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Author Topic: [Universalis] Wuxia Post-apocalyptic Frozen Tundra Action  (Read 3591 times)
CPXB
Member

Posts: 139


« on: June 23, 2004, 06:49:05 PM »

I decided to drop my M&M game on Wednesdays and replace it with Universalis.  My players were all for this and we played.  We came up with these tenets:
Tenets

1.  Wuxia action.
2.  Wild west.
3.  Post-apocalpytic future.
4.  Lots of arid deserts.
5.  Frozen arid deserts.
6.  Mongols.
7.  Glaciers.
8.  Big hairy animals.
9.  Civilization is powered by geothermal energy.
10. Most people live in small towns.
11. Governments only have tenuous control outside of the enclaves.
12. Nuclear mutants.
13. Average life expectancy 27 years.
14. Bullets are scarce, guns plentiful.
15. All guns are big.
16. Towns have militias.
17. Duelling martial arts schools.
18. Kung-fu fighters feared and hated by townies.
19. Government liasons are nerds.
20. Militias persecute kung-fu schools.

Rules Gimmicks

1.  Use Droppy (which is a plushie blood drop my fiancee got when she gave blood last) to signify whose turn it is.
2.  In continuing scenes the people who controlled a given character in the last scene does so in the continuing scene.
3.  The narrating player can describe what happens to components in a scene that they do not control with the consent of the controlling player; consent is implied, however.

I started buying the tenets with the wuxia thing because I thought that Universalis might do wuxia better than any game I've seen.  The short answer?  It does.  The climatic battle at the end, a duel between Iron Arm Wu and Jian Ngan was really nifty.

In any event, there are currently three players -- myself, Adrienne and Josh -- and the play proceded through the awkward initial phases of trying to establish characters and then what they were doing.  It appears the heroes are two kung-fu warriors, Jian Ngan using the Savage Scarlet Tiger technique, Rajadanya Bhandari with the Wind Sword Battle Dancer technique and her nine-ring broadsword, and Jigen a nuclear snake mutant with a his kangaroth (a twisted combination of a mammoth and a . . . kangaroo) Duncan.  Jigen was the guarding a pass through a glacier to a town and Jian and Rajadanya were traveling towards.

After Jian defeated Jigen in combat, they traveled to the town to rest in Jigen's hut where Rajadanya tended his wounds -- on the condition that Jian and Rajadanya keep a low profile.  Outside of town, by Jigen's hut, they encounter Chennai, a old wise woman of the town, who prophesizes that they will travel together across the hoary sea and must confront the White Warriors of the Sea.  Cryptic stuff.

However, cut to the sheriff's office/saloon where the sherrif Hank Jones was hiring Iron Arm Wu to kill the "mutie scum" of Jigen.  So Iron Arm Wu gets together three of his Fire Lotus style disciples and goes out to kill Jigen.  A brawl starts and our heroes easily carry the day, killing the three disciples with kung-fu power.  Iron Arm Wu was smashed outside of the hut where Duncan crushed both of Wu's legs, but Wu called his winter wolf and using his strong arms clung to its back as it ran away.  Jian pursued but did not catch Wu.

Cut to a scene above the fight, where the sherrif is talking to the shootist Marian Rangel.  The sherrif, who is a cocky bastard, said he'd go get his deputies to arrest the scum, but if they got there and everyone was dead it would be worth Marian's while.  Hank leaves and Marian goes down to talk to Jigen, using her feminine wiles on him and warns Jigen that the posse is coming.  This bit I did because, well, in the previous two games of Universalis we played there were no social complications so I decided how to make it work -- it works fine, like normal.

Cut to a scene with the sherrif and his posse of four deputies riding towards Jigen's hut.  Suddenly, Jian is on them, having ambushed them.  He kills the four deputies with his Tiger Claw technique but the sherriff escapes.

Then we, as a group, talked for a bit.  Adrienne felt the action was sorta bogging down in the town.  So she started the next scene a week later as they were approaching a frozen mill of some sort.  Iron Arm Wu was awaiting.  He did not know he was fighting other kung-fu fighters, before, and wanted a chance to redeem himself, get back his "honor."  So Wu duelled Jian, mano-a-mano.

The pools were tight.  Eight dice to nine, with the advantage to Wu because of Jian's "arrogance" -- Jian had defeated him once before and would do so, again!  But Wu used his Cotton Mouth Deception technique to cover his Thunder Hammer technique and attack with is poisoned, clawed fingernails, while using his High Pain Threshold to shrug off Jian's blows to come.  Jian countered with his own techniques, including his Furious Assault Power, Tiger-like Strength x 2 and Savage Scarlet Tigr style.  The upshot being that on the roll successes were equal and Jian got the edge, making the dice pools equal.  Then Jian won with, like, eight successes or something, hehe.  The battle was good as they fought back and force, knocked each other about, direly wounded the other only to have Wu retreat, again, vowing to return.

Which was the climax, really.  We ended shortly thereafter.

It went really well.  I was very pleased.  Whenever we percieved something as a problem we worked it out.

One of the things I have noticed, however, is a tendency towards "instant problem resolution."  With this group dynamic it created a rather rushed feeling.  Nothing stewed.  We went straight from the encounter with the kung-fu gang to the encounter with the deputies, for instance, in a way that seemed overly headlong to me.  We need to work on pacing.

I also think we need to work on establishing the antagonists, more.  It almost seemed we were trying to run a traditional role-playing game using Universalis -- and it came off as slightly Monty Haul (oh, now this character has this cool thing!).

However, I really love Universalis.  It was the first role-playing game in a while to leave me feeling hyperstimulated, hehe.
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-- Chris!
Christopher Weeks
Member

Posts: 683


« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2004, 06:12:12 AM »

Nice writeup.  I note that you list three heroes and three players.  Are you guys into a "this is my guy" situation?  (Which there's nothing wrong with, but I don't see it enshrined in Gimickry.)  

Can you paint a clearer picture of how you're resolving these combats?  Is it a single "all-or-nothing" Complication which you just narrate for effect or are you doing it in staged Complications somehow?  It seems for a Wuxia type game, that might be worth looking toward.  

Is this to be a continuing game/setting, or are you establishing a new setting each game?

Do you have a plan for what exactly you're going to do to alter the fast pace that you've set?  

And finally, it seems like your third Gimick would substantially alter the frequency and role of Complications.  Did it?  If not, how did it effect play?

Chris
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CPXB
Member

Posts: 139


« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2004, 06:54:22 AM »

Quote from: Christopher Weeks
Nice writeup.  I note that you list three heroes and three players.  Are you guys into a "this is my guy" situation?  (Which there's nothing wrong with, but I don't see it enshrined in Gimickry.)  

Can you paint a clearer picture of how you're resolving these combats?  Is it a single "all-or-nothing" Complication which you just narrate for effect or are you doing it in staged Complications somehow?  It seems for a Wuxia type game, that might be worth looking toward.  

Is this to be a continuing game/setting, or are you establishing a new setting each game?

Do you have a plan for what exactly you're going to do to alter the fast pace that you've set?  

And finally, it seems like your third Gimick would substantially alter the frequency and role of Complications.  Did it?  If not, how did it effect play?

Chris


I think there might be a holdover from other RPGs that lead us to have as many protagonists as there are players.  F'instance, during the final combat between Iron Arm Wu and Jian Ngan, I was in charge of Wu and Adrienne was in charge of Jian.  As we were settling the complication, Adrienne referred to Jian a few times as "my character" because I had created Jian and given Jian most of his traits.  I kept saying that he wasn't my character 'cause, y'know, we were playing Universalis but clearly that sort of attitude was going on in the minds of the players.

The other player, Josh, kept referring to the character he played in the first person.  "I do this, I do that."  Which, in a more traditional RPG is great; he's talking in voice.  And its not bad in Universalis, tho' I did bring up the possibility of a rules gimmick to create player characters.  He and Adrienne explicitly rejected such a gimmick, however.  Still, I think there's some holdover, yeah, not just with them, either.  I sorta do think of Jian as "my" character, tho' I'm very comfortable with other people controlling him so that's not going to be a problem.  I think the same is true of the other two players.

With combat, so far, each combat has been one complication.  So one of the complications went like this, roughly:

Adrienne introduced a complication of Iron Arm Wu and three of his gang members (who had the sub trait Fire Lotus Fighter) bursting into the hut where Jigan, Jian and Rajadanya were staying.  Adrienne said, roughly, "The three fighters rush to the attack with Iron Arm Wu directing from behind and waiting for the tactically precise moment to strike."  We all agreed that the Fire Lotus Fighters all got their Fire Lotus Technique (representing their generic martial arts training), Burning Wheel Kick and Stone Ox Body Hardening technique to resist the return blows we all knew would be coming.  Two more dice because there were three of the mooks (all having Importance 1).  Likewise we all agreed that Iron Arm Wu got a die for his name, three more dice because he also had the Fire Lotus Fighter template, but he also had the traits of sharp nails and flame's kiss poison and we agreed that he got these traits, too.  She asked if she could use Wu's "gang boss" trait because he was directing his gang and we agreed.  Another die.

I was controlling Rajadanya and Jian.  Rajadanya got a die for her name, her Wind Sword Battle Dancer trait, and her nine-rings broadsword with the trait "hand-and-a-half" which I argued was important because she was using it in two hands to get more powerful blows.  Jian had a die for his name, Savage Scarlet Tiger technique, Tiger-like Strength x 2 (I mean, it's TIGER-LIKE Strength, hehe), Cat-like Reflexes, Tiger Claw Technique, Tiger Pounce (I specified that he was leaping up into the air and shooting down like a true wuxia fighter), and his Furious Assault Power because, well, he's all about the furious assault.  All those got a die each, except the Tiger-like Strength which got two, obviously.

Josh controlled Jigen.  He got a die for his name, his "mongoose-like reflexes" and sharp teeth because he was also leaping into the fray.  He said Jigan's kangaroth, Duncan, saw the commotion and charged over to use Duncan's name (pretty much anything can be named in this setting, it looks like, tho' we haven't made a gimmick for it, yet) and Josh said Duncan's "excessive size", thick hide (to resist blows, again), horns and "incredibly leaping powers" would come into effect because, well, if Jian could leap into combat, so could Duncan.

We rolled the dice and, unsurprisingly, Wu lost, big time (dramatically appropriate; Wu believed that Jigen was alone and didn't know about Jian and Rajadanya).  I won the most, so I narrated how Rajadanya danced into the fray, her nine-rings broadsword slashing through the mooks spraying ribbons of crimson on the walls and ceiling while Jian leapt down, smashing Wu through a wall into the snow outside.  Then I stopped because prior to this complication I was broke; I was broke a lot in this game, hehe.  Then Jigan leapt and chewed on a mook's ankle while Duncan leapt into the air and crushed both of Wu's legs.

During Adrienne's narration, she said that Wu whistled and summoned his "winter wolf" and grabbed ahold of it with his "strong arms" and fled.  There was another brief complication while Jian ran after Wu, but Wu escaped into the frozen wilderness.

Combats roughly ran like that.  During the last fight between Wu and Jian, Adrienne won in a big way, getting something like 26 coins (which made her so wealthy vis-a-vis the other players she felt a trifle embarrassed) so she narrated an epic battle between Jian and Wu that was definitely the high point of the session.  When it came around for me to narrate Wu's end, I rather sheepishly had Wu escape; I didn't want to have to follow her performance, hehe.  And while I certainly could have gone into another complication and extended the fight -- the characters were still roughly equal, even accounting for their wounds -- by that time I was feeling physically drained so I didn't.  

In a more general sense, I think that doing complication after complication needs to be thematically correct.  I think that Universalis could be abused by just hammering away with complications, really bogging down play in all this minutae that I want to avoid.  I think this is roughly how the other players feel.

On the other hand, yeah, I think we're going to be getting into some pretty intense complications in the future.  Wuxia does seem to be the genre where the characters battle back and forth forever, often revealing new traits in the middle of the fight, being hammered almost to death and then recovering to fight as though they were never wounded, etc., etc.

I hope this answers your question about how we're handling complications.

I want it to be a continuing setting.  I believe that Universalis is as good as its word and the more you play it the more it adapts to your play style and group.  I'd like to see this.  Plus, this whole kung-fu on wires meets Gamma World vibe is neat.  :D

I plan on discussing the really rapid pace with the other players next session.  If they disagree and think everything is cool the way it is, well, I can try to put on some of the brakes during my turns, obviously, but this is far from a game breaking thing for me.  I suspect they'll agree (or at least be willing to mollify me) and for the time being I'm hoping that just the *awareness* will be enough, that we'll slow things down and take it easy because we'll want to.  Otherwise, I might make more use of challenges and use negotiation to make my point (unless that becomes vexing to the other players, of course).

About the third gimmick . . . well, it appears I wrote it down, wrong, up there.  It should read:

3.  In continuing scenes, the narrating player can describe what happens to components in a scene that they do not control with the consent of the controlling player; consent is implied, however.

Since most of the scenes were continuing, though, I think your question is valid.  On the down side, I can't really answer it, hehe.  I've only played Universalis two other times for one-shots.  In those one-shots, we seemed to have roughly the same number of complications, however.  But other than very sketchy anecodatal evidence I couldn't say if it increased the frequency of complications.

I think what might increase the frequency of complications is the fact I'm broke all the time.  I've longed for a good wuxia game for a long time, and here it is, so I'm going hog wild, hehe.
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-- Chris!
Christopher Weeks
Member

Posts: 683


« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2004, 07:10:06 AM »

Fair answers to everything I asked above.  You narration of the Complication leads me to another question though.

Quote from: CPXB
Adrienne introduced a complication of Iron Arm Wu and three of his gang members (who had the sub trait Fire Lotus Fighter) bursting into the hut...


Is "Fire Lotus Fighter" a master component?  I'm thinking not because of the way dice were claimed, but it also seems like it could/should be.  Further down, it seems that you called it a template, so that further clouds the issue for me.

Chris (If it's not apparent, I like Universalis.)
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CPXB
Member

Posts: 139


« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2004, 08:04:08 AM »

Quote from: Christopher Weeks
Fair answers to everything I asked above.  You narration of the Complication leads me to another question though.

Quote from: CPXB
Adrienne introduced a complication of Iron Arm Wu and three of his gang members (who had the sub trait Fire Lotus Fighter) bursting into the hut...


Is "Fire Lotus Fighter" a master component?  I'm thinking not because of the way dice were claimed, but it also seems like it could/should be.  Further down, it seems that you called it a template, so that further clouds the issue for me.

Chris (If it's not apparent, I like Universalis.)


Yes, Fire Lotus Fighter is a master component . . . perhaps I am understanding something wrong?  I thought the way templates worked is you add up the dice for the template and then add up dice for the numbers.

So, in my example the Fire Lotus Fighter master components added three dice.  Then more dice were added because of the numbers -- there were three of them, so that's two more dice.

Are you saying that there should have been nine dice because of those Fire Lotus Fighter mooks?  Not a big deal if we were doing it wrong, but something to keep in mind, certainly.
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-- Chris!
Christopher Weeks
Member

Posts: 683


« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2004, 08:23:10 AM »

Quote from: CPXB
Are you saying that there should have been nine dice because of those Fire Lotus Fighter mooks?


If the fighters were purchased as:

fighter 1 (1)
  Fire Lotus Fighter (1)

fighter 2 (1)
  Fire Lotus Fighter (1)

fighter 3 (1)
  Fire Lotus Fighter (1)

And

Fire Lotus Fighter (1)
  Master Component (1)
  Fire Lotus Technique (1)
  Burning Wheel Kick (1)
  Stone Ox Body Hardening technique (1)
   
then there should have been twelve (I'd think) dice.  Three for fighters and three each for their FLF membership.

But if it looked like:

gang of fighters (1)
  Fire Lotus Fighters (1)
  numbers (2)

then I'd call it six dice.

Chris
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CPXB
Member

Posts: 139


« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2004, 08:40:16 AM »

Quote from: Christopher Weeks

But if it looked like:

gang of fighters (1)
  Fire Lotus Fighters (1)
  numbers (2)

then I'd call it six dice.


It looked like that, more or less.  I think the precise way we did it was

Mook (1)
  Fire Lotus Fighter (1)
  Numbers (2)

Which is functionally identical.  I was the person responsible for this interpretation of the rules under the notion that mooks should be pretty easy to beat -- they should be very low importance characters and wiping out hordes of them should be something a wuxia fighter does.
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-- Chris!
Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2004, 09:16:08 AM »

An excellent useage of the Master Components.  That's exactly how Mooks should be done.  You can have enough dice in the Master Component to make them a worthy challenge, but in the end the entire gang of them only has an Importance of 4 so they go down like wheat at the appropriate time.
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