Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

[Magicians of England] of Flaws and Faeries

Started by tonyd, May 06, 2006, 11:16:16 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


We sat down for our third playtest of Magicians of England. Playtest one was phenomenal, and playtest two went pretty well, so I expected three would be smooth. I was wrong.

The players and characters were:

  • Phil playing Bryon Burns, an idealistic poet and accomplished magician
  • Pat playing Eustace Beerbellows, a retired war hero and crackpot windbag
  • Me playing Lord Beauthorpe, a jolly fat man, well meaning historian of magic

Important supporting characters (created in playtest 2) include:
  • Wilhelmina, loyal servant of Beerbellows, a sharp and somewhat sneaky servant.
  • Bobicus, another servant of Beerbellows, stolen away by faerie folk
  • Capt. Schmidt, the head of the Oxford constabulary
  • Lucius, a faerie with a serious grudge against Burns and Beauthorpe.

We created our theory of magic for the session, which ended up looking like this:

  • Risk: Magic may drive you mad
  • Requirement: Powerful Magic requires madness
  • Requirement: A complex ritual involving candles
  • Risk: Casting a spell may cause a Faerie infestation
  • Requirement: A rare flower from the forest

Pat framed scene 1 session in Beerbellows' garden three weeks after the previous, establishing that Lucius had spent the last three weeks masquerading as Beerbellows' new gardener and that strange plants with magical properties were growing. There was much confusion over how much he could narrate in setting the scene. The rules didn't cover some of what he wanted to do, and we had to cobble together something that worked. Play continued around the table.
Wilhelmena enters, obviously bothered about something. Shortly thereafter, Byron shows up. "Beerbellows!" he exclaims, "have you any candles? I have reason to believe Oxford may be infested with faeries!" Beerbellows emerges and the two argue about faerie infestations.

Then Pat throws something else in. Lucius is also present, and Wilhelmena can see him (established in the previous playtest), but the other two gentlemen can't. To make it more complicated, Wilhelmena doesn't know the others can't see Lucius. She simply sees three rather silly gentlemen arguing about Magic.

"Plot twist!" I say, "Wilhelmena wants to confront Beerbellows about why he isn't doing anything about Bobicus' disappearance." This provokes some discussion. "How is that a plot twist?" "Does that mean she has to confront Beerbellows?" and so on. Worse, since it's my plot twist, I'm not allowed to suggest how it resolves. We struggle through resolving the plot twist. Phil became quite frustrated with the process, and I was a little depressed that the resolution system clearly didn't work the way I wanted it to.

So Wilhelmena leaves Beerbellows' service, but as she leaves the mysterious Lucius whispers in her ear the secret of a magical ritual, giving Wilhelmena a magical requirement. The scene ends.

Phil: "Plot twists totally need to be a question, not a statement." Genuis.

We played two more scenes, and Phil's suggestion smoothed out the plot twist resolution mechanic beautifully. We actually got a good story going, and everyone was excited to get together and play another session without me having to suggest it.

To Summarize:

In scene 2, Wilhelmena is leaving the house. The three gentleman are in the drawing room preparing for a ritual. Plot twist 1: "Does Beerbellows throw Wilhelmena out before they can work the ritual" Plot Twist 2: "Is Lucis' presence revealed to all?" (with answers of Yes to both).

Beerbellows throws Wilhelmena out of the house, but Lucius incites her to carry out his ritual and cast a spell affecting the entire house. She does, and all it's inhabitants are transported to Lucius' lands in the Fearie realm. Byron, who is in side trying to work the same ritual (ineffectually), thinks this is his doing. Wilhelmena, still in Oxford, falls into a heap babbling incoherently. She's gone mad!

Scene 3 takes place two weeks later at the Oxford constabulary. Cpt. Schmidt is questioning Wilhelmena about the disappearance of her master and Byron. Beauthorpe appears with a plan to use magic to find out where they are. He will harness Wilhelmena's madness to power the spell and open a window to Beerbellows' location.

The three travel to Beerbellows' garden to work the ritual, but things don't go as planned. A gate is opened, but an infestation of Faerie creatures bursts through and into the streets of Oxford. Pat wraps up the scene by narrating mad Wilhelmena wandering off into Faerie, where she now sits on a throne of living vines, entertaining a host of adoring Faeries with her mad wit.

We ran into a lot of problems with the rules during the game, and the frustration level got quite high. Phil's suggestion was the turning point however, and things got progressively better from there on. The Magic rules need some work, particularly integrating the requirements and risks.
"Come on you lollygaggers, let's go visit the Thought Lords!"

John Harper


What kind of feedback would you like? Any questions for us?
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!


Good question. In the general excitement of "I learned something", I failed to say what I was looking for.

I'd love to hear from people about games that do conflict resolution in a GM-less setting. Magicians has the added difficulty that the conflict is prepared, then after an arbitrary period of time, resolved. This is something I want to keep, as it creates tension and seems to drive things along.
"Come on you lollygaggers, let's go visit the Thought Lords!"

John Harper

Capes does both things. It's "GM-full" (everyone has the distributed GM duties), and conflicts are prepared and then battled over for control and final resolution.

Universalis is the other heavy-hitter in this category, which I know you're familiar with.

For more "GM-less" game research I also recommend The Shab Al-Hiri Roach and Polaris.

For the "prepared conflict resolved over time" thing, consider the Propoganda War from Burning Sands. Also, how an Issue is resolved by playing out a story arc in Primetime Adventures. And the resolution of each Minion's central conflict during My Life with Master.
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!