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[In A Wicked Age] Chapter 1: The Prophet of No Self Control, plus strawberries

Started by Meguey, August 28, 2007, 11:14:32 PM

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Ever have one of those characters that's so unlike your regular characters that it's totally freeing? That's what I got last night. Vincent's game in the works, In A Wicked Age, has, as many of you may know, a mechanic by which you draw story elements first, then find the characters named or implied in the elements, rather than making a character first and then figuring out how they all fit in the story.

Juila, Emily, Joshua, and me, with Vincent as the GM. We pull cards from the Blood&Sex deck, because it's that sort of night. We get:

The daughter of a local lord, tramping after strawberries
A camp wanton
A half-bestial creature who cavorts in the fields with his many lovers
An insult, deep and cutting

Here's where I love  In A Wicked Age. I mean, the story's all laid out right there. (Clever, eh? Didn't even try.)

It's obvious that Joshua's the half-bestial creature, because it's that sort of night. Emily calls the lord, and Julia and I tie in calling the lord's daughter. Ergh. So I'm faced with saying 'no, mine' or finding something appealing in what's left. I look at the cards for a long time. I should mention here that both my 20 month old and Julia's 2.5 year old are still awake at 10 pm and getting more and more loopy, keeping each other agitated. I stare at the cards, getting more and more stuck. Finally someone says pull another card, so we do.

A raving prophet, preaching worldly pleasures and living for the day.

Ok, this could work. I ponder what sort of raving prophet I am, and decide I'm totally sincere and driven by having had my...mind...expanded by the half-bestial creature some time back. (I may have been cheating there, but it was too good to pass up.) I'm not scouring the wicked, I just want people to see how much happier they'd be if they just did what they wanted, living each day to the fullest.

We dive into character creation, Babylonian era. The biggest change from last time is the new set of stats, which I understand is thanks to Tony Dowler. It's things like With Love, and For Yourself, and Covertly. It's brilliant. You assign set dice (12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 4) in each stat, then when you need dice figure out which two apply. Joshua and I both remarked how easy it was to assign dice to our characters.

Ok, skip to the next bit. The babies finally fall asleep, and we're getting into the thick of the game. We've described our characters:
Joshua's antelope-horned beast-man Adun loves people, Really truly. He has lots of lovers, that he loves. People he doesn't love, sometimes he eats them. He wants the encroaching civilization driven back and to make Asha unmarriageable.
Julia's strong-minded heiress Asha, who does NOT want to ever marry, and who wants to inherit her father's lands herself.
Emily's Lord Domek, who wants his daughter to make a good political marriage, plus wants the army on his borders to take off.
My prophet Paldeen, who wants his ideas to catch on, thus making Adun a god.
Vincent decides the Capitan wants to put down the local lord and purify these lands to make them civilized, and the camp wanton wants Adun's protection.

Scene 1:  Asha comes upon the Capitan secretly burying bricks on her father's land. She challenges him, and eventually he backhands her. Dice flash and since the Capitan had bigger dice, Asha's on the Owe List for the next Chapter, even though she magicks a strawberry to paralyze him. Adun pops out of a bush and clocks the Capitan and drags him off, after exchanging pleasantries with Asha. I missed some details since I was still catching up on my character creation.

Scene 2: Asha returns home, bloody and rumpled from her tussle with the Capitan, and her father orders her to dress for the suiters awaiting. Dice roll, Domeck's on the Owe List, but Asha gets to insult her father by taking a two-hour bath, then dressing in the maid's clothes rather than her own. A follow up conflict results in Asha meeting the suiters and damned if there isn't one she falls for hard.

Scene 3: Paldeen's at a stream, eating strawberries. It's excellent. I describe the juice running down my chin and fingers, I pantomime mashing them in my mouth (echoing Asha's mashing the strawberry in the soldiers' mouths earlier), I lick my fingers, I get down on the floor an mime drinking from teh stream - I'm totally in the character,and everyone's just watching to see what I'll do next.

As it turns out, the camp wanton, Kimna, is there, and I'm preaching to her the glory of Just Do It! We're digging in the dirt, eating strawberries, talking about how fantastic it is to live for the moment, when Adun shows up with the Capitan, who's partly eaten. Adun casually drowns the Capitan, then I see him and it's all like 'see! watch him and learn! No, not *him*, how he *IS*! You just do it, just follow your desire!' I'm doing this hand motion, like framing Joshua, then shifting just next to him or beyond him. Apparently it conveyed really well in person :shrug:

Guess what? Adun wants to fuck the camp wanton, who comes by her name naturally enough, but she wants something more from him, and slips a ring on his finger during. Cool! So he's all 'what's that about?' and she says 'it means I'm yours now and you have to protect me', which is GREAT! so I say hey, let's make more of these, with a picture of you to remind people to just do like you do, and how cool is that? I guess it's cool, 'cause he falls asleep, and I'm all into the idea of Adun rings, and I realize I don't care at all that he fucked Kimna, twice, right in front of me, so I go hunt some rabbits, but first I try the dead guy, 'cause I've never eaten dead guy and who knows and it's GROSS and then I vomit and ICK, and then I find a stick and start poking things with it and htat makes me want to MAKE stuff, so I go back to town and make a whole mess of rings with little tiny itty bitty small pictures of ADUN on them, which AWESOME, and I give them to people! Yeah!

Scene 4: Asha's run away form her wedding, but then Domek has these dreams that she shouldn't even GET married, and in his dreams Adun's some sort of threat, so they roll dice and Adun's on the Owe List, which he didn't want but hey whatever, and then Asha and Adun square off, and she winds up getting out of the wedding, but she loses her guy and probably starts a civil war, but then she meets Adun on the hillside just like he invited her to back at the start and he sure makes her unmarriageable, but she won't run away with him and she promises to keep the lands wild, so it all ends ok. How cool is THAT??!

* * * *

Playing Paldeen is like playing Brad Pitt's guy from 12 Monkeys only not paranoid or spastic. It's really fun. I didn't make the Owe List, but maybe I'll bring him back if it seems like the thing to do at the time.

Eero Tuovinen

That was interesting, I like the edgy & titillating "Blood & Sex" stuff in rpgs, reminds me of pulp authors. Glad to hear that In A Wicked Age is proceeding.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Christoph Boeckle

Very cool story Meg!

This new way of assigning stats sounds really nice.

Are there any changes to the conflict rules?


We'll have to wait for Vincent to step over and answer that. The conflict has been tweeked with, I think, but it was so smooth I didn't notice.

Next chapter tonight!

Emily Care

Great write up, Meg!

Hi Christoph :) From what I remember (correct me, Vincent!), the dice work pretty much as they did the last time I played. I'm not sure which iteration you're familiar with. You get dice based on your stats which are rolled, the one who wins the first roll gets to let them stand and the loser may push for a re-roll. Three times advantage is established by winning an exchange. Advantage represented by a d6 that is *added* to the highest die of the others rolled.  Losers can give at anytime, and the overall winner gets the big stick of being able to reduce the losers stats substantially and permanently, unless that person can think of some outcome the winner likes better.

The main difference is that the stats are named differently and more intuitively now. Thanks, Tony!

And, John Harper--that set you made of the oracle and sheets rules. yummm..

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games


Chapter 2 just ended. Twisted plots, brutal cruelty, and bargains with gods. More when I've slept.


I'm so glad to see this!

In a Wicked Age is one of the most immediately rewarding, intense and creatively stimulating role-playing games I've played.

Pretty good news that conflict resolution hasn't changed much. I liked it before, were intrigued by the supposedly move to cards, but this means that I can play it again with some understanding of how it works still.

Now, if only one could get ones hands on those Harper-sheets ...  The man makes some good-looking stuff.
Anders Sveen

Emily Care

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Emily Care

I think we're going to play again tonight, so I'd like to write about last week before the memories get washed over by the next installment. 

The Damsel Messiah
Last week, it was Julia's character's turn. Asha. The Queen who would Not Be Married. She chose a card from the Nest of Vipers deck. The card was "a precocious child argues with scholars."  We chose other cards: "a mad prophet uses potions to try to command demons", "a scarred gladiator", "a simple farmer", all Vincentified and dripping with premise laden phraseology that I can't recall.

Everyone picked characters: Julia played Asha, Joshua picked the gladiator, Meg picked the prophet dealing with demons, I picked the child.  Then we chose interests. Bam! Everybody was out for the child. The prophet wanted him dead, the scholar wanted to undermine her self-directed intelligence, the gladiator was paid to kill him.

Asha of course wanted her alive. Julia chose "protect the child at all cost".  I knew nothing about the child, not even the gender yet (that's why I alternated above).  I just listened to everyone create this cone of towering power around this small being and wondered at her power. Yes, she was a girl. 

I looked at my sheet, and wrote on it under interests: "I want to become head of the cult and bring down the city".  Damn, wait a minute--I realized I was totally playing the Damsel Messiah from Judd's Dictionary of Mu demo.  Awesome! I'd picked that character in a demo I took part in with Scott and Jye from Australia in 2006. We'd all bonded with our characters and were  kind of sad not to get to play. So now was my chance!

She kicked ass. I hope my fellow players agree--it sure wasn't me. That character played me like a flute. I haven't stepped into role so quickly in years.  She rowsted the rabble, directed all the adults around her. Then played with her cute little goat horns (did I mention she was the child of the demi-godlike Goat Being that tonight's session will revolve around?) like an kid would.

Taking the Blow
Strangely I lost her midway, or she lost me or something. Her power was questioned. Her touch with truth was shaken. Her firm atheism was disproven and she became touched by the true god of the city Manu.  At a certain point I had to decide whether to accept an offer that Meg had made, for Suri, the child to become convinced that her diatribes were wrong, that she didn't have the right to ask the people of the city to risk their lives to overthrow what *she* saw as their oppression, even if it was true that everyone owned themselves, as the central truth of her vision came to be expressed (thank you,  Vincent, for that).  I had to choose, would she hang on to her vision, or let go.

After agonizing, I thought of our conversation on status in improv that's been going on, and decided to take the fall. Suri lost her faith in herself, and gained faith in a higher power. She negotiated a place for herself in the temple of the power that now occupies her land, controlled by the King who forced her free Mother to bend her will and Marry him, to save her child's life. 

This story is so seriously a chapter. A moment when the mighty have been bent low. The protagonists taken off their perches and made to rethink what makes them themselves.  And what next?
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games


That was an incredible story. I'm loving this game.

I thought it was beautiful that Suri lost her faith. All of the characters in this episode went through serious crises of faith, many compromised themselves, and all transformed.

I realized after playing, that Asha's downfall came when for a brief moment, she stopped thinking of Suri's interests and concentrated on her own. She told the King she was unmarriagable in order to get out of marrying him. Then he saw through her ruse to seduce him to keep him unaware of the coup coming to his door. Ironically, Asha's stats were such that she would roll small dice (d4) when doing things for herself, and larger dice (like a d8) when doing things for others. Asha's downfall (being forced to marry the King, when she never wanted to marry, much less a man as unpleasant as the King) was her own fault in that sense. I loved it, but I felt bad for her! I've never had a character's outcome in a story be so right for the story, but so unfortunate for the character. It was sad. I kept thinking to myself, this is really, really terrible. Terribly awesome.


In a Wicked Age is that game that I could just keep on playing forever. I'm gald you liked the new stats. For my next trick I'm going to make up a superheros oracle for the game. ;)
"Come on you lollygaggers, let's go visit the Thought Lords!"


Tony, your stats are the piece of design I've been waiting for. I've been beating my head against the problem for how long? Thank you.




Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown


There is no current public playtest draft.

There'll be an ashcan pretty soon!