Actual Play – The City of Fire and Coin (3/19/2015)

Swords Without MastersOverplayer: Matt Klein
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, and Dale Horstman
System: Swords Without Master
Adventure: The City of Fire and Coin

Adventure Introduction

Under an unforgiving sun—at the crux of those foot-weary paths that draw bright caravans overladen with spices, silks, and far treasures through the searing eastern deserts—lies the City. The coin-hungry Old Kingdoms of the south provision her with merchants and envoys. Reavers and conquerors from the north and west are ever repelled by her high, hard walls. 

Within, a metropolis teems. Peddlers, whores, and thieves ply their nefarious trades among the throngs. The chaotic knot of streets and alleys is home to slave and noble alike. Scattered bazaars of all manner offer goods mundane, exotic, and improbable.

Above, troops of sword and spear wielding monkeys control the rooftops, waging war among themselves. Below, the elite city guard prowl the wealthy neighborhoods on tigerback, protecting the Shining Lord and those in his favor while turning a half-blind eye to the violence of the slums and their criminal guilds. Beneath, dark and vast catacombs hide the City’s more abhorrent denizens from the harsh light of day.

This is the City of Opportunity, the City of Misfortune, the City at the Center of the World, the City of Fire & Coin.

Walking through the paces

IMG_4442None of us have played Swords yet, but I heard about it and was excited to try it. Swords and Sorcery isn’t exactly my jam, but I’m up for it. Especially after playing Blades in the Dark, I felt pretty primed for playing a rogue in the city.

We followed the instructions to learn how to play the game and as well as to kick off the adventure as prescribed. Togehter we stepped in the shoes of Manyara, Mauphet Ram, and Snorri. as the faced the vizier that sent cutthroats to harry them in the city and eventually enslave them with his blood magic. We also learned how they became boon companions while all seeking he same giant saphire in a pirate captain’s quarters!

What rocked

Florid descriptions (both scripted and invented) of the city and its inhabitants.

The Rogue phase where we all demanded awesome of each other.

Suffering and Struggling during the Peril Phase to build up to the decisive action.

The one liners that became our motifs. Particularly when Mauphet Ram suggested using blood magic to counter the Viziers spell “Blood I’m okay with, it’s the magic I’m not certain about.”

We were able to pick up and play with nobody knowing the rules in advance!

What could have improved

We definitely felt our creative contributions constrained by the procedural nature. Normally I’m a down with creative constraints but in this case we hit a few would-be brick walls where the story we wanted to tell didn’t fit with the scene we were in or the jovial/glum mood prescribed. We usually addressed this by ending the scene and cutting to another one, or in one case just narrating something that was clearly glum but in a bombastic manner.

The opening scene as a intro to the setting and game was confusing for us. We didn’t quite get whether or not we were inside or outside, if the dancers were working with the cutthroats, and what specific threat they posed or motivation they had. I think if we were warmed up this wouldn’t be a problem, but starting it cold was a bit rough. I’d probably recommend starting a game with a Rogue Phase instead of a Peril Phase. Tell us how you bested the dangers presented at the tombs of Unsalahk and made off with it’s treasures!

We got mixed up on resolution a few times because the first player to grab the dice in the Discovery Phase resolves the die outcome in a different manner than the rest. That’s just a matter of familiarity (and you know, being willing to stop playing and read the instructions).