Actual Play – Master of the Fallen Fortress (5/24/2014)

PathfinderCoreCoverGM: PFS GM
Characters: Fasa, Kain, Mountain, Amari, Friznix, and Kalkara (me)
System: Pathfinder
Module: Master of the Fallen Fortress

This post continues from the discussion started in Confirmation.

Game two of the weekend, let’s get stabby!

This game was similar in tone to Coronation (the previous night). Mostly new players and characters, but clearly folks that had more game mastery. There was one 10 year old young man who was the son of a friend of mine that I got along great with. Another player at the table had a really strongly themed character, so our interactions were fun.

Kain was a cleric of a crazy god, and himself totally insane himself. The comical, lovable, apocalypse-seeking, fictional insane. Not the suffering from a mental illness, unable to function in society, insane.

The focus of the game was much more on killing the monsters and taking their stuff than coronation had been. In the final scene as we were fighting on a ledge, I had a hard time convincing anyone that even though attacking the baddie was easier, it would be awesome if someone bull rushed him (I tried and failed myself) and pushed him off the 80′ ledge. C’mon that’s what heroic fantasy is all about!

Thoughts on this game

Much the same as in Coronation, though the vibe changed a little with more experienced players. I was already seeing a lot of character-centric play. Don’t get me wrong, I like my characters. I want other people to like their characters too. What drives me batty though is when characters that could be cool become caricatures because they have no meaningful interactions with anyone else.

I won a boon in this game (by rolling the lowest on a d20). It was a Mendevian Weapon Training, training for those who dedicated themselves with the Fifth Crusade. I think these kind of perks give players a reason to further invest in the setting of the game (I have no idea who Queen Galfrey of Mendev is but now I’d like to know) as well as giving further incentive to play a lot of PFS games in general (each one comes with a chance of a special reward).

Discussion continued in Destiny of the Sands, Part 2: Race to Seeker’s Folly.

Actual Play – Confirmation (5/23/2014)

PathfinderCoreCoverGM: Shaun Greer
Players: Riley, Jennifer, myself and a few others whose names I’ve lost.
System: Pathfinder
Module: Confirmation

A long time ago in a galaxy far away…

* 11 Years ago (about) I joined RPGA and played in Living Greyhawk games. The organizers were very inviting but play (for me) was very flat. The modules supported no room for character growth or change, and caring about each other, the story, or even making your character feel real in the world was not rewarded. End result was a table that (from my perspective) only cared about advancing their own character’s XP, gold, and personal glory (in the form of “oh shit, let me tell you about what my character did” stories)

* 10 Years ago I got into some Living Spycraft games. I can’t remember if that was part of RPGA or not, but since Spycraft was from AEG my guess is it was another organization. I played three games over the course of the con, all with the same GM and generally the same players. We were all making our characters from scratch and I had a blast. Player investment in the story and in each other was high. The next time I looked for it though, Living Spycraft had fallen off the face of the planet.

* Next 9 years or so. I haven’t played any d20 games and so my interest in RPGA and PFS was negligible. Every so often I would see the players at the table and I didn’t recognize a single one. I hadn’t played in PFS or RPGA and I didn’t see anyone at those tables who I had gamed with in other games.

The not so distant past…

* A year ago. A group of like minded, small press, story gamer hippies stated talking about Pathfinder as a DCC game we were in looked like it was on the decline. We opted to give Pathfinder (specifically Kingmaker) a shot. I fucking loved it. Not only were the people excited about the world we played in and the relationships we established, but it also scratched my deck-building, combo-making, character-statting itch that I’ve satisfied in the past playing M:tG, WoW, and deck building card games. I got to do it all at once. I got to have my cake and eat it too.

* Over the last year I’ve gotten more and more interested in Pathfnider, and the more I read the more I like about what Paizo is doing. James Jacobs, the creative directors is one stand up dude. He’s been on the forums several times explaining (and in some cases) defending the choices that Paizo has made about making very diverse characters. People of color, women, men, transgender, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, normative, and non-normative characters, that populate ALL OF GOLARION. I started listening to the Pathfinder Chronicles podcast, and bit by bit I got more excited about the idea of engaging with Pathfinder gamers in organized play (PFS).


* A few weeks ago I went to the pathfinder society site ( and registered. I used Hero Labs (which is already configured for making PFS characters) to make a society-compliant character and then posted all of her information on the site.

* Just before the con I printed out my character along with a character tent that had her name, a picture of her, and three things you could tell about her within moments of meeting her (a format I stole from Todd Furler).

* At the con I talked to the organizers a lot. They were (all five that I talked to) friendly, patient and enthusiastic. They were glad that I as trying out PFS and showed me how to sign up for games. Very nice people.

* The first game I played in was called “Confirmation”. It is a standard module for first time players to make their characters confirmed “Pathfinders”. Everyone at the table was new. There were two young men (I believe 10 and 11) who didn’t know how to play pathfinder at all, a young woman (probably 14-15) who was familiar with the game but new to pathfinder society, and a couple who had played in PFS once before a long time ago but lost their registration information and so they were starting over from scratch. The GM was also new. An experienced PFS player, but this was his first time GMing. The game itself was silly. Several combat encounters, and a puzzle of sorts with no particular purpose in the story except that we had been sent out to explore, so doing our job meant solving it. I had a blast though. The table wasn’t efficient, but we didn’t need to be. I walked out feeling good and smiled, waved, and/or talked to all of the other players at least once or twice later in the con.

Thoughts on the game

I asked if people played in other non-PFS games and all of them had and/or normally did except the two young gentlemen who were pretty new to the con environment.

What the PFS did very well:

  • Dedicated greeters/hosts and enough of them to have real conversations. Folks that were courteous, inviting, and inclusive.
  • Gorgeous pre-made characters with beautiful that you want to pick up and play.
  • Introductory adventures designed to teach players about the game and characters about the setting.

What I’d like to see:

  • Reward players for highlighting other characters or developing relationships in game. This could be as simple as a giant sheet of butcher paper that lists all the characters relationships developed over the course of the con.
  • Tracking world changes. AEG did this well with the L5R trading card game. Winning with one faction would improve their standing. Organized play could do this as well by advancing the player’s faction/interest through play.

See the following posts for how my PFS weekend continued Master of the Fallen Fortress and Destiny of the Sands, Part 2: Race to Seeker’s Folly.

Actual Play – Avatar the Fate Accelerated Bender (5/26/2013)

FAE-Bookcover_300x450GM: Brian Williams
Players: My big little, Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, Julie Southworth, and Zed Lopez
System: Fate Accelerated
Setting: Avatar: The Last Air Bender

Brian (and the rest of us) all had our first game of FAE. And it was loads of fun. Brian talked a little bit about the setting, which we had different degrees of familiarity with and then we got to deciding what was going on, and what mattered.

Setting Aspects

The Avatar is Gone – We decided to set this before Ang was awoken, when everything is way out of wack because there hasn’t been an Avatar in 100 years and people are loosing it. The Air Benders are more ascetic than ever, separated from reality. Meanwhile the Fire Benders are waging war on all of their neighbors, conquering everyone in their path.

Crossroads of the Earth Kingdom – We decided to start in a part of Earth Kingdom besieged by Fire. Lands previously owned by Earth had been conquered and Earth’s forces pushed back. What was once a small town was now a major thoroughfare for both refugees and military transports.

Character creation

From that we decided to make characters in the military. People fighting to protect the Earth Kingdoms for one reason or another.

Osha – The troubled waterbender. Osha was raised to protect the tribes of the north, but was using her knowledge of battle to aid earth now. Also, being away from her family allowed her experiment with the taboo Blood Bending without raising suspicion from her tribe.

Ataru – The Angriest Air Bender came down from the mountain because he was infuriated that the Air Kingdom would do nothing in this war. He believed they should fight, and fight he would.

Akane – The Earth Bender soldier who wanted to protect her homeland and her family. She wielded tremendous power, but was compromised by concerns for her own family.

Liu-Chen was a cobbler from the Earth Kingdom who’s lands had been conquered by Fire. Once a refugee, now a volunteer soldier, she was still terrified of Fire’s wrath, and felt helpless to fight it.

Haruka was a defector from the Fire Nation. Though she did not Bend, she came from a very powerful family in the Fire Nation, and from them stole the scrolls which taught the Fire Bending technique. Her brother Haruki was a general in the Fire Nation (and a powerful Bender) and he personal sought to bring her back. Dead or alive.

I dug our group. We were kind of misfits by nature. That’s the spirit of Fate really, the protagonists always (because of their High Concept and Trouble aspects) stick out. They don’t fit in the rank and file, and so of course have adventures of their own.

I also liked that we played a mix of Benders and non-Benders. As much as I love crazy bending power, I played a non-Bender because I wanted to explore if I could have just as much fun with FAE *not* having super powers when others did. (Spoiler: I did).

The Setup

After our characters were made, Brian added two new setting aspects: Defending No place and Rump of the Army. Essentially, in all this fighting, we had been relegated to the far, far reserves, where nothing was happening and we weren’t doing any good. Liu-Chen was pretty happy about this, but the rest of the characters were infuriated. Haruka wanted to get her scrolls to a general or strategist that could use them to fight the Fire Nation. Osha wanted opportunities to practice Blood Bending, Akane wanted to protect her people, and Ataru, he just wanted to get in a fight.

It didn’t take much to provoke us. A sneak attack the previous night, followed by silence the following night that left us all anxious there would be another one. Sure enough, when our commanding officer ordered we sit and wait, we all snuck off (even Liu-Chen) to be part of the action.

The Play is the Thing

Once we broke the line, it was on!

Brian gave us some obstacle to overcome to get out of camp without being detected. We got at least one significant cost, which led to a twist of finding some Fire Benders trying to sneak across the line themselves!

Fight! That led to a big conflict as jumped into their midst. We did all the normal conflict bits: attacks, creating advantages, etc. It was fun fight, mostly against the mooks. One thing they did was set off a signal flare, which spun into into a contest later (see below), but otherwise they were mostly fodder. This is where I had a lot of fun, showing that Haruka’s training with Fire Benders (that was actually her stunt) allowed her to get inside their defense and bat away their arms before the could throw fire into her face. With some bad as kung-fu and cartoon style choreography she was able to hold her own against them. This is also mechanically of course, because there was really no distinction between a Bender and a non Bender, but I wanted to make sure we could maintain that sense of capability in the fiction.

After the fight, we figured out that the signal flare was for, a giant juggernaut that the shock troops were guiding across the field in the night with their flare. It came rumbling after us and we realized we had to get to the Earth lines to warn them… and Fast! We handled this a s contest and each of us got a chance to contribute. Some by running, some by slowing down the giant death machine, and some by helping to move along our captive… by way of Blood Bending their unconscious body into moving on its own!

We arrived and there was much rejoicing. When the sun rose we saw the giant juggernaut which we had immobilized shake with impotent rage as the Earth catapults destroyed it! We got medals and were finally appointed to do what we did best. It was a very New Hope kind of end.

Thoughts on this game

Like others have, I noticed that pretty much every roll was made with a +2 or +3 approach, and like Fred noted on, I really didn’t think that was much of a problem.  More it showed how the protagonist figured out clever ways of using their strengths to fight a problem.

I really dug some of the social issues in the game. There was a strong sense of the non-benders as 2nd class citizens, and I certainly played a character with something to prove. A lot of that was called onto the carpet early on, and came up in different ways several times. We also had some distinct notion of the what the different nations thought of each other. I dug the tension there.

I had a lot of fun with Liu-Chen, specifically trying to form a bond with her in the midst of all this violence. At one point I grabbed a Bender and put him in a “Five Dragon Choke Hold” (create advantage) so she could punch him out. Good times!

As my first experience with FAE, I was quite impressed. Very good system for doing a pick up game and slapping an existing setting right on top of.

Pic of the game:



Actual Play – The Skunky Bottom Boys in ‘Damn the Torpedoes!’ (5/24/2013)

hollowearthexpeditionGM: Todd Furler
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, Adam Breindel, and Tom Epperly
System: Hollow Earth Expedition

A game run by Todd Furler has yet to leave me anything but delighted after play. Karen and I arrived at Kubla sans-kids on Friday night. They were arriving Saturday morning so even though my plan this year was to investigate board games at KublaCon, I gave myself Friday night to indulge in some some awesome RPG action.

The shuffler gods were kind and both Karen and I got into Todd’s game!

The pitch

Todd started with his normal opening discussion about what we’re doing when we sit down to play, which I documented in the Furler Method. After we were all suitably acquainted, he introduced the Skunky Bottom Boys, a family (a very large family) that spawned several generations but few gene pools.

Character pictures were laid out on the table, with each option having two pictures (one for each gender) and two potential archetypes. Here was the character I picked:


Each gender had both archetypes available, and notably, none of the character had names, that is because it wasn’t until after we picked our characters that Todd presented us with the Clowper family tree…with all it’s eccentricities. Barnaby Clowper was the progenitor of the line, but even his relationship (Married to Vicki until she died and then marrying Alvinia Farris, who loeft Eugine Farris to be with Barnaby) was complicated. From there it became a giant trail of half-sibling spouses, first cousin brothers, and and aunt-mothers.

Todd asked us to pick a character in the bottom two rows (the two most recent generations) and then figure out the specifics how how they were actually connected. I picked Hamish, who we decided was married to Vicki, who had left Karen’s character Leo. Adam played Leo’s significantly older brother Ismael. I believe, if I got this right, I was also both of their Uncle. Tom played Jubal, our cousin for sure, maybe more. Leo was sure that Vicki was still his lady, she just had to come around, never mind that Vicki and Hamish had a daughter who was already married. Witness the insanity:


The Play is the thing

I don’t want to talk too much about the game specifics, since Todd will surely run this game (and probably other Skunky Bottom Boys games) in the future. There are some great non-plot elements I can discuss though.

Karen and I had a great time playing rivals. As Hamish was the “daredevil” I constantly was doing crazy things (like firing a harpoon gun with myself attached to the harpoon) and there were plenty of opportunities to leave me for dead. Leo generally felt favorable to those outcomes. It was awesome.

The characters each have one over the top special ability. Leo, the “Moonshiner” could, unsuprisingly make Moonshine. But he could make other things as well. Oh man, the things he made were awesome.

Todd did some things with the timeline that make it possible for us to do some really great reincorporation. I loved talking to Ishmael about his heirloom knife that he loved and cherished, and how he’s never let that go, when I already knew he was going to lose it.  We had the same references to things found in the in the distillery. “… pickled eggs…. no… baby alligator in a jar… no….” came up over and over.

Thoughts on the game

If it wasn’t clear before, each character had two archetype options. So when I picked mine I could go with Tough Guy or Daredevil. I chose the later.

I sure hope Todd runs more Skunky Bottom Boys. The characters were a hoot, the setting (1940s just before America enters the war) is ripe with pulp opportunities, and the shared profession of the Clowper family (maritime salvage) is a treasure trove of awesome adventuring ideas.

So much more I want to say, but don’t want to give out spoilers. For the folks that were in the game “Fucking-<name of fish with a cartilaginous skeleton>-<local area network>-<memoir written by Frank McCourt>!”


Actual Play – Dragonslayers (5/26/2012)

Players: Sean Nittner, Dennis Jordan and Thomas Smallberry (I need your last name Thomas)
System: Fiasco
Playset: Dragonslayers

Many props to Logan Bonner for this playset. After a day of chasing kids around, promoting Big Bad Con, and generally doing everything but gaming, I was very content to play a nice, fast pace, very vulgar game of Fiasco.

The Score

This is the score from the playbook, which we read just before playing. It pretty much summed up our entire game experience.

‘If you want to keep those hands, get them off my magic cloak.”

The bumpkins in this pissant mountain town could never have taken down that dragon. Their biggest hero hasn’t seen battle since Drozzek rode down from the Smoking Mountains three wars-to-end-all-wars ago. That old fuck they call their town wizard fried his brain with one too many “elixirs of awareness” and can’t even light a campfire
with all his spells combined.

So yeah, we rode into town, a bunch of outsiders ready to solve that problem. Solve a motherfucking dragon. And no, we don’t care what they think. And yes, we’re fucking heroes. These yokels should worship at our feet. They didn’t blast those mummies to dust or make a deathtrap built with technology lost centuries ago their bitch. And
they sure as hell didn’t slay that dragon.

That’s our dragon, and its gold is our gold. So unless you’re bringing us ale and whores, get the fuck out before we transform you into a turkey and serve you for dinner. Continue reading Actual Play – Dragonslayers (5/26/2012)

Actual Play – Alien coming to town (5/25/2012)

MC: Jackson Tegu
Players: Sean Nittner, Chris Bennett, Karen Twelves, Joe Mcdaldno
System: Monsterhearts

I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to really game at KublaCon. Kids in tow, there is virtually now way to set aside three or four hours to play without them constant interruption. So my brilliant plan was to “pre-game” the con by playing a game at Karen’s house (while the kids were sleeping) before the con. Yay.


Our game was set in the 80’s, somewhere in the Dust Bowl.

Zachariah Goldstein – My Jewish gypsy child who traveled with his family in RV caravans from place to place. He was a Serpentine, commanded his grandmother (Baba Goldstein) to rebuild he powerful connections they used to have. He wanted to be liked at school, wanted to settle down, but still wanted to appease his family’s wishes. The “lived” in the parking lot outside an old abandoned theater.

Enoch – Karen’s Hollow. A demon who inhabited a child named Enoch. The demon had no self-awareness (knowledge of being a demon, or how it got into this boy’s body). It just new it was here now, in a strange and foreign world.

Rufus – A Ghost whose mother walked into the kitchen one morning while he and his father were eating breakfast and shot them both dead. Joe played Rufus as a very proper young man. He liked order, and justice, and rules. After he died, and came back, his family relationship was strained but nobody talked about it. Mom moved out (I think they will site irreconcilable differences in the divorce settlement) and he and his father have been figuring out life (or unlife) without his mom for the last 6 months.

Sean – Chris played a Mortal that was in love with Zachariah. Most people didn’t like Sean, because they suspected or knew that he was gay. Sean liked cars though, he had an eight-seater Oldsmobile and got some street cred for that. It was also convenient that could drive everyone around.  The fact that he played a character with my name was not problematic at all. Continue reading Actual Play – Alien coming to town (5/25/2012)

Actual Play – Collision on I-81 (5/28/2011)

GM: Todd Furler
Players: Duane O’ Brian, Sean Nittner, Michael Wilson, Travis Smalley, plus two.
System: Unknown Armies


Collision on I-81
Game system: Unknown Armies
Start time: SAT, 9:00 AM
# of Players: 6
GM / Judge: Todd Furler
What’s supposed to be a simple week of training starts off with a horrific car accident. And things get worse from there. CHAR: Provided LVLS: Normal folks

Getting to the game

This game only happened by the narrowest of margins for me. To get in I would have had to sign up Friday night (which I didn’t). I looked at the schedule for Saturday noon games and nothing looked at all interesting, so with 15 minutes before Todd’s game started I rushed up to the room and crashed the game.

A major downside to this was not being ready to game. I.e. I hadn’t showered or changed clothes with is a total gamer hygiene snafu. Luckily my lovely family brought me some essentials (breakfast, a clean shirt, deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste).

When I arrived, I was first in the waitlist but people in the game were showing up and filling the seats. A single player, a friend of Michael Wilson sent text to bow out and I was in! Awesome

The Setup

Todd opened up the game, introducing us as a group of engineers (and their supervisor) that worked together for a firm and were being sent off for some regulatory training. One the drive, however, we got in an accident, the Collision on I-81. Out of nowhere another van appeared and our vehicles smashed into each other. The other vehicle got the worst of it, several were injured and one died. Luckily we were mostly just startled but otherwise okay.

The characters were a fun group. Bill, our boss, had the exterior of being a caring guy, but had some skeletons in his closet. Seth was the newbie that wasn’t technically qualified for the job. Amanda (my character) was a really good natured woman who wanted to prove herself. We also had the frat boy, the family guy and my favorite (Michael’s character) the ice queen that gave up having any kind of personal life for her professional career.

The game is the thing

As Todd may very well run this game again at Gen Con, I’m not going to write anything about the story, suffice to say, it was a great one.

What rocked

Todd always does a fantastic job delivering a game full of people that are very real and very diverse. I love his portrayal of NPCs.
The plot never required our characters to give up on our previous beliefs about the natural world (as many games that incorporate supernatural elements do).

The player character interaction was great, particularly between Dwane and Travis and Michael and me. Michael and I had a great scene where his character snubbed my so hard, the character relationships really changed, which is something I love to see.

I had two epicly bad rolls (I think 99s both of them) that created some amazing twists in the game, both involving car accidents. Todd did an amazing job of making those horrible failures push the story forward.

Todd Furler! Awesome GM.

What could have improved

It seemed like there was a lot more about the characters that could have come out in the course of a longer game. With four hours (which is my preferred length btw) and a lot of story bits to experience, I left wondering a lot about the other characters. Given out particular ending, I doubt we would ever had found out.

Actual Play – Too Many Secrets (5/27/2011)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Michael Wilson, Jennifer Thomas-Bryant, Alex Miller, and two others (sorry I wrote down the names lost them)
System: Leverage


Game system: Leverage
Start time: FRI, 8:00 PM
Duration: 6 Hours
# of Players:5
GM / Judge: Sean Nittner
A job needs to be done. Not only is the money right but you don’t have a choice; your past has caught up to you. Your the best out there, what could go wrong? CHAR:Provided LVLS:Criminals

How this got started

I pretty much knew that if a caper game came out and I heard great things about it, I had to run it. It was almost serendipity that I started watching the show Leverage right around the time the game was coming out. The show is campy and fun and full of awesome, so I figured the game (coming on the heels of Smallville) would be too.

One mistake I made however was taking my favorite caper movie (Sneakers) and using it as my original premise for the game. Martin Bishop (aka Martin Brice) played by my favorite caper actor ever Robert Redford (The Sting, Sneakers, Spy Game) and he spends most of the movie in a horrible pickle, first being duped to perform a heist and then having to risk his neck ever further to fix his first bungle. The hiccup for me is that the game is set to be much lighter than that. The characters are unto gods in the game and bound by very few limitations, except perhaps funny quirks (you know the hitter that doesn’t like guns, or the thief who won’t steal from the poor), but those never affect the plot so much as they make the characters seem more empathetic or funny.

So I named the game “Too Many Secrets”, which any fan of Sneakers would recognize, but by the time I got the book, read it, and played in a game (Thanks to Carl Rigney: I knew I couldn’t run a Sneakers game. I’ll do it someday but not with Leverage.

As good as check in the mail

As usual I made a bunch of props for the game. This time custom plot points for every archetype. The hitter got shotgun shells, the matstermind had chess pieces, the grifter had my favorite, little placards with pictures of the hearts and minds of people he or she had captures. All pics of gamers, many of which were probably at the con. I had the pretty, pretty character sheets John Harper made: Finally I took all the important NPCs and put their pictures in my clear picture frames. And then I forgot all of it at home on my way to KublaCon.

Yep, my entire box of props, packed nice and tidy, left sitting on my living room floor.

In retrospect a friend (Kevan Forbes) was probably right, props can become a crutch. It was good to run a game without them. Although it did cost me $60 in dice. Blerg.

Character selection and creation

Hacker: Jennifer played a good-ole country girl, who had a girly, Hello Kitty themed laptop and an always full cup of coffee.


Hitter: A former prize fighter with amazing, long blond hair.


Mastermind: Alex was the Mastermind. He made sure the plan worked, even when it was failing. Often that involved cleaning supplies.


Thief: He apparently spent some quality time in air-ducts.


Grifter: Michael played the iconic “Face”



Fixer: Apparently complete with a Chet Powers stare


The Mop Bucket Job

When we did full blown character creation in Carl’s game (aka The Prom Job) I felt like it ate up too much of our 4 hour slot, but with 6 hours it worked very well. At least timing wise.

What hurt the initial flow of the game, and continued to be a deterrent throughout was a combination of crazy dice luck (favoring the fixer) and me being not quite fast enough on my feet to think if why it “should” have worked. I want to break that apart into two different issues.

Win/Fail Paradigm. Most players I game with don’t think in terms of the dice deciding between two interesting results. The think in terms of winning or losing. I’ve seen three games try to address this mindset (Mouse Guard, S7S and Leverage). All of them take the tact that your actions were awesome and should have worked but didn’t because of some unforeseen complication. There is a visceral response however, when players see the dice rolled, do the mental math to realize they rolled lower and immediately start conjuring up images of their character being a buffoon.

I wonder if players not seeing the dice might actually help this? Or if there is a better way to present the dice options as Be Awesome/Be Awesome with complications rather than Win/Fail?

Here is are two example of the paradigm shift I’m looking for, one iconic and the other tied specifically to leverage. In every case assume the player misses the roll:

Iconic: Indiana Jones needs to swing over a pit to escape a collapsing temple. Typical Win/Fail paradigm: He tries to swing across but swigs short and falls in the pit. Awesome paradigm: He swings across and scrambles up the other side only to find natives there with spears at his chest. A big one walks over and kicks him in the chest knocking him into the pit. It is full of snakes, why did it have to be snakes?

Leverage: The thief is breaking into a secured office. Typical Win/Fail paradigm: The thief can’t pick the lock and is stuck outside. Awesome paradigm: The thief make it in easily but the moment she gets inside, the hacker starts seeing alarms go off and realized they didn’t know the office had motion detectors. Now the hacker needs to act to cut off the alarm.

In both cases the awesome paradigm keeps the protagonist being, well, awesome, instead of deprotagonizing them. Several games promote this but even when given the option to look cool, I see players defaulting to the “oh, looks like I botched the roll, okay I suck” mentality.

A Fixer Fast on his Feet. The second part of this problem comes from me, the fixer (GM, whatever) not being fast enough on my toes to think of these three things. 1) Why it should have worked. 2) What unforeseen complication prevented it from working and 3) What immediate threat/conflict needs to be addressed (often by another PC) because it didn’t. In the first case, Indie should have made it because he did in fact swing across the bit, but he didn’t know about the natives, so now he’s got snakes to fend off. In the second example, the responsibility is placed on the hacker. The goal there is to reinforce teamwork, but it generally came off as “I am incompetent, I need you to save my bacon”. As a fixer, I think it is key to cut off that line of thinking as quickly as possible. Maybe in the future for games like this, I’m just going to immediately start narrating their success and while doing so, keep my mind working on how to complicate it, so as not to give the players a chance to start thinking in terms of failure.

The game started off with the players rolling very poorly on several rolls in a row and the “easy job” ending up getting very complicated very fast. I believe the players still had fun but they lost some confidence in their characters. This may have also been a good time to have an NPC show them how bad ass they were in comparison (another crew tried to do the same job and failed, or someone acknowledges them in person as awesome, etc). Yes, it may be cheerleading, but players in Leverage should feel like awesome super competent bad asses.

The play is the thing aka The Starshine Job.

To make the job immediately personal I used some back story questions, which in truth proved to drive the story forward more that my intended pacing. The client was Ashley, a young aspiring actress duped out of her meager savings (and money she borrowed) by Peter McIntire, the owner of the Starshine Talent agency. Immediately I asked who was related to her and Alex went for the younger sibling angle, a perennial favorite amongst antagonistic characters. Then I asked about love interests and it turns out that Ashley had fallen for our hacker, but the grifter was head over heels for her. Great, a love triangle PLUS an overprotective brother.

From there I started doling out the basics, a simple goal (get her money back and reveal McIntire as a fraud) with several complications (he has powerful connections as well as a feverishly loyal ex-boyfriend of Ashley named Marcus that still believed McIntire would make him famous).

The crew got busy at working the angles of his connections and finding ways they could turn them against him.

The twist, in a rush

The game ended up running a little slower than I expected which meant the end was somewhat rushed. I revealed the twist, his money laundering for the mob, and that got the crew moving fast to get Peter to reveal himself before the mob could show up and “silence” him.
It seemed a bit cliché, but frankly the immediacy of the mob threat breathed a lot of energy into the ending of the game and made for a strong close. Aces in my book.

What rocked

The love quadrangle was a ton of fun, and great to play out through the entire game.

Our country bumpkin hacker was a very nice change of pace from the iconic Hardison. Complete with a hello kitty laptop.

The players were great about shining the spotlight on each other. I really loved that they would call in one another to do specific jobs, act as support or help clean up a mess. Awesome teamwork.

The Leverage system did all the fun bits it needed to. Creating flashbacks, assets and distinctions as needed to both create mechanical nuances and fill the narrative with interesting bits.

What could have improved

As mentioned above the Win/Fail paradigm hurt the energy of the game initially.

I had other back story questions I was going to ask once the ball got rolling so that all five members of the crew would have personal investment in the job (Like who got burned on a scam like this before, or burned someone and felt really bad about it afterwards and who has a past relationship with the Mark). I think if I had remembered those early on, it would have put some more oomph in the game.

We were a bit rushed in the end, partially because of starting late and taking kind of a leisurely pace so I had to rush through the closing somewhat, which is a shame because it’s one of the few parts of the game where the mastermind gets center stage.

Actual Play – Cuts You Up (5/30/2010)

GM: Rich Taylor
Players: Mike, Sean, Paul, Martin, Josiah, et al.
System: Shadowrun 4th Ed

The game had a killer premise. You’re not runners. Your people, normal (or at least semi-normal) people. Most of you work for Renraku, the other two are tourists in the Renraku Archology. Today is the ribbon cutting announcing the opening of the Archology. Today something very bad is going to happen.

Our characters started the game together, on an elevator, stuck somewhere around the 170th floor of the Archology. Something was wrong and it just got worse as we went. I’ll leave out all the details in case Rich opts to run it again, which I highly recommend. It was a great game.

What Rocked

Actual Play – Flagship Atlantis (5/29/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Matt, Justin, Jennifer, Erica, Bryan, et al.
System: Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies

This was the fourth and smoothest run of this game yet. And yet it could still use improvement. Enough so that I’m going to run it two more times. It was fun enough and had characters that were rockin enough that I want to port this game into a Lady Blackbird hack. I think it’s got the legs to do it.

The game structure and mechanics were similar to the last run:

With these changes: