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Mortal Coil presents, Live in New Amsterdam, Flaming Taft!

Started by Judd, August 23, 2006, 09:18:12 PM

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Come Saturday night I was pretty beat.  My Forge Booth hat and the Sons of Kryos hat had both been immensely rewarding but had taken its toll.  On top of which, I had only gamed twice.

One of those games was in Shock:, with RobNJ and Joshua and when it came time to pick a real life issue the word, suicide, just fell from my mouth and the game did its job and we explored suicide.  It was a good game but suitably harrowing.

Just before we got together to play Mortal Coil I did an interview with the Forge Veterans and the games described were just harrowing.

I was tired of harrowing.

I wanted fun.  Luckily, we were playing Mortal Coil, a game designed to create a setting based on the player's specifications.

When we were drafting our theme document I said, "I don't want a dark game, guys.  I don't want to play in a game where my character kills his mother or anything.  I want fun."

Our adjectives to describe the setting were grungy exuberance.

When Robert Johnson sold his soul at the crossroads, he also stole the magic of rock and roll from the Devil...The Man (can you tell Brennan had just played in Ben's new game?).  It is 1974, New Amsterdam and the players are all members of Flaming Taft!, an up and coming punk band.

I played the manager.  "These guys are doomed; they're the greatest."

There was heroine addiction and brutal arguments and fathers losing their love of their sons (no, really, I won a conflict and drove out a father of another PC's love for his son off of the NPC's character sheet).  There was a whole lot of laughter and howling and vocally mimicked guitar and bass licks.  It had the kind of joyous feel of staying up late with your best friends when you were thirteen and gaming all night.

At one point, while discussing the tone of the game, we talked about Harry Potter, which is a book about an abused kid whose life is regularly threatened by the bastard who killed his parents.  Yet, the book remains rather light.  That is what I wanted: intense but fun.

That is what I got.

If others want to chime in at this point, please do.  This is all I can write at the moment.

Brennan Taylor

Thanks for picking up the slack, Judd. With all of the stuff piling on me after GenCon, I hadn't gotten around to any APs yet.

Flaming Taft was definitely one of my highlights of the con. It is also one of the highlights of Mortal Coil play for me. Most of the conflict was internal to the band, as it constantly tried to explode, and a couple of dedicated members gave their all to keep it together. It was like an episode of Behind the Music, but with magic.

Highlights for me:

Steve, out of the box, without having read the rules, choosing a Hate of himself as one of his passions. A hate is a passion to destroy something. His heroin addiction was the result.

Judd forcing a passion-changing conflict on Steve's character's dad as the second conflict of the game. Judd won, and made the dad character take a Fear of Judd's character on his sheet. I chose to drop the 1-point love of his son in exchange.

I forgot my poker chips in the exhibit hall, so we were improvising with what we could scrounge up. Power tokens ended up being rubber cockroaches, which was totally genre appropriate.

The main conflict was the rebel Punk band against "The Man," the music industry, mostly as represented by Marty the A&R guy. In the end, they sold out!

GB Steve

If I actually needed to be sold on Mortal Coil, Flaming Taft delivered in spades. From the first "I don't want to kill (Kill? I thought it was fuck) my Mom" to the final "We're getting the band back together!" (i.e. bringing Crash back from the dead), it was a joyful riot of ideas riffing off each other. This was so my GC higlight.

As I result I ran a Georgian London Buffy come GURPS Goblins game just the next weekend for a couple of gaming starved friends in New Mexico and whilst not quite reaching the heights of Flaming Taft (Flaming Taft!) it was still a blast.


Quote from: Brennan Taylor on August 23, 2006, 10:35:11 PM
Judd forcing a passion-changing conflict on Steve's character's dad as the second conflict of the game. Judd won, and made the dad character take a Fear of Judd's character on his sheet. I chose to drop the 1-point love of his son in exchange.

That was definitely my favorite Mortal Coil mechanics moment.  I really dig the way Passions change in play, good stuff.

When I recently read over Hero's Banner it reminded me very much of that.

It is cool when some really harsh and fundamental changes in your character or NPC happens on the character sheet, mechanically too.

Joshua A.C. Newman

I loved just how much and how hard we laughed during that game. So much fun!

The lineup, starting to my right and going around:

Brennan, GMing.
Remi, playing Skank, the talented lead guitarist who was better than the band.
Paul Tevis, playing the square drummer who needed the band to stay together because it provided all the meaning to his life (including his scenester girlfriend, "Sister Mary Francis")
Steve, playing Crash, the self-destructive frontman whose father worked for EMI.
Judd, playing Lizzie the manager, who had all the teeth-kicking earnestness of a punk manager
Me, playing The Fucking Bassist, AKA Fucker, who really wanted to be doing experimental music and had lots of giant WWII CD megaphones and fucked Liz so he could hear the sounds of her heating pipes at night.

A couple of highlights:

Our rival band who were "making it" dressed like nuns.
Crash's dad, the dick, was really kind of pathetic. As a player, I wanted them to make good for each other.
There was a lot of communication by throwing beer bottles at each others' characters.
It was the hottest summer on record, and it coincided with a garbage strike.
"Music changes the world!" was a powerful theme for me.
It was really fun actually defeating Marty the A.R. Guy.

I really dug playing a charicature of Edvard Graham Lewis. That was fun stuff.

When I decided to play that game, you may note that I was hand-picking the players. I was looking for a really solid good time. I'd like to thank every one of you for fulfilling my wish.
the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.

Clyde L. Rhoer

I'm glad this got posted. It gives me a chance to apologize. I only wanted some pop-tarts and my Crane Brick so I could go sit in the comfortable lobby chairs, and read. Your game seemed so compelling that I realized after the fact that I was standing around and being disruptive. Sorry about that folks.
Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.

Joshua A.C. Newman

I dunno, man. A) I liked you when we met, so no harm would have been done, even if you didn't B) seem to be talking about a different game. We were in a room upstairs.
the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.


Quote from: Clyde L. Rhoer on August 28, 2006, 02:07:13 PM
I'm glad this got posted. It gives me a chance to apologize.

I don't remember anything that anyone needed to apologize for.  I was too busy being rock and roll, fighting the man, getting the band to the gigs and eventually selling out.

And laughing, too busy laughing at Joshua making funky bass riffs with his mouth and Remi rocking out and Steve's character trying to score junk while Paul's poor bastard fell into my PC's vile clutches.

So, no apologies necessary.

GB Steve

I think my favourite scene was when Lizzie Something and John Walker got it together over coffee. There was a lightness and depth of meaning in the exchanges that I've not often seen in games.

And Brennan using the conflict over my dad's tie that Lizzie cut off to remove his "I love my son" passion was what really set the ball rolling for me. I had a real epiphany of "so that's what this game is all about".

I also didn't notice any evil interruptions. We were so intent on laughing and getting our gaming thing on that one more in the background didn't bring the mood down at all.

I also seem to recall that Crash was only active in the first scene, after that he was mostly colour for other characters actions. I was so involved in the game and the vibe that I didn't notice this until now.

Remi Treuer

This game was really a highlight for my GenCon experience, as well. (Clyde, you were vibrating with positivity, and were no distraction at all)

I wish I had pushed a little harder with Skank's dickishness. I loved the scene where John Walker convinced him to come to the show, over Marty's smooth advances. I think it was because I kept getting blunted by failing at challenges or tying challenges. I tied Joshua twice, both to great effect! One time we switched styles, with Skank ending up playing screeching formless noise and him playing the tune rock-solid.

The scene where John Walker and Lizzie got together was great. Paul and Judd were both pushing SO HARD for conflict, and when they realized that, no, their characters would would just shack up without really fighting about it, was wonderful. The look of realization of their faces was really satisfying.

Brennan, I gotta say that your portrayal of Marty the A&R guy was terrifying and sleazy and vaguely seductive in exactly the right way. I kept coming back for more. I'm sorry we didn't have another 4 hours to play, I think we would have gone to some great places.


I had a great time in this game. However, I don't think the system was quite as cool as I was expecting. I've thought about this a lot in the last few weeks, and here's what I came up with.

At the system level, theme document creation was awesome. In fact, it was cooler than I thought it would be. This is definitely the most solid part of the game. Character creation was fairly smooth. I had a few issues coming up with appropriate Attributes (or whatever they're called), but in general, it was good. Conflict resolution, however, was a stumbling block for me. Maybe I was expecting something a little more complicated, but the only choice I seemed to have to make was "Do I spend a Passion Token?" Otherwise, it never made sense not to just go almost all-in on whatever my strength was. I suspect this is because we never had a situation where splitting tokens came into play, but I also came out of the game not understanding when you would do that. Brennan, can you shed some light on my confusion?

The game was a blast, however. I felt a little out of it a times, but that's just how I play. I'm glad Judd and I got to rock the house with the John and Lizzie scene. With regards to that, I've found people's comments interesting. That scene is the exactly the sort of thing that's common in my group's play, and the type of thing I aim for. We try to let the scene develop organically before figuring out what the conflict is (if there is even one at all), and then post-playing the outcome for a long time. Nine Worlds in particular, I think, benefits from this style. You set things up, you figure out how the narration will be constrained, and then you take your time actually playing it out. A lot of the other scenes in the game, on the other hand, felt like they were 90% conflict resolution, and as a result, weren't as interesting to me. I didn't feel like I understood the characters as well I wanted to because everything was happening at the player level. Did anyone else get this feeling, or do I come from a different play background as everyone else in the game?

I find it interesting, Remi, that you felt like Judd and I were both pushing hard for a conflict in that scene. It was pretty clear to me what Judd wanted out of that scene, but I was pretty sure I would be fine with it too, so I didn't see the need for one. I just wanted to get us both to the point where we could agree on it. I blame Polaris for that. (I'm also find the current stakes-setting discussion illustrative as well.)

Despite these concerns, the game did rock. I think we just scratched the surface where the group could have gone, and I want to thank everyone for letting me be a part of it.

Paul Tevis
Have Games, Will Travel @
A Fistful of Games @

Brennan Taylor

Hey, Paul,

That is a risk in conflict resolution in Mortal Coil, and I have definitely had this happen before. As a GM, I probably didn't push the group hard enough. The way to avoid this is to mix things up, and to do unexpected things with your actions. Conflicts that have both physical and mental components are excellent for this. I think one of the reasons these fell a bit flat was that many of the conflicts that occurred were between players, where I had less influence. Marty the A&R guy and Crash's dad were really the only NPCs that got into it with a character. Also, everyone except Judd was new to the rules. There are some tricks you can pick up with experience in the rules that mix conflicts up a lot, such as doing something unexpected (like taking a physical action to cut off someone's tie). Then your opponent may be caught off guard and have to reallocate. This adds a little diversity to the conflict system.



I think it will gel better when I go back and re-read the rules. Now I just have to find time to do that.

Anyway, thanks for running a great game. I can't imagine that any of us will soon forget it.

Paul Tevis
Have Games, Will Travel @
A Fistful of Games @

Robert Bohl

I'm glad you guys posted about this.  When it was over, Judd goes to me, "YOU ARE SO JEALOUS OF THE GAME I JUST PLAYED!"

And now I am.
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG

GB Steve

Another thing that excited me in the game was the way the stakes were set.

Going back to the confrontation between Crash and his father, the dad's stakes were something like "you're coming home with me". Instead of chosing "I'm staying here", it was possible to choose the much more interesting "I want my Dad to see me for what I am". Now in the mind of the character, this was about being cool and independent but, given I used Crash's passion of "I hate myself" and the attribute of "I can always find a vein", it was actually more about showing to his Dad that he was a junkie loser.

In effect there was no way for the character to win, even though as a player I won the contest, with a little help from my friends.

Flaming Taft tape

edited to change image to a link