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[Kagematsu] Tea and Banditry

Started by Emily Care, June 24, 2009, 07:12:04 PM

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Emily Care

I ran Kagematsu at JiffyCon earlier this month. The players included 2 men and four women: Liz, Kim, Rachel, Jim, John and myself. Only one of them had heard of the game at all before the session, but everyone enjoyed it and the woman who played Kagematsu plans to run the game at another Con in September. John wrote about it on Story Games as well.

A Town at the Crossroads
The town was a small village at a cross-roads that had established itself as a center for trade. The threat facing the village was a group of bandits who were attacking merchants and travellers, and thus cutting off our life's blood.  Most of the characters had some sort of merchanting establishment: one was the daughter of the owner of the liveliest saki house in town, one woman was a widow who carried on her family's business, running a tea house. Of the others, one was a painter, one had a farm a bit out of town, and my character's mother wove beautiful cloth. 

Kagematsu was a young, well-to-do samurai, whose Lord had recently died, so he was looking for a purpose in life.

We played out the game in three rounds of Affection scenes, followed by the Confrontation. Kagematsu was successful! Though this is likely in large part due to my mis-interpretation of certain rules. The first round of scenes were individual scenes between Kagematsu and the women, the second round all happened at a meeting the town elders had called (all old men, missing a leg or eye) to plan how to fight back against the bandits. Each of us in turn flirted with Kage while the meeting took place at the sake house.

The final set were all individual scenes again, these reaching a feverish pitch of desperation and love-making. Rachel had a memorable scene where she succeeded in getting a roll in the hay with Kagematsu, but wasn't able to get him to kiss her: which had us all speculating about the nature of his affection--it was merely physical.

The final rolls were by the tea-house owner. She went through most of her desperation rolls to try and get Kagematsu to make a promise to fight for us which gave us some wonderful moments. She offered her body, and then her tea house as a bribe--which pushed Kage over the edge. At first, we thought that meant he was venal after all--really after money when he'd talked about honor and the loss of his lord before. But then, we settled on it meaning that he was moved by her offer. The tea house was her whole life, her livelihood and a reminder of her beloved husband. The fact that she would offer it to him gave him the resolve to take on the bandits on his own.

The Confrontation
In the confrontation, we went back and forth between narrating what the women were doing, and how the bandits attacked Kagematsu based on what the players wanted to narrate. One of the players found this a bit confusing in retrospect, but I liked the way we got to see different parts of the action. And different people took up both parts of what you could do.

Three of the players had just 1 die left, and 2 of us had 0.  I wasn't sure it spelled out how to deal with someone having no dice, so I just had us all narrate our actions etc. before Kagematsu's player revealed anything about her roll. That way no one's narration was undercut by the lack of threat etc. that our rolls presented. We knew it was unlikely that Kage would lose, but our interest and suspense was fine. I checked in with the players about this specifically during out debriefing afterwards, and they all said it worked well. But I think it is better when there are more dice piled up and you are biting your nails about it! :)

Notes on play
In this game, I started all the women off with 7 Fear. As Danielle has already said in the other thread, starting with 8 seems better. Also, I misinterpreted what failing in a desperation roll was at first: if you don't push the woman's score higher than Kage's, duh! So we had more free Desperation levels than we should have, allowing us to use them more  times than we should, making folks' job of bringing down the Fear easier.  But the Affections and the Desperations were grasped by everyone, after a few rounds for some and immediately by all, and everyone played to them and incorporated the rolls well. We had some moments where the group batted around ideas about what a roll meant or how it should proceed, but they worked out.

There was some confusion about what to do with a tie between Kage and the women in the Affection scenes. Sometimes when we had a huge string of Desperations, the narration got a bit sillier in tone--and this was after we started enforcing the Desperation fail rule correctly.

As I already noted in the other thread we had 0 instances where the Looming Threat came into play. I was watching for it like a hawk, too. That is one of my favorite things. Sometimes people would re-roll a die they had initially rolled, but never a 6. Still, having people not re-roll their dice would be better I think. And I don't know what happened behind Kagematsu's screne, but we were all looking out for them, and we asked her at various times. We had Kagematsu introduce each scene, saying what was going on in the village, and saying what Kage was up to. And in at least one of the rounds, Kage introduced some fallout from bandits: there was a large caravan that was hit by them, so we had refugees coming in to the town. I'd have liked it if there was some regular way for this to happen, in addition to the triple 6s of the Looming Threat.

The Kagematsu sheet has the attributes reversed: Innocence and Charm. Or so it seemed. This was confusing to the Kagematsu player, though it didn't matter mechanically.

Player Feedback
The players asked for sample lists of events, locations, hobbies, occupations and other setting stuff. They liked the elements we incorporated into this game and wanted more. They had a good time with this game, where there were many successes and low Fear levels, but suggested a cap of three on the number of Affection scene rounds as a possibility, and asked for more types of scenes: more Looming Threat, more often.

One player read the back of the book where it says: "So it is that several young women conspire among themselves to win his affection and steer him to their cause.." And after the first round of Affections, she asked if that would happen? The scenes are so parallel, and usually one-on-one. I think I mentioned that other characters could be in the scenes, but I also suggested we have a scene with everyone all together. That turned into the scene where Kage was at the town meeting. The women all met first for some gossip in free play, and then we all tried for our Affections during the meeting, where were all in the same place. We didn't interact too much after the first round, but I think people did build on the other women's actions in ways that we didn't as much in the other scenes. That scene had lots of stolen glances and introductions. :) At they end, they did say they'd have liked more group scenes.

Another suggestion given was to have two modes of play: a beginner mode where you use less Desperations, and a more advanced one where more are okay.  One player also wanted to see more action with Kagematsu. Maybe a roll after each round of scenes, or after 2, where Kage faces the threat in some part, and maybe things get worse or better. That seems like a pretty big change to me, but it was an interesting idea!

Also, people mentioned that the Favorites could/should get used more. There was one scene where someone turned her back on her favorite (the player had her put on shoes to kiss Kagematsu, when one of her prides was in always going barefoot), but it wasn't quite understood how to use them at first, so that got narrated, couldn't be used then was held in reserve until later in the scene when a Desperation had been made and tied so the Favorite could be spurned. They liked that, and would have liked to do it more!

Great game! Sorry these notes are coming so late, but I think I gave most of the most important ones already. Just wanted to give a write-up in full for the record.
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Emily Care

Oh, and of course! The reason for the title of this thread. We had a happy ending. Kagematsu surprised the bandits, overwhelmed them despite some help from a woman's young brother. And he ended up settling down with Ume, the tea house owner, and they lived happily ever after.
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Ron Edwards

I want a better look at that math, because my experience with Kagematsu is that the ronin is seriously underwater unless he (and the women) get quite lucky.

I don't know what Danielle has decided to do about ties, but my recommendation to her was to say there are no ties, that only exceeding Kagematsu's total will be successful. So that would have handed your group more failures too.

I am envious of the successful sex scene. Our efforts in that direction were quite tragic and heartbreaking.

That is a really interesting point about the back cover text. Are the women actually conspiring? That's not the way I've found groups to play it in the past; we've typically played the women as acting individually. Each of them has the agenda of saving the village and goes to whatever lengths to do it, but they didn't collude. I'd be interested in Danielle's take on that.

Best, Ron

Emily Care

Hi Ron!

The math was off for a couple reasons: I started everyone off with a Fear of 7. Have you played with them trying to bring down their fear levels? I know Danielle had changed to that from something else somewhat recently. Also, for the first round or so, I didn't necessarily have them mark off their Desperations when they used them. Now, I don't think that happened too much, honestly, since they didn't have too many to use straight off the bat. But we had way more successful Affections than in the other game I played. And no triple sixes for the Looming Threat.

I do think that working with a base level of 8 for Fear would be fine. Something was screwy with us!

The sex with Kagematsu was heartbreaking here too--the fact that she went for the kiss *after* the sex was so full of meaning. The fact that these things were on the table really shaped our experiences of the characters. That's something I love about the game During one break, we got on to a discussion of what we'd learned in our high school sex-ed classes. It was so charming to be able to have that discussion with relative strangers at a con.
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Paul's Girl

Thanks for posting Emily!

I know there is an error on K'su character sheet, the numbers are right by the trait is not. Easy fix.

I think putting a cap on Fear of 8 would solve the issue about low fear at the end.

From this game and the Nerdly game I have come to some conclusion about who starts scenes, something else I'd put back into the hands of Kagematsu.

The sex before kissing is one of the best aspects of this game, it's crazy and heartbreaking when it works that way.

And you said there was confusion about what to narrate during the Confrontation, but it sounds like this group did it right, either their own character or Kagematsu. I'll clarify it more in the final text. I'll reread the example of play and see if that cam help more as well.

Thanks again Emily,

A haiku inspired by Gen Con 2002:

Oh, Great Bowl of dice
Unearth the die of my dreams
Wicked 12 sider