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Author Topic: [AG&G] The Wyrm and the Witch  (Read 18928 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
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« on: April 16, 2006, 02:41:46 PM »

We played Vincent's newest game, Art, Grace, and Guts at our monthly local roleplayers' meetup today, and it was plenty fun.

The game, if you haven't seen it, is predicated on the idea that you will get a situation from a random situation generator and then play characters explicitly or implicitly in that situation. Our situation consisted of:

- A tyrannical pit-wyrm rising up from its sleep.
- Warrior-mystics protecting their relics of old.
- An old fortress in a mountain-pass.
- A reclusive enchantress returning home.

The three explicit characters in this were all we needed to play: the pit-wyrm, the head of the warrior-mystics, and the enchantress. At this point, everyone selects a character going around the table, ending with the GM. This is super-interesting, because our story could have gone many different ways, depending on who the GM played. As it turns out, Jason picked the wyrm, Lisa picked the head of the warrior-mystics and I as the GM picked the enchantress. We made our characters, and ended up with a neat map of stuff: the warrior-mystics occupied the ancient fortress, which had been the enchantress' home. 142 years ago, they defeated her and banished her, and she now was returning. There was a relic in the fort that if the enchantress got, she would do great harm. (It was insinuated that she'd end the world, but that's pretty big. My personal thought is that she'd control the wyrm, which is pretty bad.) The wyrm and the enchantress were former lovers, and he'd betrayed her against the monks, which meant they hated each other.

This is all awesome stuff for play! We were pretty excited at this point.

The game took about two hours to play, and the scenes and conflicts went kind of like the following. The wyrm attacks the mystics, using his secret followers within their ranks and the captain of the mystics won. The enchantress showed up in the confusion and vied for control of the mystics, promising them that she could lead them to destroy the wyrm, and she gained control over them (more on this mechanically below.) The wyrm threatened the local town, making sure no food went to the mystics, forcing their hand. The former captain of the mystics convinced her lieutenant to assassinate the enchantress, but the enchantress ensorcelled him with her own blood and forced him to stab the captain, and then she bedded him. The mystics, driven mad and violent by the enchantress (seriously - they all painted themselves with her black and red runes and went nuts) went into the wyrm's chambers and netted him so the enchantress could emotionally torture him, but the captain snuck back into the fort and got the relic - one of the wyrm's claws, which he may or may not have given up willingly years ago in order to banish the enchantress - and saved the wyrm by attacking the enchantress, stabbing her with the wyrm's claw. The wyrm and captain parted ways, knowing they were only temporary allies, and the captain went to wander the earth, as the wyrm had slain most of her mystics in the battle.

So that was cool. The thing that was hardest for us to learn to do was the fortune at the beginning that this game has. (Maybe it's not called that. I don't know.) You roll dice, and then you decide what your action is. This works well, but took a few tries before it felt natural.

We did have lots of rules questions for Vincent, which I'll post here, I guess.

- On specialities: can the GM just make up appropriate ones for the chapter at the beginning? I gave the captain a speciality for her troops and the wyrm a speciality for his fire breath, but they weren't on the character sheet. The enchantress stole the troops early on in the game, which made her nigh unstoppable for a while. The wyrm finally burnt them to a crisp.

- On NPCs: Lisa made a lieutenant for her captain in the middle of the game. I had her roll her influencing people (I think) for him to kill the enchantress. Did that make sense, or should he have been a new speciality we made right then? Or should she have just rolled her "defending myself?"

- On stakes: Can I say "my character kills your character" as a challenge? How about "you lose your speciality?"

- On "we owe:" Why the caveat that you're owed, as long as the dice against you don't double right off the bat? It seems like you'd be owed more. I could see it working the opposite way: you're owed, unless you double their dice with the first roll.

- On "we owe," part 2: does "on top of the list" really mean on top of the list, or the person who's owed the most? We played with "owed the most," and it worked really well.

- On ending the chapter: it says the player owed the most gets to choose any one element from anywhere in the whole chart of elements. Does that mean any element from all the original C&C tables?

- Can a GM character be a player character in the next chapter? Please say yes. This is cool, if so.

Again, Vincent and all, holy shit, this game is fun.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2006, 04:27:52 AM »

You know I was mad at the dice, because I (the wyrm Slétta) failed in both my conflicts.  And I think I may have a problem with this, because unlike a regular old stake-setting game, in AG&G the loser is pretty constrained, and the outcomes were, for me, a little unsatisfying.  The winner defines the stakes, and as the loser I can choose to accept them (and give) or to keep fighting, at a significant penalty, and hope for a chance to re-define them in my favor.  There was never the satisfying feeling of knowing that, no matter which way the conflict went, it would be a really cool outcome.  As a result I felt that I didn't actually contribute much to the game:

First conflict - I lose.  The salient detail I introduce, a betrayal among the warrior-mystics, has no effect in play. 

Second "conflict" - I introduce the idea of starving out the warrior-mystics and the enchantress, and this is hand-waved in as a reason for them to attack my character in his lair, after that had already been established.  No effect on play.

Third conflict - I lose.  My character plays out the final scene trapped in a net.  I use his feiry breath to kill a bunch of warrior-mystics nobody is too concerned about anyway (this has the minor effect of denying Clinton a specialty he stole from Lisa, changing the dynamic between the two of them). 

I honestly can't tell if this was just me having a bad day or if losing isn't fun in AG&G.  I felt like I created an interesting character whose actions were completely incidental to the story because I couldn't win a conflict.  On the positive side, the game is chock full of cool stuff like the "owe" list, which is a wonderful way to encourage people to take on big challenges, and the way stats and types of conflict are used and interrelate.  Plus the Oracle, which allowed us to jump-start a crazy big game in no time, and the way ongoing stories tie into one another.  I definitely want to play again.
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2006, 07:19:09 AM »

Hooray!

The thing that was hardest for us to learn to do was the fortune at the beginning that this game has. (Maybe it's not called that. I don't know.) You roll dice, and then you decide what your action is. This works well, but took a few tries before it felt natural.

It's just rolling initiative. Once there's a conflict, roll initiative to see who gets to act first - and then the winner's initiative roll becomes their attack roll. The loser's initiative roll goes away, and then the loser rolls to defend. (If the losing initiative roll became the loser's defense roll, the attacker would automatically always win.)

Quote
- On specialities: can the GM just make up appropriate ones for the chapter at the beginning? I gave the captain a speciality for her troops and the wyrm a speciality for his fire breath, but they weren't on the character sheet. The enchantress stole the troops early on in the game, which made her nigh unstoppable for a while. The wyrm finally burnt them to a crisp.

Yes. That's exactly right.

Quote
- On NPCs: Lisa made a lieutenant for her captain in the middle of the game. I had her roll her influencing people (I think) for him to kill the enchantress. Did that make sense, or should he have been a new speciality we made right then? Or should she have just rolled her "defending myself?"

If the lieutenant is just a way for the captain to act at a distance, like a bow and arrow would be, Lisa should roll her "defending myself."

If the lieutenant is loyal to the captain's interests, but independent, and maybe can be used against the captain later, or if pacing or story concerns demand that the lieutenant have some mechanical oomph, make the lieutenant a specialty. (If that's too much work for the pacing, make the lieutenant a specialty but leave off all the formal challenges. I do that all the time, call it a mini-specialty.)

If the lieutenant has interests of her own, make her an NPC outright.

Quote
- On stakes: Can I say "my character kills your character" as a challenge? How about "you lose your speciality?"

You shouldn't specify the outcome in your challenge; your challenge should be what your character does. "My character stabs your character in the throat." "My character smashes the gem that gives your character mastery of Celestial Enchantment."

Don't establish the consequences until after you know what happens.

Quote
- On "we owe:" Why the caveat that you're owed, as long as the dice against you don't double right off the bat? It seems like you'd be owed more. I could see it working the opposite way: you're owed, unless you double their dice with the first roll.

So here's me sitting down to watch an action flick. It's like, um, El Meriachi, say, so I have no idea just by seeing the actors who's a main character and who isn't - they're all unknown to me. In the opening scene, there's a big brawl in a bar. I watch one guy get smashed in the face with a whiskey bottle; down he goes, without a line, without ever throwing a punch.

I assume he's supporting cast.

If it turns out later that he's a main character, super cool, but it wasn't on the strength of being put out of the fight right out the gate.

Quote
- On "we owe," part 2: does "on top of the list" really mean on top of the list, or the person who's owed the most? We played with "owed the most," and it worked really well.

Hmm. This question sets off my spidey sense.

What did you use the "we owe" list for?

It really means on top of the list, the first name listed.

Quote
- On ending the chapter: it says the player owed the most gets to choose any one element from anywhere in the whole chart of elements. Does that mean any element from all the original C&C tables?

Yep.

Quote
- Can a GM character be a player character in the next chapter? Please say yes. This is cool, if so.

Yep.

The rules'll say "starting with the third chapter," but I have no problem with any individual group switching up the GM starting with the second chapter.

The winner defines the stakes, and as the loser I can choose to accept them (and give) or to keep fighting, at a significant penalty, and hope for a chance to re-define them in my favor.  There was never the satisfying feeling of knowing that, no matter which way the conflict went, it would be a really cool outcome.  As a result I felt that I didn't actually contribute much to the game:

I expect this is my fault for a crappy playtest document.

When you lose - humiliated-lose, I mean, when you're doubled - you should be proposing outcomes to the winner just as hard as the winner's proposing outcomes to you. Take it as a challenge: "can I come up with something so awesome that the winner likes it better than hitting me with the stick?" It's totally an opportunity to throw curves into the story.

(When you only sort-of lose, when the winner gets the advantage die, you should usually stick in the conflict, unless the perfect give jumps to mind. Reversals are kind of rare, as they should be, but we've had 'em.)

Thanks for playing my game!

-Vincent
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2006, 07:26:38 AM »

Quote
- On "we owe," part 2: does "on top of the list" really mean on top of the list, or the person who's owed the most? We played with "owed the most," and it worked really well.

Hmm. This question sets off my spidey sense.

What did you use the "we owe" list for?

It really means on top of the list, the first name listed.

You can use it to get re-rolls. (That's how we read the playtest document. Let me know if we were wrong.)

We also used to it to set up the next chapter.

So, if there's Alba, Bart, and Charise, and Alba takes on Bart twice, with less dice than Bart, and then Charise takes on Bart with more dice than Bart, the "we owe" list looks like this? - Alba, Alba, Bart.

Quote
When you lose - humiliated-lose, I mean, when you're doubled - you should be proposing outcomes to the winner just as hard as the winner's proposing outcomes to you. Take it as a challenge: "can I come up with something so awesome that the winner likes it better than hitting me with the stick?" It's totally an opportunity to throw curves into the story.

Oh, awesome! I didn't realize this.

Second "conflict" - I introduce the idea of starving out the warrior-mystics and the enchantress, and this is hand-waved in as a reason for them to attack my character in his lair, after that had already been established.  No effect on play.

Jason - I just fucked this one up is all.

- Clinton
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2006, 07:38:36 AM »

Oh, now I really want to play again.  We were giving the winner in a conflict absolute fiat in determining the outcome.  Which, in retrospect, was a little dumb of us. 

I'm still not getting the "owe" list sort procedure, Vincent.  Is the intention this:  The earliest player to receive an owe who does not discharge it during the session automatically has their PC continue in the next session? 
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2006, 08:02:45 AM »

You can use it [the "we owe" list] to get re-rolls. (That's how we read the playtest document. Let me know if we were wrong.)

Oh good, yeah that's right. I had visions of myself having left in an ambiguous word when I mass-replaced to "chapter," and you interpreting it to mean that the we owe list contributes to scene framing or something.

But hey, I've been thinking about spending times your character's owed for rerolls, and I'm rethinking it. So here come the probing questions:

How often did you use that rule?

What were the conflicts?

Did rerolling contribute to the fun?

Quote
So, if there's Alba, Bart, and Charise, and Alba takes on Bart twice, with less dice than Bart, and then Charise takes on Bart with more dice than Bart, the "we owe" list looks like this? - Alba, Alba, Bart.

Yep.

Maybe it's worth pointing out that a conflict going to a second or subsequent round doesn't count as a new "takes on." So for Alba to take on Bart twice in a row, they'd have to get two conflicts' worth of scenes in a row, with no intervening scene for Charise. (Or with Charise's intervening scene having no conflict, or maybe with Charise going up against someone's lower dice, but you see what I mean.)

I'm still not getting the "owe" list sort procedure, Vincent.  Is the intention this:  The earliest player to receive an owe who does not discharge it during the session automatically has their PC continue in the next session?

Yes.

After the first session - chapter, really, as you can play more than one chapter per session - the PCs take turns being automatically in. The we owe list is their turn order.

Make sense?

-Vincent
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2006, 08:07:11 AM »

But hey, I've been thinking about spending times your character's owed for rerolls, and I'm rethinking it. So here come the probing questions:

How often did you use that rule?

What were the conflicts?

Did rerolling contribute to the fun?

We used it twice, maybe three times. Once was Lisa playing the captain against me as the witch, trying to have her lieutenant kill the witch, and it was fun even though Lisa lost. Another time was Lisa versus me, I think when she tried to banish the witch at the end, and it was ok. I can't remember, but I think Jason did it once and lost, and it sucked, but that'd partly because all his rolls ended in pain.

I wouldn't lose the rule, for certain. We added the caveat that you only get put on the list at the very end of the conflict, so you can't use it during the conflict you're getting it for.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2006, 09:07:15 AM »

OK, I grasp the sort procedure now, cool.  On using "owes" for re-rolls:

How often did you use that rule?
What were the conflicts?
Did rerolling contribute to the fun?

Getting something for choosing to take on an opponent who out-pips you is cool, and having the reward be external to the conflict is also cool.  Personally, I used the re-roll option once and it boned me - my re-roll was much worse than my original failure.  So it was pretty much a mechanical thing for me that I used out of desperation. 

Also, Lisa used one owe, failed, and immediately used another owe to try again.  We assumed this was OK.

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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2006, 04:23:08 AM »

Oh!

We played again Monday night and I'm hoping Clinton will produce some AP love.  But until then, a question and a comment:

Vincent, is there anything to prevent me, at the top of the owe list, from picking a character that somebody else has played to be my own in the next episode?  This came up.  We really stressed a light ownership attitude, so it was no big deal, but we wondered.

Comment:  I was telling my wife Autumn about how the episodes are structured, and the way a single character is the bridge between episodes, and she said, "So it's like Boccaccio's Decameron.  Or the movie Slacker."  And I fell down. 
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Marhault
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« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2006, 05:04:31 AM »

Jason:

Unless I'm mistaken, it should be the character that is "owed," not the player. . .  Yep.

Playtest Document Text:
Quote
1. Check out the "we owe" list. Which character's name is on top? That character's automatically in the next chapter.

So were you picking another player's character as your free pick element to include in the scenario, or offering to trade ownership of the owed character?  Or am I maybe misreading the question?
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2006, 05:08:18 AM »

My character is owed; I get to pick.  What if I want to pick a character somebody else has been playing?  That's my question. 
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lumpley
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« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2006, 08:05:50 AM »

Here's my stab, let me know if I've missed your question.

My character is "a cruel and ambitious young murderer-for-hire," Anter. Your character is "a person of society, beautiful but past her youth," Brana. Anter's at the top of the list.

Anter MUST BE in the next chapter. I don't get to choose for someone else to be in the chapter instead.

However, I do get to choose something, anything, to be in the next chapter as well.

May I choose "a person of society, beautiful but past her youth" - and specify that, in fact, it's Brana? I surely may.

At that point, it falls to you: do you want to play Brana in this chapter? If so, cool, you get to. Do you want to play, oh, the "brash and tempermental petty prince" instead? You can - but that means you're ceding Brana to the GM to play as an NPC.

-Vincent
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2006, 09:47:54 AM »

Cool, that answers my question.
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Marhault
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« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2006, 06:31:43 AM »

But it makes me ask one.

Let's say that Characters: A gentlewoman-burglar, stylish and daring. (City)  came up in the first chapter, and became a PC named Tamara.  My character is owed first for Chapter 2.  Can I select Characters: A gentlewoman-burglar, stylish and daring. (City) off the chart, but then say "But this one isn't Tamara, it's her daughter, who takes after her. . ."  Essential redefining the element for the new chapter?  If yes, who's option is it to define?  Instinct would have it as the player of the owed character, but, you never know.
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Marhault
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« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2006, 06:42:26 AM »

Crap, I almost forgot.

A related question:  What if the owed person wants to bring in something that is not actually on the chart, but has been established in play?  An item that attained signifigance in a prior chapter, for instance.  Can they name that and draw it in?
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