Edmund was sick so Sophie took over as GM. We knew we wanted a social conflict. We had been talking about it over emails and now that Froth was feeling pretty fine in physical combat we wanted to see how it would fare with mouth words.
One advantage we’ve got – We’re not using weapon rules. As many times as I’ve thought “oh, lets use weapon damage to make folks weapon of choice more meaningful” I’ve know that if we have weapons we’ll have armor, and those two create a zero sum arms race not only negates each other but also force everyone to use the best weapon and armor all the time which is counter to the kind of pulp action we want to see.
Not having weapon damage rules turned out to have another benefit when we got into social conflicts, we didn’t to create an social analog. Aces!
“What the Hell?”
That’s what Gailus, the god of Ylark who had just appeared in front of us said. Directly. To. Semela.
Semela, an Elovrix Priest trained in the temples of Atronia knew how to respond to that question. Point the blame at someone else! She found the closest Elovix she could and was just about to say “She did it” when her second Ylark horn (you know the one she grew after casting the spell to make the earth rumble) fell of and landed on the ground with a thud. Then a Ylark fell from the sky on the other side of her also with a thud. Nice compel!
Pretty soon, it became clear that if Gailus was here he wanted to party. Never mind that the town was torn apart. Or that the Kuld would come back. Drinking Kog and a celebration were called for.
No time for that. We’ve got work to do!
We opted for a social conflict between the players. Lele was infuriated that Semela, the self-appointed mayor was drinking Kog and dancing with a short Elvorix buck instead of seeing to the needs of the city. Semela was honoring one of the gods and wanting to make sure that nobody made him angry…or to happy. We’ve just got to endure him, like if Santa Clause arrived and wanted to pinch your cheeks. You just gotta tough it out and get back to work once they finally get bored and leave. Mac and Cheese and Ficca sided with Lele. They wanted to see the town taken care of, not wrecked worse by a giant party.
We made up a zone map that indicated the various audiences that we might want to influence. I didn’t take a picture, so here’s a reproduction as best as I could remember it.
The idea of movement here was a little bit physical and a little bit abstract. In order to go from talking to the folks rebuilding brambletown to the people having raucous celebrations you needed to both physically move between groups, but you also needed to give your attention to each of them to win them over.
Imitative Order – We decided that Flash ruled the day in his conflict. It was going to take getting a lot of people’s attention to shift the crowd’s activities.
Roar Phase – Worked as expected. We each made aspects to show how we were preparing for the argument. This worked as expected. Good times.
Semela started by making a maneuver to add an ally, in this case Gailus himself. We decided that adding an ally increased your weight and the difficulty was based on the ally’s weight. Gailus in a social contest is weight 4 (he’s a god after all) so I had to Overcome at a Great [+4] difficulty to add him to my side. Ficca did the same thing (albeit with just a small force of workers from her zone. Weight 2).
Ficca moved zones to the Elvorix avoiding attention and changed the zone aspect by convincing them that they could avoid the party and be working on fixing up their homes at the same time. They agreed so she would stop talking to them and thus drawing attention to them. Aspect changed to Working Elvoix Avoiding Attention.
Mac and Cheese spent the first exchange just moving among the people to get the revelers to pay attention to it. On the second exchange it did a maneuver to remove Gailus from aiding Semela by belching a great kog belch and pointing outside the town, indicating that there were better parties out there.
Lele bided her time and waited until she could find a quiet space to talk. We represented that with an Overcome action to create a new zone (and choose the aspect in it). After finding the moment of quiet, she did a maneuver to pull Semela into it “we need to talk”. Semela had been busy partying creating aspects like “Most important person here” as a form of ablative armor against any would be detractors.
When they finally did duke it out Semela had her big guns (Gailus) removed and was frothing with her worst approach, so she went down pretty quick. She took two consequences “Acting like a drunken fool” and “Responsible for these sentians” before conceding the fight.
Meanwhile Ficca slipped a sleeping agent into the kog of the revelers to they all passed out (we added the word “sleeping” to the zone aspect) and we just kind of left the Vidaar to burn themselves out eventually.
Map by the end of the conflict:
We ended the session after the conflict and performed out Divine Interest Milestone, where we diced as a grout what aspect we would collectively get as a result of being taken out by divine consequences. Given that Gailus left us to go find a better party somewhere else, we decided on A Disappointment to Gailus. That went on our Divine Interest sheet (one shared by the group) as a permanent aspect. Woots!
Thoughts on the game
We had some cool things happen in the conflict (winning over various groups, using maneuvers to add/remove weight, and making new zones) but it didn’t represent the simple thing Lele was trying to do in the first place, which was talk to Selema. Or if it did represent it, it imposed a lot of barriers to do it (basically taking a few rounds of fighting with the environment to start the actual attacks on each other.
For something like a political battle where there were many factions with various interests, I see this working very well, but for a more personal argument it seemed like a bit much. Of course we were trying to test out social conflict with the War of Ashes rules so I think it was good we did a full blown conflict. In a normal session we probably would have handled it either in play talking to each other or with a single opposed overcome roll.
What I did like was that tactically we had a handful of interesting options that would be present in Fate Core to work with. While Shieldwall is a miniatures game and doesn’t handle social interactions, I think our Roar/Froth/Weight incorporated the spirit of the game well.
We also, since the god was there had four Divine Aspects in play, with the rule that there were three favorable ones and one “trouble” aspect. The favorable ones could be invoked once a turn as many times as we wanted, but for each time we did, the GM got a free compel or invoke on the trouble aspect. That’s how we lost Gailus actually, was that Sophie compelled the “Not a People Person” trouble aspect and had Gailus wander out of the party and into the snow. I think it worked, but it was hard to tell because we had so much else going on in the conflict that I frankly forgot about the divine aspects (even though we had them on the table as post it notes) most of the time.
One thing I’m very satisfied with is that is clear that we left the world CHANGED. Like you can see with the map zones changing above, and with the new Divine Interest Aspect, our characters changed the world around them and were changed themselves in the process. Most of that is just native Fate tech, but I’m really glad to see it present in War of Ashes.