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Author Topic: [Conspiracy of Shadows] Blood Opera  (Read 1528 times)
Iskander
Member

Posts: 226

Alexander Newman


WWW
« on: June 14, 2006, 03:33:08 AM »

I don't think anything particularly startling came out of play (just a load of fun), but the Fauxlack's getting his panties in a bunch, and I drifted a teeny bit, so:

Context:
Recess VIII - nerdNYC's quarterly(-ish) mini-con., Sunday 11th.

Players:
• Phredd (long-time gamer) played Gregori the Blade the house champion, best friend of...
• Gaylord (long-time gamer) played Zygmunt, the youngest brother.
• Matt (long-time gamer) played Wiktor, the oldest brother.
• Hutch (16, first-time gamer) played Vladick, the middle brother. None of them was familiar with CoS, and Hutch had never, ever played a roleplaying game in his life. His reason for doing so (I paraphrase): "My parents told me D&D was of Satan, and I wanted to see for myself".
• I (Alexander) was GM - I've played in Blood Opera twice, and took a turn as Grandfather, a largely senile, crotchety old pain in the ass who stirs shit at every opportunity, and usually gets killed.

Drift:
Apart from scene-framing, I limited myself to introducing narrative twists with Destiny Points - one for each player, although I didn't use them one-to-one point-to-player.

Synopsis (with memory gaps)
Action started at the funeral dinner for Ivana, Zygmunt's late wife in the hall of house Drozdalski. Most of the household guard is out pursuing marauding bandits, leaving the three brothers their maternal grandfather, faithful champion Gregori and a full complement of servants.

Grandfather was insistently curious how such a fine horsewoman riding a fairly placid mare could have come to grief. Wiktor was with his wife, Walenka, known to be barren, who was being poisoned by Zygmunt (my DP). It turned out that Ivana was pregnant when she died (DP: Gaylord), it was Gregori's child (my DP), and he saved the baby (DP: Phredd). Wiktor was none too happy about Grandfather's line of conversation, especially when Zygmunt started asking awkward questions, and dinner ground to an awkward halt (in the fiction). Gregori snuck out.

Wiktor tried to make Vladick stop sleeping around and find someone with whom to make an heir to house Drozdalski. Vladick claimed he was in love with a (non-existent) peasant. Wiktor forced Vladick to agree to bring her to the estate with the intent of killing her off. Zygmunt was miserable, and tried to get Gregori to give more details about the 'accident' (which Gregori had staged anyway), but Gregori had already lost a conflict to tell Zygmunt nothing. That didn't stop Zygmunt from uncovering a blatant lie, though... making him even more suspicious. Gregori got blotto on wine and opium.

Next morning, there was some unpleasantness with a very hungover Gregori, but I forget what. Wiktor arranged for a troupe of actors to visit the estate to cheer everyone up (so sensitive), and then the DPs flew hot and heavy: amongst the troupe was an 8-year-old juggler, Radek (no, I did not name him), who was Vladick's son by the love of his life, Isobel, who subsequently spurned him. Also travelling with the troupe is the midwife who helped at Gregori's birth, and was the only person alive who knew that he is the bastard elder brother of the other three. I think Gaylord spent a DP to make their performance so offensive to Ivana's memory, that afterwards he stormed out of the manor for parts unknown. Grandfather loudly drew attention to little Radek's features. Wiktor shut him up. Throughout the play, Isobel had been flirting heavily with Gregori and in plain view of Vladick made an assignation. I asked Hutch where Vladick and Isobel had conceived Radek, and sure enough, the same stable stall was where he found them - or at least Gregori's pumping buttocks, since the view of Isobel was mostly obscured. Phredd's stakes in the inevitable conflict were to beat Vladick soundly, leaving no marks, and humiliate him in front of Isobel, Hutch's stakes were to beat the crap out of Gregori, and regain Isobel's affection while doing so. Vladick won, kicked Gregori's ass, and got his girl back. I spent a DP to dig up Ivana's grave, and replace her body with the bones of children.

Meanwhile, Zygmunt spent a DP to make Ivana the reformed Bandit Queen, and went off to find a small group of bandits to slaughter the actors for their insult to her memory. The bandits wouldn't do so without getting something out of it (after all actors have nothing), so Zygmunt agreed to divert the household guard for a weekend, and allow the bandits to pillage most of the estate. He really wanted those actors dead. Sadly for him, Gregori had had him followed. I'm pretty sure I did the right thing and had a conflict at this point to determine how much of Zygmunt's agreement the servant found out: all of it. On hearing of Zygmunt's perfidy, Wiktor ordered Vladick and Gregori into armour, thay grabbed some torches and oil, and rode out towards the bandit cave. Gregori rode by the cave mouth hurling a casket of oil and the brothers rode fast behind, clobbering the goon bandits before they could raise the alarm, and lobbing their firebrands into the oil. A few unfortunate bandits ran out in flames and were cut down, the rest asphyxiated horribly. Wiktor made Gregori check the charred corpses to see if any of them was Zygmunt. No such luck.

Zygmunt, though, had ridden back to the castle, and spent the rest of the night hidden in Ivana's grave, writing. Phredd spent a DP to create a secret tunnel exit through which Gregori had spirited the midwife with his newborn daughter, and the troupe's mute strongman, carrying Ivana's corpse - which he refused to have buried on treacherous Drozdalski soil. Zygmunt persuaded the troupe to present the fruits of his labours that evening: all very Hamlet-y. At this point the other brothers got back from the massacre, and Wiktor was not very happy with Zygmunt. The hapless servant testified about what he'd heard, but Zygmunt flat-out denies it. Wiktor (fully armored) has Zygmunt by the throat and is looming with his mace, Vladick steps up to smack Zygmunt with his mailed fist... conflict ensues... and Zygmunt wins, to make his brothers realise that it would work out best for the family if the whole thing was quietly glossed over. (Interestingly, it worked out that everyone was happy with the first blow landing... it was the beating to a pulp that Vladick wanted that would have caused Gregori to step in, but didn't.)

Skip to the evening, when Gregori has been made to take the rôle of Ivana's murderer, which would otherwise have been taken by the absent strongman. The play does not go down very well, prompting Wiktor and Zygmunt to try to kill each other, with Gregori interposing and the crone midwife yelling "No, noooooo! Brother should not kill brother!" and revealing all about Gregori's heritage. The fight was fun - I had switched to extended combat to make it potentially lethal - the brothers traded some basically harmless blows, when Phredd massively won his stakes to protect Zygmunt from Wiktor, he took a blow Wiktor intended for his brother full on - with enough margin of success to incapacitate Wiktor. All the better was that Wiktor had just pushed his doom to 6, (but rolled like Luke,) so he's on his way out. Matt chose to narrate that the shock to Wiktor of Gregori taking the blow prompted a massive heart attack. Wiktor used his dying breath to confess that he'd ordered the death of Ivana for her treacherous banditry. Zygmunt didn't care - she was a reformed bandit, and he'd known all along. Vladick knelt by his elder brother's head, and whispered the truth to him: that he had framed Ivana who had been loyal all along; she died for nothing but Vladick's ambition. Wiktor died with the bitter knowledge of his futility and his brother's betrayal, the last great member of his house.

Zygmunt's doom was also at hand - crazed at the loss of his wife, and his older brother, he ran back out to Ivana's grave, leapt in and plunged his dirk into his heart. Unwilling to dirty his clothes, Vladick tried to tell him about the betrayal, making sure Zygmunt's last moments were as tainted as Wiktor's, but Gregori overheard the confession, and went after him. Both advanced their dooms and both died, dragged into Ivana's busy grave. House Drozdalski was left in the hands of Isabel, Radek and Gregori's baby, with grandfather to provide some no-doubt useless guidance.

Feedback
- The drift worked very well - it demonstrated how to make players reel in shock from the spending of a point, and seemed to clue them in to the fact that I was expecting them to drive the story. Case in point: Zygmunt poisoning Walenka came to nothing narratively, but made the players physically sit up and some of them grinned evilly. Sweet.
- The new character sheets work well, making it easy to pick descriptors. I forgot whether the Drive and Piety descriptors count for bonus/penalty dice, too... Keith?
- Blood Opera is now my favourite one-shot to run, I think. Keith's so fucking lazy it's easy as pie to get the players up and going, and the scenario is set up neatly enough that there's really no way for it to end well. Cool.
- The 'optional' Doom rule for playing Blood Opera should be mandatory. I can't see it working so well without it.
- I should take better notes... I always forget juicy details.
- I wanted to wound both Gregori (for the beating Vladick gave him) and Zygmunt (for the beating that Vladick gave him), but didn't know how best to affect them. I lopped a couple of vitality points off each. Fair?
- Gerard (an unused character in the scenario) seems a bit lame. I'm going to try creating the three brothers' widowed mother. Maybe with some witchblood. A maternal touch seems called for (if you knew my mother, you would know that will only make things worse).
Logged

Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
Keith Senkowski
Member

Posts: 725

On A Downward Spiral...


WWW
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2006, 07:24:44 AM »

So how did the crew like it?  How about the kid who's parents thing DnD is Satan?  Blood Opera might be the work of the devil...

The drift sounds like it works real well for the con/one-shot game.  It was one DP for the GM per player right?  Did you include the GM in that count... That is how I would do it I think.

Drive and Destiny really don't come into play (Drive is for earning more DP post session), so I use them as Descriptors in the one-shot...  More drift on my part...

One way to wound the characters might be to slap them with a Negative Descriptor.  We have worked up an alternate damage recovery system that will see print with the next CoS book.  The penalties for the different stages of damage stick for the conflict, but after the conflict the character gains a Negative Descriptor, which he holds onto until he heals up.

Gerard is pretty lame.  An old crone of a mother would work.  Or maybe even great-grandmother who won't die.  Write her up and I'll replace Gerard in the download.  You have to do it cause I'm a lazy fucker...

Logged

Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
phredd
Member

Posts: 19


« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2006, 08:19:24 AM »

I had a grand old time as Grigory, although he's a tough character to play.  I kept trying to push the metagame to a place where Grigory could feel that Wiktor had betrayed the house and could then be slain with a clear conscience.  Never happened.  Wiktor was too wily.  I couldn't bait him into attacking me either.

And I hadn't played with any of the other folks enough to feel safe pushing on the social contract, so I didn't take things as far as I might otherwise have. 

Grigory didn't drink himself to a stupor with the laudanum (wine+opium).  He poured that into poor bereft Zygmunt to ease his pain and make him shut up about the circumstances of his wife's death.  Regular old wine was good enough for Grigory.

The morning confrontations w/Grigory were Zygmunt continuing to clobber me about the details of his wife's death and then Wiktor sent me out to find the acting troupe (I think).

I sent the crone away with my baby and Ivana's corpse right after Grigory found out about the Bandit ambush (before we slew them without mercy).   Then I used my last DP to bring them back at the appropriate moment just before everything hit the fan after the play. 

And after Vladick slew me (So much foor being the blademaster, I got my ass kicked in every physical confrontation I engaged in), I narrated Vladick's death as coming at the hands if Ivana's angry ghost.


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Iskander
Member

Posts: 226

Alexander Newman


WWW
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2006, 01:09:07 PM »

Weirdly, I didn't count myself in the player-count for DPs... I will tomorrow. (And if a sixth player materialises, I will work up the crone mother / grandmother / harridan). Maybe she always had a thing for nice uncle Anatoli...

Negative descriptors are a much neater way to do that kind of wound: "Vladick thrashed me" can be spun either way, depending on the player.

Quote from: Phredd
I sent the crone away with my baby and Ivana's corpse right after Grigory found out about the Bandit ambush (before we slew them without mercy).   Then I used my last DP to bring them back at the appropriate moment just before everything hit the fan after the play.

Thanks for the clearer memories, Phredd; you spending that second DP was one of my absolute favourite moments. Poor old Gregori got stymied a lot this time out!

Quote from: Some fool
So how did the crew like it?  How about the kid who's parents thing DnD is Satan?  Blood Opera might be the work of the devil...

That's almost verbatim what I told Hutch! I think they all enjoyed it - Hutch certainly said he wanted to play more/again. He took a while to find his feet, and was the only player (including me) with DPs left over, but all of his contributions were totally sound, and some were just inspired (the beastly ear-whispering). Despite its inevitably miserable doom-laden ending (or because of it), I think this remains a great way to introduce people to gaming. As I said, I'm trying it again tomorrow.
Logged

Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
gaylord500
Guest
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2006, 07:02:12 AM »

Liked it fine. Played Zygmunt. My trigger was never invoked - stop Vladick's ambitions. I don't think I ever saw an example of Vladick's plotting for the house. The drive I had to change around a bit. Ivana must be morned. I am indecisive. I trust and rely on Gregori to tell me what to do. After mulling it over, I thought that since Gregori wasn't actually getting good advice, Zygmunt was probably going to break a little. So he made much worse decisions than if Gregori had told to do anything.

Anyway, had fun; it's interesting to see the storylines drift.
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