Actual Play – Big carrots and big problems (9/5/2015)

the warrenGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Liz Gorinsky, Shawn Roske, Jenn Martin, Strix Beltrán, and Ajit George
System: The Warren
World: abingdon meadow

Ohh.. the troubles of abingdon meadow. Not only have the golden years passed by the barlydown warren, but civil strife was also immanent. The junkers, a warren of rabbits that lived scattered through a junkyard had been plotting against them. They planned to unleash the hounds of death on their neighbors so they could claim their precious warren and it’s proximity to the Brooklyn farmer’s market that took place every week, where the humans would mysteriously appear across the hedge grove and unload a bounty of delights, seemingly for any brave rabbit to take. An emissary (under false pretenses?) Barley (Shawn) was now living in the warren.

Even withing Barleydale (sometimes Barleydown) their was tension. Ash (Strix) was the premiere rabbit, praised for her long body and incredible speed, but increasingly testing the patience of Wintergreen as avoided breeding and thus did not help the warren grow. Meanwhile Birch (Ajit) was a veteran who had the esteem of the common rabbit for his bravery and the bounty he brought the warren, but was never noticed by the powers that be. So Birch, with his compact body and missing ear, was relegated as a second class rabbit, despite his contributions to the warren.

There were more moderate rabbits, which still had stories of their own. Yarrow (Liz) with his long body and unusual blue tint in his fur was seen as both exotic and a potential threat. His father was unknown, presumably a passing rabbit in the night. The suspicious members of Barleydale (most of them) wondered if that too heralded some kind of invasion.  Yarrow had spent times with the humans and understood many of their rituals.  He was valued as the only human whisperer.

Amidst this sea of political tension and external threats was a single calm rabbit Foxglove (Jenn) who seem to bear and unearthly calm. One which buttercup admired to an almost fanatical level, and which Poppy thought was extremely dangerous: “Rabbit’s shouldn’t be calm. Calm equals dead. The first thing a rabbit should ever think is run!” Considering the litter she was about to birth, Foxglove’s calm would do the warren well!

And of course there was Cottontail, a newcomer to the warren, just eager to stir shit up!

The situation

Is it day or night or somewhere in the middle? Early morning

Why are you all so far away from the warren? Birch has just returned from a raid on the humans with the largest carrot any rabbit has ever seen. (Yarrow would know, it was a prize winning carrot!)

How did the hunters get between you and the warren? The hounds Leslie and Cadby had broken out of junkyard (thanks Birch, for stirring up that hornet’s nest before the junkers we ready to use them) and were giving chase. They HATED rabbits. Hated them so much!

What other animal shares your hiding spot? A baby fox, dropped by it’s mother who was also fleeing the sounds of the dogs.


The Play is the thing

In a panic, so many things happened. Ash, bravely ran across the gravel road into the farmer market in order to lead Cadby off in a merry chase.

Leslie however, was tearing and gnashing at the hedges, and was about to push through. Birch whipped up the fox kit in his mouth and threw it to Leslie, to distract her. There was some serious rabbit debate over this. Yarrow being sure the fox kit could be raised by the rabbits and grow up to be their friend. Birch confident that once big enough it would be their predator. Plus, better it than them!

When Leslie did break free (that debate used up the precious time they had) another sacrifice was thrown before her, this time Barley! The other rabbits ran to the abandoned fox den and hid until Leslie had given up the chase.

Meanwhile Ash, with Cadby on his tail, raced through the farmers market, knocking over the award winning apple pie and causing all sorts of commotion, when he was finally caught. Two mighty timbers that stood just lest than rabbit length apart, seemed like just the place to jump through to lose Cadby, but when the did not budge, Ash was caught by a very confused human apple pie judge. He fought and he fought and he wiggled and just slipped out, but not before Cadby had nipped and his rear paw, maiming ash, who would never be as swift again.

Barley too was scarred by Leslie, before racing off back to the warren, saved only by the junkyard “armor” that he wore. Metal foil that the dogs hated the taste of!

Political upheavel

As the rabbits returned in different order, different stories were told. That Birch has brought the trouble. That Barley and the junkers had betrayed Barleydown.  That Ash had been caught by the humans. That junkyard armor was needed to protect the rabbits. That Barleydown needed to join the Junkers to survive.

So many dissenting voices made the decision difficult, but after hearing them all except Birch’s (he was told to mind his place), Wintergreen orderd Ash, Barley, and Yarrow on an expedition to the Junkers to find out the truth of these claims!

…and that’s how the first Barleydale and Junker official meeting would occur.


What rocked

Because Ajit was in the game, I knew he would eat up social disparities and political inequality. We got to play with the themes of injustice, but in a much less cemented fashion. Yes, Wintergreen represented the long body political elite, but Birch had many supporters, and it was within the power of our rabbits to overthrow the current system. It wasn’t uprooted completely, but the seeds of unrest and change were clearly sown. The danger of course, would be watching for those eager just to take power them selves (fucking Cottontail). Holding onto the patriarchy lightly made it a fun challenge, without it being overwhelming dogma to cudgel the rabbits with.

Wow. we’ve never had potentially warring warrens before. And to use dogs as your weapon. Evil Barley, just evil.

Ajit and Strix are writing the Balignapalli playset for the Kickstarter campaign, so it was great to not only play the game, but break out what parts were intrinsic to The Warren and what parts were specific to abingdon meadow.

What could have improved

I should have thought of other names for the hound. I took Leslie and Cadby from the playset, but I think we should have had Butchie and Alice instead.

I got a dismissive head shaking from Jason when I told him about Ash, struggling to break free of the human’s grip. By the Morningstar standards Ash was a goner.

I find myself really resistant to resist panic as a move. Even though it fits perfectly with the setting, I really don’t like players having to roll twice to do something. First to resist panic, and then to attempt it. I have the same issue in Apocalypse World, when someone is required to act under fire in order to try something else. In AW this is often ameliorated by the fact that all they have to do is act under fire to achieve their goal. For instance, in a very literal sense, if you’re trying to run from cover into a building but that fuckhead drummer has a rifle trained on you, you’ve got to act under fire to get there without him taking a piece out of you. But in the warren, If Leslie is rooting around in the hedge grove you’re hiding in, you’ve first got to resist panic before you can even attempt to bolt.  Completely makes sense within the fiction, I just don’t like making players roll twice for things.

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