Actual Play – Kagematsu (6/17/2017)

Facilitator: Sean Nittner
Kagematsu: Angela Robertson
Townswomen: Greg Klein, Anna Langlinais, Geoffrey Becker, Jeff Kosko, and Sean Nittner
System: Kagematsu by Danielle Lewon

Another game of Kagematsu at Games on Demand. Yes!

Angela signed up because she said she wanted to run the game herself and wanted to learn the system. So what better way than to be Kagematsu!

Angela was so wonderful!

Some of my highlights:

  • Kagematsu being very slow to respond with whether or not an affection was granted… Angela teased it out wonderfully.
  • One of the townswomen trying to frame a scene and then being reminded that only Kagematsu can do that.
  • Angela reveling in the the power she held!
  • How Kagematsu turned two of our tailors against each other!
  • Once again, playing an irreverent townswman. This time a rice farmer who spent all day gossiping and smoking tobacco with a friend behind the shed.
  • The difference in outcomes. Last game we defeated the threat, and Kagematsu left with the one he loved move (me!). This game tow of the townswomen (myself and Jeff’s character) sacrificed themselves and the town’s fear was still too great. Kagematsu died, the village was burned down by bandits, and everyone had to flee. This game delivers!

What Rocked

See above!

Also, now Angela is going to run it for her group. Yay!

What could have improved

That cherry danish thing I brought (see pic below)… that was a sticky mistake.

I probably should try playing a character that isn’t just a troublemaker sometime. Sometime…

Actual Play – Sword Kids (6/17/2017)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Morgan Ellis, Mike Olson, Austin Lemke, and Kevin Lemke
System: Blades in the Dark
Score: Doskvol Riots

In which we learn that every once in a while, with perhaps a bit if GM encouragement, Blades might actually try to make a difference and make things better in Doskvol. They’ll do it by kidnapping rich people’s (adult) children and holding them ransom, but they’ll do it to make a difference!

In my Doskvol Riots score there is an option for what kind of score you want to do which reads:

Creating Change. You believe in the cause. Who do you care about and how have they suffered? Who needs to go down for things to change? What will you do to them? Ask the  Creating Change. You believe in the cause. Who do you care about and how have they suffered? Who needs to go down for things to change? What will you do to them? Ask the GM how they are prepared for you. 

Before this game everyone who read that option said some variation of “hah, as if!” and them moved onto one of the other two more self interested options (Smoke Screen and Supplying one Side). However when Mike Olson was deciding which option to take (we pass the sheet around the table allowing people to make choices and then others to answer the question in italics) he actually considered choosing that option and with a bit of a nudge he went for it!

The Situation

The Coalridge Minors have been trying to form a union for years, and union breakers (like our crew here, the Sword Kids) have been making sure that didn’t happen. Under the employment of Foreman Slane, they’ve been leg breaking and fire making to keep would be organizers from… organizing.

But that changed when Bell Brogan, a noble who gave up her life of luxury to join the coal miners and organizing them to throw off the shackles of their cruel employers, started causing trouble for Foreman Slane. To shut them down Slane had the Sword Kids light fighter to a building known to house many of the coal miners. Few were hurt in the fire it (it was lit while everyone was at work) but all of these families lost their homes and their possessions. Slane meant it as a message, to turn the tide of dissidence, but his actions were only fuel on the fire!

Meanwhile, Slanes employer, Laudius Bowmore arrived on Coalridge announcing a relief effort to help all the now homeless members of Coalridge. He and his family were also going to host a town hall to hear all of their grievances. The Sword Kids however, knew this was all for show. The Bowmore’s didn’t care about the people, they just wanted to quell the rioting. They would make empty promises that would never be filled, and once again convince the miners that their best option was to go back to work, accept what meager scraps could be offered to them, and in all other ways accept a worse life than they had before.

The Sword Kids

Bell, who was actually part of a noble family, grew up with Adric Keel, another noble whose parents never expected anything of him, but who wanted to make a difference. Much to his parents dismay, Adric joined the Bluecoats, and because of his lineage, was instantly appoint as a watch commander. Because he didn’t spend much time on the street, it took him a while to realize that the Bluecoats were just criminals with a chain and a fancy coat. And when he tried to expose the corruption he found it went all the way to the top. He also found out that the squeaky wheel gets the grease hammer. He was kicked off the force and disowned by his parents for being such a disgrace.

Adric, who had been given the name “Blue” by every criminal on the street who still thought he was a Bluecoat at heart hooked up with his drug dealers (hey, he might want to make a change, but that doesn’t make him an angel) Timoth, who in turn brought along two Skovlanders, who smuggled the drugs, Skannon and Brace. This sad lot had all been beaten up by Doskvol in one way or another. Brace was a Skov refugee that got gang pressed onto the Nightbreaker, Lord Strangford’s notoriously dangerous to crew Leviathan Hunter. Skannon, who had fought beside Brace in the Unity War, signed on voluntarily to get him off the ship, but needed both Blue and Timioth’s help to do it.

Since then, the Sword Kids had fallen in with Foreman Slane, doing work Adric never thought he would, until it went to far and they turned against their employer.

The Score

To make a difference they would:

  • Convince Bell she needed to lay low (a Flashback once they realized that assassins were hired to remove her)
  • Break into the Bowmore’s estate in Coalridge (they only stayed there when making a civil gesture or when their family home was undergoing repairs)
  • Poison and kidnap the Bowmore children (who were 17 and 19 and first put up a formidable resistance in the form of a sword fight)
  • Convince the housekeeper not only that she should stay quiet but she remembered Adric from when he was young, and that “I didn’t set out to do crime” but now crime was the only way to make thinks better, and that she should help them escape the house with the two paralyzed Bowmore’s in tow.
  • Create a fantastic explosion as a diversion to distract the rioters outside and sneak to a boat which they had waiting nearby to sneak away with the price.

What Rocked

I really liked the use of clocks in this game. We had several tensions rising around the people being mollified, Bell being assassinated, and, Bell who they called a friend, learning that the started the fire. I was particularly impressed that when the “Assassinate Bell” clock was 3/4 full, Timoth called for that flashback to warn her that they were about to do something dangerous and that she should watch her back. It caused all kinds of tensions between them (she wanted to lead the resistance) but with a lot of work they won her over and knocked that clock down and kept her alive.

There was some really morally grey areas here, but I wanted the players to decide where the stood. This was the first group I’ve seen that actually said they wanted to do some good, and it was great watching them try despite how hard it was. And even then, poisoning a noble’s children and kidnapping them, it’s hardly behavior that you can excuse, but to them it was for a greater good. I wouldn’t call the Sword Kids “good” people, but having the discussions they did in game (and in character) was really wonderful.

The crew’s name came as this off handed comment. Something like “Do all you kids have swords?” and then it just turned into, yeah, we’re the Sword Kids. And boom, crew name!

What could have improved

I felt like I got really good hooks in the game for Adric/Blue, and towards the end for Timoth, but not so much for Skannon and Brace. I think it’s an easy crutch for me in a con game to grab onto one character’s heritage or background and play off that, when I should really be doing a better job of incorporating them all in.

Actual Play – Kagematsu (6/16/2017)

Facilitator: Sean Nittner
Kagematsu: Kristin Firth
Townswomen: Alex Roberts, Mengu Gungor, Michael Donovan, Allen White, and Sean Nittner
System: Kagematsu by Danielle Lewon

It is Japan 1572, the end of the Senguko period of history. Like many transitions of power the country is filled with strife, warring factions pulling any able bodied men into war, leaving villages populated by only women, children and old men.

Now a small, nearly indefensible village is living under the horror of a dangerous threat that casts its long shadow over the village. Without a defender, its people are almost certainly doomed.

Enter Kagematsu, a wayward ronin fleeing a troubled past. Here is a defender for the village, if only he can be swayed from his meandering course. So it is that several young women conspire among themselves to win his affections and steer him to their cause…

I’ve been wanting to play or run Kagematsu since I bought it in 2011. Yikes. That’s been a while! One of the key components of the game is that the character of Kagematsu, who opens all the scenes, and who all the townswomen seek affection from, must be played by a woman. Because Kagematsu opens scenes and because he assigns each townswoman either love or pity at the end of each scene (which affects the difficulty of them gaining affection in future scenes) they have a very GM-like role. I wasn’t sure about running it in Games on Demand both because I would need at least one woman to sign up for the game and also because I would need to as her to take on this responsibility.

Kristin, however was eager to do both, which made me really excited to facilitate!

Our Village

A lakeside village far from the beaten path surrounded by a pastoral forest. The village was known for it’s lakeside fishing as well as woodcrafts, particularly their flutes!

We were threatened by a recent shortage of fish as we had no other primary food supply.

Our characters

Kagematsu, a handsome middle age man with a scar on his face. He rode a good horse, and those that paid extra attention could tell he walked with a slight limp.

Yuna, the bowl-maker from a family of bowl-makers, who loved the shrine to the lake spirit and a beautifully engraved comb.

Ayame, the village midwife, recently appointed to the position when the previous midwife died. Ayame was very young and unsure of her position in the village,  but sure of her trade.

Akiko, the cemetery caretaker, who regarded all the the spirits with great reverence.

Junich, an apprentice flute maker, who loved being among the trees behind the village and listening to the wind waft through them.

Fumi, the wood collector who disliked her job. Her favorites were a young boy named Toshi, who was the town rascal, and being out on the water.

The Play is the Thing

Play in Kagematsu is done in turn based order with each townswoman asking for an affection (anything as simple as a smile or stolen glace, up to a roll in the hay or a confession of love) and then Kagematsu framing a scene in which the townswoman may attempt to win this affection from him.

Because each scene can generate love (which reduced the difficulty in future rolls) and because each affection grants the townswoman a desperation (such as showing Kagematsu disdain, or questioning his honor) the game rewards you for taking it slow and having many scenes with Kagematsu. However, because you can attempt to gain multiple affections in a scene, my experience was that players often wanted to do that. There is a bit of a push you luck mechanic involved as well. Each townswoman has a fear stat which goes down each time they gain affection, however if they ever fail to gain affection, then the scene ends and they don’t reduce their fear for any of the affections they did gain that scene.

There is a fair bit of work that Kagematsu has to do tracking all the the townswomen and their favorite things, along with his love or pity for them all. I noticed in this game and in the one after it that the player playing Kagematsu was making extensive notes. It all paid off in play though, as Kristin’s Kagematsu was great at reincorporating things that were already known about the other character or things that happened in play. The game was so much fun.

What Rocked

I really loved (you’ll see this in the next game as well) playing a recalcitrant townswoman. I slacked off on my, acted inappropriately, and generally clowned around. It’s a selfish role to play, because someone (or many someones) really have to play the game straight for it to work, so I have many thanks to all my other townswomen for giving me a platform to spring from.

Kristin commented while she was playing that she had so much power. Yay, working as intended!

We had some really tender and sweet scenes where Kagematsu gave the affection that the townswomen wanted and some really cold scenes when he refused them. The mechanics of the game pushed towards this uncertainly really well, as well as pushing towards using desperation and turning the nature of the relationship with Kagematus more fraught. Loved it.

Kristin has this amazing backstory for Kagematsu that was revealed in snippets throughout the game, it was so much fun to find out her history for him!

What could have improved

As a first time facilitator I felt pretty clumsy through most of the game. I needed to refer back to the book often to understand the procedure of play.  Thankfully the other players were very understanding and we spent a lot of time passing the book around the table reading passages from it!

Actual Play – The Nail and Bottle (6/16/2017)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Pamela Alexander, John Alexander, Clark Valentine, and Jeff Kosko
System: Blades in the Dark
Score: Doskvol Riots

Skovlan Refugees are rioting because the brigade watched as their homes went up in flames. What will our scoundrels do about it? Claim turf in the midst of the carnage!

My notes for this game are scattered, so we have a bunch of puzzle pieces here, which might just all fit together (or might not):

  • Bazso Baz, secretly a lover, wants to retire. Gone missing after the fire.
  • Flint, used to move spectral product together with our Whisper Echo.
  • LaRose the Bluecoat, a smug cur who loves to feel superior.
  • The Nail and Bottle, used to belong to the Lampblacks, now run by the Bluecoats.
  • Target: Casslyn Slane, a minor noble assigned to be watch commander of a Bluecoat regiment, trying to advance up the ranks and get out of this crappy job.
  • Melvir, used to run the Nail and Bottle Drav Maroden, friend of the crews. Used to run the Nail & Bottle, now run by Drav Maroden, a Bluecoat.
  • Echo rallied up a group of cultists (Vestine, Orlan, Kelyrn, and Wicker) and together they assaulted the Bluecoats in the Nail and Bottle.
  • The Nail and Bottle was barricaded because of the riots. People killing each other in the streets and the Bluecoats doing nothing about it except saving their own skins.
  • The job was smooth, our cutter got a job as a bouncer. Our Skovlan hound went in as bait (he knew he’d get picked on, which they used pretense for starting the fight). Our slide sneaked in the back with our Whisper.
  • It all went down in a bloodbath, but eventually Casslyn was slain and the Nail & Bottle was theirs for the taking!

What Rocked

It was freaking awesome to game with John, Pamela, Clark, and Jeff. I know my notes are spotty, but I do remember vividly how well they portrayed their characters.

What could have improved

Dang, not only did I not take pictures of my notes, I also lost most of them, so I had to put this together mostly from memory. I’m still digging for those index cards!

Actual Play – The Church Job (6/15/2017)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Carl Schnurr, Rob Donoghue, Chad Patterson, Aaron Sturgill
System: Blades in the Dark
Score: Doskvol Riots

I brought the riots to Origins and a riot we had. The Spirit Wardens, everyone’s favorite bogeymen, had burned a witch to break the will of the conscripted Leviathan Hunters, and it had of course, gone horribly wrong.

Elsabeth, a student at Charterhall had been speaking on behalf of the rights of Doskvol citizens and revealing the injustices inflicted upon the citizenry, particular those forced to sail the void sea. When normal methods of silencing her failed, the Spirits Wardens escalated to dire measures and they used the Heart of Kotar, an artifact that was presumed missing, to light a fire that would utterly destroy a demon engulfed in it, and burned Elsabeth on top of it, under the auspices of her being a demon herself.

When this happened the citizens were pushed too far and with Kolin as their leader, took to rioting in the streets of Brightstone, surrounding The Sanctorium, watching the fire that burned not 100 yards from it’s doors.

And my scoundrels used that as a smokescreen to sneak into the Sanctorum from the canals below, make off with the Bank of the Dead (material property taken from the dead), and zip line out of a belfry just as the bombs that Kolin and his crew planted went off!

What Rocked

This was my most Leverage-style of Blades games I’ve run. Rob really figured out how to make flashbacks and his Spider’s forsight work in awesome ways. The did the church job and they did it with style.

A fun twist that we didn’t end up using, but I liked just the same, was that the Lampblacks were working with the Leviathan Hunters to press gang citizens by taking the drunkest (and often the worst customers) and getting them on the ships after they’ve passed out.

What could have improved

Because they were so good at evading people we had very little NPC interaction, which is where I think my strengths lie. Most of the challenges were against the environment, or the encroaching threats. The challenges were solid, but they felt but their nature, less interesting that those with people involved.

Related to that, though the riots are meant to be central to the score (and they were certainly the impetus for the score happening in the first place) they felt far away from the action. There is some sense to that though, the players chose the “smoke screen” option, and they allowed the riots to run unimpinged and they robbed the church while everyone inside was distracted.

Actual Play – #Feminism Take 2 – The Flirt (8/7/2016)

#FeminismFacilitator: Sean Nittner
Players: Andy Munich, Alex Roberts, David Leaman, and Jeremy Tidwell
System: #Feminism Nano-Games

Our last game of the con and oh, what a good one.

The Flirt

Finally, after several sessions, I added a new game in!

Flirt by Agata wistak (Poland)
Flirt is an attempt to deconstruct the game almost everyone is playing — game of hook-ups, crushes, and scoring!
4–5 players; 60 minutes; Intensity 2/5.

The suggestion that I had heard about this game was to make it a meta-game that was played while playing the other #Feminism nano-games. So. Meta.

Part of the flirt, in addition to secretly assigning roles as (The Girl, The Girl’s Secret Friend, The Flirt, and the The Flirt’s Friends) is to also make large pile of genders, gender expressions, sexual and relationship orientations, and governing moods. I was a shy, fem, cis-woman. So the intent was to play up these public identities in addition to our secret role while also playing the other nano-games. So. Very. Meta.
2016-08-07 13.41.54

Unsurprisingly, we also played the two games that I’ve come to adore:

Mentioning the Unmentionables by Kajsa Greger (Sweden)
Three games about the anatomy of women. (Dances with Vulva, Dying for a Cup of Coffee, and Just Put Some Salt on It)
3–5 players; 60 minutes; Intensity 3/5.

First Date by Katrin Førde (Norway)
A game about a date gone wrong and a rant about the orgasm gap.
2–5 players; 30 mins; Intensity 1/5.

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What Rocked

I was super concerned about Alex being the only woman at the table. It was a mix of wanting her to feel safe and wanting all the men at the table (including myself) to avoid tokenizing or fetishsizing her presence, or you know, just being jerks. I know and love Jeremy and from my knowledge of Andy and his involvement in Geek Girl Con, I felt pretty confident that we’d be in good shape and stay vigilant for any sexist or otherwise jerky behavior. David, who was unknown to me, turned out to be just wonderful as well. At the end of the game (in our overall debrief) we talked about Alex being the only woman at the table and how that affected the games we played and the interactions we had. Thumbs up all around. Yay!

The Flirt was an insidious game. Alex drew “The Girl” and I drew “The Flirt”. Jeremy and Andy were “The Flirt’s Friends”. There were these things that Andy and Jeremy did that really made my mind explode wondering why they did them and what they meant. At one point Andy gave me a very flattering compliment and I first though “wow, that was so nice of him.” Then I wondered though, how much was he doing that just to prop me up, to play his role. Jeremy made a move I didn’t even pick up on until later. He was about to sit down next to Alex but then changed his mind and said I should instead. I didn’t think twice about it, until he said in the debrief that he had done that to put us together. I know we’re always operating on multiple levels and everything has subtext but playing this prolonged social deduction game (even when I knew who everyone was) really got me thinking about all the subtle and not subtle things we do to and our reasons for them. Just like the game intended!

What a wonderful group of people and a wonderful way to end Gen Con! Thanks to all of you!

What could have improved

One thing I wasn’t able to do was stack the various gender, orientation, and governing moods onto my other roles. I picked the shy, fem, and cis-woman card because I thought I could portray those roles and identities while also facilitating other games, but I think I bombed at that pretty hard. Food for thought.

Actual Play – Lights Out (8/6/2016)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Justin Atkins, David Saldivar, Jonas Lowery, and Dmitry Dreyzin
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.6

Jangle, Black Mouth Ann, Botler, and Nectar all had a plan. The Lampblacks hated them anyway so why not knock over one of their gambling houses.

They’d wait till just before Bazso and his goons came to pick up the take, when the pot was the richest, infiltrate the gambling hall, knock out a few Lampblacks like a few spiders and bugs, and be off with the kitty in no time at all.

Step back a second, how did this get started

I’m tinkering with Blades these days. Here are two way I know to start a score that works well:

  • Use a score sheet that gives the players some choices about their sitch.
  • Ask questions during character creation and wait for the players to get excited about a problem or opportunity and make the score about that.

So, why use a known method when you can try something new. I decided to try and emulate the method I saw John used when he ran a game for Big Bad Online. John asked some questions, as you do, during character creation, and when they were finished, he pulled a common thread between the three PCs together and asked if they wanted to do a score about that. Looks like it worked pretty well so I gave it a shot.

Jangle was on the outs with Lyssa. She had hired him to disappear a body for her, and it had to be gone in a short period of time. She made a deal with Chael, the head of Rail Jack family, to get it on a train leaving from Gaddoc Rail and then toss it off the train once they got outside the city. She didn’t want any part of it ever coming back. Bottler, Chael’s nephew, knew that Chael reneged on the deal, taking Lyssa’s money, the protective amulet around the corpses throat, and then tossed the body into the canals of Nightmarket. In a moment of civic duty and complete lack of self preservation, Bottler told the Spirit Wardens about this so they could incinerate the body, thus earning the ire of Chael and the rest of the Rail Jacks.

Black Mouth Ann peaved Bazso Baz by killing his lover Cross, and made it worse because Cross was his man on the side, so Bazso could even admit that he cared all that much when Cross died, but he did. Finally Nectar was in Setarra’s favor because she had been snared by a Spirt Warden’s trap, and he set her free. Since then she’s been offering him insights into the affairs of those inside Doskvol.

Having pissed of both the Crows and the Lampblacks, I suggested doing a score for the Red Sashes, namely knocking over one of the Lampblack gambling houses that was competing with theirs. Setarra could see into the hearts of several Lampblacks that bore her mark. She knew their fondness for whiskey and their naturally lax nature at all times except when they in direct conflict with the sashes. She fed this information, bit by bit to Nectar until they had a plan.

BoxingThe Figg

A bare knuckle boxing ring, located down an alley behind a butcher shop was an open secrets in Crows Foot. Three matches a night, top notch fighters, all with coin are welcome.

In a back room Brenna, Crine, Eddy, and Wester were all sharing war stories, while Birch did his best to ignore them and count the chits before Bazso game to pick up the earnings. Out front the bookies peddled the fighters odds while guards stood over their shoulder to make sure no one in the crowd tried to snatch a change box and more importantly that none of the bookies dropped bets into their own pockets.

In the ring, Marlane and Hix sparred playfully at first to warm up the crowd, then savagely to take home the purse.

Pear Shaped

This heist couldn’t have gone more wrong. Between Black Mouth Ann and Jangle bluffing their way into the back room, only to find there were a lot more Lampblacks than they expected [Engagement roll, mixed outcome, tougher than it looks] to Bottler letting his personal feeling for Marlane get him more focused on the match than the job, it was left up to Nectar to crack open a few windows and summon a tempest from outside that filled the covered the Lampblacks in a rime of frost to give Black Mouth Ann a moment to slip away from the guns pointed at her head, and fire at a junction box which killed the lights inside the building.

Even with these distractions our scoundrels were horribly outmatched and everything came down to a meeting where they had met with Mylera Klev who agreed to send in reinforcements of her own if needed. The signal was the lights going out. [Flashback with a hefty cost, 2 stress and the lion share of the kitty going to the Red Sashes].

With sash and sword to aid them, and Bottler’s fury directed away from fans of Hix and onto the Lampblacks, the scoundrels managed to grab the kitty and make it to the rooftops and out into the the night before Bazso and other reinforcements arrived!

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What Rocked

This game was a great example of how many tools Blades had at their disposal. All the initial rolls were going horribly and the situation just kept getting worse for everyone. But as it did, my devils Bargains became more and more attractive, devil and all. Also the flashback to a meeting with Mylera, despite bargaining from a weak position, gave them the advantage they needed to get the effectiveness they needed (both quality and magnitude, which they were lacking before) to turn the tide. I loved watching them dig deep to pull off this score.

Specifically because things when so wrong, this was also a game where I instantly had ideas for what they might do next. Bazso would be coming at them hard. Setarra had given them an offer that wasn’t taken but was strongly considered, and the bluecoats had gotten wind of a new batch of troublemakers [They generated 9 heat on this score and jump right to having a wanted level] knocking over establishments. Since Officer Larose was in The Figg when it all went down and had gotten in a fist fight with Bottler (he was talking shit about Marlane), it wouldn’t be hard at all for the Bluecoats to identify them in the future!

What could have improved

Overall, I didn’t execute the Harper method all that well. I essentially said that two of the three major gangs in Crows Foot were already upset with our scoundrels, so why not do a job in the interest of the the third? The fact that they later used the Red Sashes as backup actually reinforced why the score made sense, but that wasn’t until they were neck deep in Lampblack shit.

Also Setarra’s connection to these frankly pedestrian crimes didn’t really click for me. I kept trying to figure out some occult reasons she would care about these peeps and nothing besides my own inside baseball reference to the Lampblacks getting demon blood tattoos really made any sense there. Thankfully Dmitry was very forgiving in this regard and was happy to run with this score to gain Setarra’s favor and put a few coin in the coffers.


Actual Play – Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites (8/6/2016)

Beasts of BurdenGM: Renee Knipe
Players: Erik Ruggies, John Ireland, Will Huggins, Jeremy Tidwell, and Sean Nittner
System: Beasts of Burden

The Beast of Burden comic, by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson has a write up on Amazon that matches the game we played perfectly:

Welcome to Burden Hill — a picturesque little town adorned with white picket fences and green, green grass, home to a unique team of paranormal investigators. Beneath this shiny exterior, Burden Hill harbors dark and sinister secrets, and it’s up to a heroic gang of dogs — and one cat — to protect the town from the evil forces at work. These are the Beasts of Burden Hill.

Renee has made a wonderful game here. It’s a Powered by the Apocalypse system where you play the dogs and cats of Burden hill, keep other animals (and humans really) safe from harm.

And it is so good.

Our Beasts

Night, the black cat who had lost someone once and now watches the streets very carfully making sure no animals or children are playing when fast cars might be coming through. A longer by nature, except…

Rugby, the boxer puppy who was so full of energy and had been saved by Night. She adored night, fawned over her, would never leave her alone, and always followed her lead (my playbook was the Tagalong).

Flapjack, the extremely yippy Pomeranian who instantly flattened like a pancake the moment there was trouble or danger. He was our alarm system!

The Colonel, a British Bull Dog who knew just about everything there was to know about things.

Shadow, the wise dog was a shaman figure who know the ways of the old ones and could call on their magic.

Our Burden

(Note, because the game followed along with the story from Animal Rights, or at least used the same situation, to avoid both spoiling the comic, and Renee’s games in the future – YOU SHOULD PLAY THEM – I’m going to be very vague here, but all these things are true.)

A puppy was missing.

Horrors were found.

Anger drove our Beasts to action.

The perpetrator was punished in kind.

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What Rocked

Renee did such a good job with this game. The animal playbooks and moves were fantastic. The fiction and mechanics dovetailed amazingly well.

I had such a great time playing Rugby the eager to please puppy who took a very dark turn midway through the game. When she came back to Night with her head hung low apologizing for being a bad dog, and Night told her not to apologize, that she did the right thing, that she did the thing a cat would do, it was uplifting to Rugby, but it was also an incredible treat for me as a player (Thanks so much for being my mentor Jeremy!)

The Beasts were all so good. I loved how flapjack shrieked when their was no danger but flattened like a pancake the moment he sensed a threat. The way The Colonel walked around town like a boss, and the way Night both disdained and respected us was wonderful.

That fucking owl. The shadow of death in the night!

What could have improved

Because of copywright issues, I suspect Beasts will never be more than a fan creation, which is a shame because it’s so good!

Actual Play – The Fall of Empathy (8/5/2016)

downfallPlayers: Steve Discont, Norman Dean, and Sean Nittner
System: Downfall

AKA: The Gods who Love To Much

Finally I got smart and used a Haven Guide to speed things up a bit. It worked too. We had a few scenes (though still didn’t get to an end) and I think came up with some pretty cool ideas that we wouldn’t have on our own.

Our Haven was The Maw of Light, a home of the gods who had newly created a world and people inhabit it. The Maw was where the first star died and Anu, the First Light, was created. Anu made many things and as more stars died and more gods were born they continued to make more people and provide for them everything they could desire.

(Elements: Light, Void, and Tooth)


These were so good I have to list them!

Hunting: Evil spirits  are created when a person searches for something and cannot find it. Mordred, the spirit of revenge, stalks the halls of the Maw, wailing in stifled anguish.

Naming: We create new forms of life by naming them. Strawberries!

Death: A god is created when a star dies. Anu the First Light (our Fallen).

Birth: After each birth of a human, a god is assigned as their guardian. Yuna, the Innocent is a god who was just formed and has no one to guard yet.  (Our Pillar)

Love: We meet each night to “ship” our couples. The moon is our forum and where we look down on the earth.

Cultivation: We can destroy anything by cultivating our combined light. The library of cultivation is where we record everything that has been cultivated. It may never be made again.

Right? I mean are’t those so great?

In scenes we corrupted them as follows:

Naming: We named things faster than they could be cultivated. To many things were being created!

Hunting: Ashuya, spirits of unrequited love were born when our Hero (Ember) spurned the love of another.

Destroying the World

The Hero, Ember, was the only human born that did not have a god assigned to them. It was a mix up, some kind of cosmic mistake, but because of that they gods could not hear their will, and did not satisfy their every whim. Ember’s life had been hard, impossibly hard, but they managed on their own. When they saw the rest of the world be granted their every wish, they called the gods capricious and was glad that none “guarded” them.

As the gods tried to satisfy the whims of everyone they met, Ember saw over and over that the world would implode upon itself should the continue. They sought to escape the gods but of course there was no where to go. So they tried, futilely to convince others how ridiculous it is to have your ever wish granted.

Meanwhile Anu, the first light believed that if only Ember could be granted their wishes, they would see the “Light”. Yuna, a new god had just graduated from their duty chronicling the Library of Cultivation and hoped to claim Ember and become their Guardian, but as Ember protested, could not bring themself to defy Ember’s will.

So good!

What rocked

This game really clicked. We all agreed we wanted to try something that was a stretch for us, but I feel like the imagery of creation just kept flowing the more we talked about it. One person wished that Ember’s rose garden would grow and so endless fields of roses cropped up all around Ember’s home, making it impossible to do anything without cutting them down. This question of “what if our desires were unbounded” was a really fun one to keep asking. It was also really clear how quickly that would become untenable.

The fact that evil spirits were created whenever someone didn’t get what they wanted was amazing. Literally even though the gods loved the people, they were haunted by every time they failed them! Ember was like a walking spirit bomb!

We decided the gods had not created gender yet. Everyone used the “they” pronoun. We talked about this some and decided it wasn’t something that a person had desired yet and so it didn’t exist. We had some discussion of gender identity and fluidity and decided for this primordial world we liked the idea of that being something which would be discovered rather than already defined.

What could have improved

Next time I’ll run in 4-hour slots for sure. Even using one of the Haven Guides, we only had two sets of scenes. We could see how things would go very wrong, but didn’t actually get the world being destroyed.

Actual Play – The Fall of Innovation (8/5/2016)

downfallPlayers: Ross Cowman, Frost Holliman, and Sean Nittner
System: Downfall

We were originally going to play #Feminism nano-games but since there were three of us, decided to play downfall instead.

Our Haven, the Azure Isles was an advanced society obsessed with innovation, to the extent that the value of the individual was nearly erased.

Meta note: Playing Downfall from an Ipad is totally doable, but having the lists printed to they can be passed around is helpful.

What Rocked

The tradition that everyone can do everything…meaning no one is needed for anything.

Our one unique role, the Hero, was the final auditor. A person whose job it was to ensure that that all the needed jobs were filled, and because we had become so efficient, there was only one person left in that job,

What could have improved

Communication and consensus in the game were really difficult to achieve. We had a lot of ideas that didn’t mesh and we din’t have a good way of making them mesh. We also had some ideas which felt like they contradicted others, and trying to figure out how that contradiction could be sustained in the world, or to make adjustments so that it fit with our previously established truths was very challenging.

There were many times when I really wanted the game to give us a strict process like “this person does x” and without it I felt myself being more of a moderator of the fiction than I had intended or wanted to be.

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