Actual Play – Droid Rampage (6/11/2016)

FAE-Bookcover_300x450GM: Jonh Kim
Players: Milo Kim, Eric Lytle, Sean Nittner, and my littles
System: Fate Accelerated

Star Wars Game Day at Endgame

Thanks to EndGame for hosting a Star Wars game day! I got this buzz after watching Force Awakens that I just felt like the Star Wars universe had opened back up in a way it hadn’t done since New Hope and Empire but before Jedi. Like it’s clear that the story is unfinished, which just felt so freeing. We can make our own Star Wars Stories!

Here are the four games that we had on deck:

  • Droid Rampage by John Kim – Fate Accelerated (the game I played in)
  • Rescue at Glare Peak by Tim Sanders – Age of Rebellion
  • The Light, the Dark, and the Ugly by Montel Lin – Force and Destiny
  • Emergency Alert in Detention Block AA-23 by Gil Treviso – Stare O.R.E. (One Roll Engine)

Game Description

You are a special circle of droids who served in the Rebellion, now living in the New Republic. Adjusting to peacetime is harder than you thought, and you have hatched a plan to repair yourselves on Coruscant. A saga of soldiers back from war, struggling against a system that doesn’t want them.

John’s Blurb on Facebook

I’ll be running a Star Wars tabletop game this Saturday at EndGame Oakland, where the characters are all droids – because I’m intrigued by how droids are clearly portrayed as people with thoughts and feelings, but are never quite treated as people.

Difficult Discussions

This game was full of shoot outs, mad chases through Coruscant, impersonating New Republic officials, seeking out the truth, and blaster fire!

However, the primary thrust of the story was the problematic question about the value of a droid’s life. They are sentient creatures and yet considered property.  Our game started with the discovery that one among us had their memories erased and had been reprogrammed with new directives. They did not recognize their old allies, nor did they even know something was wrong. As far as they knew they were 11 hours old…and a lifetime of shared experiences were just obliterated.

So yes, we chased down the person who did this, and yes we eventually recovered the memory banks, but we could have just have easily not done it. They might not have made a backup, or we might not have been able to recover it.

So this game, set in the star wars universe had us discussion questions of slavery, classism, second class citizenry, the transgression of taking away someone’s free will, and whether or not free will can ever truly be “granted” to anything. All of this in a game with young players age 10, 13, and 16. It was some fucking powerful stuff.

In the end when given the choice of what to do, to find another human that we hoped would take us in and honor our sentience or set off on our own, the group was divided but eventually decided that we couldn’t trust any organics: the empire, the rebels, or the new republic, to care about us, so we would set out on our own and try to find our own way.

Shadows over EndGame

Missed out on Star Wars day and want to play some games?

Join us Saturday, July 23rd at Endgame for a day of eldritch horror of the Lovecraftian ilk. Four games will delve into the Cthulhu mythos using different rules, themes, settings, and time periods. Bringing the cosmic horror will be four GMs each running a different system demonstrating the terrifying scope of Lovecraft’s universe.

Sign up here!

What rocked

The content of this game was some of the best sci-fi I’ve played in. Specifically looking at very human issues through the lens of something fantastical. We’re talking about the trials that marginalized people have encountered throughout history, and we were doing it with speeders and access codes and blast doors.  There was a point where our BB droid had the access codes to our blank slate friends memory banks. Though she couldn’t restore his memories, she could remove the new directives…but then what to do? Give him free will and see what he does given that he doesn’t remember any of us? Or give him a new direct to follow us…thus trading one set of orders for another? It was tough call!

Stepping back from that a bit, we also have some very Fate like action adventure. The chase scene between speeders in Coruscant was something right out of the speeder bike chase on the forest moon of Endor. Some of my flubbed deception was just as bad as Han’s fast talking, and we had a battle droid (same chassis as General Grievous) that was a nightmare of claws and blaster bolts! There was also a BB unit, with lighter and all! This mixture of action and levity along with the serious issues that were the primary thrust of the game made it powerful experience as well as a thrill ride.

I finally had a chance to play a game at EndGame and eat at the cafe. My dreams have come true!

What could have improved

We had some environmental factors that were rough. My little ones are very quiet and hearing them over the din of other three other games plus a magic event was a bit tough. We moved some seats around and huddled close together, but even then, it was a challenging sometimes.

John mentioned trying to run this again with Steal Away Jordan, which I think would give it a decidedly different flavor, primarily because the either the presence of an owner (that would have to be added to the game or abstracted somehow) and because the mechanics of Steal Away Jordan are significantly less permissive (by design) than Fate is. I’m very interested to hear how that game runs if he does try it.

Actual Play – Skyrealms of Jorune (5/31/2015)

skyrealms-of-jorune-3rd-editionGM: Edmund Metheny
Players: Sophie Lagacé and Sean Nittner
System: Skyrealms of Jorune, 3rd edition

Edmund pulled out and oldy but a… well, oldy. Skyrealms of Jorune is pretty fascinating for what it was trying to do, even if it was pretty impeded by it’s own trappings. More on this below.

History Lesson

3000 years in the future humans abandon earth and colonize the planet Jorune. Unsurprisingly it’s inhabited by a race of people called the Shantha, and equally unsurprisingly the humans pushed these peaceful creatures to the bring of extinction in their greed to colonize the planet. Finally the Shantha hit a breaking point and called upon the magic of the planet (which they can control reflexively) to destroy the humans. The result was near mutual destruction and each species was reduced to a fragment of their former population and resources.

500 years later the humans have adapted somewhat. They have found ways to live on Jorune, and genetically modified many other creatures (bears, wolves, and cougars) to be bepedial and sentient. There are also other alien races present (some native, some not), and in a “golden age lost” theme all the great technologies and wonders of old are now either lost, broken, unusable due to lack of knowledge, or just very rate.

More here: and

Where we are now

Burdoth, empire of the humans, had two forms of citizens. Those protected by the law and afforded basic civil rights (not sure the name for these folks, but it’s most people) and the Dren, who are full citizens capable of running for office, and generally the recipients of great wealth and glory.

There are several ways to become a Dren but the quickest and most foolhardy is to go adventuring and accomplish great deeds that are recognized by other Dren. Folks attempting this are called the Tauther, or Player Character for short.

Who are these two?

Dark Mood (Sophie) is a Bronth (bear-person) investigator. As a child Dark Mood was actually quite scrawny and was protected by Persiphon Wison and the two became fast friends. Now many years later Bronth has an impressive frame, wielding a giant two handed sword with east. As well as fitting in a fedora and suit, because,  Sam Spade.

Persiphon Wison is a durlig farmer who had never really know more than the farm, but like her archetypal predecessor, years to go to Tashi Station and pick up the power converters. Wison has a huge family, which is made larger by the local community which form a co-op that shares child care, resources, etc. Persiphon normally manages Thrombo to pull up the giant durlig root but her Thrombo is sick, and recently has asked Dark Mood to help her with his great strength to pull up the massive roots by hand. Slow work, but the harvest has to come in one way or another!

Thriddle: Flighty, wingless, bird creatures that communicate through vibrating nodules on their rump called quidnodes.

A Thriddle Runs Through It

Down in the durlig trenches, we looked up as we felt the ground rumbling and were then trampled (gently enough) by a Thriddle racing past.

What’s all this funny business? Though we tended to the Thriddle we noticed it was quite cold and too afraid to communicate. We followed it back (easy to track thriddle prints in a recently plowed field) and found it came out of the ground where there had been a cave in. Beneath the loamy soil was a crystal gateway, or Tra-portal, that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. We covered up the cave in to try and learn more, but while talking to the Thriddle, little Jesa went missing.

We returned to our makeshift thatch covering and found it had been opened. Oh no Jessa must have gone through the portal!!!

Skyrealms of Jorune

Garbed in as much cold weather gear as we could muster, we passed through the portal…into a Skyrealm!!!

Cleash: Four armed, hyper-violent, critters banished to the frozen north.

We had clearly traveled nearly to the other side of Jorune and were on a Skyrealm that was traveling through a frozen blizzard. At the base of the portal were many corpses of several different species, all of which who died violently. And no surprise a Cleash guard appeared and violence ensued. Dark Mood drew up a giant axe from a fallen Guard and not only defended Persiphon but also slayed the armed Cleash.

[The combat system in this game attempts to account for situational awareness, the experience, that in the heat of the moment, it’s difficult or impossible to be completely aware of your surroundings. A combination of fear and adrenaline clouding your senses and things happening very fast. The mechanical representation of this is that each round you have to roll for advantage. A low roll indicates you cannot take any actions, a middling roll indicates you can either attack or defend, but not both. A high roll allows you to perform both actions, and a very high roll allows you to perform both actions and you a bonus on your rolls to do them.

The actual attack/penetration/damage system was reminiscent of Rolemaster, but clearly toned down. There were several charts to determine what kind of weapon did what kind of damage, but nothing compared to the miasma or tables found in the Arms Law, which had a separate table just for Two Handed Sword damage and then TWO tables just for the Two Handed Sword critical hits. Seriously, check these out, they are remarkable.

The portal was closed behind us, so after we dealt with the Cleash guard we had no choice but to move forward. On the ground we found Jessa’s Teddybronth. Oh no! She’s been taken!


Exploring the Tower

We navigated through the blizzard  and found a tower, amazingly untouched by the elements. There was no ice on it, and the stones seemed perfectly intact as though brand new, despite our knowledge of Skyrealms telling us it had to be hundreds or thousands of years old.

We stepped inside and the cold instantly abated. In the basement downstairs we found the kitchen where Jessa was hung upside down (but still alive, thankfully) while a Cleash cook prepared a stew. Dark Mood and the creature battled, but this time the Clean used it’s Isho (magic) to paralyze Dark Mood. Terrified of what would happen to her friend Persiphon took up a heavy metal skillet and smashed the Cleash from behind. It did him no harm but it gave Dark Mood the moment he needed to regain control of his body and do the real fighting.

With Jessa then rescued they needed to find another way home. The skyrealms could move but they did so very slowly… and there were still plenty of Cleash to deal with. In order to keep them off our trail Persiphon started a grease fire in the kitchen and then Dark Mood stealthily led us around the Cleash patrols as they rushed to the kitchen to see what was going on.

[Again Jorune tries to do something innovative here. Like Unknown Armies that often does not require you to make a roll for something if you are skilled in it, Skyreams has various levels of proficiency (unfamiliar, familiar, experienced, and seasoned). The more experienced you are, the more situations you will not have to roll at. For instance Persiphon was familiar with cooking, so she didn’t have to roll to start a grease fire, something that is easy to do on accident!

Dark Mood did have to roll, however, to sneak us past the guards, I think in part because the system still fell back on the idea that all contested actions should involve opposed dice rolls]

Finding the Shantha

At the top of the tower we found a thaumaterical lab filled with alien instruments, many of which had been destroyed. Seemingly tossed in the corner was a large prisim that appeared to contain a preserved Shantha inside! These are creatures that were from myth and legend!

Inspecting the somewhat ruined laboratory, Dark Mood discerned that he was inside a crystal that preserved him perfectly, and that the crystal could only be opened by a very precise frequency of sound. As we discussed what would make this sound (and made several vain attempts) we heard Cleash, lots of Cleash coming up the stairs.

In a panic we rolled the prism down the spiral staircase, knowing it was indestructible and very heavy. We succeeded in knocking out or killing all of the Cleash on their way up the stairs, but we also accidentally killed the Thriddle they had captive with them. In his death throws the Thriddle vibrated his quidnodes at the just the right frequency and then prism cracked open, releasing the Shantha that had been contained in it for hundreds of years.

The Q Moment

Like Picard at Farpoint, we were taken to a foreign realm and put on trial to defend the actions of humankind. How could we make amends for the near destruction of the Shantha race? Well, we couldn’t. In fact, we couldn’t even show that we were fit to live on Jorune at all. We couldn’t really breath the air, eat the food it produced, channel the Isho, or other wise sustain ourselves without causing massive damage to the environment.

But…we could get there. We could become something that could live on Jorune. The Muadra were humans that had been changed by the planet, and were better connected to Isho. They were our evolutionary path. In communing with all of us the Shantha either revealed that Jessa was as Muadra, or possibly the Shantha changed her into Muadra (it wasn’t clear). As expected, the future is our children.

The secret was in Lamori, whatever that is.

A welcome home

When the Shantha returned us home the portal was nowhere to be seen, but the Thriddle we tended to returned and introduced himself as Hiosta, an Al-Gorno, which are the bravest of the Thriddle (and a kind of rolalty).  If we wished to know more of Lamori, we should travel to Tan-Sid, and he would personally sign our placards of accomplishment, that got us one step closer to Drenship.

Thoughts on this Game

Gaming with Edmund and Sophie is always a blast. We played  on lots of tired tropes but we knew we were doing it and happily (knowingly) engaged in them. The Teddybronth (Bronth are the Bear people) was particularly adorable.

Jorune tries to do some cool things with the system but it is horribly burdened by an overwhelmingly intricate setting, and the mechanical innovations are stacked on top of conventional rules, instead of being put in place of them. For instance, it’s great if you have a skill that you can just “do”, but if there are 400 skills and you never know what you’re going to need, your wiff factor goes right back up.  We ended up getting some great gameplay but I know a lot of that came from Edmund and Sophie being awesome players who embrace failure and system quirks rather than shy away from them. There are some really good principles buried in here, and I’m glad to have played this new-to-me system

Hahahahahahah. Dren spelled backwards is nerD. Hee!

Ed’s report:

Sophie’s report: 


Actual Play – Star Force (3/29/2015)

star_forceStar Force Officers: Colin Fahrion, Sean Nittner, and my littles.
System: Star Force

I saw Colin was running Star Force at Square One and had room for three players. I asked if it was okay if I signed up with my girls and he was all for it, so we filled up the game!

Star Force is played with rotating GMs. Each player makes a Star Force officer and they are played in teams of two. In the four player version that means that two Star Force officers are partners while the other two players GM, and then after a successful mission, you switch.

Star Force Operators

Zoz – The cunning envoy from Bizbor, an insectoid alien that used to use his diplomatic status as a cover for assassinations.  When Zoz’s planetary leader was arrested Zoz was given the choice to join Star Force or go with him to jail!

Crouton – The bread cat “explosive” scientist crouton used to work for a company doing science. Then she figured out they were terrible people so she blew up the building they were working in and joined Star Force.

Clover – The temperamental food editor used to food blog but now she saves the universe.

Misha “Hyperspace” Chronoton – The relentless explorer used to work for the Dhalan corporation finding planets and stripping them of all their natural resources. Misha is a cybernetic entity composed of thousands and thousands of robotic bees. BEES! A planet Misha was mining collapsed in itself and she was saved by Clover. After that she changed her ways and joined Star Force.

Wow…. our heroes are not exactly heroic. Except for Clover, they all had pretty sordid pasts!

Just trying to enjoy some Spacebucks!

Star Force officers Misha and Clover were on a patio in a Spacebucks on the the desert planet Brhd (pronounced Bread). They were fishing for bread/sand fish (what kind of fish they were kept changing) and sipping Spacebucks coffee when suddenly they heard a huge explosion and the floating city listed to the side, threatening to collapse into the currently-being-terraformed sand below.

Clover was really annoyed. I’m off duty! She did however pull up a schematic of the entire city and determine the explosion happened on the anti-gravity region under the floating city (the undercity) where the terraforming operations were occurring. Meanwhile Misha seeing that things were falling out of the city, flew around the outer edge and saved a child before he fell from a ledge

The criminal activist Moltov was trying to destroy the terraforming operation. Sounds like a job for STAR FORCE!

After an initial encounter where the under city was narrowly saved by forming a telekinetic net of bees (BEES!) and restoring the anti-grav system via lever pulling, Moltov was driven back… into the city’s primary power core!

There Moltov was once again defeated (though not without putting up a fight) and order was restored. However Moltov did not act without conscience. He was trying to stop the terraforming operation because of the sandfish/breadfish below… they are sentient! Misha, who once destroyed worlds callously but now wanted to redeem herself and clover, who didn’t much like fishing anyway, agreed that we should move the terraforming operation to another part of the planet and make a special reserve for the native inhabitants. We apologized to the fish we had caught and through them back into the desert below!

 Wanted for Theft: Selka the Sly

Officers Zoz and Crouton were called into Captain Doris Liverly’s ready room for a mission briefing. The nefarious Selka the Sly had just stolen a Phantom Field Generator and then disappeared. She must be apprehended…by STAR FORCE!

Before being sent out on this dangerous mission however the Star Force operators were given two gadgets. Spring jump boots and psychic field dampeners disguised as hamburgers.

The officers started by investigating the space station where the Phantom Field Generator was stolen from. They found it powered down, with a large breach in the hull. Inside they used their Star Force shield to give the station enough power to tap into the computer and get the layout. Crouton found the generator had been housed on Floor E75 – right next to the reactor core… and there were still three scientists there!

Zoz moved quickly to get to E75 and found the three abalone Professor Doctor Scientists. There was no life support on the ship but they appeared to still be alive. He extended his force field around them to provide them air — Just when Crouton realized that Selka the Sly’s psychic DNA was still on board…and had infected the Professor Doctor Scientists. They were now Selka Drones!

She communicated it to Zoz but it was too late, Professor Doctor Scientist George was on him like an abalone stuck to a rock! He used it razor tongue to gash the Star Force officer and infect him with Sekla’s psychic DNA!

Crouton the bread cat flew to his aid, and together they defeated the psychic slaves.

Using the psychic DNA footprint Courton and Zoz got on their ship, the Starship Interprize and tracked it down to none other than the fabled Black Mist, Selka’s large industrial space ship that hid in the tail of a comet!

With some difficulty they boarded the ship, found one of Sekla’s drones, and reversed the polarity of the psychic dampeners to force Selka to inhabit the drone herself! Once trapped inside Selka and the Star Force officers had a mighty show down including live electric wires whipping about, polarized beam rays to attack Selka but not her host, and of course psychic domination handled using a clock!

Selka was defeated and it turned out all she wanted the Phantom Field Generator was to make a body that could house her hive mind and still allow her psychic control of the galaxy. See, she’s a sympathetic character.

Thoughts on the game

Playing with kids, especially kids as GMs is a lot of fun. It also requires some patience. My kids have some great ideas (bread cat!) and they are easily distracted. A lot of times though that distraction is a hibernation mode where interesting ideas are bubbling around in their noggins. For instance a lot of times when we’d ask them what something looks like they would stop and draw it. Which is slow, but kind of cook when you think about it. Now we have a physical artifact for that thing!

The rules for Star Force are fun. Based on the same mechanic as Lasers & Feelings you’ve got a single stat (your number) and you want to roll under it for doing fighty things and over it for doing non-fighty things. My 12 year old gear head daughter figured out that if she gave her scientist a 2 and just never fought things but found other kinds of solutions to problems, she’s pratically never miss a roll. In fact because she usually did science and put her shield power in systems, she rolled lots and lots of crits! Zoz on the other hand who had a 4 and was a killer, noticed that he only ever rolled 1 die to attack and that meant that he sometimes failed, but mostly got what he wanted with complications. It’s almost like the game is encouraging people not to use violence to solve their problems …

The point allocation was a lot of fun, but only Colin remembered that you have two actions and can spend them to do something other than reallocate your shield energy and take an action. The rest of us just scrambled with moving our power around and getting worn down after four or five rounds. Fortuitously, that was usually sufficient to resolve the current threat.

Not sure how wacky the game is supposed to be, but our game was pretty gonzo silly. BREAD CAT!

Actual Play – Camp Shata (2/16/2014)

monsterheartsMC: Karen Twevles
Players: Rocky Moran, Meg Pressley, and Sean Nittner
System: Monsterhearts

Karen has work friends Rocky and Meg that said they’d like to play some RPGs. Awesome! We pow-wow’ed over email and decided on Monsterhearts. Since I ran the last game, Karen offered to MC this one.

The day or so before the game we talked a little about MH, about best ways to get characters invested in the setting, and what to prep, and what not to prep. Karen decided to go with limiting the playbooks to Vampire, Werewolf, Mortal, Ghoul, Hollow, and Queen. No ghost, so nobody is dead/incorporeal. No Infernal, so no dark pact or masters. No Fey, so no focus on promises and otherworldly powers. All in all, this was going to make for a personal and sexy game.

The Setup

Karen talked a little bit about what Monsterhearts was all about. Buffy Nights! Or True Blood. Messy lives of messy teenage monsters. She then asked (before letting anyone see the skins, a smart move) what the setting would be like.

Meg liked the idea of Twin Peaks. Something eerie with strange things that happen which few actually draw attention to. We all grooved on that and Karen instantly thought “Someone needs to make a Twin Peeks MH Hack”.  Cool. Everyone knows everyone. Strange things a foot but nobody admits it. Groovy.

Then Karen asked how we know each other. Are we all locals at school? What’s our deal. Summer camp! Meg thought of Friday the 13th but neither Karen or I have seen it so we talked it through some. A camp that runs all summer in two week sessions. Some kids stay for one session, some stay the whole summer. Some unexpectedly go home or are otherwise never heard of during the middle.

X-Card Talk

Karen gave an intro to the X-Card but neither of us remembered the specific intro. So we have it next, time here’s the intro line from X-Card by John Stavropoulos:

“I’d like your help. Your help to make this game fun for everyone. If anything makes anyone uncomfortable in any way… [ draw X on an index card ] …just lift this card up, or simply tap it [ place card at the center of the table ]. You don’t have to explain why. It doesn’t matter why. When we lift or tap this card, we simply edit out anything X-Carded. And if there is ever an issue, anyone can call for a break and we can talk privately. I know it sounds funny but it will help us play amazing games together and usually I’m the one who uses the X card to protect myself from all of you! Please help make this game fun for everyone. Thank you!”

Selecting Skins

We read the skins aloud and Meg was instantly drawn to the Werewolf. Good choice! Of the others I was considering the Mortal or the Queen (my last queen experience didn’t go as well as I’d have liked it to) but only wanted the Mortal if both of the other characters were supernatural. Rocky ended up picking the Mortal and I wanted to offer him the same juice opportunity of falling for either supernatural monster, so I changed plans abruptly and went Vampire. My first time, woot!

Wendy <3 (Rocky) – Wendy is a sweetheart. She works as a barista at the cafe near the camp and during the summers she volunteers in the camp kitchens. Everyone loves Wendy. And she loves everyone else. But she especially loves those in need. Like poor Serena. Last year at the end of camp she found Serena bleeding in an ally outside the cafe. She nursed Serena back to health and they said their goodbyes. This summer camp would be the first time seeing her again. Seeing her True Love (TM). Also, Wendy always knew people’s coffee orders. “Hi Wes, two shots of espresso, right?”

Zachary (Meg) is the bad boy. A child of the moon, Zachary lives at Lake Shasta and his only human contact is during the summer camp. He needs the nature to roam in so that he doesn’t hurt anyone, but craves human contact. Zachary has probably been going to camp since it started years ago, but every year he shows up like he’s just another kid showing up for camp. Later we found out that Zachary worked for the Camp Coordinator Bruce as his lackey. That sure turned out well.

Serena (Sean) was bitten last year and is still figuring out what all this undeath is all about. She doesn’t understand her powers per se, but she does know that since then everyone is drawn to her, like moths to a flame. It was her eyes that drew them in. Blue eyes deep as the sea, bright as the sky. She wants more red meat now, the rarer the better, but at the start of the game had never fed on a living creature. Serena has all the feels.

Some other Campers

To fill out the camp some we made a few other NPCs

Max: Kitchen staff with Wendy. Scrawny, big dumb glasses, into Wendy, very awkward.

Heather, Serena’s tent-mate. Her new best friend. Daughter of the camp organizer Bruce. C.I.T. (Councilor in Training).

Chelsea, Also Serena’s tent-mate. Eager.

Wes, Zachary’s tent-mate. A really nice guy. Has real friendships. Likes Zachary. Zachary begrudgingly puts up with him, while envying his ability to connect with people.

Bruce, camp organizer. A really nice guy. Everyone loves Bruce. When asked if the camp was dangerous he said “Nothing happens in this camp beyond my control.” Heather’s dad. Just a great guy. OMG EVIL BRUCE IS THE VAMPIRE EVERYONE GET OUT RUN AW– I mean just a great guy.

Establishing Shots

Just before taking a break, Karen had each of us do some establishing shots to show where we were at the start of camp.

Zachary was there before camp started. He waited until just after the tents were put up to slip into one and put his name on the top bunk. If anyone game him trouble, he just glared at them and that was that.

Serena, getting off the bus as it arrived a camp. As she stepped off and looked longingly into the lake past all the other campers, there was a palpable exhalation from the bus, as though everyone just realized they had been holding their breath the whole time.

Wendy working up the courage to approach Serena and making a plan to get close to her.


After setting the stage, Karen called for a short break to think about some things that could happen. This is a really good GMing technique and one I wish I remembered to do more often. By the time we got back Karen had a few moments to blanket the world in darkness, springboard off character creation, and leave herself things to wonder about!

First Day of Camp – Meal time!

For dinner, Wendy was cooking up camp gourmet meals… aka spaghetti and meatballs (or meatball to be specific, everyone got one, except Zachary cause he’s cool, and Serena because…dreamy…). As they were plating the meals, Max made his move “Hey Wendy, this is pretty cool isn’t it. I mean it’s cool working together, right? I mean, it would be cool if you know, you and I were to -”

To his credit Max was adorable, but Wendy paid him no mind. She only had eyes for Serena. She had planned to deliver her spaghetti with two meatballs personally but the runner for Serena’s table, Chelsea ran up to the kitchen to intercept. They argued over who would deliver the meal, plated with love. Wendy offered up a bribe. She could get booze from the locked cabinet that she knew the camp councilors hid. Maybe…possibly… nope. Chelsea ripped the plate out of her hands and rushed it over to Serena. All the beautiful plating ruined as spaghetti sauce was dripping off the edge of the plate, the two meatballs threatening to follow.

Meanwhile, Serena was making plans. She was intrigued by Zachary. The tough, I don’t care about anyone, attitude intrigued her. She sent Chelsea on another errand, to go tell Zachary to meet her by the boat house on the edge of the lake after camp fire songs.

Over at Zachary’s table Wes was trying to goad him on to go after Heather, or maybe Serena. “I’ll be your wingman.”  “I don’t need a wingman.” “You should go for it.” “I’ll go for it if I want to.” So cool.

When Chelsea arrived telling Zachary to be at the boat house, Wes was delighted. “See, she’s into you.” Zachary tried to blow it off, not interested by then he caught Serena’s gaze and was held transfixed. Her longing eyes threatened to drink him, drown him, devour him, if he didn’t relent. Without realizing it he was nodding his head and telling Wes he should definitely come along. Zachary was drawn to Serena, to her eyes and to her scent, but he didn’t want to hurt her. Wes would have to save him.

After dinner Serena approached Wendy, sought her out even! As she approached the yellow light from the kitchen reflected off Serena’s eyes, giving them an orange shimmer.  Wendy was excited to see her, beside herself even, until Serena asked her about that hidden cache of booze stored away. Surely Wendy could get it for her, bring it to the boat house tonight, and then be a lookout for her and Zachary. Crestfallen she relented. Sure that Serena and Zachary were “just friends”!

Camp Fire Songs

During the campfire important things were done.

Wendy got the keys to the booze cabinet from Heather! It took some lies and manipulation, but isn’t anything worth doing, worth lying about?

Serena talked to Bruce to ask if there was anything in the woods that the campers should know about. Serena was looking for the one who attacked her the year before, and though Bruce might know. When he told her everything was fine and she knew he was listening, she gazed into his eyes longingly and told him she needed the truth [Hypnotism, aw yeah]. “Nothing happens in this camp beyond my control.” No, not scary at all.

Zachary accepted Wes as his wingman, and plans were made for a double date (Heather coming too) with beers at the boathouse! We also established that Bruce used Zachary, that he was Bruce’s enforcer. He kept people from running away from the camp, or led them off for Bruce to feast on. It was all left unspecified but we realized that Bruce was the monster, and Zachary his lackey, afraid that Bruce would reveal his secret to everyone.

Sexy Times at the Boat House

Serena made Will show her how to open a can of beer by standing behind her like a sleazy guy teaches a woman to shoot pool. Moonlight glimmering in her eyes.

Zachary tore off his clothes and dove in the water.

Heather and Wes were weirded out.

Wendy crashed the party “Someone is coming!” Nobody believed her so she tore off all her clothes but instead of going skinny dipping leapt on Serena and started kissing her. [1] They ran off into the wood for sexy times!

Bloodshed by the Boat House

Serena and Wendy ran off naked in the woods. We faded to black on the scene until Zachary arrived to find Serena feeding on Wendy. Here eyes were pools of black as she bit into Wendy’s hand (we had previously established she had a cut on her hand) and drank deep [Darkest Self triggered by the Mortal’s sex move].

Zachary didn’t know what was happening but he knew it was wrong. Wendy did something to Serena, something to break her! He came up behind, couldn’t see that Serena was feeding but smelled the blood and leapt on Wendy. Tackling her, he changed, transformed in a horrible fashion into the wolf! Serena was startled as Wendy was torn from her grasp. She suddenly realized what she had done and her eyes, for the first time, became completely human. Just blue eyes, full of confusion and sorrow. What was Zachary doing to her love!?!

She grabbed Zachary, slammed him onto a tree, dug her teeth through his fur and began feeding on him as well! Eventually he shook her off and was frothing at the mouth, nearly ready to pounce, his animal instincts taken over, when he was picked up by the scruff, held in the vice grip of Bruce!

“I told you someone was coming” –Wendy

Bruce entered the scene and told us we were all in a lot of trouble. That we made a mess he was going to clean up. Serena [still in her darkest self] tried to dominate him. Making threats of outing him as a child molester and ruining him. Wendy said she’d tell everyone he was a monster. Bruce seemed to soften some and offered us a deal “Why don’t you two just run away and never come back?” Maybe they should have run, but Serena had to know, why had Bruce created her, why had he never told her what she was. Like one of those old I-learned-it-from-you smoking commercials she asked him “Why? Why did you change me and just leave me? Why didn’t you tell me what I was?”

“You weren’t supposed to survive.” He turned to look at Zachary still held fast. “If someone had done there job, you would have never made it out of that ally. Now it looks like I need to finish what I started.” Before he could move though Zachary broke free and was on him. Serena dove in as well. Wendy picked up a branch!

Ending with a bloody victory!


Serena back at school, discontent with her life, seeking out those whose blood she has tasted.

Wendy, fired from her job (Bruce owned the cafe) and drifting, looking for Serena and Zachary.

Zachary, freed of his bonds from Bruce and roaming the roads, following the scent of Wendy and Serena.

Quoteable quotes:

“One shower is not going to wash away this hurt.”

“I told you guys someone was coming!”

“You’re a wolf. He treats you like a dog!

Serena saying some shit about the color of her eyes changing. They changed a lot. Always reflecting something (camp fires, moon light, blackness, you know, things).


Thoughts on this Game

What rocked

I’m probably biased, but Karen is a fucking awesome Monsterhearts MC. She’s great at tugging at people’s interests, evoking creepy overtones, playing NPCs to their motives, switching status, and incorporating player contributions. She really rocked this game and we all had a great time because of how tightly she bound us together.

As players we had awesome instincts. Get right into each other’s shit very early on. Start making messy connections that frayed at the edges. Some of that did actually get messy, wait, is Selena going after Zachary or Wes, and then who is Heather going to snog? But you know, I think that’s what happens to stolen cars, the get a little trashed.

Tearing Bruce apart at the end was very satisfying. I think it wrapped up camp just perfectly and gave us all a victory we wanted while still leaving all our relationships messy as fuck. Oh… we were all naked at the end. Bonus points for that.

What could have been improved

I’m uncomfortable playing high status characters that stay in the spotlight. Low status characters striving for something, oh yeah let me stay on stage all day. High status characters with a witty remark to drive the other characters mad and then shift to them, also great. But being the center of attention and having control of people. It’s a little much for me. I had the same discomfort playing Nut People as Donna VanWert.  I think in the future I should either a) find a way for my character to be faulty right from the start or b) suck it up and accept I’m driving the show for a bit, shoot for the stars and embrace the probability of crashing and burning!

I think in part because of all the screen time that Serena was getting, I didn’t always feel like Zachary was getting enough. He was trying to distance himself from those he was afraid of hurting, which was part of it, but I’d have liked to see a few shots with Zachary and Bruce setting up their relationship as well. Ooh, flashback ideas for next session!

[1] – The Vampire’s sex move is rough. Or it was rough for me. At one point Wendy spent a string on Serena to go have sex with her. She had just turned Serena on by kissing her while naked. Going and having sex with here was a no-brainer. But then I looked at my sex move. Having sex would make me lose all my string on her, where as denying her would give me a string. The mechanical incentive to deny her was high, but what felt right in the moment was going for it.

Actual Play – Gods? Enough of this nonsense! (12/28/2014)

War-of-Ashes-Front-Cover-Mockup (1)GM: Sophie Lagacé
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, and my daughters
System: War of Ashes


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.

Social Zone Map_Exchange1


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.

Notable actions:

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:

Social Zone Map_Exchange3


Divine Milestones

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.

Actual Play – Kuld at the wall! (12/21/2014)

War-of-Ashes-Front-Cover-Mockup (1)GM: Edmund Metheny
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, and Sophie Lagacé
System: War of Ashes

Back to the Playtest Grindstone. My kids weren’t with us but we persevered,

Focus of the playtest session

  • Froth as a separate create advantage action during the Roar Phase. Aspects associated with frothing are tied to the approach used, and if any but the approach or those adjacent to it were used, the aspect is lost.
  • Weight tested with 2:1 odds granting a fixed “+” before the roll and 4:1 odds granting a fixed “++”.
  • Spellcasting both during the Roar Phase as and in the conflict proper.

What all of that needed was a good conflict to test out and thankfully Edmund was more than happy to offer it with a horde of Kuld descending upon us!

Roar Phase

We decided the that the GM would take turns “Roaring” with the characters. So, highest Quick PC Roars and generates an aspect, then our opposition does the same, on through the list. This way a single big opponent doesn’t miss out on the Roaring, nor do huge swarms of little guys get tons of aspects created.

kuldshamen_fullresAll difficulties set at Fair [+2]

  • Vala rallied the Vidaar with Flashy – “Vidaar, to me!”
  • The Kuld Augurst and began summoning forth The Source to suck up all the water in air and leave us “withering with thirst”
  • Lele coordinated the Jarl to intentionally open up one hole in the brambles to channel all of the kuld into the stone wall surrounded temple district where as a choke point. Frothing with Clever.
  • The Argust continued to summon (adding another free invoke to the aspect).
  • Semela called to Atronia, goddess of the earth to make the ground devour our foes, creating the aspect “churning earth” in the temple district zone.  She was frothing with Flashy as well and gained a minor Divine Interest consequence.
  • The Argust finished their battle magic (adding a third free invoke to the aspect) and we all the dry cold chilling our blood.

This worked out pretty well. It meant we all started with a few aspect we could use, were tied to an approach (or in the case of the NPCs frothing restricted to doing anything but what they are listed as “bad at”). and ready to jump into the fray. As I hoped it reminded me of the charging up mechanics from Anima Prime.

Where it was slightly less clear was that the Froth aspect is meant to be a personal one (with the exception of spellcasting) but “Hole in the Wall” (Lele’s aspect) was definintely not something we interpreted as personal, where as “Vidaar, to me!”, was very tied to Vala. More thinking on that later.

The Fight

MahrnnThe first to break through where the Shuda, vomiting horrific bile onto all of us. Mahrn were outside as well but thanks to the Ice Wall aspect created last session by Ficca and Mac and Cheese, they had to work a bit to get through it (Edmund required a number of successful overcome rolls for them to break open enough of the wall to get through.

Oh the havok we caused. Pillars toppled over. Braziers burning with incense for the gods thrown into the open mouths of Shuda, and all the while the earth churning and gobbling up our foes (Semela counted four devoured by the gods).

When the Marhn broke through it was trouble. Mechanically they have weight 4, so even one throws off a battle in a big way, Two is super bad news. Semela used a maneuver “Hey dum dum, look over here” to get the Troll onto the wall with her (and out of temple district with the other). It worked but just barely (tied on the overcome action). Edmund decided the bad news was that I got him in my zone… and that mean it was IN MY ZONE!

Vala and Lele pulled some pretty awesome heroics. Plunging a sword in the foot of Marhrn and then smashing him in the face when he bent down to pull it out. Vomiting Shuda were plugged up with other Shuda. It was a mess.

On the wall Selema ran from the Mahrn who destroyed everything around her. Even though it slipped and fell off the wall, it just clambered over it and kept up it’s chase.  She snatched a farmers sickle and prayed to Atronia to enchant it to delver fatal blow to the Marhn. Mechanically this is a standard use of a spell to make a stunt, in this case the stunt was “once per session, my farmers tool can deliver a lethal blow”.  Charged with a bunch of aspects and a stunt, Semela jumped off a building onto the back of the Mahrn and like separating the wheat from the chaff, she cleaved off it’s head.

Inside sword removed from the Mahrn’s foot, it was them emailed in his stomach!


Notice from the Gods

Semela’s 2nd spell cost another divine consequence, which pushed us over the edge (we had a few others from +4 and -4 rolls that I hadn’t mentioned) and we were “taken out” by Divine Interest.

A huge thunder shook the ground, we heard a massive bellowing voice, and then we looked down. To find a very short Elvorix with Ylark horns (note Semela had grown Ylark horns during the first as a consequence as well so they matched) and holding a keg of kog. He looked up at Selema and asked with divine frankness “What the hell?”

Thoughts on this game

Spell tested (from both PC and NPC) and worked well in the Roar Phase. I’ve got some concern about players getting confused about the difference between a normal ritual (which generates a stunt) and the battle rituals you can do in the Roar Phase.

We haven’t talked about what being taken out by Divine Consequences means yet, but we’ll work on that next session.

Froth as Roar worked well. It put enough aspect on the board that Edmund could hit us pretty hard when he wanted to, but we also had many resources ourselves.

Weight as dice not rolled (but fixed to +) is clunky and hard to remember. We’re going to work on revising it to be easier to manage. We noticed at the end using Fate Coins to mark weight was really helpful.

Maneuvers worked great. Given the weight rules, there is a strong incentive for player characters to push (and pull) around their opponents which is awesome.

To test next time:

  • Froth and social conflicts
  • Divine Interest Milestones

Actual Play – Refuges in Brambletown (12/6/2014)

War-of-Ashes-Front-Cover-Mockup (1)GM: Edmund Metheny
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, Sophie Lagacé, and my daughters
System: War of Ashes

After two rounds of alpha and beta playtesting, many internal revisions, and an in depth review of the system from Rob Donoghue, and then a discussion of that review with Fred Hicks, we decided that the existing systems needed more work and refinement, which meant more playtesting!  Instead of releasing a third round of open playtesting we opted to playtest it internally so we can make rules changes on the fly and test them.

Our focus was on testing the new systems introduced in War of Ashes:

  • Magic – A powerful ability that attracts (usually unwanted) attention from the gods.
  • Froth – A pre-combat fervor sentians use to push themselves the extra mile.
  • Divine Interest – A method for tracking the attention of the gods.
  • Weight – A means to measure the advantages one side has over the other when they outnumber or outweigh (in the case of large critters literally outweigh you).
  • Zone Aspects – Already pretty well tested (and vetted) so far, but continuing to play with free aspects in every zone representing the terrain.
  • Lethal Damage – Damage that cannot be absorbed with stress, only consequences.
  • Maneuvers – Tactical options that are meaningful in WoA due to the inclusion of new mechanics: Zones aspects, weight, and lethal damage.

Phew, that’s a lot to test, but we’re dedicated to doing it. Also thankfully some of the new mechanics (zone aspects and lethal damage) have already proven to work very well. Others like weight we’re sure about how to trigger it (2:1 or 4:1 odds) but just needed to tinker on the effects. And lastly maneuvers are just reinterpretations of overcome and create advantage actions, so it’s just a matter of determining how they should interact with exiting mechanics for things like forced movement (moving someone to a different zone).

The two big ones are at the top of the list Magic and Froth. Those are our big nuts to crack!

Edmund, our beloved and beleaguered GM

Since we’re all still in design mode, Edmund offered to GM for us, which was great. That way were were free to think about the systems without also trying to run the game and present story options for the characters.

We opted for a motley group including ever faction (even a Kuld!) to once again see if we thought it was viable within the fiction. Edmund gave us the prompt that we were all refugees heading to a small town after a Kuld attack. We decided that during the Kuld attack Mac and Cheese (my nine year old’s first response when we asked what her Kuld’s belches smelled like) had some epiphany then and realize it didn’t want to eat us. It seems change was gastrointestinal in nature because the other Kuld could smell the difference and now they wanted to eat Mac and Cheese!

Our characters are:

Vala the Loud – A brave Vidaar warrior who fashions herself an inspiring leader.

Lele – A Jarl survivalist long cut off from the other Jarl, Lele has taken to living off the land.

Semela – An evangelist of Atronia, sent to Brambletown to give them aid (and mostly to get her god attention getting self out of Atronia) but her entourage was lost in the attack.

Ficca – An Elvorix alchemist traveling afar to look for strange new ingredients.

Mac and Cheese – A guldal rider (guldal is called Strawberry because of it’s red coloring with white spots) that must have eaten something strange because it suddenly became cognizant of Sentians as something other than food! A monster battling with it’s identity!


We started with the attack that left us stranded. The combat was en media res where our supply caravans were already destroyed and while some of the Kuld had been defeated, more were coming.

Edmund sent a several mobs of Kuld and one Ur-Kuld leader after us.  Here’s the systems we tested (beyond the normal Fate Core rules):

Zone Aspects – worked great. We started in the wrecked caravan. Near us was  snow drift, a frozen lake, and even a “boring spot”. Not only did those aspects get used but they added a lot of fun to the fight. Aces.

Weight – We played with this a lot. As we fought the weight kept changing and moving around in zones made a big difference. Weight put some nice tension in the game but we realized that our current rules (dice fixed with a “+” at 2:1 ratio) prevented us from using the Fate Deck. We also noticed that we kept forgetting to factor in the fixed “+” on the die and that it felt awkward to resize our die pool. “Oh, roll 4dF for most rolls but roll 3dF for these.”  While we really liked the Lethal attack that happened when Vaad ran in and was outweighed 4:1 something felt off about giving one kind of bonus (a fixed +) for 2:1 odds, but a different kind of bonus (Lethal damage) for a 4:1 odds.

Froth – Used but barely tested. Vaad frothed and we realized that the uses of it need to be articulated as “as part of an other action” otherwise they are pretty weak. Locking approaches usable was cool, but we didn’t get the oomph we were looking for. More testing.

Lethal Damage – Awesome. Vaad took a gnarly blow she had to eat with consequences. Six stress could have been a moderate consequence and two stress but this was lethal so severe it was. Which lead us to…

Divine Interest – This was quite awesome. With the new rules players can defer consequences they would take to turn into Divine Consequences that affect the whole group, very much like Collateral Consequences from Atomic Robo RPG. And our first one was a big one. Rain of Ylark!  Oh yeah, it was awesome watching Lele (the atheist) explain that as a strange weather formation!

Not bad for a single combat. Weight and Froth felt like they needed some work but the other were solid.  One change we didn’t expect was in consequences, namely that in Fate Accelerated they go away pretty quickly, and we realized that our mild consequences would drop right after the combat, which felt a lot less “grim” than we wanted, so we added that to the list of rules to review.

A town in shambles made of brambles!

When we arrived at Brambletown we discovered it was named after the wall of brambles that had grown up around the town, serving as a mediocre defense against most foes, but probably just an appetizer for the Kuld.

At first we were told to turn away at the gate, the town was already too full, but when we offered Ylark (and in fact some were still falling from the skies) we were gladly let in. The town itself was divided into four quarters. An large Vidaar district with a grove to Akka-Maas, and Elovrix district, a small Jarl enclave, and a stone walled temple district that the Jarl prohibited any from entering.

When asked who was in charge an Elvorix scholar, a Vidaar bravo, and a Jarl tactician all stepped forward pronouncing they were in charge. Semella then through her hat in the ring. She was sent from Atronia to give aid to Brambletown, she brought everyone Ylark, so she was in charge. I wanted to try Frothing outside a physical battle so I frothed with Flashing (making her Dazzling) and then tried to get Semela appointed as mayor of Brambletown… which was surprisingly easy! Now she got to deal with all the problems!

The first order of business was to enter the temple district, but despite her new appointment, the Jarl would not let anyone in. Lele asked why and was told they were preventing anyone from doing any praying at the temples. Lele suggested that the temples and the stone wall around them should all be broken down and turned into fortifications to protect the town. The Jarl all nodded sagely, liking the idea very much, but Semela was incensed. “You can’t desecrate the gods! Look at all they do for us!” *Ylark Drop*

We decided the debate would be handled as a Contest (First person to win three opposed overcome rolls wins) and I thought “okay, here’s a chance for Frothing with Flashy to shine”. Only… it didn’t. None of our Frothing options made sense in a Contest. I couldn’t do lethal damage (we weren’t attacking), moving my opponent didn’t make any sense, changing my weight was immaterial. Soo… this is a problem. Clearly Froth doesn’t work in a contest, but I also don’t think it would work in a social conflict. That was a problem to address (see below).

The Kuld Are Coming!

The contest end in a tie roll, where the GM is instructed “If there’s a tie for the highest result, no one gets a victory, and an unexpected twist occurs.” What was the twist? Of course, it was the Kuld drawn to our warmth and maybe even the falling Ylark!

Luckily while we had been arguing about what to do with the temples Ficca and Mac and Cheese were working on stacking snow on the wall of brambles and then with the aid of Ficca’s alchemical concoctions turning the snow into hard ice! A frozen bramble wall is better than no bramble wall!

Thoughts on the game

There were some things we didn’t use and should test in future games. Swarm rules, Adventure Approaches, Magic, and Milestones (since we have some new ones).

There were some things we did test that I found wanting, namely Froth.  First off, Froth was hard to define in the narrative, what does it actually “do”, and it’s also doesn’t have a clear mechanical effect in the minis game as it can be spent like currency to give each side a wide range of options. I thought on it for a long while and eventually sent this dreaded email to Sophie and Karen (writer/developer and editor).

I’ve been thinking more (dangerous I know) and part of the reason I’m having a hard time with how Froth should work is that Froth isn’t something that is clear in the fiction.

Zones are easy. Relative positioning. Even if we extend that to social conflicts (threats, bribes, persuasion), they hold up pretty well.

Weight is also easy, even if our 2:1 and 4:1 results end up changing, the concept is simple and makes sense.

Froth is, well it’s a lot of things. In Shieldwall is the ability to do tricks or tweak the rules. It’s also something of a bargaining chip (though since the only person you’re bargaining with is your enemy, that mechanic is not a strong one in my opinion). But what it represents is perhaps a bit of extra vigor, courage, or ingenuity. All of those are pretty damn vague and hard to pin down with rules.

I’ve got a radical idea. And please don’t hate for suggesting this.

What if Frothing is a special phase in conflicts (like it is in shieldwall) where all people can do is create advantages. So the clever folks can devise strategy, the forceful ones can bellow thunderous roars, the careful ones can measure the distance to the enemy, etc. End result is that conflicts would start with lots of free invokes on both sides. More for the sides that rolled better. A suggested “cost” for failing the create advantage roll would be taking a consequence which would be similar a bad roll in SW and it’s also something that could be shifted to DI to get the gods interested in the fight.

This would effectively create a “charge up” round like you see in Anima Prime and it would allow players to call on the advantages created to get the same kind of perks/bonuses that Shieldwall offers them.

Also, this would address the point Edmund made, that it’s hard to hurt the players. If your opponents start the fight with say six free invokes and the GM just waits till the players use up a few of their free invokes, it wouldn’t be hard at all to generate a big monster attack.

I know the major downside of this is that it means removing a section that we have put TONS of work into so we shouldn’t consider it lightly, but lets consider it and see if it makes any sense.

And to find out what misadventures that caused, stay tuned for my next report…. Kuld on the wall!

Once again kudos to Edmund and my girls for having the patience to player a game where we stopped every 10 minutes to discuss (and sometimes change) the rules.

Actual Play – The Secrets of Cats (11/30/2014)

The Secret of CatsGM: Sean Nittner
Players: June Garcia, Julie Dinkins, Christine Hayes, and my daughters
System: Fate Core
World of Adventures: The Secrets of Cats

As project manager of Evil hat I play surprisingly few Fate games. One part because I’m usually playing games at conventions and I take what’s offered, one part because I like to play the new-hot-sexy game de jour and one part because Fate is a bit like work for me. Despite loving it, I see it A LOT and so an idea really has to get me excited for me to run it. The Secrets of Cats got me excited.

I’ve run several games of Cat for my girls in the past and I know that the idea of playing magical cats is pretty, well, magical. I mean who doesn’t want to believe that your cat staring at the wall like there is something there is actually protecting you from an evil spirit trying to get in?

EndGame Square One game days have usually been on weekends I have my daughters so if I run a game, it’s a kid’s game they can play in. On November 30th, all of those would align, so I signed up to run The Secrets of Cats!

Note: I worked with Richard Bellingham (the author), Rob Donoghue (who reviewed the outline), Lenny Balsera (who worked with Richard as a system developer), Josh Yearsly (the Editor), Fred Hicks (layout and art direction) and Crystal Frasier (cover and interior art) on this project, so it was pretty damn cool to see the fruits of their labor turn into a game at a table I was GMing!

Half-baked Characters

TSoC uses Fate Core with minor tweaks in the skill tree and some additional stunts. Any time I run Fate Core, I make sure the characters are at least ready to play. In this case it meant giving each cat a Name, description, three aspects (High Concept, Trouble, Burden), Skills selected (as there are some new ones like Territory and the four types of magic), Magic Stunts and normal stunts.

What this left open was a True Name aspect, a fifth aspect, and technically two stunts (one magic and one mundane) though I only encourage players to add in another stunt if it looks like they are trying to do something that doesn’t quite fit, or if they are using a skill they are bad at in a way that it sounds like their character should be particularly skilled.

I though this might be a bit too restrictive but it worked out great. The players quickly made their cats their own but describing their activities like Tuffy (the big bad tough cat) requiring a fealty from Oregan in the form a single dirty sock from each of her burdens (the family she watched over). They also talked about their burdens and fleshed them out much more than I had. Overall they warmed to the cats very quickly.

The adventure is a Secret…

Okay, it’s not actually a secret at all, but since I ran the adventure in the module Silver Ford, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. Suffice to say the cats went on a merry adventure, got in some fights they didn’t mean to, but saved the day in the end. The surprise finish was that our visiting cat, who really didn’t have a home found one, NOT WHERE I WOULD HAVE EVER EXPECTED. Turns out there’s a lot to say for how much having a pet can change a old cantankerous man’s disposition.

Thoughts on the game

I wish I took pictures. We had a cool map with aspect cards all over it and several drawings of cats. This was the best I could piece together afterwards.


The group I had clearly really understood cats. Whenever June’s cat Patches was outside of her own territory she immediately showed her belly to whoever owned the territory she entered. But in her home…it was HER RULES.

Bruno was hilarious because he was such a “people” cat. All of the fire crew loved him so when he saw something making off with one of their fire helmets if of course gave chase, and was almost run over because of it. Car are scary!

Many good times, and easily something I could imagine campaigning. Tuffy gained some new territory but could he hold onto it. What would Spark’s family (read: burden) do without her? Could Bruno stop the spirit that was starting fires in his town and causing his Burden’s so much grief? I’d love to play and find out.

Here are the pre-generated characters I used. Oregon, Patches, Sparks, Tuffy, and Bruno

Actual Play – Thora vs. the Ormson Brothers Three (9/28/2014)

sagasoftheicelandersGM: Carl Rigney
Players: Ben Chirlin, Jamil Valis-Walker, Sean Nittner
System: Sagas of the Icelanders

This felt a little nostalgic. Getting a chance to play a new game that I’d been excited about trying out for a while, with Carl, at EndGame. This has happened many times in the past….Dogs in the Vineyard, Don’t Rest Your Head, Apocalypse World, Agon, Monsterhearts, Levearge, Smallville… but as you can tell from the dates of those games, it’s been a while.

The game itself was serendipitous, I didn’t think that I could make it to the EndGame Square One Game Day until just a day or two before the event and by then all the games were booked. I decided to show up anyway and see if there were any openings. Fortune smiled on me. Carl’s game was full but two of the players didn’t show up so not only did I get to play Sagas but I also filled the 3rd player spot that meant there were enough players for the game to run! Huzzah!

Our Icelanders

Thora Sigriddottir – A fierce Shield-Maiden who had gone out Viking once in the past and killed a man with a fine Spanish sword, which she now wielded to the envy of many.

Jorund Bardson – The Man, father of Thora, but now remarried after Sigrid passed. Employer of Ari, the son of his good friend Hrolf. Jorund’s relationships were the ties that kept us all together. Between Jorund’s daughter, huscarl, and greedy neighbors, his life would not be simple.

Ari Hrolfson – Huscarl to Jorund. Ari’s brother Hegg had taken over the homestead and tensions were high between them, and neither felt the distribution of their father’s wealth was fair. Hegg had all the property, Ari had the ship, but he also took his father’s sword, and the last Hegg believed to be his inheritance.

Our History

We built up some backstory to wind up the tension of the game and give us something to spring off of.

Jorund Bardson and Hrolf were good friends who came to Iceland together, founded neighboring homesteads, and traded the fruits of their bounty.  Jorund had one daughter with his wife Sigrid (Thora) but the she passed and he remarried to Helga who already had two sons of her own (Bjorn and Bjarni) from her dead husband Olaf Sigurlson. With her he had two more daughters (Dalla and Osk).

Hrofl had two sons (Hegg and Ari) and a daughter (Ingrid the Seidkona). All of he children Thora, Hegg, Ari, Bjorn, and Bjarni grew up together, fought together, and eventually when a Viking together. Last summer Hrolf was injured while Viking and died during the winter chill. Hegg took the homestead, Ari his father’s boat. Both made claim on their father’s sword (Hegg because he was the oldest, Ari because he fought beside his father last) but in the end Ari just took it and would let the gods sort it out.

Both Hegg and Ari had affections for Thora, but neither had offered a bride price (dowry) yet.

Helga’s first husband (Olaf) had a brother Orm that was always the cheat and vagabond. Together with his three sons Valli the Peacock, Vandrid the Axe, and Vebjorn the Half-Bear, Orm brought hardship to the people and was a know cattle thief.


Our Story

Late at night, just as the sun was setting in early summer, three deep shadows were cast across the homestead of Jorund. In the dim light Ari (who was on the porch watching over the land) recognized the sons of Orm. He advanced to cut them off from Jorund’s cattle, but as it turns out it was he that they wanted.

The three brothers came to him wishing to be taken viking when his ship sailed later in the summer. His father was dead and his brother Hegg would not go, so naturally they should come. Ari began to dispute their claim to a place on his ship when Thora emerged and quickly escalated the confrontation by insulting the brothers by saying they were not brave or swift enough, and not worthy of going viking. Things escalated pretty fast from there. Valli insulted Thora. She challenged him. Valli dismissed her as a foolish girl. Ari boasted that not only could she defeat him, should could defeat all three of them! And a duel was arranged.

When Jorund, despite Helga’s admonitions, came outside it was already too late. The duel had been arranged and his daughter would face three warriors in single combat the next day.

We squeezed in lots of great scenes between the challenge and the duel itself.

Ari and Thora sparred by candle light. At one point Ari fell and Thora was upon him. Violence suddenly turned sexy.

They were interrupted by Jorund, however, who wished to bestow his daughter with words of wisdom.

In the night Ari hatched a plan. He took his mail shirt and oiled it well, wrapped it sound, and brought it to Thora as a gift, which she accepted gladly and the two of them wandered into the night and made tribute to Freyja, goddess of love and sexuality.

In the morning, Thora, who had been admonished by her step-mother Helga asked how she could gain her approval to marry Ari. Helga said that if Thora convinced Ari not to take her sons Bjorn and Bjarni out viking that she would embrace her as a daughter and support her. Thora agreed but soon forgot her promise.

Meanwhile Jorund and Ari talked about the battle to come and Ari asked if he would accept the Ari’s mail shirt as a bride price for Thora. Jorund protested that he would first have to refuse Ari in order to give Hegg the opportunity to propose as Hegg was the older brother. Ari countered that he would only have to allow Hegg to propose if he hadn’t denied three other suitors first. Since a father is only allowed to refuse three offers, after that, he would have to accept Ari’s offer, assuming Thora would take him. Jorund was perplexed but agreed that if three other suitors first approached and he denied them all, he would have no choice but to accept Ari’s proposal.

As people gathered to see the fight, Ari found his sister Ingrid and asked that she do a boon for him. Convince the Ormson brothers to each, in turn, propose to Thora before the duel. Ingrid said she would do this, but the price was that Ari would not draw his fathers sword form it’s scabbard until night had fallen. He agreed and she peace bound his sword with a single hair of hers and a prayer to the gods.

The Duel(s)

The Godi announced the duel, each man would be fought individually upon a small sandbar just a few feet from the shore. Stepping off the small island, having three shields broken, yielding, or dying would all signify losing.

Before the fight Bjorn offered Thora his helmet. Bjarni offered her his shield. They all embraced and boasted of her might.

Ari spoke with Hegg and kept him distracted with discussion of the homestead and sibling rivalry so that he could not approach Thora.

Before the duel was fought, Valli, son of Orm stood and said that their was no need to fight. He had three cattle that he would offer instead, as a bride price to marry Thora. All but Ari and Ingrid (who gave him a subtle and knowing smile) were surprised by this. Jorund, as he had agreed, refused this offer.

Then Vandrid, second son of Orm, stood forward with bags full of coin and offered also proposed. Jorund refused, but by now many were beyond surprise, they were either confounded or outraged. Hegg stood forward and said “This is nonsense, you cannot be hearing these proposals. If everyone is going to propose to Thora, then so will I=”

It wasn’t perfect. Ari had hoped to hold Hegg at bay just a bit longer, but he had to make do. He shouted an interruption “You cannot brother, for I already have. The mail shirt she wears to do battle today is my bride price. Jorund, let me marry your daughter!”

AWKWARD. Hegg protested. He should be the one to be able to propose. Thora called out that he had not gone viking last year, that he was a coward and not a man at all…


As each duel was fought Jorund beseeched Orm to call off his sons but it was to no avail. The old man’s pride was too great.

Hitting Game Mechanics here for a second. Thora had a Youth stat of +3, She was given +1 on all her rolls from Ari’s boasting the night before. She was also given +1 on all her rolls from her father’s counsel and training the night before. When you have +5 on a roll, success is a sure thing, and in this case, Thora never got less than a 10+. Every Ormson brother died and lead Orm alone in the world with no sons to bring firewood to keep his hearth warm. Without a slave to attend to him and with no friends, he would likely not live through the winter.

Oathbreaker or Kinslayer

While this violence occurred Ari spoke to his brother Hegg and ask that he not fight this duel. Ari loved Thora and did not want to see her harmed. But he also loved his brother, despite their differences, and did not want his blood spilled for pride. Hegg thought on this and agreed that he would not Harm Thora if Ari gave him their father’s sword. Ari tried to explain to him the oath he had made to the gods and to Ingrid. He promised the sword and sundown, but Hegg would not hear it. The choice was to let Hegg fight and die, thus loosing his brother, or to give Hegg his sword, pray that he did not draw it from it’s sheath, and put his fate in the hands of the gods. Potential god wrath it was!

When Hegg stepped onto the island to face the now blood soaked Thora he did so ready to die but also ready to speak sense with her if she could here it. The duel was for nothing. She had insulted him but she could simply surrender and thus take back the insult. None would question her prowess with the blade. Hegg held his hand on Hrolf’s sword hilt. Ready to draw should the Valkyrie of death advance on him.

There was this tipping moment where nobody could tell what would happen. Thora would advance and kill Hegg, or one of them would step back into the water and admit defeat. Ari could not see the purpose in his brother eyes and before the sword was drawn he ran through the water to tackle his brother and stop him from fighting Thora. It was moot however, Thora had already stepped back into the water, admitting defeat and restoring Hegg’s honor.

This did not however, stop the two brothers from the wrestling in the water just as they had in their youth.

A Funeral and a Wedding

After the duel the brother were all carried up onto Orms property where they were buried under giant piles of stone (the one thing that was not scarce on the island). Everyone helped carry stones. Many till their own hands were bleeding. Children and the elderly alike. All helped while Orm wept at the loss of his sons.

That night Thora and Ari were married. The walked onto the beach again and consummated the marriage before returning to the feast where Ari boasted that they would go viking this summer and bring back the greatest treasures anyone on Iceland had ever seen. Yay, boasting!

A viking

We were running short on time, so we handled the viking using the Huscarl move of the same name.  Fate was tempted and they stayed out longer than they should but they came back with plunder a plenty. (I supposed two handfuls of silver plus one handful for Thora, Bjorn, and Bjarni each).

Jorund also did well. He expanded and built a new barn for his cattle to keep them safe and protect them from the cold.

A forgotten promise

What about Thora’s promise to Helga that Bjorn and Bjarni wouldn’t go a-viking? Whoops, I guess that is for the gods to sort out.

Thoughts on this game

Ben had never played a roleplaying game before. He was a champ! He took right to being the beleaguered father with mischief making young ones. He did everything he could to keep his house in order and protect his family, but much of that was out of his hands. I think it was a great introduction to gaming for him!

There is a labor & food resources mini game that we got to see a little bit of in play. I didn’t see the moves so I was only getting part of it, but it seemed like a cool way to mechanize at least one “front”. Family disputes, sickness, the dangers of going viking would still come from play, but this ensured a constant challenge of just keeping everyone fed.

I love, love, love, the advancement mechanics. Pick four people to have relationships with. Advance after you’ve made a move involving each of them. I think at this moment this is my favorite advancement system. It forces the game to focus inward, which is exactly the direction you want it to go anyway. Fucking brilliant.

I don’t often feel clever in games, but in this game I felt more like Br’er Rabbit (or perhaps more aptly in this case Loki) than I ever have. Ari first made something of a blunder by challenging all three of the Ormson brothers to fight Thora, but later turned that to his advantage by giving her his mail shirt as a bridal gift and convincing the brothers to each propose to her before they fought, so once Jorund refused them all, he could not refuse Ari, and thus wouldn’t lose face by allowing Ari to marry her instead of Hegg. It didn’t work out that way, but it was close enough, I still was pretty tickled.

Deciding between breaking a vow to the god and being a kinslayer was pretty god damn awesome.

I think it would have been a stronger choice if Thora and Ari weren’t smitten with each other from the start. Yes, Hegg posed an obstacle, but as an NPC there was only so much interference he could run. I think it would have been stronger if Ari was perusing Thora, but she sought Hegg, or that she loved only battle and wanted no man.

The man and woman moves really gave me food for thought. It reminded me a lot of the Day/Night moves from Night Witches. If you weren’t in a certain circumstance (in this case being of one gender or the other) there were some things you just couldn’t do. It’s a very different vibe from Apocalypse World where the basic moves cover everything one might try to do and the playbook moves just create more potent effects or shortcuts to simplify things. An AW character is fundamentally never at a loss for something to try. A woman’s honor was never in question. A man could not goad a man into action.

The shield-maiden was the one character that could break this rule (she got one male move) and I was really glad that in our game, the woman being the kick ass hero that can sleep with whoever she pleases, gets the glory, and is all kinds of bad ass was totally normal. None of the characters, except the small-minded and churlish Ormson brothers thought anything of it.

I super loved the currency as well. A few bits copper, a handfull of silver. Fucking awesome.

There was a great tender moment when it was clear though his look that Hegg was not angry at Ari for their father’s death, he was angry with himself. It was the kind of thing they couldn’t communicate to each other with words, but when the wrestled in the water, both half drowning, I like to think they understood one another and forgave one another.

Carl, after the game, shared this little snippet about arraignment from

All of the family sagas agree that courtship “was the single
most deadly pastime for the young Icelandic male”.
The most important, unwritten rule of courtship was that
the less a hopeful groom saw of his intended bride before
entering into formal marriage negotiations with her family,
the better his chances were of staying alive.

Also, love poetry was punishable by outlawry or death!

Actual Play – The Lost Ones (2/23/2014)

DoGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Tim Sanders, David Schmidt, James Lawton, and my two littles.
System: Do:Fate of the Flying Temple

Mark Diaz Truman is making a Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) version of Daniel Solis’s great game Do:Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Beyond using the FAE rule-set, Mark has also made a change to the setting, namely that the pilgrims arrive home to find the temple is missing, and it it’s place is a dragon egg. When the egg hatches it’s their responsibility to raise the dragon, and in turn it aids them. Now, instead of letters being delivered to the temple, they somehow, are sent to the dragon, who burps them up.

EndGame has started a new monthly game day called Square One where GMs are asked to come bring any game their excited about running. Old games gathering dust on their shelves. New games they’ve never tried. Wacky play-tests, you name it.

I’m the project manager for Evil Hat, very invested in making our games successful, I love EndGame and want to contribute as a GM, and I had my kids this weekend. My solution to all three was to run Do at Square One. It was peachy!

Characters – Setup

Each player made a pilgrim first by naming them. The names have two parts, an Avatar and a Banner. These names get fleshed out into aspects on the character sheet (effectively becoming the Pilgrim’s High Concept and Trouble respectively). We had

Pilgrim Small Monkey – A tiny monkey, like, really tiny. She could fit in the palm of your hand tiny. Small monkey helped by swinging through the trees to deliver things, but got in trouble because winds (even gentle ones) blew her away.

Pilgrim Fierce Cat – A small tiger that helped people but sometimes scarred them too.

Pilgrim Quick Deer – Quick always got places quickly but sometimes didn’t look where he was going!

Pilgrim Sleeping Dancer – Elegant and friendly, but he fell asleep all the time!

Pilgrim Impulsive Cheer – Always saw the bright side of things, but did’t think things out too far ahead.

The Dragon

When the arrived and found the Dragon, floating in a green cloud where the temple used to be the Pilgrims went after the egg, but they found that they were suddenly aware they were flying. And of course once you realize you’re flying, then you fall! Quickly the bounded from cloud to cloud, caught winds, and sailed safely to a very small island with a single palm tree. All fell safely in the palm, except Cheer who feel safely in the water with a giant sploosh!

When the egg cracked, the dragon was revealed. Each pilgrim declared one aspect about it:

  • Radiant in the sunshine
  • Playful dragon
  • Perpetually hungry
  • He can fly!
  • He’s really strong

From those we decided he was a golden dragon and shined like the sun. They named him Shiny!

Letter to the Pilgrims

Once safe and secure, Shiny started coughing, making a hacking sound, and then spit up a scroll! When they unrolled it, it was a letter from a young girl named Miko:

Dear Pilgrims of the Flying Temple…

Hi, Pilgrims! I hope you’re having a great day at the Flying Temple. I’ve heard it’s filled with birds and fish and cats and dogs and all kinds of animals! I bet it’s lots of fun.

I wish I lived with you! I’m on a little world that doesn’t have any animals at all. Even though my family brought two cats and three dogs with us when we first moved to this planet, they’ve all vanished! All our animals are missing and no one knows where they went!

I’m writing you today because I think you can help us. Our animals have to be going somewhere, and I bet you can help us figure out where they went. The adults on my planet don’t like it when us kids ask questions, but they will have to pay attention when you come!

Anyway… you should come soon. I’ve got games we can play and we can play tag on the beach and we can look for animals together. And you can tell the adults that they have to listen to us kids for once.

P.S. I think that maybe something in the woods is keeping the animals from coming home. I’ve got a flashlight and sandwiches and a backpack all ready to go if you want to go into the woods to look for them.

– Miko

Afraid that whatever happened to their temple, must have been what happened to the animals, the set off to go help Miko. Shiny carried each of them in one claw, except Small Monkey who was small enough to ride on Shiny’s back (Shiny is still a baby dragon but really strong).

Saving the Animals

When the arrived, the pilgrims found a peaceful town. There was an emerald green river that flowed through the village, a blacksmith, a school, a fountain, and many happy people.  Everyone was healthy and everything was orderly. A bit too orderly though. Children were to listen and learn, not to be heard. Disruptions to the towns happiness and peacefulness was an office that the Mayor Kuge would not abide.

Game aspects: Temple is Missing, Animals are Missing, and Adults Don’t Listen to the Kids.

After causing a ruckus from their arrival the the Pilgrims set off to find out what was going on. Sleeping Dancer was a kid himself, so he started going to school, and learned the teacher Shokunin was new to the town and very kind to the children, but also did not let them explore. Small Monkey got blown by a strong wind and was rescued by fierce cat, but in doing so landed in  the fountain. Soon after, both of them got horribly sick! Impulsive Cheer investigated the doctor and found that she gave the sick animals to some swarthy looking men with a cart. Quick Deer raced up the mountain to find there was a big factory on the river, making the water green.

When the all looked further they found goblins! Very orderly goblins that were making sure the humans were healthy and that the animals, who got sick when they drank the emerald water were cared for outside of town. But they wouldn’t let them go. The animals wanted to go home!

The pilgrims freed the animals and revealed that the mayor himself was a goblin in disguise. After that the town agreed to have fewer rules and listen to the kids (who knew something was wrong all along) more often! They also had sympathy on the goblins who wanted pets and let them still take care of the sick animals, as long as they could go home when they wanted to!

Props and Pretty Things

I didn’t give myself a lot of time to prepare props for this game, but I do have the beautiful game Tokaido, which seemed very appropriate to the game. I taped a few of the cards to index cards, used some replica Ch’ing Dynasty coins as fate chips, and printed out the letter itself. While we were walking to the game, my little one saw a cherry blossom tree, so we pick a few of those as well.

The exciting part for me though, was getting a chance to use my own Dragon in a game! He protects every home I’ve lived for the last 20 years and now he got to come with me to a game!






Thoughts on this game

This was not one of my best games. Partially this is because I don’t have a good feel for creating challenging and fun “young adventures”. I find myself treating young characters (and players) as miniature adults, which isn’t a good solution. Geoff McCool noted that in my Boxcar Children game, that he was terrified about the idea of children wading through cold water that was crashing into rocks to find a secret cave, getting drenched and then sick. It worked out okay, but I did really allow those kids to get into some pretty perilous situations (and that was my youngest daughter who’s character got sick).

The other reason I was a bit down on myself was for scripting too much ahead. I wanted to have an idea of what the goblins were doing, but really as I kept revealing their plans (instead of letting them evolve from play) the idea in my head started sounding worse and worse. Were the animals slave or pets? Why would the goblins be hurting them if they wanted to care for them? A lot of inconsistencies started cropping up (at least in my mind).

Finally, I feel like the opposition was pretty week. The mayor didn’t really have any way to threaten or impose his will. Even should he win a roll, about the worst he ever did was make the townspeople not like the pilgrims. Which is fine once, but as the antagonist I felt he was a one trick pony. He really felt like weak opposition to me.

One the plus side, playing wacky anime characters that can do amazing wuxia acrobatics is cool! And we didn’t have a single physical fight, which I was very proud of (as that is not what the game is about at all).

The dragon was one thing that worked really well in this game. Both causing complications for them, and mirroring their behavior back at them. He got confused when told he should follow the rules and then saw the pilgrims break them, which I thought was a great (in game) teaching moment.