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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 165 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Zombeja! Ovella!] This time with vampires  (Read 3221 times)
Christoph Boeckle
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Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


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« on: December 29, 2007, 07:40:41 AM »

Hello

Yesterday evening a few friends and I went out to this smoky alternative bar, where some guy was having a board-game night and we thought that this would be a great way to make contact to other circles of gamers (we organize gaming nights too, but with 16-24 year olds). I thought there were RPGs involved too, so I took some with me.
Turns out there were about 8 people (in their late twenties and thirties) playing board games, some people smoking weed at the bar and two guys playing pool.
We started to chat, and I managed to get three to play a game of Zombeja!. One woman, Tania, was completely enthusiastic just by hearing about the concept and two guys were game too (Nicolas and Ludovic). Only the two men had already role-played a little bit a few years ago.

In a quarter of an hour, the rules were explained, the characters randomly created (they didn't care to read all the sticks and thought it was fun to randomize) and I was narrating a scene in a well-known bar with all four characters having a drink, and a local "celebrity" stumbling in, half pissed, half panicked.

Wow! Did play take off! We were rolling conflicts every fucking scene right from the start, exploring our little city and introducing supernatural creepy stuff. Tania suggested she'd rather have vampires than zombies and we all agreed on the spot. Streets were growing longer and darker, the characters were being separated by getting "lost" and then two of them run off into a dark cellar. Ludovic described a dark mass set-up, distant laughter and Tania suggested there was a tome, Nicolas that there was light when the tome was opened and Ludovic rounded it off by reading from the tome. Just like that, no hesitations.

Man, why do we even bother about describing the fact that narration can be shared? Why do these people know how to acknowledge each others' ideas AND having a blast doing so? Why does nobody make a comment about how strange it is that there is no GM? I suspected it all along, but I had to digest Ron's essays and read the Forge over two fricking years to understand <MLwM, but as it turned out, play was extremely enjoyable anyway and the board provided support for a very low supernatural, creeping setup.

Following the events in the cellar, our characters escaped into a stereotyped swamp with will-o-the-wisps and ghosts all over the place. Lots of frantic running, and then Nicolas character, a priest, escapes from the board. So... hey! Divine intervention! Father Lachaise ascends to the sky in a great pillar of light! Laughter all around. Nicolas is happy to play the vampires.

Tania and I are projected into a series of mazes with moving armour's. Frantic running around while I play my character desperately trying to get back home and tell his wife he loves her (I had the little stick with "I have to tell her" or something like that on it).

BLAM! My character gets sliced by an armour (I was really crap at rolling dice, and the one time I rolled well it was a tie that resulted in the death of my character...) I give the little stick to Tania and have my character say in his last breath: "Please get out and tell my wife I loved her!"
At some point, God himself laughs.

Somehow play polarized between Tania and Ludovic (seated opposite one another) and they togheter improvised scenes, picking up each other's suggestions: Tania's character was invited to dance with a vampire, who managed to relieve her of her necklace with the cross. She tried to escape (I was always supporting her, hoping she could get out with the message, Nicolas and Ludovic really wanted her to die), and started sinking into the loose soil of a cemetery.

Here Ludovic sets the last scene: sinking into the ground, looking up at the tombstone, she sees her necklace hanging from it and tries to reach for it.

2vs2 roll! TIE! The marker advances, and Tania's pawn is caught up! Perhaps a bit sad, Tania describes how her characters slowly drowns and dissolves into the ground, but her dissolution releases white magic, countering the dark spell of the vampires. A noble sacrifice, never to be known by anyone else!


Great fun was had in a little less than two hours. Tania works in the city's "game library" (a place were you can borrow toys and games) and said she would immediately buy the game if it were in French, because it is so short and to the point that most of her regulars could at least be interested in hearing about it.
Ludovic had a great time too, Nicolas wasn't quite as vocal but seemed to have enjoyed himself too.

We had an interesting chat about how the zombie-marker had an influence on the game. Nicolas wondered if we had introduced the supernatural a bit too fast. All of them immediately agreed with me that despite the game having a board-game look, it wasn't really about competition and tactics.

We then went on to play some board games late into the night, exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to keep in touch for the next event.


Basic point: perfect game for an evening that seems to hook board gamers (or war gamers as per my previous AP), and that a "game librarian" finds has potential for her regular board gamer patrons!
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Regards,
Christoph
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2007, 10:09:56 AM »

Thanks for playing! My very time playing the game also had the zombies swapped for vampires - it's a very basic and easy thing to do, they're not really significantly different monsters as far as creatures of the night go. You also clearly had a very strong poetic, slightly zany wibe going on, with players enjoying the basic act of describing and inventing things for each other as an audience; that's usually a sign of the game going well. A large part of my own enjoyment with the zombie game is in simply being involved in a functional creative team with a clear focus and a bounded activity, which is often not the case with many roleplaying games.

I love hearing about how the game delivered on its main design goals - it's learnable and playable in a relaxed social environment, competitive and comparable with boardgaming as a hobby activity. I really should apparently do something about getting the game more widely available in English as well; for some reason I haven't been supremely motivated to take action now that I've managed to publish in Finnish. Perhaps I'll get something going over the winter months.

As for rules points, when you say that you rolled several disagreements per scene, did you still advance the player turns and have a different active player after each roll? The round structure is an important rule, while actually starting new scenes in the fiction is more of a pacing suggestion than a rule. The most common individual "scene frame" in our play is to simply "continue immediately after the last scene", especially when play approaches a climax and there are a lot of naturally occurring conflict situations embedded in one scene. The scene framing material in the rules is intented more as instructive structures than solid rules.

When you rolled a disagreement about your character being teleported to the cellar by magic (assuming I read that right), that kind of thing seems rather natural to me. Often enough if supernatural fiction the reliability of magic is very much dependant on the willingness of the victim, so even if there's no clear and explicit means of effect, I would certainly roll a disagreement about whether the magic could grab my character or not. That is assuming I wanted to resist, of course.

All in all a very inspiring account of play, I'm glad that my game was around for your particular group of hobbyists!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2007, 10:22:53 AM »

"My work here is done."

Best, Ron
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Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


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« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2007, 12:04:01 PM »

I was a bit loose with enforcing scene cuts, though I would regularly mime the movie clap board to suggest a change of scene. So the zombie-marker didn't advance quite as fast as it should have. I bet just saying "one roll ends a scene" while explaining the rules would have been sufficient for the other players to keep track of that themselves. Next time!

There was definitely a zany-poetic vibe to play: Tania's character would sing to uplift our spirits in the marsh and drive away the evil presence. Ludovic immediately suggests that each time she sang a sharp note a little will-o'-the-wisp would fly away from her mouth. We all found the idea excellent. Later on, Tania's character screams when mine is cut down, and Ludovic says: "in sharp!" and we all laugh (and I was of course imagining the little bugger flying away, I bet the others too).

Check on all the other points!


Ron, I don't know if your work is done here, but you've done great work all right!


*me doing a happy dance for all those that helped me exchange my dull friday nights with my bored friends for the cool gaming we're now having, sometimes even with nice new people*
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Regards,
Christoph
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