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Author Topic: [Shab-al-Hiri Roach] The Dark Fates of Regina Sutton  (Read 8641 times)
Jon Hastings
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« on: September 24, 2005, 09:34:08 AM »

My first game of the Roach (took place about 3 weeks ago):

The players:

Me: Just getting back into RPGing after a hiatus of about 5 years.  Having some issues running InSpectres, as documented here and here.

Nick: One of my best friends.  Played in both of the InSpectres sessions I ran, and enjoyed the first more than the second.  Nick and I are trying to get a regular RPGing group together, but, so far, we're the only "committed" members.  Before playing InSpectres Nick had almost zero RPG experience.

Mark: Our very good friend.  Mark has been wanting to play rpgs for a while, but the Roach was his first real attempt (although I think he may have been involved in a one failed session of AD&D at one point).  Mark would probably be the third regular member of our proto-rpg group, but he lives in another state.

All of us had read the rules.  I think I was the only Lovecraft fan, although all of us like "Re-animator".

The Characters:

Professor Mortimer "Morty" Ruggles (me), Assistant Professor of Geography.  Enthusiasms: Sport and Cruelty.  Started out Roachbound.

Q. Edmund Patronus (Nick), Full Professor of Ancient Languages.  Enthusiasms: Sociability and Pleasure.

Arthur Rathbone (Mark), Full Professor of Music.  Enthusiasms: Creativity and Wit.

Before play began, we read some of the introductory text of the game aloud.

We started out kind of slow, none of us really knowing what exactly we were supposed to do, and so the first event was rather tame.  I narrated "Morty" recruiting a bunch of promising young lads to be part of the "Outdoorsmanship Club" that he ran--I figured they would be useful in all sorts of conflicts (and I was right).

During the second event, we started a pattern that would continue throughout the game: whenever Mark would narrate a scene for Arthur Rathbone, he would add in lengthy and detailed explanations drawn from his real-life knowledge of music history.  After setting up his conflicts with all this detail, Nick would have Patronus or a convenient NPC show up, make some kind of off-the-cuff BS argument, and then roll really well.  After this had happened a few time it had developed a real Charlie Brown-Lucy-football feel.  Towards the end of the game, when Mark would start elaborately setting up his conflict, I would shoot a look at Nick that was like "Is he really going to do that again?" and Nick, smiling evily, shot back a look that was like "Yes.  And I am going to crush him."  At the time, I was worried that Mark was getting frustrated by all this, but it turns out that he really enjoyed himself and was, in fact, proud that he played his character with such "integrity" when compared to the fast-and-loose play favored by me and Nick.

Anyways, as the second event drew to a close, I still hadn't framed a scene for "Morty" and none of the characters had really done anything too nasty, so I decided to jump start things a bit by having "Morty" murder a townie girl who had been having an affair with Edmund Patronus (Nick's PC) and frame him for it.  Nick responded during the next event by having Patronus murder the lead student in "Morty"'s Outdoorsmanship Club and frame him for it, and from that point on Nick and I were really off-and-running with the evil, backstabbing, nasty shit.  Both of us were roachbound by this point, and it showed.

Going along with the whole "integrity" thing, Mark never had his character do anything evil, creepy, or perverted throughout the entire game.  And he was never possessed by the Roach.  And he almost won, too.

In general, the rules worked very well for us.  However, going into the last event, we hit a kind of snag.  Through no fault of his own, Nick was still roachbound (he had never drawn a card that would let him get rid of the thing), and he felt it was kind of unfair that he had no chance of winning.  I tried to explain that this was part of the game's dark sense of humor, but I think if I had explained this explicitly before we started playing it would have been better.

Nick took advantage of his dark fate by turning the Christmas Ball into a blood opera, which actually worked out quite well.  He narrated that Patronus brutally murdered Regina Sutton in front of everyone, and then made his conflict: "Does everyone here take pity on me for being a deranged lunatic?"  He WON the conflict, which was pretty cool, as the bleeding-hearters from the Psychology department rallied to his defense.

Mark then made a fanmail-worthy choice to frame his final conflict: "Can Rathbone get everyone singing Christmas carols and forget about the awful murder they had just witnessed?"  And he won.  For me, this provided the defining image of our game: a bunch of academic-type people cheerfully singing Christmas carols as a dead body lies nearby, ignored.  It was very "Rules of the Game" meets Dario Argento.

Summary: All of us enjoyed the game.  I was much more satisfied with this session than I was with the two sessions of InSpectres I had recently played.  Still, though, things didn't go quite as smoothly as they could have.  In terms of playing by the rules and all that, the game went really well, but the "story" of the game was a lot cooler to talk about the next day than it was for me to play through it.  A lot of the scenes played out very disjointedly, and it wasn't until the last event that I felt we were all really working together to create a vivid, shared story.   
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Jon Hastings
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« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2005, 09:37:17 AM »

My second game of the Roach (took place last Sunday):

The Situation:

Nick tried to get a bunch of people together to play some rpgs last Sunday afternoon.  No actual decision was made on what game would be played, but the idea was we'd probably play InSpectres or the Shab-al-Hiri Roach (these are the only two games Nick has played).  At one point, it looked like it was going to be a game of InSpectres with 6 people total: me, Nick, the 2 other players from our second session, and 2 brand new players.  But at the last minute, that all fell through, and we were down to me, Nick, one of the new players, and no place to play.  We decided on the Roach again (mainly because I am having a hard time GMing InSpectres), and we decided to play at Neutral Ground (a gaming store in NYC that has lots of tables set up to play, but is usually pretty much a zoo--with lots of loud Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering play going on).

I have to admit, going into this I was a little frustrated and semi-pissed off.  I don't have a very flexible schedule, and so I was pretty annoyed about the whole "game almost falling apart at the last minute"-thing.  On a deeper level, both Nick and I want to try to get a regular group together, and I was beginning to despair of this ever happening.  Added to that, I was somewhat worried about playing at Neutral Ground, because it is not necessarily the ideal place to play "narrative"-type rpgs.    And, though I was glad we were going to be playing the Roach and not InSpectres, I was somewhat worried that the Roach wouldn't work as well the second time around.

Well, Neutral Ground turned out to be pretty chill on a Sunday afternoon, the new player really seemed to dig the game, and the Roach is, I think, even better on the second try.

The players:

Me: See above.  At the beginning of the game, I had pretty low expectations.

Nick: See above.  Nick was really jazzed to play the Roach again.

Brian: The new player.  I had never met Brian before, but he is friends with Nick (through work).  He is the first person Nick and I have invited to play that has genuine rpg experience.  Brian had played AD&D and Vampire, but hadn't played either in about 10 years.  He seemed to get on our wavelength pretty quickly.

Brian hadn't read the rules, but Nick and I both explained them to him.  I also made it explicit that it was possible to be roachbound at the end of the game, and, through no fault of your own, get screwed out of a win.  I think this helped to set up the arbitrary/absurd nature of the Roach's universe.

Going into play I had two general rpg-playing goals and one specific Roach-playing goal.

First, GMing InSpectres had left me with very little confidence in my ability to play NPCs effectively, which is something I was very good at in the Good Old Days of high school/college rpging.  I wasn't too impressed with how I played NPCs in our first Roach game either.  This time around, I wanted to make sure that I gave the NPCs I created juicy motivations and relationships and I wanted to play them to the hilt.  To help with this I made notes of every NPC that showed up during the game, and when we created NPCs we tried to tie them into one of the already named NPCs with "relationship map"-style bonds of kin and/or sex.  This worked really well.

Second, I felt that the disjointed nature of the first Roach session had a lot to do with rushing through a lot of the narration.  That is, we'd resolve a conflict and then quickly move onto the next scene, without really getting into the details of what the resolution looked like.  In between the two Roach sessions I read the PTA rules (for the first time), and so I went into the second game thinking about the PTA passages on kibbitzing and fully narrating the results of conflicts (and narration procedures in general).  Again, something I used to be good at as a GM was keeping the group focused on what was going on in the game world, and keeping the game world coherent.  I felt that the first Roach session had some lack of coherence: there were a lot of arbitrary loose ends that could have been resolved if we hadn't been rushing from conflict to conflict.  Before playing, I explained to Nick and Brian some of the general ideas of how I thought we should handle narrating conflict resolution.

Finally, with regards to the Roach specifically, I wanted to try to avoid (on my own part) making too much use of what I've named the "Marshall McLuhan Gambit", after the scene in "Annie Hall" where Woody Allen produces Marshall McLuhan himself--from out of nowhere--to settle an argument about McLuhan's theories.  In our first game, almost every conflict made use of this tactic: at some point one of the players would, on the spot, come up with an NPC authority on the subject at hand to add a die to their side of the conflict.  Now, I don't think this is a bad thing, and I expect--especially in the earlier events--it is a necessary part of good Roach play, but I really felt we abused it, as we kept using it again and again.  We cluttered up Pemberton with a bunch of One Use NPC experts, who would make a point for us and then disappear from the game.  I told Nick before we started playing that I was going to try to avoid doing this, although he didn't seem to think it was as big a problem as I did. 

The characters:

T. Rogers Mosley, PhD (me), Full Professor of Anthropology.  Enthusiasms: Gossip, Subterfuge.

Johan A. Weill (Nick), Assistant Professor of Drama and Poetry.  Enthusiasms: Sociability, Pleasure.  (Nick took these Enthusiasms in the first game, too).

Sebastian Montegue (Brian), Assistant Professor of Art History.  Enthusiasm: Debauchery, Sociability.

We took some time to introduce our characters and flesh out some background details.

In the first game, when it came to doing the "who your character likes/hates", we basically just made a list and left it at that.  This time, we spent some time coming up with very specific reasons why these characters liked and hated each other, and we tried to tie that into their backgrounds.  For example, Sebastian Montegue's father was a millionaire toy manufacturer, and I narrated that Mosley hated him because he thought he had bought his degree instead of earned it.  I think this helped the game immensely.  Though these starting relationships had changed completely by the third event or so, they gave a really strong foundation for a lot of the early conflicts.

We managed to cram a lot of perversity and nastiness into the first event--I had Mosley try to "ingratiate" himself with some strapping young freshmen lads, Nick had Weill try to get Becky Stoudenmeyer (the 16 year-old daughter of Chair of the Faculty Senate Campbell Stoudenmeyer) drunk (in order to make it easier to seduce her), and Brian had Montegue try to come of as our moral superior, at the same time he hit on Alice Wilkinson, the shapely young professor of Romantic Literature.

One of the conventions we developed while playing was that jumping into a conflict, or bringing an NPC onto your side, would open up an opportunity for the other side to respond to the changing situation.  (This helped eliminate a lot of the Marshall McLuhan situations).  For example, during the Pemberton Follies, Brian had Montegue, the young radical L. Scott Collins, and Madeleine Gerard (daughter of Professor Emeritus John Acton Gerard--relatives of luminaries did not fare so well in this game) decided to stage a 3-person version of "Don Quixote".  (Montegue's goal was to impress the co-eds).  I jumped onto the other side of the conflict, and I had Mosley, suffering from the after effects of arsenic poisoning, creep up into the catwalks of the theater and cut through one of the sand bags holding up another part of the catwalk (the idea being that part of the catwalk would crash down on Montegue).  Nick joined Montegue's side of the conflict, and narrated that Weill spotted me and was running to stop me.  Then, I responded by having Regina Sutton--who was under Mosley's svengali-like influence--distract Weill before he could get backstage.  We rolled and Brian lost.  The kibbitzing before resolution came into play here: Brian decided that it would more appropriate if instead of merely dropping a catwalk on the thespians, Mosley had cut through a rope holding up the windmill set.  So Brian narrated that the windmill fell over, decapitating poor Madeleine Gerard.

Incidentally, we played with the rule of no PC death ever.  Instead, every time a PC would have died as a result of a conflict, we had an innocent bystander (usually an NPC on their side of the conflict or important to them in some way) bite it.  This worked out really well, and fit the mood perfectly.

Nick and I both repeated ourselves once during this second game: that is, we re-used a conflict from the first game.  This was kind of funny, but it also made me realize that Nick and I should play something different before we return to the Roach again.

We hit a snag twice during play, and in both instances the same issue came up.  During the Chancellor's Wine and Cheese Social, I had Mosley corner Francine Steuben Ferguson--wife of Chancellor Arthur Steuben Ferguson--and threatened to reveal that she was having an affair with Weill--Mosley wanted Weill all for himelf.  Nick wanted to get in on the other side of the conflict, but he did so in a way that I didn't think was quite kosher: he wanted to narrate that Francine simply didn't care, because she had already told her husband about her infidelity.  I thought that this would be an appropriate narration IF I lost the conflict, but it seemed like it was going too far for pre-dice rolling narration.  Nick tried out a couple more ideas, but they all involved going back in time and changing things around in order to cut the legs out from under my conflict.  Because the rest of the game is pretty loose in terms of who gets to say what, we were stuck for a little bit on how to proceed.  My ruling was that once a conflict is set up, you have to respond to that conflict as it is happening right then and there, although once the dice have been rolled, you can fiddle around with time & space issues.  (I.e., if I have a character point a gun at someone in a conflict, you can't respond by saying the gun isn't loaded, but IF I lose the conflict roll, it CAN in fact turn out that, indeed, the gun wasn't loaded).

The same issue came up later on, but I forget the exact details.  It seemed to me, though, that instead of responding to the conflict I had framed, Nick was trying to frame a conflict of his own, which, if he won, would make my conflict un-winnable.  Anyways, I ended having to enforce the "no undermining until after the dice are rolled rule" again, but Nick seemed to be struggling with the concept a little.  To clarify: he had no trouble understanding what I was saying, but he was having trouble putting it into effect.  I think he was really just trying a little too hard.  That is, if he focused on "how can I stop Mosley directly" he would have been okay, but he kept trying to weave in a lot of elaborate details that shifted the focus away from the conflict at hand.

Despite this, I thought the game went really, really well.  In fact, it ranks as one of the single best rpg experiences I've ever had.  I think I managed to meet my personal goals: I played the NPCs to the hilt and I think we all worked together to create a coherent "in game" story.  This session gave me back a lot of the confidence I had lost while struggling with InSpectres.  I feel a lot more psyched about taking on a GMing role.  I've spent the last couple of years reading the Forge and reading the rules of Forge-type games, but this is really the first time that I've actually experience Forge-type play and been 100% satisfied.  What's really cool is that I know it's not just a fluke, and I'm now pretty hopeful that we'll be able to get a group together to do this regularly.  I'm definitely a lot more fired up to play than I was after our last InSpectres game.

My only concern about this session was that I don't think Nick had as good a time as I did.  For me, a second session of a game is usually a lot more comfortable than the first, but with Nick it has been the opposite so far, and I'm not sure exactly why.

Anyway, thanks to Jason Morningstar for making a great game.  This session really helped me to love rpging again and to see that good rpging doesn't have to be a struggle.
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Jon Hastings
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« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2005, 09:38:00 AM »

Oh, yeah... Regina Sutton came to a bloody end in our second game, too.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2005, 12:22:53 PM »

Thanks so much for these rockin' Actual Play reports and thanks for playing the Roach!  This is immensely helpful to me.  I'll reflect on your comments in greater depth, but a few logistical questions first, if you don't mind:

How did Reputation work in your sessions?  Was the outcome pre-ordained at any point based on Reputation?  What were the ending totals, if you recall? 

How long did the complete session last in each instance, in real time? 

Did anyone ever get drunk to avoid acting on a Roach command? 

It sounds like Expertise got narrated in often - true?  What about Enthusiasms? 

I don't know why, but Regina Sutton always seems to get the shaft. 

NAM-LUŠ TAR,

--Jason





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NBraccia
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« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2005, 12:43:51 PM »

Jon,

In many ways I did enjoy our second time out as much as the first.

We can chock up any anxiety I had in playing to a couple factors.

While Bryan is a great guy, I've only known him a little while, so I felt a little pressure to make sure he enjoyed himself, for professional as much as personal reasons. Wheras, we've known Mark forever.

I put an awful lot of pressure on myself to come up with really solid and complex narrative spins. When I'm not as resourceful in some scenes (or even entire sessions) as others, I can get a little pouty.

That said, I find the Roach pretty thrilling. It did trouble me that we had beheadings at the follies and a slaughtered Regina at the XMAS party two games in a row.

I think what I enjoy most about it, is that, for an RPG newbie like me, experiencing a  complete game in 3-4 hours really provides a solid and satisfying beginning/middle/end narrative.

I also think it would help our problems with repetition to create additional scenes. They'd have to be seasonably applicable, since the game happens over the course of a year. It wouldn't be diffcult to come up with 5 potential scenes for each of the six timeslots and draw them out of a bag to start the game. These 5 scenes could be refreshed every time we play...

Also, for the most part, I don't feel like I, as a player, have taken enough advantage of the Expertise and Enthusiasm aspects of the game. In fact, the notion of sacrificing an enthusiasm to abandon the Roach didn't really prompt any hesitation from me. Next time we play, I'd like to work in the context of my enthusiasms a little more ~ not necessarily as rigidly as Mark did (which provided its own sort of hilarious entertainment) but in such a way that it helps round out the character and cuts down somewhat on any tendencies toward sexual perversity, violence and all combinations of the aforementioned (unless I'm roach bound, where said tendencies become the norm).

Pencil in the PTA brainstorm for Weds or Thursday night

Nick

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Jon Hastings
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« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2005, 04:55:54 PM »

Jason,

Ah yes, I realize I forgot to write about the reputation scores.  The first game was fairly low-scoring: we went into the final event with scores of (I think) me: 5, Mark: 3, and Nick: 4.  Nick was roachbound so it came down to a face off between me and Mark.  I took the first scene, and won, which I think made it mathematically impossible for Mark to beat me with his scene.

In the second game, we all entered the final event roach-free.  I'm not sure about the exact count, though.  Nick and Bryan both had a bunch of chips, and I had only two.  I took the first scene, risked two, and won, leaving me with 4.  Nick took the next scene and lost, which meant that Bryan won without even having to take a scene.  However, he did, and gambled just enough points so that even if he failed he would still beat Nick.  He did fail, and he ended up beating Nick by 1 point.  I ended the game with 3 points (I had joined Bryan's last conflict on his side), Nick had 6, and Bryan had 7, I believe.

I think we paid more attention to scene-by-scene reputation scores during the second game.  Both Nick and Bryan did a much better job than me when it came to taking good risks.  I tended to earn up a bunch of reputation, and then blow it all on a single conflict.  Bryan, on the other hand, tended to make smaller wagers, but he won them more consistently.  Wagering a lot of reputation is a sure way to make yourself a target.

Both sessions lasted a little under 4 hours.  That includes set up, explanations, character creation, etc.  In a couple of events in each game, we only had two scenes.  Some of the events we spent more time on than others.

-We moved through the Convocation extremely quickly in the first game (3 scenes in about 10 minutes) and relatively quickly in the second game (3 scenes in about 20 minutes).

-In both games we took a lot of time with the Wine and Cheese Social. 

-We sped through the Follies in the first game, but in the second game the Follies became the site of the most elaborate action in either game.  Likewise, the Football game was a much bigger deal in our second game (Nick had Weill bet a bunch of money on Pemberton's opponents, the Duxley Dragons, and then put the fix in by giving Bantam Whaley a concussion).

-The Faculty Colloquium was relatively tame in both games.  Each time we seemed to use the colloquium to regroup our forces for the final showdown.

-The Christmas Ball was dramatic, bloody, and elaborate in both games.  Interestingly enough, though: in the first game I had won after the first scene of the Christmas Ball, but Nick and Mark played their remaining scenes out with gusto.  In the second game, however, the big showdown between Nick and Bryan happened in the second scene, which Nick framed.  When Nick lost, it kind of took some of the excitement out of the game's finale.  We decided to narrate epilogues for our characters though, which was pretty cool.

We never used the "get drunk" rule, in either game.  I mostly forgot about it in the first game.  Before the second game, I reminded everyone that it was always an option, but none of us made use of it.  (Bryan did burn an enthusiasm to avoid carrying out a roach command, though).  And then I forgot about it again until I was looking over the rules earlier today while writing this up.  However, we did make use of the "lower die size if drunk" aspect of the rule for dealing with drunk NPCs.  I realize that's not actually in the rules, but it added some color to the game.  (NPCs in our games tended to get sloshed pretty quickly--and who could blame them with all the beheading and ritual murders and such going on around them?)

In the first game, Mark used his Expertise and Enthusiasm in just about every scene.  Nick and I never used our expertise, and we used our Enthusiasms only a couple of times.  In the second game, Bryan used his Expertise and Enthusiasm in just about every scene.  I used my Expertise once or twice, but I used my Gossip Enthusiasm over and over again (in fact, the Gossip Enthusiasm became the focus of Mosley's strategy).  Nick used his Sociability Enthusiasm quite a bit, but I don't think his Pleasure Enthusiasm came into play in either game.  Overall, I think Enthusiasms played a bigger role than Expertise throughout both games.

Nick,

Rather than adding in "new" events, I thought it might be cool to have the Roach visit a small liberal arts college just outside of Santa Barbara in, say, the late 1960s.  This would take away some of the "Lovecraft" feel of the game, but might make it more like Phil Kaufman's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".

Cheers,
Jon
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NBraccia
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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2005, 08:29:36 PM »

Jon

That's an amazing idea, actually.


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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2005, 06:31:57 AM »

Thanks for the additional information.  As far as "alternate settings", hold tight - I've got a bunch of stuff in the works after initial publication of the Roach, including alternate Events and new settings with new Commands and Opportunities. 

If you want to mod the Events yourself, do think about the order required NPCs appear.  I tried to set it up so that they recurred at different intervals - some closely spaced and some 3-4 scenes apart.  I also tried to alternate large-scale social events with more intense small gatherings where rank and prestige were likely to come into play.

Other than that, the actual Events and NPCs are primarily color that you can easily change to suit your taste.

I really like the fact that you can play a complete game in an evening and I am using that as a design goal on several other projects.  I've also been very pleased with the static cast of NPCs and Events, which makes all the games similar, but really enjoyable in their diferences.  Actual Play posts are sort of like old home week - "what ever happened to good old Bantam Whaley?" and so forth.

--Jason

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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2005, 07:47:45 AM »

Here are some more comments and clarifications based on your AP posts: 

Quote
Mark then made a fanmail-worthy choice to frame his final conflict: "Can Rathbone get everyone singing Christmas carols and forget about the awful murder they had just witnessed?"  And he won.  For me, this provided the defining image of our game: a bunch of academic-type people cheerfully singing Christmas carols as a dead body lies nearby, ignored.  It was very "Rules of the Game" meets Dario Argento.

I've realized that a truly skilled player will always strive to frame conflicts in which his *winning* is the outcome everybody really wants.  Perfect example here - who wouldn't want that to happen?

Quote
...things didn't go quite as smoothly as they could have.  In terms of playing by the rules and all that, the game went really well, but the "story" of the game was a lot cooler to talk about the next day than it was for me to play through it.  A lot of the scenes played out very disjointedly, and it wasn't until the last event that I felt we were all really working together to create a vivid, shared story.

Do you think this is an artifact of being new to this game in particular, this mode of play in general, or something about the way the Roach is structured?

Quote
This time around, I wanted to make sure that I gave the NPCs I created juicy motivations and relationships and I wanted to play them to the hilt.  To help with this I made notes of every NPC that showed up during the game, and when we created NPCs we tried to tie them into one of the already named NPCs with "relationship map"-style bonds of kin and/or sex.  This worked really well.

This is a great idea! 

Quote
Finally, with regards to the Roach specifically, I wanted to try to avoid (on my own part) making too much use of what I've named the "Marshall McLuhan Gambit", after the scene in "Annie Hall" where Woody Allen produces Marshall McLuhan himself--from out of nowhere--to settle an argument about McLuhan's theories.  In our first game, almost every conflict made use of this tactic: at some point one of the players would, on the spot, come up with an NPC authority on the subject at hand to add a die to their side of the conflict.  Now, I don't think this is a bad thing, and I expect--especially in the earlier events--it is a necessary part of good Roach play...

I think this is completely normal.  Did you ever have to invoke the "OK, that's one NPC too many" rule?

Quote
In the first game, when it came to doing the "who your character likes/hates", we basically just made a list and left it at that.  This time, we spent some time coming up with very specific reasons why these characters liked and hated each other, and we tried to tie that into their backgrounds.  For example, Sebastian Montegue's father was a millionaire toy manufacturer, and I narrated that Mosley hated him because he thought he had bought his degree instead of earned it.  I think this helped the game immensely. 

Again, this is a great general suggestion for kick-starting intense play. 

Quote
We managed to cram a lot of perversity and nastiness into the first event--I had Mosley try to "ingratiate" himself with some strapping young freshmen lads, Nick had Weill try to get Becky Stoudenmeyer (the 16 year-old daughter of Chair of the Faculty Senate Campbell Stoudenmeyer) drunk (in order to make it easier to seduce her), and Brian had Montegue try to come of as our moral superior, at the same time he hit on Alice Wilkinson, the shapely young professor of Romantic Literature.

That's the Roach I know and love!

Quote
One of the conventions we developed while playing was that jumping into a conflict, or bringing an NPC onto your side, would open up an opportunity for the other side to respond to the changing situation.

Maybe this should be more explicit - I absolutely intend for this to be the norm. 

Quote
We hit a snag twice during play, and in both instances the same issue came up.  During the Chancellor's Wine and Cheese Social, I had Mosley corner Francine Steuben Ferguson--wife of Chancellor Arthur Steuben Ferguson--and threatened to reveal that she was having an affair with Weill--Mosley wanted Weill all for himelf.  Nick wanted to get in on the other side of the conflict, but he did so in a way that I didn't think was quite kosher: he wanted to narrate that Francine simply didn't care, because she had already told her husband about her infidelity. 

Yeah, you're right here - you defined the conflict and he can't re-define it unless you, for whatever reason, like his version and agree to change it.  Sounds like an issue of experience with this sort of narration and give-and-take. 

Quote
Anyway, thanks to Jason Morningstar for making a great game.  This session really helped me to love rpging again and to see that good rpging doesn't have to be a struggle.

Thanks.  I'm extraordinarily proud to hear this. 
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Jon Hastings
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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2005, 10:40:45 AM »

Jason,


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...things didn't go quite as smoothly as they could have. In terms of playing by the rules and all that, the game went really well, but the "story" of the game was a lot cooler to talk about the next day than it was for me to play through it. A lot of the scenes played out very disjointedly, and it wasn't until the last event that I felt we were all really working together to create a vivid, shared story.

Do you think this is an artifact of being new to this game in particular, this mode of play in general, or something about the way the Roach is structured?

I would say that this had to do with us being new to this mode of play in general.  Reading the 2nd edition PTA rules in between the two sessions helped me a lot, as did reading some of the threads in the Dog Eared Design forum dealing with narration/collaboration issues.

Our main problem in the first game was that after we rolled conflicts, we ended the scene abruptly.  For example, after I won a conflict and framed Nick's PC for murder, we moved right onto the next event, and proceeded as if Nick's PC hadn't actually been brought up on murder charges just weeks earlier.

In the second game, we made sure to go into detail about what winning/losing a conflict meant and we tried to weave these details into the overall story.   One conflict resulted in my PC suffering from arsenic poisoning, and his recovery became a small (but significant) element of the rest of the story.

Did you ever have to invoke the "OK, that's one NPC too many" rule?

I think we explicitly invoked the rule once during the first game.  In the second game, we tended to use "non-verbal" cues and glares to keep each other in line.  For the vast majority of conflicts, however, we basically kept adding to the conflict until both sides were about equal, as long as it made sense.  And we generally came to an agreement on "what made sense" without having to be explicit about it.  I don't think we ever had a case where one of the players got "ganged up" on by the other players and a bunch of NPCs.  We did have one conflict in each game where two of the players ganged up on a solitary NPC.  (That last tactic is sub-optimal points play on someone's part, I think, but it seemed to make sense at the time). 

My desire to avoid the Marshall McLuhan situation was more a personal aesthetic preference than anything else.  In the second game, I wanted to try and use a bunch of different ways to bring NPCs into a conflict, just to see what could happen.

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We hit a snag twice during play, and in both instances the same issue came up. During the Chancellor's Wine and Cheese Social, I had Mosley corner Francine Steuben Ferguson--wife of Chancellor Arthur Steuben Ferguson--and threatened to reveal that she was having an affair with Weill--Mosley wanted Weill all for himelf. Nick wanted to get in on the other side of the conflict, but he did so in a way that I didn't think was quite kosher: he wanted to narrate that Francine simply didn't care, because she had already told her husband about her infidelity.

Yeah, you're right here - you defined the conflict and he can't re-define it unless you, for whatever reason, like his version and agree to change it. Sounds like an issue of experience with this sort of narration and give-and-take.


Yeah: I think we needed to work out some of the conventions of this style of play on our own.

For example, I had no problem when Nick jumped in against me during my "Follies" scene, and "went back in time" to narrate that he had poisoned my PC before the Follies started.  Basically, this didn't necessarily stop me from fulfilling my goals: if I succeeded, I could narrate that I struggled through and won despite the arsenic (which would be cool), but if I failed, I could narrate that I succumbed to the arsenic (which would also be cool).

However, in the thick of play, I was having a hard time articulating why exactly Nick's going back in time to bring arsenic into play was different than his going back in time to make Francine Steuben Ferguson immune to blackmail.

I think as Nick and I play more games of this kind together, we'll get better at figuring out, on the fly, which kinds of narrations work and which don't, so we won't have to pause for metaphysical/theoretical disucssions every time an issue comes up.

Also, as the second game went on, I think, as a group, we got better at keeping everyone's actions in an "undetermined state" until we rolled the dice.

Anyways, hope this helps.

Cheers,
Jon
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