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Author Topic: (Mountain Witch) Incompetent Samurai part 2 - LONG POST  (Read 4002 times)
pedyo
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Posts: 54


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« on: February 20, 2006, 04:49:09 AM »

Yesterday evening we continued our game of The Mountain Witch (the write-up of the first session is here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18716.0)

This second session was a lot stronger – we got through three chapters in a little over three hours and all three players began taking control over the narrative through their Fates as well as hints about their background. We learned a whole lot about the characters and after this session, everything seems poised to erupt.

A lot happened and I don't remember every detail, so I'll try to focus on the important bits.

After going through some details of the rules, we began...

First chapter:

I started the first chapter in medias res, with the ronin trapped in a powerful snowstorm. The wind threatened to push them over the edge, and despite their efforts, this was exactly what happened to the red ronin (Kazuo). He tumbled over the edge and continued a long way, ending up a way down the mountain. Here, Kazuo met a samurai from his past, who was now in O-Yanma’s service and offered to take Kazuo to meet O-Yanma – on the condition that Kazuo would become the samurai’s servant! Kazuo accepted and with Kazuo carrying the samurai’s belongings, the two began walking up the path.

Meanwhile, Hideo had also tumbled over the edge of the mountain. He ended up right outside a small hut. Kazuo and the strange samurai turned up and Kazuo and Hideo joined forces to chase the samurai away. Just before they managed, Yoshiro came rolling down the mountain as well (he’d been caught in the snow and had willingly jumped over the edge). Before the samurai disappeared, Yoshiro tore a piece of his robe off – on the robe was O-Yanma’s insignia.

   
Hideo went into the hut, where he discovered some skeletal remains; among the clothes he found a belt buckle that he took with him. He then claimed to the others that there was nothing in the hut.

Anders narrated that a crazy, drunk and battered samurai came running, waving a bamboo katana and claimed that Yoshiro had taken his place. A short fight commenced, before the poor drunkard fled into the hut. Yoshiro then promptly bolted the door and I ended the second chapter there.

Second chapter

The group met a carried wagon (I have no idea what such a contraption is called?) with a mysterious woman inside. Yoshiro, now wearing The Mountain Witch’s robes, tried to impersonate a tax collector, but the woman would have nothing of it; Hideo had heard the woman’s voice before so he tried to get a good view of her face. He almost succeeded, but at the very last minute she covered her face with a fan, exposing only her eyes. The carriers then attacked and soon the ronin let the cart pass by them.

Finally, they arrived at the witch’s castle at the top of the mountain. They tried to find an alternative to the main entrance and soon found a small opening where water from the castle was disposed of. They climbed the wall and just before they entered the castle, three decapitated heads came flying out (connecting this scene to the first session of the game). The heads levitated, trying to scare and bite the samurai. At the end, our heroes were victorious and entered the castle.

Third chapter

Before moving on we took a short break, where each player talked to me one-on-one about the possibilities for aggressively foreshadowing their Fates.

Once inside the castle, they were welcomed by a beautiful, white lady with dark, dark eyes and black, flowing hair. She apologized for the way that the witch’s minor minions had treated them, claiming that the witch ”knows how to treat able and courageous samurai”. She pointed them in the direction they ought to take, but Anders took narration and had his ronin point to a secret door, urging his companions to follow him there.

They did, and once inside, a cat started talking to Hideo, urging him onwards. The group ended up in a big room with lots of stairways leading upwards. They began arguing which stairway to take, but Hideo followed the cat without hesitating. The other two ronin fell behind but followed him nonetheless.

The stairway led to a room, where a samurai was sitting in deep meditation. It turned out that the samurai wore the same kind of buckle that Hideo found in the hut and the two started talking (Rune, perhaps you could elaborate on this bit? It was very interesting but somehow I cannot seem to remember the exact dialogue). All I remember is that the meditating samurai disappeared after saying ”Don't’ stray too far”. At that moment, with those words ringing in the air, Kazuo and Yoshiro arrived. Yoshiro was very suspicious of Hideo and the two began an aggressive back-and-forth that ended with Hideo drawing hos sword and shouting: ”Don’t accuse me!” Yoshiro backed down and the group continued onwards.

Next scene they entered a small garden, where a row of gravestones lined one wall – among the gravestones were also three masks. Kazuo and Yoshiro went over to the gravestones and soon the stones fell over and ghosts appeared from the ground. The apparitions pointed at the ronin and said things like ”Turn around!”, ”Give up!”, ”You will not complete what we couldn't’t do” and ”How will you overcome your obstacles when you can’t even trust each other!”. Yoshiro grabbed one of the masks. The ghosts tried to force the ronins backwards but the ronin thrust forward. Just before entering the next house, Kazuo turned around and Thomas narrated how he saw the ghost of his dead wife.

Yoshiro asked Kazuo who that woman had been and Kazuo, very moved by seeing his dead wife again, briefly explained. And then followed one of the best moments of the session: Kazuo looked at the other two ronin and pronounced ”I’m in it for the money!” The other ronin responded likewise, but no one could be in doubt: they didn't’t mean a word they said.

The final scene of the night (we were all getting pretty tired by now) took place in a bare room, where a mask that was completely similar to the one Yoshiro took was hanging on the wall. Yoshiro took the second mask and soon, living, black cloth flowed from the two masks – they were female demons, trying to seduce the ronin and steal their dreams. During the conflict, Yoshiro was seduced and the demon ate a dream/memory and a fragment of another. Anders narrated the dreams – thereby revealing how his character became a ronin: during a great party at his master’s castle, Yoshiro put on his master’s armour and impersonated him. All through tonight’s session, Anders had dropped a lot of hints about Yoshiro taking on different personalities and dressing up like other persons, and this dream was very revealing in that direction.

The ronin barely managed to escape the demons, setting the room on fire in the process, and we left them there – flames all around.

We agreed to finish the game next session. I imagine we can mange with one more chapter (perhaps only a scene or two) and then character epilogues.

A lot has to happen, but I think the situation is suitably tense and meeting the Big Man himself will almost certainly push the right buttons.

I cannot wait.

Next post I’ll talk a little bit about how the system worked this session.

/Peter
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Peter Dyring-Olsen
pedyo
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Posts: 54


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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2006, 10:57:07 AM »

As promised, here are some personal notes on the game:

- we are getting much better at narrating in interesting ways. This is very important, since the system doesn't guarantee that the scenes and conflicts are engaging.

- fights still tend to bog down. It might be because my group simply isn't that interested in fighting, but there was a general feeling that some fights didn't matter. I guess experience will hone our abilities to make the fights engaging: to really shine, the game needs the PCs to be pushed on all sides and forced to stick together/use Trust.

- I need to increase my Bang-fu. The better scenes were great, some less so. I blame myself :-)

- The game completely shifts gear once the players begin taking narration.

- don't try to remember all the details that the players bring to the table via their Dark Fate-narration - it quickly becomes very complex. My players even insisted on combining the back stories of the different characters. I found it easier to just go with the flow.

- There were some very interesting scenes where the players spent Trust - the spending really made a statement about the scene and/or conflict - and about the characters' relationships.

- Take your time. It's great when a lot happens and scenes follow closely after each other, but sometimes the players simply need to breathe and think and act a bit - also to get the time to further develop their backstories/Dark Fates.

- GM'ing MW is exhausting! I was totally spent after 3 hours and I literally dreamt about Mixed successes and narration etc. I am NOT kidding!

/Peter
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Peter Dyring-Olsen
timfire
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2006, 02:42:26 PM »

- I need to increase my Bang-fu. The better scenes were great, some less so. I blame myself :-)
What were some bangs or situations that really clicked in play? Were there any that flopped?

Quote
- There were some very interesting scenes where the players spent Trust - the spending really made a statement about the scene and/or conflict - and about the characters' relationships.

Yeah, that's when the system starts buzzing. Give us an example from play!

Quote
- GM'ing MW is exhausting! I was totally spent after 3 hours and I literally dreamt about Mixed successes and narration etc. I am NOT kidding!

I think the game in general is exhausting. Did your players feel the same way? Usually everyone at the table seems to laps into that cathartic slump after a good session.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
pedyo
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2006, 02:47:28 AM »

Of all the Bangs that I prepared, the best by far was the one with the grave-stones and the dead would-be-Mountain-Witch-slayers. That scene was great because the mood was cool and because it highlighted the Trust-thing: these ghosts had all died due to lack of Trust. That Thomas used the scene as foundation for narration only made things better.
The fights of the game weren't very interesting - not all were bad, but we never quite found the best way of making them interesting and engaging. I guess that experience will help, but I'm a bit unsure. Perhaps none of us are that interested in fights? I'll have to make up better ways of threatening the PCs. I'd also love to run fights that are all in the character's heads - so the narration could deal with being afraid, feeling unsure, feeling superior and all that (this idea is very much inspired by Lone Wolf and Cub by the way).

I have a feeling that once I get better at this I'll be much more free to improvise cool stuff; I feel that some of my spur of the moment ideas were a little flat. This is highly contrasted by the players' narration that really made the scenes shine.

One further point that I took from the first two sessions:

Bad luck and wounds will often beat the spending of Trust. I think that we sometimes were quite underwhelmed by the effect of the Trust-spending - the ronin got beat-up all the time despite using quite a lot of Trust.

I only talked to Rune about being exhausted and he shared that feeling. When I looked at him during play, his face was total concentration.

In the future, I will definitely have fewer Chapters in one session - two at the most, so that we have more time to let the game breathe.

Best
Peter
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Peter Dyring-Olsen
timfire
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2006, 08:35:42 AM »

The fights of the game weren't very interesting - not all were bad, but we never quite found the best way of making them interesting and engaging. I guess that experience will help, but I'm a bit unsure. Perhaps none of us are that interested in fights?

Maybe that's true. Sometimes fight do just seem like a chore, something that has to be done before you can get back to more dramatic stuff.  I tend to like exposition scenes alot better than fight-scenes, myself. But fight-scenes definitely have their place, though they do present a subtle issue.

The best fight-scenes are those that highlight trust between characters or somehow involve a player's Fate. Like, when two players who don't like each other are forced to trust one another to make it through a fight, and afterwards they decide to work together. Or when  one player purposesly decides not to help another character, and then something bad happens. But those situations are hard to plan for. You don't know how the players are going to react. All you can do is try to manuver certain players together (or apart) depending on their in-game relationship, and then go after one or both of them, and hope that the players react. Sometimes they, and it turns into a great scene. But then other times they don't, and the fight becomes a chore.

I usually try and combine fight scenes and exposition scenes. Like, look at the demo on my website (in the "resources" section). I start by bringing in a couple of tengu who strike up conversations with the ronin. Then, after a little bit, I try and incite the characters into a fight with the tengu (which is pretty easy, since the characters are usually suspicious of the tengu from the start). That way, the fights don't just seem like out of blue encounters, unconnected story-wise from anything else.

Sometimes you can redeem a boring fight scene later in the game, by using the events of the fight to incite suspicion or other ill-attitudes among the ronin. For example, suppose there's a fight that's no big deal, except that Jiro spent the entire time Aiding Ken'Ichi, not Masao. Later, you can bring in one of Witch's servants who says something like, "Jee, Masao, Jiro sure seems to like Ken'Ichi better than you. He never seems to want to help you out. I wonder why?"   
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
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