*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
June 25, 2017, 09:24:36 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 164 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2 3 4
Print
Author Topic: [Hero's Banner] War for the Soul of Uran  (Read 27626 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
Member

Posts: 2624


WWW
« on: August 30, 2006, 07:01:09 PM »

Jason, Remi, and I played Hero's Banner this week, and, man, did we have fun! This Actual Play post will go best with some actual talk about our play. I'm not going into full detail about every scene or anything, but I do want to talk about where it was great and where it was less than great.

Here's our characters, by the way, for reference: Pavel Ryweic and Andor Uranson. I figure you can go look at another website for a minute.

Our game revolves around the bringing of the Church to the last outpost of paganism, the cold northern lands of Uran. Uran is totally fantasy Viking-land, and that's working well for us. Ryeic is the western land that is fighting with Uran and is a quaint mash-up of Poland and Britain.

Jason's character, Pavel, is torn between his duty to be small as the youngest son, his role model of a holy knight, and his love for his own step-sister. Remi's character, Andor, is torn between his duty as the son appointed to be king, his love of his crippled older brother who should be king, and his want to bring war and destruction on the weak Ryeic people.

The game was not easy to begin, and this is the only complaint I have with the text. It's a very good text and it explains both character creation and conflicts in a way that is totally clear and well-written. It does not tell you, as far as I can see, how to connect those - how to start a game and GM strongly. (Tim Koppang, I'd love to see discussion of this. There is some GM advice, but I think it could be improved.) However, with some early scenes of straight-up violence, I got on my feet as GM. I was immediately reminded of one of my very favorite games, Trollbabe, and GMed it using my skills from that game. The flow is nearly identical between the two.

The summary

I will try to summarize what happened, so that we may talk with context. Pavel found himself stymied in his attempts to be a strong holy warrior, and to resist his step-sister's pull, and after fighting the northern hordes of Thorbjorn, he went home and became the head of the guard at his benefactor's keep, where his lady love lives. Andor dashed his army into Ryeic, watched his lover die, watched his uncle and rival Thorbjorn take credit for Andor's battles, found out his brother was a traitor and had been converted by Pavel -

And I've got to use another paragraph for this. He then went to the bottom of the sea and defeated the god Aegir's giant snake and took his seven daughters as brides. This has later been revised to be in the realm of "maybe that was true, and maybe Andor hallucinated," but I think that's little bit lame. We established in our talk about setting that magic exists, but is super-rare and super-powerful. We wanted Arthurian-level magic. This fits, and happened from the first conflict between characters. Pavel and Andor met each other at sea, and we had two conflicts, resulting in Pavel stabbing Andor and leaving him to die on a sinking ship. The next scene was below the sea, and honestly, Jason and Remi led this scene, with Jason playing Aegir's wife and coaching me. It was totally awesome and way outside of what Hero's Banner seemed to be in the book. I'm not looking to have this criticized, but critically talked about would be fine.

A comment here: I think character-on-character conflict gets short shrift in Hero's Banner, between the mechanics being the least tight of any mechanics in the game, and the way breakdowns are handled. I'll talk more about breakdowns later, but this is important, as character-on-character conflicts are bound to happen.

Anyway, with that interlude, Andor went home, saved his brother, fought Thorbjorn to convince his father of his rightness (and fought him naked!) and then went back to sack Ryeic for a dowry for his seven brides.

This is where the two characters really came together. If you've looked at their character sheets, or followed along, you'll note that Andor's brother was converted to the Church by Pavel, and Pavel and Andor both hate Thorbjorn, and Pavel killed Andor once already. This tying of characters together is necessary in Hero's Banner. It allowed us to finish with a great scene - Thorbjorn, enraged, has amassed a berserker army. He has basically become Grendel - he was described as covered in black mud, seven feet tall and hairy, growling and leaping. Andor needs the keep Pavel guards as his dowry, and Pavel needs to keep it safe. Thorbjorn's army attacked and the two protagonists had to work together, and found themselves defeating Thorbjorn and back at odds over what happens to the keep's wealth.

What I learned

Ok, Trollbabe and Hero's Banner both have something that will frustrate the hell out of any GM. You can't "up the difficulty" of a task. When I have a berserker army at the gates and you want to beat it down, I can't make that any harder than normal. So what do you do?

You use different skills. In Hero's Banner, you do these things:

* Get the players to accept harsher repercussions.
* Convince the players to use complicated resolution.

The repercussions aren't some crazy stakes-setting. What I mean is that you have narrated in something powerful. Use it! We don't allow rape in games, but I can hint at it, and I did - I said "Thorbjorn's army is here, and they're sacking, and they will burn this joint to the ground, taking your loved ones as their brides and leaving nothing behind." The players sat up! I was within rights to say that, and they're within rights to say "I'm stopping this." The essence of why we want to make harsh things difficult in games is that feeling of "man, this protagonist is in trouble!" You can get that by making the bad guys just super-bad.

As for complicated resolution, it can be more difficult in Hero's Banner for two players to work together. I managed to threaten everyone enough that they were more than willing to both jump in. Convincing a player to use an influence that is not their highest is the other technique, and it's actually how this game flows. Imagine that a character has influences ranked in this order:

1. Hero
2. Conscience
3. Blood

The GM starts a scene that will focus on Blood. The player will probably have to use passion to win, since Blood is low, and can then change the order of influences. He's just had a scene that got him riled up about blood, so he raises it, and has:

1. Blood
2. Hero
3. Conscience

Then I, as GM, threaten Conscience, and we repeat. Doing this over and over makes you a great Hero's Banner GM.

Conclusion

I don't have a lot of questions: after the first 15 minutes, this sang. I am very interested in answering questions that readers may have. I can't wait for our next game!
Logged

Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Jye Nicolson
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2006, 07:44:29 PM »



Then I, as GM, threaten Conscience, and we repeat. Doing this over and over makes you a great Hero's Banner GM.



Whoa, does it?  That wouldn't have been my guess - getting to the end game seems like part of the point, not hanging the game up in always-attack-the-weakest equilibrium.

Or is the actual deal there finding the situation where the Hero says "you know what?  I'm happy to fail this roll.  Screw my family, it isn't worth lowering my devotion to Courtly Love"?
Logged
Jye Nicolson
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2006, 12:08:51 AM »


Whoa, does it?  That wouldn't have been my guess - getting to the end game seems like part of the point, not hanging the game up in always-attack-the-weakest equilibrium.


Don't mind me - I thought for some reason that increasing passion increased the trait you rolled against, and I was wrong!

Carry on.
Logged
Clinton R. Nixon
Member

Posts: 2624


WWW
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2006, 02:49:11 AM »

Jye,

You can see how, using the rules, this does work now, right? It's guaranteed to increase passion, which brings you closer and closer to the true decision point.
Logged

Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Jason Morningstar
Member

Posts: 1428


WWW
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2006, 04:12:38 AM »

Actual example - I'd been steadily putting points in my relationship with Elysande, my guy's step-sister, to the detriment of Blood and Hero, for the whole game.  I was saying, in effect, "This is what I care about right now."  So Clinton frames a conflict in which all those points are useless and I have to go with Blood or Hero, which are pitiably low, and I fail and must invoke passion.  After the dust settles I re-allocate, and all of a sudden Conscience goes from 41 to 06.  I've had a terrible row with Elysande, winning a conflict but losing her respect, and there are super big fish to fry elsewhere, like beating off the barbarians.  It works very well. 
Logged

Jason Morningstar
Member

Posts: 1428


WWW
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2006, 04:19:13 AM »

I'd like to talk more about the zany under the sea hanging out with Ăgir and Ni­oggi and the Billow Maidens stuff a bit.  As a player, it upped the narrative stakes for me, because I recognized at once that if my character was to matter in play, he'd have to meet Remi's guy on that level.  Based on my motivations, that meant hunting down the sea god Ăgir and killing him at some point, to pave the way for the True Church.  Although this seemed to close off more subtle possibilities, it opened more dramatic ones.  My only concern is that in a generational saga, where does one go from there?  Will the game work if subsequent generational conflicts get progressively smaller?  That'll be interesting.   
Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2006, 04:28:14 AM »

Hi there,

I agree with the point Clinton's making, that when the GM goes after conflicts which address the current lower numbers, and if the player still cares about that stuff even a little, Passion will probably be increased more. That only makes sense and brings the "fury" into "the fury of free will" that underlies the game.

Jason, I'm a little confused about one thing, but want to check to see if I'm understanding your choices, based on the brief information so far. At the end of that conflict, you could still have kept Conscience/Elysande higher, right? The 06 could have been "sent" to either of the other two, and whatever higher value was available could have been assigned to Conscience.

So ultimately, although yes, you were dealing with an overall increase in Passion and therefore had to increase the span between your highest and lowest score, that doesn't mean Conscience had to be driven to 06 - that was your decision. At least, that's my understanding of the rules. Am I correctly paraphrasing what happened in your game?

Regarding the sea god thing, I think it makes sense to have the legendary, epic, fantastical stuff fade into the past, so that later conflicts in later generations are about mundane things, but look back and say, "boy, there were real heroes in those days."

Best, Ron

Best, Ron
Logged
Clinton R. Nixon
Member

Posts: 2624


WWW
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2006, 04:34:23 AM »

I'd like to talk more about that as well, Jason. Seeing as I'm tying this game to Trollbabe, which I feel is a direct ancestor of it, we could examine how Trollbabe handles this stuff. In it, there are "stakes" for each adventure (I know, I know) and the width of those stakes starts small, and can be raised every adventure by any player wanting to do so. We started with huge stakes - the fate of a kingdom - and then immediately jumped up to include gods, without talking about it. I think we're going to work it out, but here are my notes:

- That caught me off-guard more than anyone. The scene was not framed by me, and I would not have framed it as such. I would have had his character wash up on land somewhere and launch into a conflict of isolation. I think it was a good scene, but it felt distinctly different from the rest of the game.

- The implication that you have to go deal with Aegir too is not a certainty, I think. There's a lot of philosophical questions in there about whether you even could, but why should you at all? Your power is in faith and converting others to your faith. Why would you even believe in such a thing as Aegir? Plus, this takes the stakes way, way beyond where we started. Right now, it has a bit of a Greek mythic feel, with Andor's brides being gods' children (but not gods themselves). Slaying gods goes to another level, and, I think, removes a lot of humanity from the game.
Logged

Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Jason Morningstar
Member

Posts: 1428


WWW
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2006, 04:46:29 AM »

Ron, the change in numbers was absolutely my choice, but the way scenes were framed and resolved made it very compelling to adjust away from "love for Elysande" toward the other two.  Which means as a player I'm constantly playing catch-up as the GM hammers my weak spots, which is awesome. 

Clinton, I'm seeing it more as a between-us-as-players issue - Remi's established the "game" of the game, if you will, which is to go big.  I imagined a shipwreck/struggle against nature scene myself, which is why I left him broken and dying on a sinking boat.  Remi took it another direction and I feel the need to accept that choice and build on it (sorry for all the imrpvo-osity). I imagined a host of feiry angels smiting that dude's undersea kingdom with me at the van, a mortal blow for the old ways.  Then things begin to ramp down in zany and up in subtle over time.  But honestly, whatever we all agree to is fine. 
Logged

Jye Nicolson
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2006, 01:33:49 PM »

Jye,

You can see how, using the rules, this does work now, right? It's guaranteed to increase passion, which brings you closer and closer to the true decision point.

Yeah, absolutely - I even remember Tim saying exactly that as he was demoing it, and I was reading the damn book yesterday, so I'm not sure where my brain was when I typed that.

I really like the way you can do whatever you like with the numbers after you've made a passion check, so long as highest - lowest = passion.  It's not often you see something that can be used to express regret or triumph that elegantly.
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2006, 02:04:26 PM »

Hi there,

Jason, you wrote,

Quote
the change in numbers was absolutely my choice, but the way scenes were framed and resolved made it very compelling to adjust away from "love for Elysande" toward the other two.

That is precisely my experience with this game, and I'd like to underscore it for people who aren't familiar with it. If the system were merely, "make decisions, watch scores change accordingly, sooner or later only one remains," it would be a boring exercise. Instead, it is uniquely powerful and absorbing.

Why? Because you choose which score takes on each of the three new values, after a Passion roll. Wow! It is a game about total responsibility for what paths your character does not take. Everyone remembers the hero, or at least his legend, in terms of what he accomplished (or in the case of one of my characters, his horrid misdeeds). But what this game shows is what had to be put aside, and what is not remembered.

I don't have a name for this sort of mechanic, in which quantitative and deterministic values change due to very rigid rules, but which nonetheless fully reflect player judgment in use, in some way.

Good example: the scores Needy and Stubborn (and the later scores Greedy, Cunning, and Murderous) in my game It Was a Mutual Decision. A character who uses, for example, Stubborn, may either be depicted/played as actually stubborn, or as fighting against being stubborn. Which is why the characters tend to become more sympathetic, not less, as the score-names change during play. Without that, the characters would be uninteresting and ultimately objects of contempt.

Best, Ron
Logged
Tim C Koppang
Member

Posts: 356


WWW
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2006, 09:00:20 AM »

Whoa. I wish I would have seen this earlier. I just got back from vacation -- and back to a computer sans time limit -- and it looks as if the discussion has already rolled along fairly well. I'll just add a few comments.

First, your characters sound awesome. They're obviously tortured and the gameplay seemed to follow. Wonderfully tragic. That said, I'm curious to see just how the magical elements play out in your game. Clinton, you mentioned that the "under the sea" segment seemed out of place with the rest of the game. To be honest, the first time you wrote about all of the gods and water I did a double take: once because I was so startled, and twice because it just sounds so cool. I know in the book I definitely tried to make magic something that happens to characters and not something that characters themselves have much control over. I'm not quite sure how you're playing the magic in your game, but I know that I've played in games where the heroes were certainly larger than life exaggerations of themselves. As long as the magic has something to do with the heroes' influences, and the elements all come together to focus on the choices each hero is making, I don't think you'll run into trouble.

Personally, I think the game scales well all the way from the smallest of internal struggles all the way to the fate of kingdom. You are all taking it a bit further to issues involving gods, but as Ron already mentioned, in generational play, the memory of what once was can quickly fade into legend and the exaltation of those that came before. Even if future games are about much smaller stakes, because the game is in the end only about very personal struggles, the scale of what's going on around the character can fluctuate. But again, I'm curious to see how your group handles these things in future sessions.

Second, you mentioned your troubles with breakdowns, but never divulged the details. If your problems are specifically with the way breakdowns interface with player vs player conflicts, I think I know where you're going. Otherwise, I'm not sure. Please do share.

Finally, as to constantly challenging a character's weaker influences, yes, that's the way I run things in a typical game. From a designer's point of view, it was something that I struggled with because I always knew that to really force players to increase their character's passion scores, the GM would have to frame scenes involving the character's weak influences. Especially if the player had just pumped a bunch of points into a particular influence, would I as GM be cheating him out of a well-earned success though? Well, eventually I came to grips with this and just said to hell with it. The game's about tough choices after all and what's tougher than always feeling like you've made the wrong choice? In practice I still give a player a few scenes with his strong influence just to keep his spirits up: I don't want the entire game to be grim. Also, even though the GM has the power to frame scenes, I've also had players (even in my short GenCon demos) narrate their way into using a different influence than the one I first intended. So it all works out really once everyone wraps their head around the way the system works.
Logged

Jason Morningstar
Member

Posts: 1428


WWW
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2006, 09:26:35 AM »

We played our second session last night and it was slightly less rocking for a few reasons.  Hopefully Clinton will add some blow-by-blow descriptions.

About the breakdowns - they are way too common.  Last night, my first two conflicts resolved via breakdowns, which really diluted their impact. And they were the only ones all night in which I succeeded, which sucked some of the fun out of it for me.  Clinton and Remi played really hard and forced me to use my lame influences (14%, that sort of thing).  They took away the things I cared about and made them worse than worthless, which was strictly AWESOME, but I also felt the desire to control my own destiny, and the only tool I had was to take extra passion to shape the course of my own failure.  I'm not sure if this is an indictment of the game as much as it is a lament for Remi's hot dice. 

We both reached 100% and there was a lot of weird negotiating to determine our end states, since we had a ton of mutual dependencies.  The choices I made really had to mesh well with Remi's, and I topped out first, so I was in limbo for a while. 

We, as a group, had some struggles over the introduction of huge magic, and I think we agree that we'll tone it down for future generations.  Honestly, it didn't have a huge effect in play, but it did have a huge effect in our heads.  Religion in general is a bigger issue for us, and this game is all about religion.
Logged

Tim C Koppang
Member

Posts: 356


WWW
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2006, 09:58:52 AM »

Jason,

On breakdowns happening too often: I'm not sure. I've had sessions with me GMing for two players where exactly one breakdown occurred during the entire time from character creation until death. Other times, however, a breakdown occurred every third passion check or so. I realize that too many breakdowns sort of counteracts the effect breakdowns are supposed to have -- are you playing a hero or a temperamental kid -- but I also like breakdowns. I suppose my check against this is to make it clear that not every breakdown has to be a crying fit or a rage of violence. Some breakdowns may be a more internalized struggle, both subtle and soft.

On the other hand, I can't tell if you're also reacting to the seemingly miserable string of failures you seemed to face. Breakdowns allow you to overcome failure as sort of a last ditch effort, but I agree that those successes may seem empty. And if you've rolled a failure on everything else, including passion-fed re-rolls, I can understand your frustration. All I can really offer up is that fact that math is ultimately on your side: you probably won't roll failures forever. But also, if you're really becoming frustrated, it may be a signal that you're looking for an easier conflict involving a higher rated influence. You won't necessarily get all of the control you're after because chances are the GM will get to narrate your success, but at least you'll be able to maneuver your character's destiny a bit more directly than through the limits of consistent failure.

That said, you can of course always control your charact's de

I also thought I'd talk about failure more generally. One of the reasons I wanted to let players change their influence ratings however they wanted after a passion check was because I felt that sometimes failure can have just as much effect on a person's decisions in life as success. From what I've gleaned, you guys have all seemed to pick up on this concept quite well. One possible side effect, though, is the character who has to make all of his decisions based on failure. But because success and failure are very malleable in Hero's Banner, my suggestion would be to make failure into something heroic. By manipulating the stakes of a conflict appropriately, you might orchestrate a failure that highlights what your character stands for as much as a success might. I realize this is rather indirect -- perhaps even impossible to plan with accuracy -- but in the end failure must be common for the game to work.
Logged

Tim C Koppang
Member

Posts: 356


WWW
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2006, 10:01:19 AM »

Whoops, my reply got cut off mid-post.

To finish the third paragraph:

That said, you can of course always control your charact's destiny, failure or not, after a passion check by manipulating influence ratings. This is really on purpose. While you may not always get to control the events around your character, you can always control the way those events affect your character in every way the matters to him.
Logged

Pages: [1] 2 3 4
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!