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Author Topic: [Universalis] Wuxia Post-apocalyptic Frozen Tundra Action 2  (Read 3635 times)
CPXB
Member

Posts: 139


« on: June 30, 2004, 06:06:53 PM »

This was actually the most difficult Universalis game I've had to date.  During the tenets phase of the first session, we didn't actually bother to come up with any antagonists.  So, this session, we were sorta floundering around looking for direction.  After a quite short session we actually stopped and talked about it.  Our tenets up to this time had been:


1.Wuxia action.
2.Wild west.
3.Post-apocalyptic 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.Dueling martial arts schools.
18.Kung-fu fighters feared and hated by townies.
19.Government liaisons are nerds.
20.Militias persecute kung-fu schools.

We decided that there wasn't a lot of focus, there.  Who were the bad guys?  Why were the good guys doing anything at all?  We didn't know.  So we basically went back into world creation mode and created these additional tenets:

21.Mutants need a purpose.
22.Mutants are trying to turn everyone into mutants.
23.Fire Lotus Gang part of a bigger organization.
24.Mutants want to conquer.
25.The White Warriors of the Sea, by prophesy, have something the humans and mutants want.
26.Mutants and humans interpret the prophesy differently.
27.Kung-fu schools also interpret the prophesy differently from humans and mutants.
28.Iron Arm Wu is playing all sides.
29.The mutants are lead by the warlord, King Rat
30.Heroes know of the prophesy.
31.The heroes are part of the prophesy.
32.The prophesy speaks of paradise.
33.The prophesy also speaks of the end of all life.
34.The White Warriors of the Sea know the way to paradise.
35.Our first “adventure” is to defeat King Rat.

We also got a new player, Lyz, and she added a number of tenets -- which I think is outstanding because now the world is hers as much as ours.

I also think that Universalis poses unique challenges for getting players into a pre-existing games.  The original players feel a strong attachment to the game that newcomer doesn't have; the newcomer, tho' she might have been told about the characters and situation, wasn't there to see any characters developed.  In a traditional RPG, a new player has something that is theirs -- their character.  That anchor doesn't exist in Universalis.  Still, Lyz did well despite this and now that she has helped to shape the tenets and seen how the characters are played, I don't think its going to be a problem.

In the future, I think I'm going to take care to insure that there is a villian written into the tenets -- to start the game with something to do.

We have also decided that after ever session we're going to talk about where the game is going and try to do some coordination with it.

In any event, this is what actually happened in the game:

The first scene focused on Jigen, astride his kangaroth Duncan.  It started with him leaving the place the protagonists were holes up, in an abandoned steel mill.  Behind the mill was a slope down to a frozen, desolate city in the middle of which was a huge crater.  Jigen was scouting, looking for danger, that sort of thing.  Then he was set upon by a group of mutants, who knocked him off Duncan into the crater; Duncan jumped in after him and the two of them rolled to the bottom of the crater.  There, at the bottom, there were steam vents, and a huge figure lurking beyond the steam.  Then there was a song that came from the crevices and pale figures emerged – the leader of them being Relg.  Since the pale people claimed to know something about the White Warriors of the Sea, they went inside the crevice, where there was a door that lead to what had once been an underground train station.  Enslaved mutants were doing menial labor being overseen by the pale human figures.  Relg lead Jigen into the bowels of the earth and then sprung on him, baring his spear, saying something about how bringing Jigen's skin to his elders would give him great honor.  So, they struggled, Relg stabbing Jigen, and Jigen grabbed Relg's spear and pinned Relg to the ground and strangling Relg unconscious.  Then two more warriors showed up and Jigen, surprised, was struck in the temple, knocking him unconscious.  He was tied up and put in a cell.

The second scene was set in the past a bit, prior to our heroes leaving.  Jigen – clearly the star of this session – leading the other heroes, Rajadanya and Jian, to Bubba's Kangaroth Sales.  Apparently Duncan was getting tired of carrying everyone around.  The scene was a fun comic break.  Bubba was a fat man in a pin-striped suit.  Jian immediately wanted not to by a kangaroth but the more fearsome kangadon.  He was directed to the surly, spike-collared “kangadon” -- it might be that kangadons are the close cousins to snipes – named Fritz.  An epic battle of wills ensued as Jian tried to stare down Fritz.  After much struggle, Fritz accepted Jian as his equal.  Thus, Jian got a “kangadon”.  Rajadanya also got a kangaroth, but without the hassle.

The third scene was Jigen breaking free of his imprisonment.  He awoke, sick with radiation poisoning, and started to mutate further!  He had large claws, a tough, scaly hide and huge teeth filled with venom he could spit!  With a sudden, strange strength he burst his bonds and broke out of the jail cell.  He first encountered Relg, who he paralyzed with a bite.  Then he defeated three spearmen in a fearsome struggle, fleeing up and up.  He defeated two more guards with his sudden power, now bleeding from many wounds, and then bursting out of the underground lair, mounting up Duncan and fleeing.

The fourth scene was the return to mill and the Jigen catching up to Rajadanya and Jian.  They defeated some mutants very conclusively – well, Jigen and Duncan did – and they started a fire.  Eating some jerky, though, they heard hooves approaching and Ogodai, the Mongol wolf warrior, questioned why they were there.  Some tense moments followed, but eventually Ogodai entered – essentially an anthro wolf with a big, double barreled gun over one shoulder – and they talked about the White Warriors of the Sea and things of that nature without conclusion.
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-- Chris!
Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2004, 06:27:34 PM »

Cool stuff.  

I've noticed that different groups have different tendencies in what they find crucial to include in tenets and what they prefer to develop during play.  Having an intial Antagonist to galvanize characters is a pretty common one.  Sometimes its a big vague organization, power, conspiracy.  Sometimes its an individual villain.  Sometimes the initial villain turns out just to be a junior henchmen.

In the absence of an antagonist, one needs something for the characters to go after.  A goal of their own.  This would be similiar to the opening sequence of Indiana Jones, where there is no actual antagonist.  Just a prize to go after, and in the course of creating complicating things for Jones to overcome, somebody creates Beloc in play.
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CPXB
Member

Posts: 139


« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2004, 08:27:42 PM »

Yeah, our first session had an antagonist that we all liked -- Iron Arm Wu.  But then things . . . got out of hand.  One of the players moved on from where Wu was connected to other people and -- we sorta started to flounder, hehe.  We made our Beloc but then didn't use him.  We will, next time.  Apparently Iron Arm Wu is the guy we love to hate.  ;)

In retrospect, the session was better than at first glance.  I mean, at the time the formlessness of the session really bugged me.  I was literally on the verge of saying, "Well, we can make HeroQuest characters out of the protagonists and I can be a traditional GM for the game."  But second before I said that, players started . . . well, creating plot.  Apparently they had trouble doing it while we were actually playing, but they were happy to step out of play mode and talk about where they wanted the game to go and then make tenets to turn that vision into a reality.  Which, on thinking about it, is a real hallmark.  In most of my gaming, I'm the GM.  I'm really used to being the person who does the plotting.  But here, suddenly and surprisingly, the players basically say that they don't need no steeking GM, they can do it themselves.  I am abashed at my lack of trust in my fellow players.  I'm gonna work to get over that, hehe.
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-- Chris!
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2004, 10:26:10 AM »

Some day I'm going to find a way to address the propensity for games to be genre mixes.

Not that that's a bad thing. :-)

What I mean is, apparently given the ability to do so, players will far more often tack their own genre onto yours rather than have to armwrestle over it. The results can be very interesting. But for once, I'd like to read a western that didn't have aliens in it. Or Zombies. Or dinosaurs. Or, well anything not related to the basic Western genre.

But I protest o'er much. There have been such games. But they seem to be the exception. I wonder to what extent this is just players flexing unused muscles when they have the chance, and if, as Universalis ages, we won't see tighter genres emerge more often in play.

In any case, none of this is to dump on your game. I just read the first three tenets, and realized that this was another datapoint reinforcing the observation. I'm really interested to see what future play brings, and whether or not things start to get resolved. That is, you've got plot coming now, but is it angling towards some conclusion? Or is it just increasing the scope of things.

Better question: have you guys thought about how long you want the story to go? (There is more coming, right?)


Oh, and I understand the issue that you're having with getting players invested in the game once it's rolling. We've had a much worse version of that on the Wiki games that we've put together. They were explicitly designed to attract new players at any time, but the invetiture problem can keep them at bay (even keeps away players like myself when we don't play for a while).

That said, in the Kroolian Jungle game we played online there was substantial swaping of players. So I think that it can be done under certain circumstances. And I think the measures you're taking will help.

Mike
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CPXB
Member

Posts: 139


« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2004, 11:27:55 AM »

Mike, I actually agree with you -- and strongly -- about how RPGs are often, y'know, "urban gangsters -- WITH MAGIC!"  I often find it vexing that it is hard to find a group of people who would just want to play in a "normal" cops-and-robbers melodrama or whatever, but the second its cops-and-robbers with magic powers, bam, the game is a darling.  "It's the Renaissance, with magic!  Its the Wild West, with magic!  Its cyberpunk, with magic!"  Ugh, hehe.

That said, Universalis is a game where everyone has an equal opportunity to stamp their own desires and preferences onto the world.  So "everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink" tenets will be common.  One person will come to a session wanting to play science fiction.  Another will want sandal-and-sorcery.  Another will want dark fantasy horror.  Then, bam, you're playing in a world where the protagonists are reincarnated Achaean heroes in the future, with light sabers and mystic powers, fighting Things Man Was Not Meant To Know.  Achilles vs. Cthulhu.

One of the ways I considered keeping the game "themed" was to be the first person to establish a tenet, and once that tenet was fact using it to challenge all tenets that I didn't like.  So, when I said, "This is a wuxia game" I could have used that fact to challenge any fact that didn't fit wuxia (and since I was the only person with a strong sense of what wuxia was, well, you see, I'm sure that I'd dominate the session).  I didn't do it because I felt that would be massively disrespectful.  But it could be done if a person was fast enough to create important facts and then very liberal in challenging facts that didn't fit the setting visualized.

The other way I thought of doing it is writing up a list of tenets and presenting them as part of the social contract.  Saying, "We all like Universalis but we play in unfocused games.  I want to play in a Conanesque sword-and-sorcery setting, so I've established these tenets that I think will mold the game towards that goal."  If they say, "Sure, let's do it," we do it.  If not, not.

Alternately, be honest before making any tenets about the sort of game people want to play, and make sure that whoever goes first establishes a tenet to support that style of play.  Such as, "This is only a sword-and-sorcery game."  Or, "This game is set in the world of Conan the Barbarian."  That strong a statement would allow, I think, a more focused game.

But, ultimately, the players would have to want to do it.

To answer your question, I was hoping we'd play Universalis until at least the end of summer.  So, y'know, about seven more weeks, maybe eight.
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-- Chris!
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2004, 01:50:05 PM »

Quote from: CPXB
Mike, I actually agree with you -- and strongly -- about how RPGs are often, y'know, "urban gangsters -- WITH MAGIC!"
Heh, I just picked up Wyrd is Bond at Origins. Looks pretty cool.

Quote
I often find it vexing that it is hard to find a group of people who would just want to play in a "normal" cops-and-robbers melodrama or whatever, but the second its cops-and-robbers with magic powers, bam, the game is a darling.  "It's the Renaissance, with magic!  Its the Wild West, with magic!  Its cyberpunk, with magic!"  Ugh, hehe.
Do a search on the term "lasersharking." Deals with this issue.

Quote
One of the ways I considered keeping the game "themed" was to be the first person to establish a tenet, and once that tenet was fact using it to challenge all tenets that I didn't like.  So, when I said, "This is a wuxia game" I could have used that fact to challenge any fact that didn't fit wuxia (and since I was the only person with a strong sense of what wuxia was, well, you see, I'm sure that I'd dominate the session).  I didn't do it because I felt that would be massively disrespectful.  But it could be done if a person was fast enough to create important facts and then very liberal in challenging facts that didn't fit the setting visualized.
I've spoken on this before. It's not disrespectful. It's stating your opinion. If players don't hear your objections, if you never challenge anything, then they don't know how you feel. Well placed challenges are important, IMO.

Also, there's the tool of the negative tenet. Instead of saying "There's Wuxia elements in the story," make your tenet, "The story falls entirely into the Wuxia genre," or even more clear, "The story is nothing but Wuxia." Then players have to challenge that right there in order to not get very reasonably challenged when they throw in Western.

Quote
The other way I thought of doing it is writing up a list of tenets and presenting them as part of the social contract.
Sure, but that's the same thing, really.

Mike
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