owning it.

Everyone got the idea of forms fairly quickly, during character generation; and I really hammered on "aiming at each other" with Best Interests, so we had quite a web of opposition, with few motivations for any of them to ally (A Good Thing, I figured, mostly rightly). But particular strengths really stuck for them: I probably confused a bit with the notion of "powers" or "abilities" or "main schtick" and they thought of similar things in other games, with similar utility. After some wrangling--and in one case, outright telling an example, which one PC took--we were good to go. I dropped a scene as an NPC trying to sell acid to the investigator... and the reluctant guy IMMEDIATELY said, "Yeah, actually, that's me--I'm trying to drug you to be more open to suggestion." Well, OK, then! He was getting it right off the bat--I guess he just needed a character he really dug; something a bit nasty and insidious.

But then we had some balks--first (and oh-so-typically) with trying to run a talking challenge. "No! What do you do? Talking isn't action" I tried to hammer early and often. The investigaor goes for his Mind Reading strength, trying to pry out if this odd-behaving, overly persuasive guy has ulterior motives: "I read his mind and discover that he's a cultist!" "Oh, no, you don't!" OK, a "proper" challenge, with them going back and forth about prying deeper, looking for telltale signs of cultist activity, and him (with his "protected by a demon") describing shields going up, odd, slippery thoughts, etc. No luck for the investigator, who loses and yields to a consequence "I will follow this guy to the mansion's back yard and overgrown gardens."

Nope, the beat cop (PC 2) stops them cold, in a physical conflict of shoving, attempted cuffing, and scattering back into the psychedelic mob. The landlord--hawking goods to the crowd--also gets into the act, trying to defuse the situation and subtly interfere with the cops, so they won't make a scene of catching the odd-behaving guy (cultist).

Then, I had to invoke a rule off the cuff: Let It Ride. The investigator just one-trick-ponied like mad, following the cultist and trying to read his mind over and over. I finally was, like, "Look, you can't just hammer the same thing--your strength isn't your sole modus operandi. I'm invoking Let It Ride, which means you only get one shot to read any given person's mind for a particular set of facts or query." He didn't much mind--but one of his best interests was "find the cult" and so that sort of cut his options for using his strength. I felt sort of bad, but mainly justified by the fact that he was going to try until he succeeded or was exhausted out of play.

I won't go into four hours of AP, but suffice it to say that, while the story progressed, that "repeat as necessary" behavior became a bit of a theme: serial chase scenes until someone was caught/found, then serial physical scenes until someone lost completely--basically, folks would hammer their specific agenda so hard that, if they failed, they'd just restart with maybe some escalation (notable exception was the landlord, who'd circle around issues, switch apparent sides--he just wanted everything to go ahead without interruption to get paid for the land use by the festival and keep repeat business). Is this typical, or did I sort of muck up pacing or make for TOO much opposition in the web of best interests?

Finally, even knowing Vincent's points about "don't set stakes," I found that was the only way to remain sort of coherent in a challenge series, with new players. They were already slow to grasp the whole "narrate anything you want to do, including do to others, until someone who can do so say, 'Oh, no, you don't!'" I just couldn't break through to the point about "an answer can be nearly anything, including a shift in agenda or arena, so long as it conveys advantage to the winner." Seemed like a sort of trad-gamer mental block: "How can we change agenda when the whole conflict started over whether or not Action FOO goes down?" I couldn't answer that well, frankly. (More) advice?

In closing, the game ended well, with one character eliminated, and the other three characters accomplishing their best interests; albeit, with reservations or a need to play more in the future, to resolve totally--the cultist took leadership of the cult from his former master... but ended up busted by the cops for kidnapping... which will probably make the news and could hurt the landlord when next festival location planning occurs. The investigator's player just never grokked use of We Owe--always rolling his d12 and d10/d8--and so he never managed to hold advantage over time, and by the end game was easily battered down by folks with multiple We Owe listings. How would I better-explain the notion of "go into conflicts weak, now, to  be stronger later?" I used the analogy of "a chapter of IAWA is like Rocky I and II combined: Rock gets beat down a bit in I, only to come back and dominate in II." Crappy, I know... but I was floundering on different ways to explain to these efficacy-hounds that narrative power isn't like domination with traditional game stats: give a little early, to reap rewards later (and indefinitely, WRT multi-chapter play and staying on We Owe list to get into the next chapter, which didn't matter in a con game).

Oh, I just recalled: the landlord player would make a point of using weaker dice to get on We Owe, then immediately (round 2) pull the advantage die by striking his name off. Was that very clever strategy, or did I break a rule? Also, in a multi-sided conflict (A v B, C v B, D v C, E v A), can more than one person get on to We Owe--that is, does ONLY the weakest of all get on, or the weakest is a "paring" of opposition (ex: A is weaker than B and D is weaker than C--do they both get on We Owe)?

It was a successful demo, all-in-all: three of the guys wrote down, to go check out how to get a copy for themselves! Of them, I believe one guy (the land lord and easily most adapted to the game--he also had heard of DitV and wanted to play that some day) will definitely get a copy.

So, rough road at times, with serious stumbling over redundancy and repetition and difficulty getting away from stakes-setting. Anyone got a similar story, or has defeated such issues in their own play?

Title: Re: [IAWA] At Trinoc*coN, Durham, NC
Post by: lumpley on August 04, 2008, 04:51:09 AM
I have thoughts! But I'm pretty swamped. I keep meaning to respond to this but it'll take me a bit more.


Title: Re: [IAWA] At Trinoc*coN, Durham, NC
Post by: David Artman on August 12, 2008, 09:06:44 AM
Thanks for noticing; take your time. I know you're at GenCon, now, so I don't expect much for a while anyway (am also waiting to see your thoughts on the Mechaton Rebuilt rules thread at anyway).

That said... aren't there others who play IAWA that have some experience and advice? After all, I posted to a public forum; I didn't e-mail you directly. ;)