Actual Play – Carolina Death Crawl (3/12/2015)

carolina-death-crawl-cover1-232x300Players: Karen Twelves, Adrienne Mueller, Dale Horstman, Sean Nittner
System: Carolina Death Crawl

I think I got it wrong. 

Today was intended to be a Kingmaker game but we were literally rained out. Dennis, Regina, and Eric couldn’t make it, but Dale was free last minute and we were all excited to play some CDC. This was a first time for me, but I everyone else had played at least once before.

Our terrible people

Lieutenant Charles Shanks – A deserter from the south who picked the union jacket off a dead lieutenant and was posing as him to try and get to the north and get the hell away from this war.

Private Henry Comfort – A local who fucked hates the swamp, wants to do anything but be in this shitty swamp, and was sent, by the union back into the fucking swamp!

Pembroke Eager – A young man with a fetish for women’s undergarments. Deemed a pervert and malcontent, Pembroke got in trouble with law all his life and finally when the sentence was beyond what he could endure, fled to the war.

Corporal Isaac Ross-Tucker – An private school teacher and early abolitionist, Issac and his family could never set down roots due to his strong political views. Eventually he would always be kicked out of town and he schools that he and his wife taught in would be disbanded, forcing them to start again.

Can you see where this is going?

Acts of Destruction, Disgrace, and Murder

As expected. Hell, as mandated, we each did awful things, first as part of a mob of thugs in uniforms, and then as desperate fugitives in uniforms.

The tension was two-fold. The external threat of confederate soldiers and their hounds hunting us down and our internal divisions over command, loyalty, and morality.

Here’s where I feel like our game might not have matched with others. My character Isaac Ross-Tucker was a man who had compromised many of his values, but was not a monster. He was going to free slaves that they found, he was not going to abandon his brothers-in-arms, even if they did turn out to be opportunistic confederates. He wasn’t particularly brave or righteous, but he was moral. The thing is there is only one card in the entire game “Ross-Tucker, 1st NC Cavalry, USA, Idealist” that would prompt such a character, and it’s definitely possible that players could draft characters that didn’t include that card.

Haunted by Swamp Ghosts

As we died off and became ghosts, our internal doubts, fears, and regrets were externalized, wearing us down until only Isaac Ross-Tucker remained.

My concern with our game was that Issac was the regular foil to the other soldier who would just as soon kill him (Henry tried) as help him. Without him though, I think we would have been a bunch of murdering reprobates on an express train to hell.

And maybe that is what we should have done.

I tried to be the foil, but in retrospect the swamp ghosts introduce all the paranoia, self doubt, and facings your demons needed to create the personal tension and inner threats, so I’m not sure if the game should have an initially moral character present.

What Rocked

Oh my god, the things we did. I won’t say them, because I don’t want to either condone these actions or potentially upset or trigger a reader.

Karen’s depiction of Pembroke’s depravity was at once very human and very horrible. She touched into something very primal about a person needing control over others to feel like they have control of themselves.

Adrienne went a totally different direction with Henry than I expected. I thought he would be at home in the swamp and act as our local guide. Instead he just wanted to get the hell out and was happy to break the necks of anyone who got in his way. Henry died too soon.

Dale made Shanks an incredibly fallible and weak-willed character. He was an opportunist to be sure, but one with no plan at all. If we had all be like this, it would have been a Fiasco game instead of Carolina Death Crawl, but Dale didn’t play it for laughs, he just made a Shanks a desperate man grasping for straws and burying himself deeper and deeper as he did it.

What could have been improved

As alluded to above, my character may have been an inappropriate foil to the others. I’d be interested to see how CDC plays with unilaterally loathsome characters.

4 thoughts on “Actual Play – Carolina Death Crawl (3/12/2015)”

  1. Oh man, it is so modern of you to read “idealist” in a positive light and play it that way! The Ross-Tucker card can be played for pure horror – rather than a desperate criminal, you’re someone who truly believes the ends justify the means – and oh, what means. What terrible, terrible means.

    Thanks so much for playing, and for this excellent report.

    1. For what its worth, I based Isaac Ross-Tucker on the character Arthur Dixon from The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

      The time table doesn’t match up exactly, but it did seem fitting based on my read of the cards.

  2. Thanks for the write-up! I think it was great to have Isaac as partial foil – but agreed, playing CDC full-scumbag is totally worth a try.

    Favourite bits:
    – Henry’s death scene. The dialogue was great and the callback of that phrase Shanks used about ‘holding the line’ was sweet.
    – Eager’s death scene. Also, just wonderful.
    – The confrontation between everyone when Shanks was revealed as a deserter.
    – The tension between Isaac’s idealistic and more calculating/vengeful nature. (He wasn’t all good, that man.)

    Other Thoughts:
    – As we discussed a bit after the game, it doesn’t feel super competitive for something branded as competitive.
    – I did a lot of heckling as ghost, because it seems like something a ghost might do. But I think ghosts are also supposed to be putting the pressure on the characters to be better people – and reminding characters of all their terrible decisions is only a part of that. It seems like the job is two-fold: make things worse, but also remind them of their duties. Hard (for me) to do those simultaneously.
    – We only allowed ghosts to play cards during ghost scenes, but I’m not confident we shouldn’t have been playing them in other peoples’ scenes too.
    – I got a little confused about what the situation was in the church for Isaac’s death and feel bad I didn’t stop to get caught up, so I could contribute to it more.
    – It was an awful place and we did awful things, but had a very good game.

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