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Braving the Wrath of Dav
Topic: Braving the Wrath of Dav (Read 2577 times)
My name is Raven.
Braving the Wrath of Dav
April 09, 2004, 06:25:32 PM »
Ok, even fearing that Dav is someday going to come over, kick my door in, and eviscerate me for talking about my D&D game on the Forge, as promised on the Birthday forums, I'm still going to do it. Why? Because my wife would kick his ass! (I'm not sayin' Dav's a wimp, I'm just sayin'...)
Alright, so my 3E game has kicked off again after a long hiatus while players, including myself, were sorting out new parenthood issues (I swear, everyone in our group, or their wives, get pregnant around the same time).
For those of you not familiar with my game's history, you should check the following links. The basic run-down is thus: I'm running Narrativist 3E game, I suspect it may be vanilla (though it could also be strawberry, or kiwi-lime); we play on-line via mIRC chat for a couple hours once a week.
Previous threads in this series can be found here, in descending order (newest first):
">Narrative 3E: Real Time & Effects on Play,
">"No Myth" with D&D,
">More Player-Driven 3E,
">Raven's 3E Game, and
We've run four sessions so far in this new spat of play. One of the players has been absent for three of those sessions, and there was a seperate single-player session in between the first two for just one of the players.
I haven't posted about the game since last July, as we cut out around August. To update the details since then: the sorcerer controlling the nobility of the city was slain in a vicious fight with the party's leader, which took place in the emperor's throne room (and an attempt to assassinate the emperor was thwarted); the nobles and priests were freed from the mental enchantments of the sorcerer, and the princess shattered the giant crystal known as the Heart of Tiamat (sacrificing it to her own god).
Also, while this was going on above, the elf and dwarf accidentally released an insane, once-human creature from its imprisionment deep in the vaults beneath the palace, and the elf was turned to stone by it. The creature later fled the way the two characters had come, and (not willing to face it again) the dwarf managed to find his way out of the chamber another way. This set up the events of the current set of sessions.
Now, as you may or may not recall, the leader of the party, a warrior woman, discovered her parents had been imprisioned for her crime of "being too masculine" in a society which enforces "traditional roles of servitude and birth" for women. However, the emperor could not exile her to the West again, or punish her, as she had saved his life in the throne room, and thus owed her because of the traditions and customs of their society.
Instead he gave her three choices: to keep her sword and agree to voluntary sterilization, or to put her sword away forever and learn to act like a woman should; either choice would have earned the freedom of her parents. The third choice given to her was to do neither, to keep her sword, but her parents would remain in the dungeons for their crime of raising her like a man.
Surprisingly, though the player considered other options (such as a jail break she could have pulled off), she decided upon putting away her sword and learning to act like a woman -- though she informed me this was just a cover, and the plan was to flee the lands of the empire once her parents were safe.
That was the first session (we only played for around an hour-and-a-half, IIRC).
As well, we had a decent discussion sometime around then about a new behavior I wanted us to focus on as a group -- actually using 3E's social skills to make determinations about whether or not NPCs would help or not, be convinced or not, and similar, because there really is no fair way to determine such outcomes by fiat. I would simply end up responding however I wished, and thus be pushing the game around as I desired.
One of the players was concerned that a focus on the dice might interfere with role-playing, but also said they were perfectly willing to give it a chance, offering they couldn't know until they tried it.
From that discussion arose a discussion about how I was just providing the scenes, while they (the players) were providing the direction, and they stated they understood that. Contrast this with, a couple years ago, my complaint about a player's statements that they didn't want to "get in the way of the story" I was creating. So, I think we're definitely growing as a group.
Now, immediately after that session, there was a game between just myself and a single player. The whole involved a family confrontation between the princess and her father, the emperor, as the princess does not follow the sun god of the people and the progenitor of the royal line, but rather a dark and destructive "utterly false" god.
A fight about her religious choices ensued, and her very public sacrifice of the Heart to a false god, until she turned the conversation around and began attacking the virtue of her father, given that she had learned he had been the one to impregnate her with the child she unwittingly carried, a subject he attempted to avoid discussion of.
The princess, however, is persuasive and demanding, and learned that the child she carried had only been fathered by him through the dark magics of the recently slain sorcerer. Why? The emperor has only daughters, and has long needed an heir to the throne to ensure the survival of the empire. He claimed he had nothing to do with the choice of mothers, however, though he, in fact, had exiled her (his daughter) to the West for the good of the empire, once he learned of the deed.
The emperor revealed he did not trust the sorcerer, and believed the child might be a monster rather than a child. If the child proved to be human at birth, and thus the heir (for it is assured to be male), both child and princess would have returned from exile...otherwise, it was better that a monster roam the wastelands of the West than the city (and the social instability such a birth among the "gods' blessed" nobility would cause, especially in light of other current events (the vanishing of the sun)).
The emperor left and ordered her confined to her room until he could decide what to do, since she had already returned from exile once.
Thereafter, the princess' god visited her, blessed her and thanked her for the newfound powers she had given him...control of all that was Tiamat's domain, the black earth and its wealth, and the dragons, and he ordered her to bring the empire to ruin in his name, so that all might learn and fear his power, as the one most powerful god, and worship and sacrifice to him.
I think I ran that a little cockeyed now that I think of it...it was more a "question and answer, I'm interacting with a god like a person" bit of of a scene than a religious vision with attendant commandments. I think the latter may have been a better choice given that, mythologically, this is usually how the divine experience is reported. It also establishes a better seperation of mortal from divine, and the divine as something other than just a really powerful person you can talk to.
That would have also made the "Oh, shoot, he left? I wanted to ask him a question about my child" bit that came up at the end of the event much less jarring to both of us.
However, I gave her some other options for finding out about the child and we decided to go with one of those.
The princess talked her way out of the palace, along with a contingent of guards (who preferred not to be punished for failing to protect her, even if she was going to disobey her father's orders...a gamble on their part. After all, they can't really stop the princess (I mean, she is the princess -- sacred blood of the god and all -- and she simply cannot be harmed), so they had to do their best.
The princess' plan was to see the priestesses of the moon goddess about her pregnancy, recieve a divination, and hopefully escape completely from her father's clutches. Her leaving for the temple with a small contingent of guards in tow ended the session.
Now, during this session, I caught myself slipping into old habits, wanting to disallow things the player wanted to do that would ruin "my perfect scene" and my trying to guide events in an illusionist fashion. However, I did catch it as I was doing it, apologized to the player, reversed my decision, and said "whatever you want, it works." This was very interesting for me to notice myself doing, and I was particularly pleased I'd caught myself and corrected the mistake immediately.
I am a little worried I scared the player back into a "Can I..?" mode, as I've been trying to reinforce the idea that they shouldn't double check with me, first, just say/do it, and I'll just veto it if even necessary later. I'd prefer the games run smooth and be fun, rather than have everyone worrying about the minute details (ie: "Is there something to hide behind here?" "Can I talk to him?" "Is there any way off the roof?" etc). And in fact, I'd just call for an appropriate skill check to determine the answer in many of those cases anyways.
The second session involved the party leader bringing her decision about what to do regarding her parents to the emperor, and being told to bring her sword to the temple of the moon goddess, where she would be schooled as a proper woman...doing this, her parents would be freed. She argued against having to go through this, but was convinced by the emperor that it is merely an action in "good faith" on her part, purely ceremonial, so she goes. The royal guard captain (replacement character for the player of the rather immobile elf) is sent with her, and commanded by the emperor to return with the wayward princess as well.
Meanwhile, said princess has arrived at the temple, and after a short exploration, finds it weirdly deserted. Strange and terrible statues bearing horrified faces are found in the main chamber, and the group begins to suspect sorcery or a djinni (a demon) is at work in the temple. Two of the guards are sent back to the palace to alert the emperor, and summon a group of warrior-sorcerers who can deal with such magics and creatures.
The warrior woman and the royal guard captain arrive as the two guards are leaving, and they trade information. The question of what to do about the princess (still inside the temple) and the djinni is left on the captain's shoulders as the session ends.
When the next session starts up, the princess has found a survivor, a young priestess, and grills her for information about what happened, sending her remaining guards to search for more survivors.
As players, they learn the temple is where the thing the elf and dwarf released earlier escaped to, through the very same tunnel the dwarf and elf had followed from the temple (at the behest of the priestesses), though each of their characters really only has a part of the story.
The creature has turned all but one of the priestesses to stone, and when confronted shortly by the remaining guards, gets them, too. Alerted by the guardsmen's final screams, the warrior woman and the captain cautiously enter the temple, the other guards having just left for the palace.
These two confront the creature, and the warrior woman tricks it, in its madness, into following them back to the palace (it believes the emperor is its husband...he was, at least the emperor a couple centuries ago was, before the creature's curse). As it has dressed itself in the garb of the high priestess of the temple, the warrior woman plans to bring it before the emperor and "take care of everyone's problems."
That is, she's planning on assasinating the emperor. I mean, what a statement!
The princess is aware of this, having overheard the conversation from the shadows she created to hide in, and being smart enough to figure out where an audience between her father and the creature would lead. The question was...was she going to let it happen?
An odd event happened at the end there, regarding the player of the woman warrior. While they were facing the creature down (a medusa), she messaged me to let me know she was feeling pressured to "make the right choice." At first, I thought she meant I had some sort of "you have to do this to survive" idea in mind, and I let her know nothing like that was happening. She said she knew, and that what she meant was "the right choice for everyone else's characters...to keep them from dying."
It was spotlight pressure, near as I can figure, as though the fate/survival of everyone's character rested on her decisions. I said that their own actions (or lack thereof) would save or damn them, and not to worry about it; but I'm still not sure what to make of her worry, or if my answer really, in any way, solved the problem causing it. I'm not certain I even understand the worry, really. Anyone with any insight into this is welcome to comment.
The next session picked up right where that one left off.
We only had two hours to play, however, so it was another short session.
Surprisingly (because he really holds no love for the emperor, and I'm not certain what the motive behind it was), the royal captain thwarts the leader's plan when they reach the palace and find a group of guards gathering at the main entry to head to the temple's aid. With the help of the warrior-sorcerers, some quick thinking (and hiding in case it got loose), and some tense initiative rolls, the creature is subdued and hooded, to be escorted to the dungeons.
I know the player meant for the creature to be killed, but given that it was dressed like the high priestess, the warriors chose the route of subdual. Things could have gone very wrong for the plan due to that, but they didn't.
Now, back at the temple...or beneath it, rather, the priestess and the princess tracked the creature's passage to discover where it came from. Unfortunately, this part of the game bogged down due to player caution, and most of the part of the session I spent with her involved sending a summoned creature down the tunnel to discover if anything was lurking therein, and then her proceeding cautiously down the tunnel to discover nothing. I tried to move through the scene as quickly as possible, as I knew there was nothing
the tunnel, only at its end, but the player spent time thinking about what to do, specifically, and wanting to try things to determine if anything was up ahead.
Mostly, it was wasted dramatic tension, because the game ended right there, as she happened upon the thing hiding at its end, so it feels like wasted time to me. All the build-up isn't going to carry over until next week. We'll be starting fresh, psychologically, right from a Bang -- Go!
SO, there were a number of interesting and very cool points in play, many of which touched on the loose Premise of "What is the Importance of Family" and "Is Blood Thicker than Water?" which have been running throughout our sessions.
The leader's choice of what to do about her parents (and foregoing the prison break idea), her later choice to try to assassinate the emperor herself, the question of whether family loyalty will turn the priestess against her one time companions (and maybe her god?), and the sudden turn-about of the royal captain (I'm wondering what the player has in mind!).
I told my players they were all just sick...and yet incredibly cool.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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