Actual Play – Spirit of the Century (10/5/2008)

System: Spirit of the Century

Our Spirit of the Century game ended Monday night. I think it was our 6th or 7th session and the conclusion of the 2nd story.

Cast:

Hin Won Chin – The No Can Choose Ninja. A reformed servant of the Opium Overlord
Duke Skyrunner – The Red Baron’s Wingman. A two fisted pilot.
The Shadow – Who know what lurks in the hearts of man? The Shadow Knows
Doc Wellington – The man of science AND brawn! – Thump of Restoration
The Flame – A Scottish Operative posing as a gourmet chef – Now we’re cooking with Tesla!

Premise – The Evil Doctor Hans Zimmerman (Doc Wellington’s nemesis) was suing the River City gang to build bombs all throughout Empire City. His mad plan included instructions for bomb making that even a child could understand. With dozens and dozens of potential bomb makers planning them in key places (like opera houses, city and the orphanage) he would bring Empire City to its knees. Of course, that was until the centurions found out about it!

What rocked:

1920’s Pulp. Erik Woodbury (the GM) did a great job of brining out classic pulp elements. Phone connected through dispatch, cars racing at speeds of up to 40 MPH, aloof mayors who assured everyone that there was no problem, even if a bomb was going off in their building, and a big focus on SCIENCE! The man’s voice painted pictures in sepia tone!

Aspects. As usual, aspects really make Fate. The bring characters to life, especially through compels. There were a couple times when one of the players wasn’t really sure what to do. I looked at the GM, looked at the player and could tell he was just waiting for them to give. Luckily the character had an aspect “More curious than cautious”. I looked at him and chucked a fate chip, which was my mechanical way of saying “Move it!” I was very happy, the character made a mistake, we all laughed and the story kept rolling.

Maneuvers. My character was very good at hurting people. He’s a complete Jackie Chan rip off (with the only twist that he used to be a bad guy, yeah really original there). He had a either good or great in Fists, Weapons and Athletics, so he could really move around, plus a lot of Aspects like “Midnight Panther Warrior” and “I assassinated the Queen… almost” to help out in combat. However, I spent the last session almost entirely performing maneuvers. Between jamming guns and knocking out supports, my goal was to show people how cool creating aspects would be. In fact I kept trying to encourage others to do the same. It worked pretty well, generating some Epic, if not Legendary results when the aspects were cashed in.

Chemistry. Our characters kept getting paired up in different ways (not in Monday’s session per se but throughout the game. Pairs I remember: Hin and Flame, Hin and Duke, Hin and Doc, Doc and Flame, Shadow and Duke, and Shadow and Doc. There may have been more. Pretty much in every case there was some great interplay. In fact a number of cool aspects grew out of them like “Need a hand doc” and “That’s such a stupid plan Hin, it just might work.” In play, those aspects were probably my favorite to play out.

Spirit. We really played pulp heroes to the core. Our characters charged into gun fights, pretended to be workmen to infiltrate the bomb making operations, charmed the damsels in distress, got out of deadly traps (twice!) and were duped over and over by the villains. We really played it right.

Mechanics change. Spirit is way too soft on the heroes, their virtually invulnerable. We opted that centurions had fewer stress boxes, and that each wound did a number of boxes of stress equal to the shifts (as apposed to just checking off the number rolled). You would think this would make things grittier, but what it ended up doing was making single tough foes much more dangerous (good), reduced the number of mooks needed to threaten us (good) and causes for a lot more complications (also good). I think this could use a little more tweaking, I know some people get rid of stress altogether, but it worked for us.

What could have been improved.

Familiarity with the Mechanics. We didn’t play quite enough or quite often enough to get really familiar with the rules. Add that to the fact that only the GM and I had copies of the book and that nobody wanted to read it outside of game and it made for a lot of looking things up during game. Usually it was okay, but we came into some disputes over things like blocks, maneuvers, and especially declarations (a personal favorite of mine).

More character “templates” in the book. We had a solid “Two Fisted Pilot” and a “Man of Science!” but there was no reference made for Men of Mystery, Secret Government Agents or Reformed Villains. It didn’t hurt us but it slowed down character creation some. Templates are a really good thing, especially if they are flexible and easy to create on the fly.

Stunts. I really don’t like the SotC stunt system. There are way too many, with way too many prerequisites. I think they should take all the crappy prerequisites out and replace them with the more useful version. For example, Quick Exit is okay, but really just taken as a prerequisite for Vanish. Forget that, these are Centurions, not 1st level nobodies fighting kobolds, drop out Quick Exit and just have Vanish. In other cases, like with the combat stunts where each one performed a useful function, it is probably fine to keep the stunt tree as is. The other solution is just to give characters more, but personally I’d prefer fewer better stunts to a whole bunch of useless ones (because face it, once you have Vanish, Quick Exit is pointless and there are many others that follow this model).

Player energy. While Erik did a great job providing a rich backdrop for all the action, I felt we could have done more driving the plot forward. Once we got into it things were defiantly rolling but most of the sessions started with a bit of reluctance, where as I was hoping for quick one-liners and resolute action. I think maybe some kind of ritual to get us all in the “spirit” would be good. Like if we were to play a musketeers game and before starting it we all shouted “All for one, and one for all!” Yeah, that would rock. .