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.
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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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Actual Play – The Fall of Nationalism (8/4/2016)

downfallPlayers: Justin Atkins, Nick Wedig, and Sean Nittner
System: Downfall

The Pitch

Downfall is a tabletop role-playing game that explores the collapse of a society, a cataclysm brought about by a fatal Flaw at work within it. First you sit down and build your world, then you destroy it. You tell the story of a hero who tries to save their home. But in Downfall, the hero fails.

The game works in any kind of setting, from mythical fantasy to the real world to high-flying science fiction.

It’s made to tell a whole story in a single 2-4 hour session and doesn’t require preparation, dice, or a GM.

Why Downfall

I’ve been excited about Downfall for a while. I’m a big fan of games that are explicit about their end, and how you’ll get there. My Life With Master, A Penny for My Thoughts, Until We Sink, Fiasco, and the like. They all have some sort of structure that drives you to an end and in the case of Downfall, you even know the general shape of that ending…the hero fails and the society is destroyed. Having those creative constraints is awesome, and really makes me relish what we create within them.

I was also excited about a game that was GM-less, prep-less, and I thought could be played in two hours, though I turned out to be wrong all three times I ran it.

Finally I like tragic games like Montsegur 1244 and Polaris, where we know we’re playing to get the very most out of the little time we have. I’ve never played Grey Ranks (I think when my kids were younger, playing child soldiers hit a little to close to home for me) but I’d eagerly try if I had the opportunity now.

So, I had pretty high expectations of Downfall, and what I found (which will be spelled out over the three AP reports from Gen Con) was that it lived up to those expectations when we had a group prepared and ready to meet them. And less so when we didn’t.

The Fall of Guardian Mountain

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The fatal flaw of Guardian Mountain was our nationalism. After a war for independence from a country that we strongly identified against, yet whose families were intertwined with ours, we drew very hard lines about what it meant to be a citizen, and how easily one could cross that line and be exiled or worse.

Given our current political climate this felt extremely poignant to me. We were talking about these people who lived on the top of a mythical mountain, but the same arguments they used to prop up their flaw as the highest virtue are arguments I see today during the presidential election. We weren’t going for political commentary, but it dipped in that direction just the same.


Some of the richest part of our society was in it’s traditions, especially around silence, and how the ritual of silence was observed. Vows of silence were taken when people died, or when they were exiled. Breaking that silence early (or earlier than was expected) was a sign of disrespect. Maintaining it too long was a sign of being overly attached. It was so significant that the Fallen we made was named the Silencer, who had a perpetual vow of silence and shunned others into silence as well by their presence.

Tattoos were also a large part of the society, as they were very permanent. There was a tattoo that signified citizenship (a mountain top) and another that signified exile (the same mountain top upside down placed over the citizenship tattoo). The significance of this was that anyone could become a citizen, but once you were exiled, it was for life.

Hero, Pillar, and Fallen

Our Hero, Purple Lipped Flutist, was a veteran of the war who had put down the sword and taken up the flute, which stained their lips purple form the sap in the wood. She was quite literally the hero of the people, but her brother had been exiled for his beliefs and she knew the judgment was too severe and given because the code of silence, could not be questioned.

Our Fallen, the Silencer, was the Heroes uncle and wanted more than anything, to shame her into submission to his will. She was a powerful symbol but only if she could be controlled and he did so by turning those who she loved most against her.

The Pillar, Carries a Torch, was also a military commander in the war and now in charge of security always carried a torch such that a signal fire could be lit in the case of invasion [This was the sign of office for a guard]. He and the hero had once been very close during war time but now they were separated by duty. He of course, also “carried a torch” for her. Carries a Torch was pitted over and over again against the Hero, and simply wanted her to comply so that she would not cause trouble. He loved her and wanted her to be safe. He didn’t see what she saw.

Song of Rememberance

In our first scene, Purple Lipped Flutist was asked to play a song of remembrance, the national anthem, which gave praise to all the soldiers that died in the recent war. She was supposed to leave out the section that spoke of her brother, however, she refused and sang loudly about his valor. Many in the audience were awed by her bravery but many more left in disgust.

The Silencer, in response, by way of her family, ordered a apology to all of the people, or would force a vow of silence upon her. If she still grieved her brother, she would be silent to show it! Powerful shit!

What Rocked

Wow, this game was intense. The culture was educated and oppressive. The believed that they were better than all those around them, and that arrogance, and supreme belief in their nation was palpable in every interaction, as is intended by the game.

There are several parts of the the world creation that I adored. Specifically:

  • Picking elements independently (and secretly) and then announcing them all at once and figuring out how to make sense of them. Ours were Silence, Ink, and Mountain. All which became powerful themes in our game.
  • The traditions and the specifically the symbol of the tradition. It answered a really important question for me that I usually don’t answer in roleplaying games. Someone says “we always do X” and then you ask “How do we know that is true?” Or, what is the sign of that? The specific mechanics force you to create something that is emblematic which not only give concrete evidence, it also gives the players something specific to interact with. This is a brilliant mechanic!
  • The themes of oppressive silence, of nationalism dividing people rather than biding people, and of people in dower arbitrarily drawing rigid lines was both daunting and poignant.
  • This was a society that we could feel crumbling from the onset. The game did a wonderful job of constantly forcing us to incorporate the the flaw, so we never lost track of our trajectory.

What could have improved

Two hours wasn’t long enough for us. I think we could have sped things up a bit by using one of the Haven Guides, though I loved our society so much, I’m glad for this game that we didn’t.

The game is heavily reliant upon collaboration which I noticed initiated a lot of great discussions, but also took a long time. I think the elements that worked the best were when authority was passed to one person but they operated within a constraint (pick something from this list, draw a symbol, etc.)

A mountain top setting made us all very conscientious of cultural appropriation. We knew this wasn’t Nepal or Tibet or China or connected to Native American culture, but were concerned about adopting tropes and cliches from those cultures. For instance, we didn’t have a naming convention in mind, so we ended up giving the characters descriptive names. There are lots of cultures that do that, but we we’re really trying to avoid unintentionally aping one or the other. I wonder if others have run into this and what their reactions were. We just tried to stay aware of it and discuss the choices we were making with close scrutiny.

Actual Play – Gen Con #Feminism Take 1 (8/4/2016)

#FeminismFacilitator: Sean Nittner
Players: Tasha Robinson, Spencer Abbe, Hillary Brannon, and Degen Gottlieb
System: #Feminism Nano-Games

I swore that I’d play different games this time, but as I flipped through them, the same ones we played just seemed so inviting. I mean who doesn’t want to say “The Vulva and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”?

So, games we played included:

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.

What Rocked

In one of the First Date scenarios our ranter started talking about the placement of the clitoris in rabbits and I just about died laughing. The worst part is that it’s an argument someone might make. Oh my, I couldn’t take it.

There was another First Date scene where the Listener just wouldn’t leave…so it kept going, and going, and it became an endurance test for the ranter. Watching them run out of steam was pretty amazing.

Our games of Dying for a Cup of Coffee and Just Put Some Salt on it had pretty awesome debriefs. For being a con scenario in a room filled with a hundred other people I was incredibly impressed with the emotional honesty and the willingness to talk about personal experiences at the table. I felt really lucky to have such an open and thoughtful group.

What could have improved

We made it work but I don’t think #Feminism games are particularly well suited for a Gen Con sized Games on Demand area. Lots of noise and distractions. Constructing a “white sofa” out of chairs was doable, but I missed the actual sofa we had a Go Play.

Actual Play – Airwomen of the 588th (7/31/2015)

Night WitchesGM: Steve Segedy
Players: Kristin Firth, Sean Nittner, Michele Royal, Jeff Croff, and Eric Hope
System Night Witches

We ran mission after mission, and pushed the Germans back with everything we had. Some of us didn’t make it back. Some of our planes were burnt to cinders. We didn’t stop flying.

Actual Play – World of Abingdon Meadow (7/31/2015)

the warrenGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Phil Vecchione, Tali Halevy, Arvel Ben Dor, John Alexander, and Pamela Alexander
System: The Warren
World: abingdon meadow

This has got to be easiest game in the world to run. I’m serious.

I admit I get anxious every time I run a new game for the first time. Will I get it right? Will I know what to do? Will I entertain my players? These aren’t questions I should ask myself or fret about, but I do.

The Warren (or is the warren?) is Powered by the Apocalypse but so simple and elegant that I didn’t even realize we were really playing until the rabbits were in too deep. I’ll go into that more in a bit, but first, here are our bunnies!

We had Pumpkin the not so fast, Lily the tagged, Nibble the frantic, Spot the brave, and Bounder. From the get go I loved the game because everyone started drawing their rabbits. Tali had some pretty amazing skill and ended up draw both her rabbit Nibble, and her husband Arvel’s rabbit Spot. (Also the two of them were on their honeymoon, which was just wonderful).

Asking some questions

We started with the Warren questions. Things like What part of the meadow marks the warren’s location? What do your sense tell you about the warren? And why aren’t you in charge?

After then answered those, with a positively delightful story about Spot running back from a farmer’s house with hounds of hell chasing him down (told by Nibble) we had a pretty good feel for where the rabbits lived. Then I picked a few of the stakes questions that I was interested in finding out answers to. What things do they prize in the warren? What other animals live nearby? What problems do the humans cause?

All pretty standard fare, right? Right. Yes, but then the situation questions… wow, they just started us off:

Is it night or day or somewhere in between?  It’s day.

Why are you so far away from the warren? We found a really good looking beat and we’re all working on trying to dig it up.

How did the hunters get between you and the warren? Their dogs sniffed us out.

What other animal shares your hiding spot? A chipmunk named Stoat.

And boom, we were off to the races. Nervous Stoat asked the rabbits if they would politely leave his log so the dogs didn’t find them all hiding inside it. Brave Spot bolted to draw their attention. And much terror ensued! What I loved was that all we had to do was ask ourselves “what would happen next?” in order to move the story forward and to keep presenting challenges (terrifying ones at that to the rabbits.


Lily was so scarred by the dogs almost catching her, she’ll never be able to sneak again because she so jumpy now (harm)

Spot innovated a new move “Bite the nose that sniffs you”. When an animal is sniffing it’s nose in your warren (or burrow you’re hiding in) and you bite it, roll strong. On a 10+ it recoils, on a 7-9 it does so but you have to choose one:

  • It will be back soon
  • It remembers you, and will take this personally!
  • It fights before retreating, take a scar.

Spot chose that it would remember him and the dog, Carl Crandon III, shouted in the name of his ancestors that he would drive these awful rabbits from his home it it was the last thing he ever did.

Nibble using her sense of space to find out where a good hiding spot is! Bounder running around in circles around the hunter to try and draw their fire and give the others a chance to bolt!

There was much panic and much bravery. And digging and hiding among the cabbage!


Actual Play – Stepping up to Scurlock (7/31/2015)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Steve Moore, Joe Lawrencelle, Michael Holmes, Alex Holmes, Eric Bontz, Eric Riggenbach
System: Blades in the Dark
Score: Scurlock Manor

My first time running Scurlock Manor, and for a very full crew. We had:

  • Samuel Swiftstrike, the ex-Severosi defender who was cast out for concealing his brother’s crimes.
  • Thunder, the tattooed Severosi bouncer. Kin to Samuel, they traveled to Akoros together to evade arrest.
  • The Spider, an Akoros thief catcher cast out of the Bluecoats for taking bribes. He used to catch deserters and send them to work outside the walls. Effectively a death sentence.
  • Silas Jag, a Tycherosi drug peddler who, at the behest of a wealthy patron Rosalind Kellis, has set up shop in Duskwall, often dipping into his own product for the supernal high it provides.
  • Skorn, the Skovlander tribesman who got out just before it was too late.
  • Ovadai, the whisper.

I think some of my favorite part of Blades is the character and crew creation. Because it gives me a chance to ask all sorts of fun questions, like, “so if you had just a good life before, what are you doing slumming it in Duskwall now?” or “how does your friend feel about that?” The questions invariably bring out the worst in the character and tell me something new about Duskwall and it’s inhabitants.

Gen Con Special

For Gen Con I decided to try out my new score sheet, Scurlock Manor.

One of the questions it asks is basically what just went wrong? The players have three choices: Lord Scurlock; vampire, Magical Enchantment, and It’s Alive! The score you captured is fighting back.

For this session the picked Lord Scurlock, a good choice. The follow up questions to that are “How does he outmatch you physically and magically?” and “What do you have to offer him?”  My intent here is that Scurlock is a Tier 3 faction all by himself. He doesn’t trifle with the likes of you. To enforce that though, I wanted to give them both a impossible wall and away around him (you don’t fight the 8000lb gorilla, you find away to give it bananas).

The players chose that he had unmatched strength and magical wards on his house to stop any who would try to channel or attune but himself. This was particularly fun when Silas Jag was lurking in the shadows and Scurlock was suddenly beside him whispering in his ear. As Silas used his shadow cloak to disappear in the shadows, he reappeared across the room, only find Scurlock’s cold fingers wrapped around his throat and lifting him with ease off the ground [Mechanically, he tried to prowl away as a Risky action, rolled a 1-3 result, and was put in a Desperate Gamble to get out]

As for a bargaining chip, the decided that Roric, the old head of the Crows, now dead by Lyssa’s hand, was Scurlock’s man in crows foot. The blades had information on Lyssa they could barter to help him regain his hold in Crows Foot.

I like it!

The plays the thing

In play the ended up not handing over Lyssa but instead convincing Scurlock that they were competent thieves (they had broken through his defenses after all) and that they would work for him. New clocks started as they had to both a) prove themselves to Scurlock and b) figure out what to say to Bazso Baz. Would he buy that they were “playing the long game” on the Scurlock?

Left to right: Silas Jag, Samel Swiftstrike, Skorn, Ovadai, The Spider, and Thunder

A note to Harper

As of version 3.0 effect level modifiers don’t seem to do anything if you roll a 1-3.  In this case Silas Jag rolled to prowl and had a fine quality item (shadow cloak) and potency (from his Lurk ability Ghost Echo, as we considered Scurlock’s attention supernatural by default). However, when he rolled a 3 and things went badly, I chose to put him a desperate position, but the player (understandably) wondered what his two effect level were good for in this instance.