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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 180 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [The Shab-al-Hiri Roach] Embassy Suites, with Jasper  (Read 5915 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: September 01, 2005, 08:36:58 AM »

Hello,

This was yet another of the myriad games played in the evenings during GenCon in the lobby of the Embassy Suites hotel. I had a tough choice of games to run that evening, between Lacuna, which I badly wanted to play, but for which I didn't quite have the rules down pat yet, and the Roach, which I'd played once already but adored and wanted to promote. I gave the choice to the players and although Lacuna's cover was a big draw, so was the Roach's, and they opted for the game I knew better. (I suspect this group knows all about GMs who try to run games they don't know very well.)

Who was there? Well, me, Jasper, and the Breakfast of Demons guys: Brian, Andrew, and Jennifer. So five people total, neatly split between Forge Twinks (2) and Rebel Satirists (3). Which of course was no split at all. I bought Breakfast of Demons over a year ago, and Jasper had just seen it recently - and you'd have a hard time finding a better dramatization of the Big Model, especially the opportunities for dysfunctions.

To digress, for those who've seen the flick - Simulationist (variant: System-dependent turtler), Simulationist (variant: Character uber alles), Gamist (lurks like Grendel among Sims), with a Typhoid Mary GM. Enter an innocent demon as a novice role-player, and watch him discover that Hard Core Gamism is the best defense. Jasper made damn sure to run off to recruit this clear example of a Lost Tribe and get their butts both to the booth and to the after-hours playing. They'd already sat in on Barbaren and were pretty certain they weren't in Kansas any more.

So, the Roach! We grabbed a round table. I got the necessary grunts of appreciation when I read introductory snippets from the rules (testimony to Jason's outstanding prose), so was not surprised when five rather horrid-but-likeable, quirky professors appeared in short order. They picked up the die-size rules quickly and easily, as well as the non-traditional turn-order, conflict-based approach. Ducks to water, really. Brian and Jennifer went to town with all manner of conflicts, interactions, academics, and trouble-making; Andrew was a little more subdued, and I'm given to understand he was pretty tired.

One thing we didn't do as much as in the first game, was play the assigned NPCs as vigorously. They were more like tools, this time, but frankly, our inter-PC interactions were so fierce and interesting, it wasn't a problem. As for what happened ... well, I was inclined to stay Roach-free, despite sore temptation for a bit there when my poor Russian-emigre prof was beset by multiple roachy opponents. I countered effectively with many cunning uses of NPCs and some good card draws (despite one bout with influenza), and never drew a Roach card.

Jasper did his very best to game the game, at first. His prof was Phys Ed, he had Sports and Self-Destruction for enthusiasms, and practically every conflict he got into involved the fate of his career and the department. So he was angling for max dice at all times, until we hashed out a couple of things. (1) Self-Destruction means that the actual attempt is self-destructive, not the potential outcome of losing; (2) scheming for more funds for the sports program is not itself an enthusiasm for sports, which we decided had to involve playing them. That settled him down a little.

Boy. Just as in the last game, the moments of hilarity (roach-inspired or not) were many, and it's kind of exhausting to remember and list them all. I particularly liked my character's moment at the Halloween Ball, when he demonstrated manly Russian ballroom-dance moves, with (of course) a male partner - Brian's character, whom I was opposing in the contest, inadvertently making him look bad, you see. Brian was really taking it on the chin early on, as roachy Jasper racked up a huge stack of tokens ... until ...

... the Faculty Senate Meeting. I love this Event. It's been my favorite in both games.

Yay! Brian got the Copulate command!! Even better, he'd pre-picked Andrew as the target, which meant that the defrocked, scurrilous prof got to seduce the aging, frumpy, female prof in the broom closet, during the Senate meeting! This led to terrible, terrible things, as Brian got a ton of Reputation, my prof whacked other profs with a chair (aided by the young radical, of course), and all sorts of major play-decisions fell out of it. Andrew decided to divest his prof of her roach the next turn (drew a Roach card, lost the very Enthusiasm that Brian had exploited to seduce her), so now we had two non-roachies, not just me.

Jasper started taking it on the chin something awful at this point, as Jennifer, Brian, and I opposed him frightfully during the Homecoming game. He ultimately had to make a choice which scarred his character forever ... given his use of Self-Destruction, and given that we'd co-opted the football team onto our side of the conflict, he was forced to throw the game in order to get more dice! The horror! It was a fantastic moment of seeing the character descend into the Dark Side, and I took the opportunity to ask Jasper if, now, he thought the game was really about winning. Response: emphatic negative. Narrativism triumphant again. Every game needs a Jasper in it.

Now for the tragedy. It had been a long day, and a late dinner, and we definitely went past our bedtimes and yet had only completed four of the six Events. Most of our brains hit the "snooze" button simultaneously. Dammit, too tired to finish - agony! We did consider pushing on through to finish up, but I think we collectively realized that we were having too much fun to spoil it with dazed, over-explanatory, repeated-clarification play.

The final coda, though, was a brief discussion afterwards, when Brian said, "I think about stuff a lot," and delivered a brief monologue which I swear to God was a great, short, independent version of many of my points in Chapter 7 of Sorcerer & Sword. Jared and I looked at one another, looked at him, and said, "Yes."

Best,
Ron
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2005, 09:20:18 AM »

Quote
Yay! Brian got the Copulate command!! Even better, he'd pre-picked Andrew as the target, which meant that the defrocked, scurrilous prof got to seduce the aging, frumpy, female prof in the broom closet, during the Senate meeting! This led to terrible, terrible things, as Brian got a ton of Reputation, my prof whacked other profs with a chair (aided by the young radical, of course), and all sorts of major play-decisions fell out of it.

If ever there was a perfect time for that card... man, that's really funny. 

Thanks for writing this up.  And thanks to Jasper for going for the throat - if it can hold up to that it should be OK.  Did academic disciplines (Expertise in the IGC version) get narrated in for dice often? 

What were the final Reputations of the winning players in your two games, Ron?

--Jason
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2005, 10:17:25 AM »

Hi Jason,

As I hinted, I think the academics were dragged in just a little too much in the second game, mainly because someone says "I mention bugs too, so here's my Expertise die."

We didn't finish that game, so I can't tell you about finished Reputation scores. I do know they tend to go up and down more wildly than one might think in the beginning ... so far, in each game, there's been one apparent big winner in the first couple of Events, and then things really become unpredictable. Right about the same time the (very useful) starting relationships are abandoned in favor of responding to whatever has transpired.

In this game, I was limping along with only a handful of Reputation, but beginning to recoup. Brian had the biggest stack, somewhere about eight or nine, I think, and Jasper's grossly huge stack of 12-15 was rapidly diminishing. Andrew and Jennifer had middling ones too, having lost a few too many conflicts in Events 3 and 4.

In the first game, going into the sixth Event, Maura's character only had a couple of Rep, but prior to the draw for the sixth Event, she was the only roach-free one. Julie had about six or seven, I think, and drew the Roach card, and threw off the Roach. The outcome of the main conflict didn't make much of a difference, too, as Julie was on the winning side and Maura was on the losing side. I think that was my stated conflict, so they only gained/lost 1 each, respectively. I don't recall why we decided that was the last conflict of the Event.

Best,
Ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2005, 10:35:29 AM »

Now, I was a bit exhausted through much of GenCon (my own damn fault - I showed up that way), but I really am pretty sure I was in that Roach game as well - the young midwestern ornithologist with a need to "prove" his intellectual chops.  Ron's russian started out admiring me as a man of the people, but came to hate me after I condemned him as, um, downright un-American (which the prof later felt terribly, terribly guilty about - an intellectual should know better than to blame someone for their ethnicity!)

My primary memory of the game (beyond wow, this is COOL!) involves that - I actually felt a bit betrayed when Ron "turned" on me - after all, that russian had "admire me as a man of the people" on his char sheet!  Knowing Ron, Nar play in general, and seeing how cool it was working for the story (that my ornithologist had no interest in being a man of the people just worked wonderfully) got me over it real quick, but I was fascinated by just how strong that "but it says on his sheet . . . " initial reaction was.  I don't have the current game text at hand - my guess is the initial nature of those relationships is clearly spelled out there, but if it isn't, it should be.

I'll re-read Ron's account and see what else sparks memories, but for now I just wanted to get myself "into the scene" . . .

Gordon
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2005, 01:25:24 PM »

Hello,

Whoops! Yes, I thought I remembered someone sitting between me and Jennifer ... It all comes back to me now.

Those relationships do tend to get scrapped. They are awesome for guiding the first decisions of play, in the first Event or two, but boy, do they go sour, or the person seems "not so bad," once the Roach has entered play or once someone fails to resist the urge to go for a wee bit of privilege at your expense.

I should say in passing that I greatly enjoyed playing my earnest Russian prof (specializing in, of course, the Novel) as  a perfect blend of earnest Leftist and snotty petit-nobile Czarist. I'm certain I channeled the protagonist of Pale Fire at least once or twice, just not as bonkers.

Anyway, tough tooties to you, Gordon. You roached me reeeeal bad in the second Event to boost your Reputation, and that's what you get. I'm interested in that "on the sheet" reaction, though.  I've raved for years about how people treat those damn things as chains. Perhaps the consensual nature of SNAP, with its emphasis on getting things onto paper, is something of an opposite to the "leave the sheet behind and strike out into the unknown" philosophy of the Roach?

Best,
Ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2005, 03:10:12 PM »

But Ro-onn, it wasn't me, it was my character!  I was only doing what the game made me do by telling me my character didn't like yours . . .

Yeah, I had fun messin' with the mad russian, and then paid the price.  As I said, it ended up working really well for me in terms of both character and story development.  Though I wasn't "roaching" until the third Event - driven to accept it by the aforementioned guilt, as it turns out, when my roach command was "unburden yourself of filth."  Or was that the fourth Event?  Memory fails me.  In any case, my character had his Specialty ("save the ivory-billed woodpecker!") and an Opportunity (Paper Published) firing in an early scene at the Senate, but no roach.  I think roaching folks were on his side, though - and I definitely came in against Viktor hard a bit later in the Event.

But lame, non-serious "the game made me" claims aside, I'd say my unnoticed-until-it-happened expectation that what's on the sheet about relationships was, um, enduring is easily handled.  "These initial realtionships will probably not survive the first Event, or even the first scene."  Of course - how could it be otherwise, given the me->you=negative, you->me=positive construction?  Sustaining that over time would be a lot of work.

As far as the SNAP comparision - well, there's an explicit "now that you've made the characters based on those scene descriptions, THOW AWAY the scene info" step in SNAP.  So maybe that's where my mental wiring was at - if you haven't explicitly thrown it away, it's still there.  Add the least bit of discard-swiftly language, and the problem mostly goes away.

Maybe it's also a personal quirk, though - it'd be interesting to see if others share it.  In The Mountain Witch Embassy Suites game I was in (to which thread I am bound next), I had a slight difficulty with "evolving" the realtionships given by the astrological signs, but had no problem changing things when the opportunity to reassign Trust chips came up.  "What's on the sheet should be something we KEEP TRACK of", while better than seeing the sheet as a chain, is perhaps still an irrational inclination.  But if that's more than just a personal quirk (and years of railing against char sheets as chains makes it sound like it is), it's probably a good idea for the game text to deal with the issue.  I'll check the latest rev of the Roach to see what my reaction on actually reading it is.

Another solution - which, thinking about it right now, I like a LOT - is to write the inital realtionships on a separate sheet.  I recall a fair amount of confusion about exactly who was positive/negative with who, so making the GLOBAL information available to everyone on one piece of paper might be cool.  Players could then add that to their own "notes" as they saw fit.

More attention than the issue deserves, probably.  But anything to help the Roach - it's really a great game,

Gordon
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Jasper the Mimbo
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« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2005, 11:25:05 PM »

Jeez, that game was fun. You know that feeling when you spend so long laughing that your cheeks are cramping, your stomach hurts, your voice is shot and you feel vaguely ill? yeah, it was like that.

after Barberan the day before, it's a wonder im not dead.

So Jason-

Great game! When I pick up a new game I have a tendancy to try to break it. If a game can't hold up to my aggressive gamism I stop playing. If it can then it means the system is solid, and will support playing in a way that I really enjoy. (That was for you Ron- System matters.) Just a personal preference. So yeah, your game definitely held up to the stress test. good job.
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List of people to kill. (So far.)

1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2005, 12:45:04 PM »

Thanks for the feedback, guys - It's very useful.  I really put the Relationships in there to kick-start play and I definitely don't want it to slow things down.  The love = hate, hate = love thing just seemed like an easy way to ratchet up potential early conflict, and the alpha order stuff could just as easily be "the guy on your left" and "the guy on your right".  I'll think about how to intoduce Relationships to maximize their usefulness and minimize paperwork and thinking.

Dancing like a maggot,

--Jason
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