Actual Play – Save Game (7/30/2015)

Save GameGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Jason Herald, Donny Harbilie, Amanda Green, Adam Green
System: Fate Core
Fate World & Adventure: Save Game

My first game slot was a two hour game and Save Game was picked. Woot, I’d done a lot of preparation for it, including making Zelda, Samas Aran, Spy Hunter, and a Tetris block as characters.

For being a Evil Hat guy, I don’t actually run a lot of Fate (as evidenced in my past actual play reports). So I did a bit of brushing on the rules (read: I read Save Game) and made some characters (see above) and talked to Rob Wieland (creator of Save Game) on the internet, and generally considered the games that I was drawing inspiration from. Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Bionic Commando, Contra, Metroid, and the like. What kinds of things happen in those games, and what kinds of unexpected things happen as well.

After some time, I felt prepared!

Magna MonkThe play is the thing

In a two hour slot we were able to get the characters picked, create some signature moves (my standard half baked method of Fate char gen), and reviewed the rules enough to get going (first 20-30 min).

Then we ran through the troubles in Tar Zangeles, including

  • A fight with the Mohawk Ratz, which the diffused by convincing their leader (the Big Cheeze) that fighting them was a mistake (combo of Taunt and Chat).
  • Saving a kid on the beach from a glitched shark and learning of Landshark Larry’s trouble.
  • Making their way through the Grand Banana Hotel, sneaking past the impenetrable guards, scaling the collapsing hotel (thanks anti-grav tires) and finally knocking the big monkey off his perch.

Good times were had by all!

The heroes of Tendoria

Actual Play – Speed Torches (8/17/2014)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Sean Nittner
Players: John Kramer, Alan DeSmet, Steve Nix, Scott Harloot, Brian Habenicht, and Jesse Butler
System: Torchbearer
Module: Stone Dragon Mountain

Games on Demand was hurting really hard for two hour games, so when Ajit asked me if I could run Torchbearer in two hours I said sure. I mean, I had done it last year with Under the House, so why not do it now with Stone Dragon.

Except, Stone Dragon starts with a perhaps prolonged social environment and I was worried we would spend the session there, so I just skipped it. Lets start the game at Location 2, The Mountain Ascent.

Also, I didn’t bother going over any of the rules. I just told people to read their beliefs, instincts, and pick a goal.

Speed Turns

Part of moving quickly meant less note taking for me. Suffice to say the adventurers took to the mountain like rocks. They clambered up it, got lost, dug up dead adventurer to take their supplies, hunted for game, and then ended with a fight!

Thoughts on the Game

I learned some interesting things running this game.

First, the base camp location is great, but it shouldn’t be first. Torchbearer starts best with action and the base camp takes a while to wind up to action. We’re moving stuff around.

Teach Torchbearer just a bit at a time is doable, but there are a few challenges.

  • Players instinctively want to find answers on their character sheets. But if they can’t read a character sheet, time spent deciphering it pulls focus away from the game.
  • As a GM I want to be fair to new players. I can think of ways for them to gain advantages (via using traits, creating supplies, describing their actions to leverage the fiction in their favor) when facing challenges and I feel a sense of obligation to give them their best shot. However, often doing so means introducing every option they could take, which slows the game again. In particular, if not told, nobody would ever think to gain checks…but introducing that mechanic when you’re not in the perfect situation (oh, you can’t succeed in this test anyway, why not gain a check to make this a bit harder, it’ll help you later) can send players into dice outcome probability calculations mode.
  • Telling someone, no you can’t use your Clever trait to help someone else is a bummer, especially when they they are trying to help someone who is skilled and they don’t have any of the appropriate skills to help with, so you don’t even have an alternative to offer them.
Those who remained!



Actual Play – For Olive (8/16/2014)

the warrenGM: Steve Segedy
Players: Jason Morningstar, Kristin Firth, Jeremy Friesen
System: The Warren

Tag line for this game: Apocalypse World meets Watership Down. Rabbits = humans; humans = the apocalypse.

Tag line for this particular instance of this game: Damn it’s late, I need a drink. Oooh, open spot at a table with Jeremy, Kristin, and Steve. Sure, I’ll play.


When I sat down to play, after just finishing running Stone Dragon Mountain my brain was a bit addled. Jeremy, Kristin, and Steve were sitting at a table that clearly had two players absent. Each of the Morningstar boys had been called off to other duties. I was supposed to go down stairs and have a drink… instead I sat down in front of Thorn.

2014-08-16 23.40.46

Our rabbits had be terrorized by a half blind possom named The Captain and his bobcat muscle Monette. There was a certain understanding that The Captain was in charge and that if we didn’t want trouble, we’d pay him his due, which in this case was a tasty rabbit.

When I sat down some fierce negotiations were already underway. Thorn, and later Squeak had charged the bobcat and stunned him, which gave him pause, but later just made him angrier than he had been. Olive was negotiating with him as he was toying with Milkweed, ready to finish him off anytime Monette got bored.

Olive entreated him to have mercy though and made a deal. Milkweed would live, but Monette would get the first pick of Olive’s next litter.

The Plan

I discovered Thorn was the one that got the attention of Monette in the first place. Also, he had been captured once before, put under a colander and left for days by a human having fun. He dug his way out but had never been the same since.

Milkweed (Jason had returned from an experience) mated with Olive. So did Squeak and Thorn, but it was Milkweed that took a real shine to her. He encouraged her to just come back with him to the swamp. Not enough room for all the rabbits in the warren, but enough for both of them. Olive couldn’t go. She didn’t have the heart to leave behind the rest.

We talked about moving the entire warren, but our den leader refused. It took too long to make this place, better to pay The Captain his due.

We wouldn’t have it though. We would trick The Captain and Monette, with a little help from the rascally raccoon Boupignon… who also fancied Olive.

Day of Reckoning

When Monette returned he was already in a powerfully foul mood. Boupignon had told him that the rabbits had babies but they weren’t going to give them up, they were going to fight to protect them. He arrived ready to eat us all, and was aggravated even further when Olive and Milkweed taunted him from safely inside the warren. He pawed at the whole tried to catch a hold of anything he could.

After being thoroughly frustrated and ready to tear apart the entire warren with is claws, Montette heard another taunt, this time form outside the warren, coming from Squeak. Enraged he gave chase and saw that both Squeak and Thorn were outside. They ran and ran and ran. They ran all the way to the Wake Maker’s camp, where Thorn, despite his early trauma, had been slowly befriending one of the small ones.

They ran down a long pier over the water, right towards one of the Wave Makers, with Monette close behind until there was a deafening crack that came from above, and the bobcat fell dead. The noise caused a horrible panic and Thorn fell into a crab pot, while Squeak bolted away. Thorn’s last wish would be that Squeak tell the den of their bravery and that he take over as leader of the den (the den leader had died during the time it took for Olive to have young).

Thoughts on this game

For two hours (or less, I think I only played the last 90 min) a whole lot happened in that game. More than I am recalling now as I’m writing this. The life if rabbits is terrifying and frantic indeed!

The harm move of loosing moves is particularly well thought out one. By the end Thorn could not Help or Hinder others due to an injured foot, give anything his Full Attention due to a swat at his eye from Monette, and could never again resist panic due to the sheer terror he felt hearing the gun shot and then being trapped in a crab pot. I’m not sure how this would work in long term play, but for a con game it was perfect.

I think I played Thorn a bit more calculating and martyr-like than make sense for his low steady and shrewd scores, but I liked the idea of him realizing he brought the trouble there, and that it was on him to take care of it. The fact that he had been trapped under a colander by a human wasn’t something I knew about till we were already committed to the idea, but it just make the action that much more dire when they told me.

I love the Bayou setting that Jason wrote up. Lâche pas! Lâche pas la patate! (Don’t drop the potato!). Adding voice descriptions did a ton to flesh out the characters, both Steve running them and for us as players.

There is a horror element to the game that I think is important to convey early on. It could have been that this happened before I sat down at the table, so I may be speaking out of turn here. I noticed that I played Thorn much more bold than I probably should have. We were rabbits and rabbits are afraid of everything. I think my response was something like players in Call of Cthulhu who grab shotguns and ammo in hopes to be able to shoot the eldritch horror to death when the tropes of Lovecraft are really looking for them to embrace their hopelessness and isolating in an uncaring world. It comes down to player agency. In games like Apoc World, this isn’t an issue. The characters are super competent and so the limits of their actions are generally only determined by the boldness of the player and the dice rolls.

In horror though, you need another limiter. Moves help, as they show you what you can do. But they don’t necessarily make it explicit what you can’t do. For instance, in an Apocalypse World engine Horror game, a move like “When you face a deep one, roll+sanity. On a miss, you loose control of your character for a time. On a 7-9, you’re deeply scarred and lose something of yourself. On a 10+ you steel yourself against the horror and are able to act again once it has passed.”  In none of those instances does the character get to “act” but their inability to maintain control can still be measured.

It seems like the same could be done for the Warren, either in discussing the principles of the game, or in the moves themselves. Resist Panic is a good one, I think it covers a lot of what I’m going for, but definitely wasn’t a limiter in our game. We had to roll it, and only barely made it several times, but were able to proceed. I think it could be harsher, but I also think that may not be fun for the players.

Bubbles from The Wire is a good example of playing out the inverse side of competence. His moves are centered around dealing with suffering and loss. Making the best he could in a world/situation that was constantly punishing him. And he’s a reminder that it’s not about doing nothing, it’s what you do when succeeding isn’t an option, breaking even only happens rarely, and most of the time, shit his just hitting the fan.

Actual Play – Stone Dragon Sages (8/16/2014)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Wil Hammerand, Frost Holliman, Joshua Gay, Pamela Alexander, John Alexander, and Patrick Day.
System: Torchbearer
Module: Stone Dragon Mountain

Game number two at Gen Con! Of the players Frost was familiar with Torchbearer, but the others were new to it. They took to it quickly and had the right spirit about diving in doing their best.

Turn by Turn on the Mountain

Turn 1 – At base camp they quickly tended to Dermot’s wounds. There was much negotiating over how they would do this, try to clean the wound and save the leg, or cut off  the leg and save he man. Beren argued fiercely to cut off the leg, Dermot countered that without his leg he could never get vengeance for his sons. Ulrik refused to cut off the leg and instead tried to treat the wound. [Healer Ob 3. Fail: Twist] Dermot thrashed in pain and the operation took place but too much blood was lost. In his last dying words he begged that his sons be avenged.

Turn 2 – Having made quite a spectacle accidentally killing Dermot, the tried to butter up the Sharwa in the base camp in the hopes of gaining supplies for the road. They got them, but they came with a grave warning about the gods and their anger. Jhala, one of the Sharwa women equipped them with rope, an ice pick, and the certainty of their doom! [Persuader Ob 4. Fail: Condition Afraid]

Turn 3 – Feeling short on supplies, and eager to make use of the base camp’s provisions Karolina set out to go hunting for game. The sun moved fast in the western sky however and soon was dipping below the mountain. Any game she might have caught quickly escape her in the dim light [Hunter Ob 2. Fail: Twist]

Turn 4 – Annoyed that so little progress had been made and already daylight was fading, Beren urged everyone to light torches and start climbing the mountain. When the trail was lost Karolina and Takia tested out many routes  up the loose gravel until the found a sturdy one, gaining much needed ground to reach the canyon above. [Pathfinder Ob 3. Success]

For all their efforts now the party really did feel like making making camp. Their bellies were rumbling as they were all Hungry and Thirsty.

Spell – Unwilling to make camp so exposed to the elements, Varg cast upon the wisdom of the Sage to read the sign written in Sharwa. With dangers in either direction they opted for Khumba’s pass, unafraid of demons.

Camp Phase

Instinct – Varg made a map of their progress down to base camp [Cartography Ob 2. Success]

Instinct – Gerald prepared some of his fresh fruits, berries, and cony to make a delicious stew for all [Cooking Ob 2. Success]

The Adventure continues

After camp they had one last harrowing near slip down the mountain, only saved by borrowed rope, and much effort was put into hauling up beleaguered companions.

 Thoughts on this game

I think this is the first time Dermot died. It was the circumstances under which he died, that made it really memorable though. It was an Ob3 Health test no matter what, but how Ulrik tended to his wounds was of critical importance to Beren. It showed him that Ulrik and Dermot were both soft and couldn’t handle the realities of the world. For Dermot that meant bleeding out and dying, who knows what it would eventually mean to Ulrik.

Overall despite saying it was not her “type of character at all” Pamela blew me away with her depiction of Beren. One of the best I’ve seen yet. Accent, attitude, and begrudging bravery!

Developmental notes: The Sharwa should want something (or somethings) from the PCs. Give them something to trade for. Dermot needs to be more forthcoming with information about Kumbha.

Actual Play – You can go home again (8/16/2014)

sparksnevadaGM: Mike Olson
Players: Jim Peterson, Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, and Matt Spelitzer as Croach, the Tracker.
System: Sparks Nevada (Playtest)

Shine your astro spurs and don your robot fists, cause it’s time for…

Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars!

Queue up the old timey music because Mike Olson is ready to run outlaw varmints out of town with his in development rules for a Sparks Nevada RPG.

Karen and I, recent fans of the show (because Mike told us about it) were super excited to play… and the game did not disappoint.


The game is still in development, so a large portion of this is subject to change, but here’s some of the awesome things we had at the table.

A basic into to the space western genre, the Thrilling Adventure Hour radio show itself, and a pretty novel form of roleplaying, one the is nearly exclusively dialog and sound effects, as necessitated by a radio show! He then pulled out a small speaker setup and played the theme song for us:

When there’s varmints need a’ catching
And young ‘uns need a’ saving
On my rocket steed I race across the stars
For I’ve sworn by the burrs of my astro spurs
to right the outlaw wrongs on Mars
(Yes he rights the outlaw wrongs on Mars!)

And I’m from Earth!

You can go home again

This time we find our heroes traveling together on a perilous journey to celebrate the Martian holiday Ka-wan-zah (it’s Kwanzaa). This would be the first time Croach the Tracker had returned to his tribe since he set off to fulfill his onus (onus) to Sparks Nevada. The cast of course was Sparks and Croach, accompanied by The Red Plains Rider and Cactoid Jim.

We opened with banter… now that may not seem like anything special, but banter is the heart and soul of the radio show, so the fact that Mike built it into the system (currently a Fate inspired mechanic where aspects are unlocked by playing on your cues, gimmicks, and relationships) was excellent.

Red bickered with Sparks about being crazier than Hot Pants on a Polar Bear, Sparks told Croach he was gross, Croach corrected all of them, and Cactoid Jim was at once wonderful and totally differential to everyone. This was like solid gold material here.

Our story revolved around returning home in which Croach had to persuade Barlok the Wise to allow him back into the tribe despite the protest of Praytrop the Contrary. Thankfully all of Croaches good deed pay dividends (onus) and he was allowed to join them, but before the celebrations could commence Science Aliens, or maybe it was Technology Aliens (ain’t but two sides of the same coin if you asked me) flew a spaceship over them with plans to drill a hole in mars… right through the Ka-wan-zah celebration.

As we had previously asserted when wrangling a heard of disgruntled hypercattle, Red had made some improvements to Sparks Nevada’s lasso. With that, Cactoid Jim issuing everyone to safety, and Croach’s self sacrifice (onus), Sparks was able to lasso up the wormhole generator and open it below the alien spaceship to suck them all in.

Now isn’t that some thrilling heroics!

Left to Right: Cactoid Jim, Sparks Nevada, Croach the Tracker, The Red Plains Rider, and our Narrator.
Left to Right: Cactoid Jim, Sparks Nevada, Croach the Tracker, The Red Plains Rider, and our Narrator.

Thoughts on the game

Mike uses some mechanics that really work well for the game. Specifically the cues and gimmicks, as well as the drama pool. All encouragements to engage in the activities present in the radio show: witty dialog, character revealing banter, and world building via observations of it.

What wasn’t as strong for me was the actual resolution mechanics. There were strong incentives to play the game correctly (bonus dice, check boxes being checked, aspects being unlocked, etc) but when it came to the dice rolling itself, it all just felt a little flat. Like, of course we’re going to succeed, we’ve got this giant pile of dice, and wouldn’t it be lame if we didn’t, so yeah, we win. I’m not worried though, dice mechanics can be worked on, it’s the core action of the game you’ve gotta get down, and this version has it!

Trouble is awesome.

I’m from Earth.

That is all.

Actual Play – My Grudge Stick! (8/16/2014)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth, Jason Gunter, William Jordens, Robert Dixon, and Albert Anderson
System: Torchbearer
Module: Stone Dragon Mountain

Okay. Torchbearer at Gen Con. No problem. Did it last year and had lots of fun Under the House. This year, I’m running my own adventure though. Stone Dragon Mountain. One I know is at shortest a two-parter.

Prep work

I think I’ve got Torchbearer prep down to a science.

  • Spiral bound print out of the rulebook, complete with tagged chapters
  • Three player decks composed of a custom grouping of cards
  • A bag of coins to serve as look
  • Red poker chips for Disposition
  • Black poker chips for Checks
  • Fate/Persona coins (originally made for Mouse Guard but they work well here)
  • Seven sets of dice (in different colors)
  • GM Screen
  • A folder with character sheets, table tents, and the adventure

Luckily most of this stuff packs dense!

Climbing up that down mountain

Adventuring Phase

Turn 1 – In base camp Gerald set about showing the locals how to cook, in an attempt to better their mood and impress them. [Cook Ob 2. Fail: Hungry and Thirsty]. He succeeded but in doing so built up quite an appetite himself!

Turn 2 – Outside of the camp Karolina tried to befriend Dermot, but he was insulted by her condolences [Persuader versus test. Fail: Twist]. Enraged by her words Dermot jumped on Karolina when tumbling down the mountain side with her.

Instinct – Always on the watch for Karolina, Beren tackled Dermot and pulled him off, but in the rucks Dermot’s axe gave him an ugly gash across the dwarf’s hip [Fighter versus test. Fail: Injured]

Camp Phase

Disheartened by their early setbacks, the adventurers opted to make camp with the Sharwa

Instinct – Karolina set out to go hunting for game on the mountain [Hunter Ob 5. Fail: Twist] She spent hours trying to hunt a hare when she realized something was trying to hunt her.

Check – Meanwhile back at the camp, Beren would have sought her out, but his wound was killing him. Taika set out to finder her. She found Karolina watching the woods around her very carefully and wary of something around her. Taika spooked the very rabbit that Karolina had been hunting and they both used the distraction to run safely back to camp. [Hunter Ob 2. Success]

Instinct – Without any fresh game to use Gerald used his rations to cook up a hearty meal for all… or mostly him! [Cook Ob 2. Success]

IMG_2965Check – Beren, taunted by Ulrik that the locals used spike boots and that he should make some, set about crafting. He took some of his iron spikes and a hammer and tried to fashion some of his one. That damn nails kept slipping, and there was no good surface to work on, and the bloody cold was numbing his fingers. [Carpentry Ob 2. Fail: Angry] He made the boots alright, just like any dwarf worth his salt, but the wasted time rose up a terrible ire in him. He pulled out his “grudge stick” and wrote a grudge against Ulrik, that he would make the Cleric walk barefoot across a bed of Dragon’s Teeth to appreciate the value of good footwear!

Adventuring Phase

Turn 1 – Up the mountain they went until the path faded away into nothing but loose gravel and rhododendron bushes. Karolina forged ahead an with some help from Beren and Taika’s watchful eye, they found their way up the mountain and bath onto a path! [Pathfinder Ob 3. Success]

Turn 2 – As the path split, leading off east and west around Wing Glacier Canyon, the adventures did what they could to transcribe the sign at the pass. They gathered that it indicated in either direction, only varied in form. Diamond Tooth or Khumba’s pass? Beware greed from the first, a demon on the second. [Scholar Ob 2. Success]

Turn 3 – Oh god I love the nigh impassible walkway. Using a rope and grappling hook to catch the pulley lines, the clever adventurers raised the fallen bridge [Health Ob 4. Success]

Turn 4 – Ignoring Diamond Tooth they continued up the path to the river of bounty where the spotted a mother bear fishing with her cubs. Fishing for golden fish! Karolina was going to get some of those fish. The scared off the mother bear and her cubs but not without Karolina taking savage blow to her head,  claws tearing at her face and ear. [Drive off conflict won with a compromise: Karolina Injured]

Up ahead they saw the great Dragon’s Maw… open and full of promise within!

Thoughts on this game

Teaching new players how to play Torchbearer in a loud room can be a challenge. There are lots of moving parts and the noise is distracting. This game I think went better than the next one because I had Shaun Hayworth in it, who was able to help out with teaching the rules and giving good advice to the other players (especially when we were scripting the drive off conflict).

Oh my god, my favorite thing in this whole game was that damn grudge stick. I love the idea that Beren carves his grudges into a stick and breaks it when they are resolved… if ever. The banter between him and Ulrik was great.

My highest praise for Torchbearer game from Shaun Hayworth:

Actual Play – What do you mean, the sword was picked up already? (8/13/2014)

War-of-Ashes-Front-Cover-Mockup (1)GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves and the Mornigstar boys (Scott, Ira, and Jason)
System: War of Ashes

It seemed like due diligence as Creative Director on the War of Ashes to you know, run it at some point at a con.  I added it to my Games on Demand menu at Gen Con and pitched it when Jason and his brother Scott asked what we should play on Wednesday before Gen Con started in full force.

Prep for the game

To get ready I figured I needed a few things.

  • An adventure seed that would compel characters to action and clearly be wide open to opportunities.
  • Characters designed around that seed but still left flexible enough to be tailored.
  • Some minis, because, of course! And fate dice to match!
  • A hand drawn map because maps are awesome.
  • All the normal game props (index cards, a battle map (because WoA), pencils, etc)
  • A printed copy of the game, complete with my normal post it note tags to quick reference needed sections.

It seems like a long list, but it went quick. I think I got all of this ready on Monday and Tuesday before the con. Here’s what it looked like.

Adventure Hooks

Sophie had done a fantastic job creating awesome adventure hooks by building them into the setting materials as “what could go wrong / be interesting /happen to the characters”. I really love the Vidaar, so I elected to flip through their chapter and pull out a few hooks and then mash them together. What I started with was:

The King’s Feast! A huge banquet is being prepared in the Hall of the Warrior King—perhaps for a holy day, a victory, a wedding, or the anniversary of the King’s Naming Day—and the castle is all abuzz. The kitchens are a battlefield and the chamberlain is desperately trying to organize seating so that fights won’t break out too early in the event—there is a time and place for this, after all. Any Fyrdee and Bondee worth his moss is trying to get on duty because that’s where the action will be.

What Do You Mean, It Was Picked Up Already? A Styrsik or Dowodik’s weapon—a family heirloom—was being repaired at the forge; when someone came to take delivery this morning, one of the blacksmith’s assistants packed the weapon and cheerfully sent it home to its owner. Alas, the real courier is here now, asking where the weapon is…

You take a problem like a missing heirloom sword and you compound with an imminent parade where said sword will be featured, and I figure you’ve got no end of excitement to get into. One of my first decisions was that I didn’t want an investigation. Not in this pulp action kind of game, and not in a two hour slot. So we start with a simple premise. The sword was taken by the Styrsik’s son, who everybody knows wants to overthrow his father. He’s taken it and plans to use it to rally the troops against his father. Simple but with plenty of room for nuance (why does he hate his father? is he a better leader afterall?) should the game go in that direction.


Froland the Yellow – Strysik (Commander) Vulgg’s cousin, your Resplendent Golden Fur earned you the prestigious title of Totember, standard bearer of the Strysik. Glorious only if your head stays on! A Totember (standard bearer) for his Uncle and Commander, Froland was called yellow because of his golden fur, surely not because of his cowardliness. Surely.

Sea Legs Sverra – More at home on the sea looking for the fabled isle of Garigla than on land, you’ve been forced to take whatever work you could get ever since your ship, the Reef Crasher, well, crashed into those reefs. Welcome to the exciting life of holiday event planning! Sverra is going to make sure this celebration happens!

Tahyrnn Udvlag – Nothing bristles your fur like putrescent Ylark Cheese. In it lies proof of the one true god Akka-Maas, and through it he speaks, or rather emanates to you. Starting with a horrible premonition that the celebration would gain the attention of Akka-Maas, Tahyrnn was determined to stop it!

Vaad the Kogger – Lazy and as averse to cold as you are to facing your enemies’ blades, the forge is the perfect place for you to drink Kogg, boast of your deeds, and oh yeah, every so often fix a sword or three for the Strysik (Commander). The poor smith that gave up Vulgg’s sword to his son. The start of the problem!

Vadd the Doomed – Your blue fur marked you at birth as the chosen of Akka-Maas. When you opted for a blade rather than prayer, High Priest Ragnhild prophesied your doom. Life has Been rocky every since. The Vidaar that dared to defy the gods, someone had to make sure that Froland was watched over and if anyone could divert the god’s wrath away from Froland, it was Vadd!

Minis and Fate Dice, oh my!

The lovely folks at Zombiesmith loaned me a few miniatures to use in the game. Aren’t they pretty!

War of Ashes Minatures
Left to right: Tahyrnn Udvlag, Vaad the Kogger, Froland the Yellow, Vaad the Doomed, Sea Legs Sverra. Mahrn in the back!

 The map I started doodling

It’s a capture Elvorix seaside port with a temple to Gailus up at the top (that building with horns), a Ylark farm across the main path, a Kogg house in the southeast corner, an arena recently erected by the Vidaar near that, and some (now) ramshackle houses. Way to the north, just outside the town are the docks.

Vulgg recently captured the little port town and renamed it Vulggberth after himself. Nobody paid mind to the temple of Gailus because of course there is only one god ALL PRAISE AKKA-MAAS, and besides it is just full of tightly bound toilet paper that scratches (ancient scrolls).

How does the God of Wilderness feel about the Vidaar occupying the town and his temple? What about them using his holy texts as kindling? Just a question to ask if things get dull during the game.

Normal Props

My bag of Fate stuff includes a few treasured items:

  • Pencils, Sharpies, Dry Erase Markers
  • Index Cards
  • A Noteboard fold-able dry erase board
  • Several sets of Fate Dice
  • Poker chips to use as Fate tokens, which will soon be replaced by Fate Campaign Coins
  • Moleskine large notebook. I love these things.

War of Ashes Beta – Printed

It’s so worth it ofr me to print out a copy of the game, take it to Kinkos to have them spiral bind it and then mark up the hell out of it.

Isn’t it pretty?

I also pulled out some good Vidaar names to assign to random NPCs as needed. Since lots of Vidaar use descriptors in their name (the drunk, the great, etc) so all you really need are some good first names. I jotted down Offrus, Kraka, Gubba, Krula, Volo, and Kobar.  I only needed about half of them, but it was handy indeed.

The Play is the thing

The game broke down into a handful of scenes:

  • Introducing the problems and the character simultaneously.
  • A internal dispute at the Kogg house.
  • Vadd the doomed learning how inept his leader was.
  • Froland the Yellow loosing banner and having to fend for himself
  • A magic ritual to summon a great wind to catch up with the ship that had the sword
  • A great fight on board the Blaggard to defeat Kraka and reclaim the sword.

I was delighted all those scenes fit in two hours!

Highlights of the Game

Froland calling his banner only to attract the attention of bondee’s looking to prove their toughness. Getting kicked around in the mud by a brute named Volo tested Froland’s mettle. He was surrounded, couldn’t run or talk his way out of it so he got crazy. Froland slammed into Volo, knocking them both into the beast pits below and opened up a cage full of hungry Kanid’s to leap on him. It was glorious!

Vaad the Doomed and Tahyrnn Udvlag summoning the might of Akka-Maas to give them wind in their sails. Vaad ate the cheese to show his defiance of of the gods. Tahyrnn know that their god was angry but summoned him anyway, creating a strong wind for them which quickly turned into a storm that nearly destroyed their ship.

Vaad the Kogger abandoning all other concerns to get himself some Kogg, and having to fight off Tahyrnn to do it!

The final battle on a burning ship in a storm, when Vaad was surprised to find a Nildhe Troll burst out of the cargo deck and give him a thrashing. Vaad tacked the boat and sent the boom crashing into him!

Thoughts on the game

Most our playtester say that Divine Interest operates too slowly. I wanted it to be faster! Jason’s character Vulg the the Doomed was constantly tempting Akka-Maas to do his worst. and besides a lot of cosmetic fanfare (thunder, lighting and a ship being stuck in a storm at sea), it didn’t get to the Divine Consequence state which was a bit disappointing. I wanted something to come up from under that Sea! (There can be leviathans in Agaptus, right?)

My playtest feedback of the game:

  1. We’ve gotta work on the organization of data some more, flipping back and forth between character creation and faction/equipment stunts was a giant pain.
  2. Zone aspects are easy to understand and hella fun. Weight is easy to understand but not all that fun. What it does just isn’t very “jazzy”. I’d like to work on making it more exciting to play with.
  3. I think the failing an attack and taking stress just feels cumbersome and easy to forget. We should look back on that for something more enticing.
  4. I forgot to even mention froth. I think we should reconsider making it easier to use.
  5. Adventures that have a +5 approach mean that if a GM spends a fate point, there is a 50/50 chance that players will HAVE to gain divine interest (by getting a +7) to tie or succeed on a roll. I think we need to work on that.
  6. Magic is great but I want to give the players a little more bang for their buck (considering they get DI for casting spells). Wanna work on that.
  7. Forced movement is great.
  8. The cheese, man. Tyromancy is an instant path to gonzo!
  9. You’ll never have enough miniatures or the right ones. I did LOTS of substitutions with the bad guys (they all looked like Kuld).
  10. Trolls hiding in cargo bays are fucking awesome.
  11. Contrary to other playtesters I didn’t have Divine Interest do enough. People took a few boxes of stress but that was is. We only played a 2 hour game, but I think I’d like to see DI be more immediate and less permanent. Example, you get DI, a lightning bolt hits your ship and catches it on fire. DI is over, now just just has a burning ship to take care of. I think this would make it more satisfying for con games (DI does something) and less punitive for campaign play (you’re not constantly in the gods’ cross hairs after 3 sessions).

Actual Play – Not Demons at the Door? (8/18/2013)

GMs: John Stavropoulos, and assistants.
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, Terry Romero, Shoe, Kira Scott, Lou Agresta, Ajit George, and several others.
System: LARP in a Hotel Room

Jstav organized a LARP, and from what I’ve heard about it there was some disagreement between the GMs about what that LARP was actually going to be, but from my perspective it ran smoothly.

We created flawed characters with deep regrets that came to the surface as an unearthly fog decimated everything and everyone around and eventually crept into the hotel to consume us as well. I walked out happy to shed the skin of Mike, the P.E. Coach.

GenCon 2013 - 13

Actual Play – Tricky, Tricky Kobolds! (8/18/2013)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Four awesome gamers
System: Torchbearer
Game: Under the House of the Three Squires

My second Torchbearer game in Games on Demand. It went of much smoother because by that point I was in the groove. As with the previous game, I had all the pregenerated characters on the table ready for players to pick. We got Karolina, Taika, Beren, and Ulrik. Sorry Gerald and Varg, next time.

Delving Deep

Right off the bat this group way impressed me. When Beren and Ulrik were about to fall, Taika jumped into action, casting Lightness of Being on them and levitating them back up to safety. Then they quickly got to work on establishing safe passage down.

Later, when they were trapped by Kobolds and had the option of trying overpower them, Karolina lead them in an effort to trick the kobolds into letting them out. As it turns out Kobolds aren’t all that smart! It such good times.

Here’s a shot of the players after the game. Clearly they are smiling too much and I didn’t do my job.

Thoughts on this game

This ran a lot smoother than the previous one because I had my stride. Both the players and I were good about leading with description and letting the mechanics follow that.

Torchbearer has this weird trust thing, where the players have to trust the GM not to completely dick them over and call for rolls on every action they take. Some players are really cautions and I think that just make the game slow down. It also create a cycle that gets reinforced. If you think every time a roll comes up the GM is punishing you, then everything eventually becomes punishment, even when you’re awesome. I was really glad that this group just did things, and then rolled dice when they had to. Awesomesauce.

Actual Play – Torchbearer with Thor (8/18/2013)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Thor Olavsrud, and four other fine folk
System: Torchbearer
Game: Under the House of the Three Squires

No pressure here. Not at all. I had meant to get in Thor’s game on Saturday but it was during a panel we were going to so I missed out. Instead, he sat in on my game on Sunday. And was a complete gentleman the entire time.

The Setup

With only two hours I wanted to jump right into play. I had all the sample characters (including Ulrik) printed out on the full Torchbearer character sheets (thanks Adobe forms!) ready to players to pick. I didn’t really explain the mechanics much, instead I gave what has become my default pitch for Torchbearer: “Think less Fellowship of the Rings and more surviving Vietnam.”  The players laughed, and I smirked because I knew it was true.

Under the House

Thor had a pretty obvious advantage in that he wrote the damn adventure but was quite courteous and letting the others lead the expedition. If I remember correctly the dog they found was a boxer. The befriended it quickly and it made a merry 6th member of their party.

Ulrik and Karolina were both pretty stompy bad asses, but it was fun to see Ulrik’s shady side when treasure was afoot!

I can’t remember the turn order because running in person had me a bit more on my toes, but I know they explored some, rested and continued on. Yay for the underused camp phase !

Thoughts on this game

It was actually nice having someone as back up for rules. This was the first time I ran a game of TB with the sample characters (so I didn’t know all their details) and it was also the first time I ran it live (instead of over hangouts). Thor was pretty great about reminding me “oh, move the turn marker up” or “I think that’s Ob3”.

I’m becoming increasingly dubious about goals that involve safety, because they are essentially saying I’ll make sure a thing “doesn’t” happen instead of a thing does happen. Be cause safety is not a thing you strive to gain, it’s a thing you strive to keep. Thus I have a hard time awarding persona for this one, at least until the players leave the dungeon for town. Taika had it this time, but usually some one does. I guess it’s a fate mine, but I really wish there was a way to distill it down and make it more concrete.

I also wonder for con game about starting the characters with 1 Fate and 1 Persona. Just a little something to give them an edge?

Feels like two hours is a good demo length for the game. We totally didn’t complete and “adventure” but they got a good taste of the system.