Recent Changes - Search

Main Menu (edit)




Random Average Blog

Pm Wiki

Recent Changes Printable View Page History Edit Page

< Session One | Game Logs

Awhile back (a long while back, actually: November of 2006) my play group got together to make up characters for a new game -- we'd been talking about it for awhile and the general consensus among the players at the time was that we had a lot of interest in something kind of Steampunk.

For the setting, I went back to an oft-visited creative well and presented the group with the psuedo-italiano city state of Petrana.

Here is the broad description of the situation in the city, from the Wiki:

Petrana is a city of almost 80,000 people -- one of the most prosperous cities in a (generally) well-developed, loose confederation of autonomous duchies and city states that were once part of the Kingdom of Maldonaise, or the 'Old Kingdom' to the lay-folk.

In recent years, Petrana has been embroiled in a hot- and cold-running war with the three western city states. Currently, there are no open hostilities, but the enemy was at the gates of the city only a few years ago, and Petrana is still recovering, both financially and emotionally. There are many wounds and resentments from that time, and the war that failed to bring Petrana down could still destroy her by drips and drabs in the aftermath.

On the surface, the city is politically stable; underneath, it is thick with intrigue between noble and guildsman, ancient cults and organized faiths, and most notably the growing strength of rebellious elements from the war, determined to bring the Duke of Petrana to his knees.

After some talk about possible systems and what those systems would, in turn, bring to the game (Mortal Coil was bandied about as a way to really explore the magical-science of a setting like Girl Genius), we settled on The Shadow of Yesterday. All of the players had done a little stuff with Heroquest before (to which T So Y bears a passing philosophical resemblance), and most had done at least a one-shot in T So Y. It seemed like a good idea, so that's what we went with.

We using the basic T So Y rules with few additional Abilities, some new Keys and a whole slew of Automaton-related Secrets that I put together from some great threads on the Forge, and summarized here.

The basic summary of what we added:

  • A Riding skill, which was deemed appropriate enough to the setting to be it's own skill, though we noted that you could accomplish the same stuff as a 'non-specialized' character with Athletics and Animal Ken.
  • A culture-specific "armed military" skill called Dragoon.
  • A Sailing skill.
  • A Craft Machines skill -- pretty much the heart of the Automaton stuff.

There are two main types of 'robots' in the setting.

  • Automaton: a machine or mechanism designed to automatically follow a predetermined sequence of operations, perform a set function, or respond to encoded instructions. Mechanically, Automatons are built using a tweak of the Beast rules from T So Y, and can be constructed by someone with Craft Machines in a way that's a spin on the zombie-servant summoning from the Qek setting in T So Y.
  • Animatron: a mechanism that is relatively self-operating within the bounds of its designated function -- animatrons are a much more sophisticated constructs than automatons, some even a approaching a semblance of sentience. Animatrons can be played as a character.

After our first session (which wasn't much more than roleplaying introductions), we ran into some end of year holiday planning problems, finally got rolling again in January, and added two players, bringing our PC total to five; we also determined that "Clockpunk" was more appealing to us than straight steampunk.

The P Cs really only had one GM-directive -- I wanted everyone to have some kind of relationship to the Duke's son, Leonardo. I painted him as a good-hearted Prince Harry sort, much more interested in carousing (a new skill!) and reckless adventure than in learning to be his father's heir.

Here are the P Cs we came up with:

  • Pietro Pontdeladia - a long time friend of Leo's. His family is noble, but married into a merchant house, making him a bit unpopular with the 'true' bluebloods in the city. He started out with the Key of Fraternity with Leo. Most notably, he's really the only 'city native' that anyone came up with.
  • Kara Prokofieva - a native of a cold northern country still steeped in strange witchery and magic. She's a bit of a glory hound and adrenaline junkie and thinks quite a lot of Leo's devil-may-care attitude.
  • Brunhilda Von Braun - a diplomatic envoy from a mountainous northern country that is small but known for remarkable clockwork automata. She came to the ducal court on behalf of her father, delivering two clockwork soldiers for the Grand Hall, and became immediately enmeshed in one of Leo's mad schemes for adventure.
  • Aribella - an Animatron. Aribella was given to the Duke when his son Leo was very young, as a kind of bodyguard/nanny. She's a fixture for Leo -- a remnant of his childhood that he sees no need to retire. She wonders what it would be like to think like a human. We're using the Animatron rules for her, and it promises to be quite interesting.
  • Albertus Shundara -- a young 'noble' (by virtue of his father's magical skill and political prowess) of the city who seeks to ingratiate himself with the young ducal heir and further his own ambitions in the process. He is, luckily, not entirely unskilled with magic and willing to go along with Leo's crazy plans, so long as it gets him what he wants in the end. He considers Pietro a rival for Leo's camaraderie.

Quite a lot of good character stuff done up -- followed by about three months of unplayable schedules. We finally got together last night to play.

I had a number of things I wanted to accomplish with last night's get together

  1. A discussion of campaign length for both this game and other games (both past and future) -- prompted by a Sons of Kryos pod cast. I thought that was very productive.
  2. Refamiliarizing with the rules. It'd been ages since we'd really PLAYED the game, not counting character creation, plus I'm running and maybe even playing T So Y at Forge Midwest, so I really, really wanted to get into the system and have some proper conflicts -- the more convoluted, the better.
  3. Knock out any rust or dents from our initial character concepts.

I was very pleased with the results.

I'd started our first session out while a kind of flashback sequence:

We're in the middle of some kind of ruined keep's courtyard. Pietro is there, as are Kara and Brun, and the lot of them are pinned down near the ruined central fountain by crossbow fire. Their attackers are troglodytes of some type. They are yammering back and forth to each other as they fire from the second floor windows and walkways that face into the courtyard. Using her Scholarly training (and some Gift Dice), Brun is able to make out the key element of their communication -- the word "Dragon."
"That's interesting; I've never seen a dragon before," Brun comments to herself.
Leonardo Soranzo, the sole heir to the Grand Duchy of Petrana, looks back around his own pillar at Brun, his eyes and grin both wide. "A dragon?!? This is the best idea I've ever had!"

We then jumped two days back from that scene, to the city, where Leo and Pietro are in a nice tavern, and Leo announces "I'm bored; we should do something grand..."

Right. The rest of that session (and the play we did in the get-together where we added the two new players) involved mostly getting everyone introduced to one another and moving toward that eventual, inevitable "Dragon Scene." :)

So, last night, we opened with the Five-plus-Leo riding along the road, having left the City behind without telling anyone where they were going. Leo, Pietro, and Kara are riding. Albertus is in a kind of chariot/two-wheeled buggy type transport. Brun (and Aribella, who is in a kind of 'idle' mode) are riding inside a wooden, caravan-style wagon; Brun is working excitedly on a 'combat automaton' that Leo has promised to let her field test when they get to the abandoned Manse that Leo wants to clear of a troglodyte infestation 'for the good of the countryside.'

Leo is amusing himself with a conversation with Albert, asking what the young noble wants as recompense for the favor he's doing Leo for coming along. Several extravagant and highly unlikely ideas are offered up, but A manages to get Leo to agree to give him access to the ducal libraries... and maybe some gold, if Leo doesn't think that's grand enough.

In the midst of that conversation, some organized brigands* step out of hiding and comment that yes, some gold sounds like just the thing.

(* - It's easiest to simply direct people to the Factions page to explain the 'organized brigands', but the short version is that the recent war left some of the upper class and MANY of the soldiers in Petrana's standing army unhappy with the duke. The combination of disgruntled craftsmen, resentful minor nobility and merchant lords, and angry ex-soldiers has resulted in banditry in the countryside that is well-funded, well-organized, well-armed, and has a number of places to hide and train (on worthless, distant land that has recently been 'gifted' to the aforementioned resentful minor nobility.))

This was our first conflict of the evening, and it went down as a group effort on both sides, complicated by a couple players' actions. The simple summary is that everyone on the PC side was rolling their successes from one person to the next, culminating in Leo's finally action against the brigand leader, while the brigands (one NPC with a big Vigor pool) rolled their successes up to their captain. There was also a bit of a side-thing going on in which Albertus was trying to mind-control the leader, but make the leader think Pietro was doing it (thanks to a Secret he has that's something like "Gentle Touch" from the T So Y rules, but which works more like "Misdirection" -- you know someone's screwing with your head, but the 'who' is redirected to someone other than the caster.

This conflict went in favor of the P Cs. Brun didn't participate, because she was in the final stages of activating her Automaton and wanted to do so to help out the fight.

The Automaton stats were something like:

  • Power: 2
  • Speed: 2
  • Toughness: 1 (Maybe. I can't remember this one)
  • Brains: 1
  • Vigor: 2
  • Instinct: 1
  • Weapons: +1 to Melee
  • Armor: +2 vs. edged weapons
  • Secret of Languages (to understand human speech and recognize spoken commands)

During the middle of the conflict, she made her "Activation/Control Check" -- the "See if it runs amok" check. This was a lot of fun, because while everyone had chipped in gift dice to her when it came time to make her Craft Machines check to see how "Good" the automaton was, everyone gave ME Gift Dice when it came time for her to try to use Sway to Control it -- clearly they WANTED it to run amok and have some fun with that.

They pretty much got what they wanted. The control roll failed, and I narrated the fight actually ending when the automaton burst its legs through the sides of the wagon, four-legged spider-style, and buzz-sawed the front of the wagon off so it could see, effectively creating a wooden turtle-shell for itself. The brigands, hardly beaten, took one look at the thing and blanched.

"Nein, nein!" Brunhilda (tossed from the wagon) shouted at the amuck-amaton. "She's got more of 'em!" The brigand leader deduced. "Run!"

This led to the second of the conflicts for the session -- another 'simple' conflict that went into Bringing Down the Pain.

Basically, the simple conflict boiled down into everyone picking some kind of action (ranging from a check to flip the Automaton on it's back using Aribella and some lassos, to jumping into the wagon with the body and obscuring it's Ocular Lenses with a cloak), rolling their successes in succession over to Brun, who took those bonus dice into a Craft Machine roll that would (finally) roll over any success into the penultimate "Sway" check.

The player was rolling something like nine bonus dice, in addition to her three normal dice, and adding a 1 for Sway. I was rolling 3, plus one die from the thing's Instinct Pool, and adding a +2 for my best stat.

Unfortunately, I got lucky and rolled a 'perfect' +++, combined with a skill a little better than Brun, mean that she simply could not beat me no matter how well she rolled -- the best she could get was 'almost.'

The machine's goal was "Run off into the countryside, amuck amuck amuck," and the players didn't want that, so they decided to go into Bringing Down the Pain. We took a break to have supper, discuss the rules, and review the B Dt P? stuff before we actually started that part.

Now of course, I'd told my players that I was looking to really work out the rules in this session as much as possible, so I was comfortable with them for the upcoming game this weekend, and they delivered in spades for this Bringing Down the Pain (which is a grittier, more detailed conflict system that you bring into play when you want to make a scene more important or want to try to deny a loss in a 'simple' conflict).

We discussed the 'basic' and 'gestalt' methods for B Dt P? and decided on Gestalt. (I still have questions about the 'simple' mode, with many folks against, say, one big opponent -- do you give the single opponent only one action against everyone? It seems like they'd get pasted by uncontested actions in less than a round. Anyway.) This worked out pretty well for us, since it basically involved more of the same kind of stuff from the Simple Conflict, but broken into volleys of action.

In other words: player A does something, makes an uncontested check, gets a +1 result, and hands that 1 bonus die to the next player in logical action order, who rolls, gets a +2 (say) and gives that to the next player, et cetera, until it all rolls up to the logical "leader" person for that round, who takes the final "Rollover" dice from the other people's action and makes the roll that the opposing side will... umm... oppose. Harm is taken by the losing side: then repeat until one side or the other gives up.

Easy. Especially since we'd already done this a number of times in the simple contests.

So we go around the table to find out what everyone's doing: (The group's goal: shut the thing down.)

  • Kara: Using the lasso I already got around the thing's leg to try to tangle its legs up and immobilize it.
  • Brun: Using Construct machine to build up dice for next round's Sway command it to halt, using the emergency command words I'm ALMOST sure I remembered to give it. (She's safe in doing this, since other people can take any Harm from a failed roll.)
  • Aribella: Keep it turned upside down.
  • Albertus: I'm using Enthrallment magic, plus Secret of the Invisible Hand for range, plus Secret of Shift Blame* to order Pietro to attack Leo, but make him think the Robot is doing it to him.
  • Pietro: I'm going to... um... wait, what?
* The way mind control magic works in T So Y: you can totally 'charm' someone, but they also know you're doing it, and aren't happy. There's a Secret you can get that makes the control subtle and undetected, instead. Albertus came up with a variation on this with Secret of Shift Blame which lets the target know they're being controlled, but confuses them as to who is DOING it.

Right. So Albertus has Key of Power, which generates points for (in one case) making a rival look bad. As Leo is essentially Albertus' benefactor in this situation, and Pietro is close friends with Leo, Albertus has identified him as a rival. Making him seem weak-willed and vulnerable to magic makes Pietro look bad. Plus, Albertus wants to look good in protecting Leo from the "possessed" Pietro.

Given that, Pietro decides during the free-and-clear stage to defend himself in this volley, while Leo attacks the automaton.

Short version of the results: The group does some harm to Automaton, resulting in a penalty dice for the bot in the following volley. Pietro fails his resist roll versus the magic.

So we go around the table to find out what everyone's doing:

  • Kara: Continuing to use the lasso I already got around the thing's leg to try to tangle its legs up and immobilize it.
  • Brun: Using Sway to command it to halt, using the emergency command words I'm ALMOST sure I remembered to give it.
  • Pietro: I'm going to... attack Leo. Since this is a change in intent, I'm defensive this round. I'm also chocking out "Robot... controlling... mind... can't... LOOK OUT, LEO!"
  • Albertus: I'm doing defensive this round to change my intent to "defend Leo" next round.
  • Aribella: Having failed to keep it upside down, I'm going to become confused and try to turn over something else -- maybe Kara's horse. Wait... Pietro is attacking Leo? That overrides: I'm protecting him. So I'm defensive this round.
  • Leo decides Pietro will 'handle it' and continues attacking the automaton, which leaves three characters actually "on the robot" and everyone else doing other things.

Result: another minor ding to the robot.

So we go around the table to find out what everyone's doing:

  • Kara: I've done as much as I can from horseback, and I have Key of Glory: I'm jumping off the horse and running under the robot, weaving rope around its legs.
  • Brun: Using Sway. Darn robot -- and what's Pietro on about with mind control -- the robot can't DO that... wait, can it?
  • Pietro: I'm going to... attack Leo. Shooting at him, since I'm not as good at that.
  • Albertus: Defend Leo, using magic to destroy the bullet.
  • Aribella: Jump in front of the bullet.
  • Leo keeps attacking.

Result: another ding for the robot. Pietro doesn't roll well for his attack (DESPITE the fact that the GM generously gave him bonus dice for the roll!) and either Aribella or Albertus would have blocked the bullet (which probably wouldn't have hit Leo anyway), but several players gave bonus dice to Aribella so that her success beat Albertus' and it was clear SHE was the one that protected the heir.

Next round comes around, and Pietro is trying to figure out how to attack next, but Albertus' player pointed out that the command was simply to "Attack Leo." That's been done, so he's free from the compulsion now... Albertus doesn't want the heir DEAD after all -- it's an attack on Pietro's rep, not Leo's health. :)

So we go around the table to find out what everyone's doing:

  • Kara: I got a +3 on my Athletics last volley -- the rope is a good as it's going to get. I join Leo in trying to whack key parts of the thing.
  • Brun: Using Sway.
  • Pietro: Defensive and changing intent to "Stop that AUTOMATON."
  • Albertus: Defensive and changing intent to the Automaton.
  • Aribella: This situation is unsafe! I'm tackling Leo!
  • Leo keeps attacking the automaton.

Result: Wound levels 2, 3, 4, and 5 are filled up on the Automaton now -- it becomes non-functional when Broken (level 6 harm), and anything that results in a 2 through 5 will roll up to six anyway, so if they can just hit it solidly ONE MORE TIME, it'll drop.

Also, Aribella totally tackles Leo and takes him out of the fight -- he wasn't trying to stop her, so her success against him was pretty massive.

So we go around the table to find out what everyone's doing:

  • Kara: Smack it, rolling success to... well, not Leo, since he's down on the ground, so... Pietro.
  • Pietro: Taking his frustrations out on the automaton.
  • Albertus: Using Destruction and rolling his successes over to Pietro, which he narrates as causing Pietro's blade to crackle with destructive energy. (Cool!)
  • Aribella: Hold Leo Down.
  • Leo: defensive, to change his intent.

Result: Taken-out robot. Whew.

At that point, we called the session and started packing up. Brun's player was a little unhappy with her character's Keys -- while Key of (Metaphorical) Impotence was deemed utterly cool, the Key of the Craftsman was kind of a non-starter -- it's a bit redundant with her other Key, it encourages a "Dn D? Potion-making Economy" where she churns XP by making nice cuckoo clocks, and it's a second key that doesn't have to do with interacting with other characters.

We talked about changing it a bit, and I realized that rather than simply retconning the character creation, T So Y was going to let us make this character change really cool. The Buy-off for that Key is "Destroy one of your creations." This lets the player dump the Key, take a one-time XP reward, and use them not only to get a new Key, but advance something else.

So, after they immobilize the robot, someone says "well, at least you can fix it," and Brun walks up to the thing, looks at it and says "No." She pulls a cotter-key, releasing a lynchpin, and the thing goes to pieces. "I've been going about zis all wrong -- I'm startink over."

We're going to replace Key of the Craftsman with something that, rather than giving her points for creating a cool new thing all the time, will instead give her points for interacting with her creations in ways that adds stuff to the story -- 'make what I have cool, instead of just make more stuff.' Still need to write the Key, but I'll be basing it off the Secret we have that lets you recharge your Pools by interacting with your creations.

And that was the game. The last couple large-group sessions of a number of different games have been a little less than satisfactory, and this one was really a good session and turned that trend around. I'm really happy about that, and I have a few guesses as to why that is.

1. The play space. For years, I've used a big ping pong table with the netting removed for our play table. This monster will easily sit 9 or 10 folks, with room for a BIG battle mat in the middle. It was perfect for the 4-year Dn D? game I ran, but it spreads people out too much for more story driven games and, I think, encourages people to disconnect from the game when it's not 'their turn.' I replaced with a circular table that seats six. With everyone sitting down, and character sheets, and a veggie platter in the middle, the table is FULL -- I keep my laptop on a small side table, which is all I really need. Everyone feels closer, more involved, and it's just plan cozier, taking up half the space in the room that the old table did. In short, it helps us focus. I really like the change.

2. The system. I'll admit it -- I've missed the tactical crunch of a game like d20, and while T So Y is a far far cry from that, it DOES have a little crunch to it (more so than the Roach or PTA, certainly) and it's a bit quicker to grasp for veteran players than Mortal Coil. I LOVED how the game really reflected Brun's player's desire to change her character with some mechanics. I liked the crunch of Bringing Down the Pain, and I love Gift Dice (though with five players and the GM, that's six gift dice per person, and that's a LOT of Gift Dice floating around the table, especially when everyone's USING them -- at the end of the game, there were only about four Gift Dice tokens that still needed to be returned to their box.

3. Communication. I've done a lot of talking to the players individually and as a group, and I think I have a better handle on what they want out of the game. I've also done a lot of talking about what I want and feel is possible to give, time-wise, for a game, and we all understand each other. There was a little bit of a disconnect when Albertus turned on Pietro (especially for a couple players who'd voiced a desire to play in a 'cooperative mode'), mostly because I hadn't TALKED about that option or really discussed a Social Contract with everyone, but I think I'll start off with that next session. I think if we just keep everything out in the open (even the machinations) and acknowledge that consequences are possible for such things -- it's going to be okay.

Anyway: Happy happy about the session. Good stuff.

< Session One | Game Logs

Edit Page - Page History - Printable View - Recent Changes - Search
Page last modified on April 17, 2007, at 01:03 AM by DoyceTesterman

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.