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Author Topic: (Mountain Witch) Incompetent samurai  (Read 3750 times)
pedyo
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« on: February 12, 2006, 11:55:40 PM »

So, I finally got to play The Mountain Witch. Overall, it was a positive experience, but there where a few bumps in the road and the ronin almost didn’t make it through the very first scene. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a little background.

Players: the group consisted of three experienced players:

Both Rune – the green ronin - and Thomas – the red ronin - played in our PTA series a while back. Both are very interested in Forge-games.

Anders – the grey ronin – hasn’t played any Forge-games before as far as I know but has been involved with a whole lot of storytelling and freeform games (and I’m NOT refering to White Wolf here) and took to MW like fish to water.

So, I briefly explained the rules and we took 10 minutes to discuss Japan and how much we knew and what kind of image we could agree upon. Both Rune and I admitted that we knew very little, but as long as we all share a common idea – and also the feeling that it’s not the historically accurate Japan we are recreating – that’s no real problem.

And then play commenced. As you’ll see, for the first chapter, I took almost everything from Actual Play threads here. I also used all the advise that I could find – and the updated Timfire homepage has been a great help in that regard.

First scene was sort of a prologue, where I asked each player to briefly describe what their ronin was doing before they started their ascend – this was mostly for colour, but also to introduce their co-authorship of the story.

The second scene was planned to be a quick fight that would serve as a further explanation of the conflict rules. But, alas, play bogged down. In a clearing in the forest, the group of ronin met three thugs who taunted the ronin, laughed and said that they ought to turn around right now since they surely were no match for the witch and his minions. Of course, the ronin wouldn’t have it, so they attacked.
The players were really out of luck – their die-rolls were disastrous and it didn’t help that I had quite a few high rolls. So the fight got drawn-out and – frankly – a bit boring. It didn’t help either, that I forgot to do one of the key elements: remind the players of their options. Anders actually had a Regular Success and instead of narrating a fact he could have taken out one of the thugs (who were Weak). My bad. It really would have made a huge difference. Instead, Thomas and Anders spent all their Trust in each other and just barely succeded in defeating one thug. Meanwhile, Rune had an easier time dealing with the other two thugs; the first he frightened into fleeing, the second he forced to surrender.
The fight took around one hour’s gaming time and I guess all four of us felt that it had NOT been the ideal way to start the game. All three ronin came out of the battle wounded and battered. They sure didn’t seem very competent or able ☺


Well, from here on, play got much more interesting. The ronins came upon the decapitated bodies of four or five samurai, strewn across the path – the severed heads were nowhere to be seen. Nearby, three samurai were hiding, shaking with fear. When confronted, one of them pointed at the red samurai and claimed that he took part in the slaughter. Although it didn’t convince the other players, I think it did plant the seed that there was something hinky about the red ronin.

And Thomas grabbed that feeling and used it for the next scene, where they settled down for the night around a campfire. Anders (whose ronin has the strange ability ”Resistant to alcohol”) tried to tempt the other two ronin to a drinking competition but only managed to get the green ronin drunk. Then, Thomas used the narrative power of his Dark Fate. He narrated that a stranger – clad in red like himself – appeared from the darkness, talking about the three heads that he still needed to collect. He sat down at the fire and fell totally silent – he sure was an eerie character. Meanwhile, Thomas’ ronin had withdrawn into the shadows. The grey ronin tried to scare the stranger, but nothing really happened. After a while, the stranger offered the ronin to take his sword – with an all-black blade, but neither the grey nor the green ronin dared. After all, there seemed to something demonic about the stranger. Finally, the red ronin stepped forward and swapped blades with the stranger, who disappeared just as suddenly as he’d arrived.

The ronins feel asleep, but the grey ronin was soon awakened by a voice who wanted him to go into the forest. It turned out to be Uncle Tengu (this scene was completely stolen from Timothy’s demo game) who said that ”the master was pleased with the plan” and offered to kill the other ronins. Meanwhile, Auntie Tengu arrived at the scene, and when she failed to lure the Red ronin into the forest, she scurried over to Uncle Tengu and the two tengus started arguing among themselves. A short fight between tengu and ronin ensued, but the tengu soon fled, ending the scene.

And that’s all we had time for. I ended the chapter there and then and the players adjusted their Trust. Both the opening fight and the mysterious stranger and the pushing of alcohol had had their effect and in general the ronin will enter the second chapter less trusting of each other.

We talked about the game afterwards, and everyone agreed that it had been good fun although the start had been too long and drawn-out.

I’m pretty sure that what we experienced here closely mirrors what almost every other Actual Play report concludes: there is a learning curve to MW and once we really get used to taking the narrative responsibility and learn to deal with the different degrees of success, the game will become much more engaging. The three final scenes were much better than the first, and the scene that Thomas authored really made a huge difference.

I had hoped to get through two chapters and I’m sure that would also have made a difference; I’m convinced that all three players are ready to foreshadow their Fates and engage more in the storytelling now, and it would have been nice to be able to continue the game with that feeling, Time did not allow, however, so that’ll have to wait until next time.

/Peter
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Peter Dyring-Olsen
Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2006, 10:42:05 AM »

Very cool. I have the book, but am reduced to ogling the gorgeous graphics because I can onlymanage being in one campaign in a time...

And, y'know, the "quick fight to show people how the system works" is almost never, ever quick. I honestly don't know why. It might've felt better for your players if they at least got chewed up by some minions of the Witch, rather than random thugs.

...The ronins came upon the decapitated bodies of four or five samurai, strewn across the path – the severed heads were nowhere to be seen. Nearby, three samurai were hiding, shaking with fear. When confronted, one of them pointed at the red samurai and claimed that he took part in the slaughter........Then, Thomas used the narrative power of his Dark Fate. He narrated that a stranger – clad in red like himself – appeared from the darkness....

So you, as GM, narrated the accusation by the ambushed samurai, and then Thomas picked it up and ran with it with his narration later? I just want to make sure I have the who-did-what right, because that's a crucial subtlety with the Dark Fates.
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pedyo
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2006, 12:59:02 AM »


So you, as GM, narrated the accusation by the ambushed samurai, and then Thomas picked it up and ran with it with his narration later? I just want to make sure I have the who-did-what right, because that's a crucial subtlety with the Dark Fates.

The scared samurai only claimed that the red ronin took part in the slaughter - it was never established as a fact (that would have been de-protagonizing). But it planted the seed that maybe the group couldn't trust each other after all? And it served as inspiration to Thomas/the red ronin to begin foreshadowing his Fate.

/Peter
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Peter Dyring-Olsen
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