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Actual Play: Love, Demons, and a Desparate Cry for Help

Started by Jeffrey Straszheim, June 16, 2003, 09:06:49 PM

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Jeffrey Straszheim

We played this over the weekend.  Here is how things turned out.


The demon Moebius showed up begging Maggie to support its breaking from its master, who was, it claimed, forcing it to kill.  She refused, saying that it was none of her business.  She discovered, however, some of the victims were related (in various ways) to Mr. Adams.  Greg begged her to help him silence Mr. Adams (who he had been blackmailing).  She sent Magnus, her demon, to possess Adams and keep his mouth shut.  Magnus did so.

Later, Moebius attacked Maggie while she was driving in traffic, which led to some cool action.  She managed to command it to stop and talk. Then she learned that Bobby, Greg's brother, was trying to destory Greg, her, and just about everyone else in Greg's life.  Also, Bobby had kidnapped Greg's ex-wife.

So, she and Greg teamed up to take out Bobby, which they managed to do.  Jen was still alive, although pretty messed up.  At this point Moebius attempts to convince Maggie to bind him.  She refused, then changed her mind and bound the demon.

Issues of Humanity and Theme

Humanity is defined as romantic and familial love.  During the course of play there were only two Humanity checks, one for loss and one for gain.  Both rolls failed and her Humanity did not change.

The first was a check when she refused to assist Moebius right at the start, because some of the killings involved lovers and family. Later, when she agreed to help Greg rescue his ex-wife, I concluded that there was enough thematic Love involved to rate a gain.

I forgot to require a Humanity check when she bound the demon.  I'll just assume that she got lucky and "passed" that roll.

What My Wife Thought

She has no major complaints about the game.  Her favorite part was the discovery that Bobby was behind the killings.  He one complaint was that I kept mixing up Greg's and Bobby's names.

What I Thought

I'm rather ambivalent on how things turned out.  I was hoping for some super dramatic thing, which did not occur.  On the other hand, the game was smooth and she enjoyed it.

Here are some specific criticisms.  There were a lot of cool dramatic conflicts in the background that I could have brought in, but did not. One was Angel and Sister Maria.  Early on Magnus hopped from Angel to Mr. Adams, and thus eliminated a cool potential bang when Sister Maria finds Angel.  (However, Angel is still out there with a head full of strange memories, and Sister Maria may someday desire to confront the "evil".)  Another was Greg's need to cover up his blackmail.  Once Adams was taken care of, it was no longer a problem, and that removed much of his (Greg's) impetus to drive conflict.  Also, Lucio, one of Greg's demons, greatly desired that Greg, not Maggie, bind Moebius.  I mentioned that Lucio was upset at the situation, but really didn't play it out to any degree.

I think that I got too caught up in keeping track of the "behind the scenes" situation, making sure that everything was consistent, and not on the drama of the moment.  Perhaps I over-prepared.

I handled the climax poorly.  Bobby proved to be a pushover, and I failed to push the What to do with Moebius? question.

A Demon on a Mission

One thing that happened this game, and which has happened before, is when Maggie sent her demon off to possess Mr. Adams.  My wife seems to prefer demons that act on their own, and often uses them in this manner.  The result is that the action is happening off screen from the character.  Has anyone else experienced this as a problem?  What did you do to fix it?

What Now?

The way I see it she resolved her kicker, insofar as the whole Bobby/Mr. Adams/Moebius thing has been resolved.  There is lots of room, though, for further conflicts here.  I'm now waiting for my wife to come up with a new kicker.
Jeffrey Straszheim

Mike Holmes

Quote from: Jeffrey StraszheimOne thing that happened this game, and which has happened before, is when Maggie sent her demon off to possess Mr. Adams.  My wife seems to prefer demons that act on their own, and often uses them in this manner.  The result is that the action is happening off screen from the character.  Has anyone else experienced this as a problem?  What did you do to fix it?
First, frame agressively. That is, unless something else important is happening, frame right to the demon returning. Second, use this as an opportuninty to insert a conflict. That is, when the demon returns, make sure that this isn't the end of it. Maybe the demon did what it was told, but messed up a detail, and tipped someone off. Maybe the demon decided to take lunch instead, and lies to the character about having accomplished the mission.

Note, always have the demon happily comply with orders to go do something, so that there's no Will roll to command it. That way the Sorcerer has no real expectation that the demon has to do what it said it would. That way it's basically just loose on it's own recognizance, and could have done...anything.

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Some questions and comments, basically ramblings, but I'm curious or wanting to say something.  

(1)  Who got the upper hand in the Binding, Moebius or Maggie?  Also, what motivation caused Maggie to change her mind and Bind the demon herself?

(2)  If you want to, call for a Humanity roll for Moebius' binding at the beginning of the next session.  It seems to be a common suggestion around here, and I see no reason why it would be bad in this case.

(3)  Has the kicker truly been resolved?  The kicker, itself, seemed to be, "Moebius, a mote of light..."  Bobby's gone, but Moebius is still around, and I'm not sure if he's been RESOLVED.  Even if Maggie has the upper hand in the Binding, Moebius is still Moebius.

(3b) Lucio, as you mentioned, wanted Greg to bind Moebius.  Maggie did.  Maggie probably now has an enemy in Lucio, who might even try to convince Moebius to break free of Maggie's binding in order to lure him over to Greg.  It feels to me that there's still no answer to What to do with Moebius?

(4)  I agree with Mike.  Frame things aggressively when the demons go off-screen, and don't necessarily have the demon do everything perfectly.  It has its own agenda and Desires, after all.  (As an aside, that's likely going to be the most difficult thing for me to do when I finally run - I'm not very aggressive, even in the manner the term is used here).

(5)  Where is Magnus right now?  Still in Adams?  Will Adams continue to keep his mouth shut once Magnus leaves or is otherwise not in control?  Is Adams' consciousness even still around, or did Magnus' possession drive him out?  (I don't have the book with me but I seem to remember something about if there are more successes on the possession roll than the person's humanity...).  And if Adams is "gone", what happens to Greg and his job?  What happens to Maggie and hers?

(6)  Don't worry too much about the Angel/Sister Maria angle.  If that particular part of the R-Map wasn't well-explored, so be it.  I love your idea that, just because Magnus is elsewhere, that doesn't mean Angel's totally off the map, and both might show up to cause complications later.

Oh, one last thing:  What are the chances of getting a more extended write-up of the play session?  I'm a sucker for gaming stories.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Jeffrey Straszheim

Hi Alexander,

I'll take these in order.

1. Moebius won the binding with one die.  I don't know Maggie's motives exactly.  My wife was thinking that she wouldn't bind the demon, then suddenly she decided she would.  I didn't ask why.  Should I have?

2. I really hate to drop Oh by the way situations on players.  I will tell her about the mistake, however, so she knows what to expect in the future.

3 & 3b. I think it could go either way.  However, proceeding this way would feel to me like, uh, ... Put it this way.  I feel like something did climax in our session.  It was a weak climax, but certainly present.  So either we (1) continue play tying up loose ends, which would seem like dragging out the story; (2) end the story now and make a new kicker; or (3) continue this story driving toward some bigger climax.  I'm afraid that attempting 3 would result in 1.  So I'm punting the ball and going with 2.

I could have my mind changed on this, I think.

4. This is hard.  And the session would have been pumped up big time if I'd come up with a cool idea when Magnus left.  The thing is, I hate to arbitrarily hose the character.  That this is a mistake is, of course, screamingly obvious in retrospect.

5. Magnus is in Adams, and Adams is alive.  So yes, things will get complicated if Magnus leaves Adams.

6. I know.  However, I like Angel and Maria.  I'll keep them around and sooner or later use them.

I think we'll take a Trollbabe break this weekend.  Big gals with horns always cheer me up.
Jeffrey Straszheim


1.  I'm not sure if you should have asked her, but I personally found it interesting that she originally went "No," and then later said "Yes."  I'd be curious enough to ask.

2.  Understandable.  I'm not sure if I'd do any different myself.  Just thought I'd suggest it.

3.  If you feel your climax was worthwhile, great.  I just wondered if the Kicker was truly ended, and now you've answered that to my satisfaction  :)  Either way, Moebius is still around, and the questions I came up with (or other questions relating to that situation) might very well become interesting secondary narrative issues surrounding the new Kicker.  I'm interested to see how that turns out.

A related question along those lines:  How are Magnus and Moebius getting along?  Is there friction between them, or are they friendly (too friendly?)

4.  Hindsight is 20/20.  Honestly, I don't know if I'd have come up with anything either.  I am not at all confident in my ability to aggressively scene frame.  On the other hand, whatever happened while Magnus was gone doesn't have to be decided immediately; you can Bang! that in later, after you come up with something between sessions.

5.  Nothing to say.  I think we've both managed to be on the same page there.  Some juicy complications right there, I must admit.  Yum.

6.  Other than Magnus having been inside Angel at one point (and the connection to Maggie as a result), is there anything really connecting Angel and Maria into the R-Map?  Everyone else on the map seems to have a relatively firm connection to Maggie, or through others to Maggie, with WYRD (great name, by the way) as the focal point, but Angel and Maria feel vaguely... isolated.  But I, too, like them.  :)
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Jeffrey Straszheim

Hi again.

Regarding Moebius and Magnus.  My current thinking, which hasn't been commited to in play, is that Magnus is rather ambivilent toward Moebius.  He certainly is a threat to the comfortable situation that Magnus has set up.  On the other hand, he might be very useful in helping Maggie get into a position of more authority.  Magnus desires this very much.

Regarding Angel and his sister.  You're correct that they have little connection to the R-map.  Here is one thing I didn't mention before, but is important in context.  Magnus took Mr. Adams when he was being questioned at the police station.  That left Angel suddenly free inside the police station.  You can imagine what he said.  Anyhow, A couple of detectives did show up and ask Maggie about Angel and the weird accusations he made.  She played it perfectly and satisfied them.  (I probably should have mentioned this, eh?)  Anyhow, I plan to have one of the detectives get interested in Maggie, which is a suggestion Ron made in the original thread.  I couldn't make this work during the scene, however.  The conversation went in a different direction.  These detectives will show up again later, I think.

Thinking more on the detective situation.  I spent way too much time considering who knew what about whom at the expense of dramatic situations.  Balancing plausibility and drama is hard.
Jeffrey Straszheim


Let me know if I start asking too much.

So, Magnus is ambivalent towards Moebius.  I think that's kinda neat.  "Oooh, Maggie will get more authority; Booo, Moebius is cutting in on my space."  Very dysfunctional.  What does Moebius think of Magnus?

I didn't even know they were even AT a police station at any point in time; why were they there?  Yes, more detail in what happened during the session could be useful :)

The detective connection is useful, and could be used to draw Angel and Marie back towards Maggie, as well as being nifty in and of itself (I can see a detective's utility as a recurring foil - Maggie gets involved in some weird legal thing, the detective eventually notices her name, shows up...).  Plus, as you mentioned before, Marie might want to investigate Angel's accusations herself (and, steeped in Lore, she might realize more than the detective).
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Jeffrey Straszheim

I need to take better notes during play.  Here are the major scenes as I remember them.

1. Moebius at the foot of the bed.  Asks Maggie for help.  She refuses.  She passes a Humanity check.

2. Maggie at work.  Greg puts an ultimatum before her: "stay with me this weekend, or else."  She blows him off.

3. The police show up at the office and take Mr. Adams in for questioning.

4. Greg comes to Maggie asking for help in silencing Adams.  He doesn't say why.  She doesn't ask.  He is doing it to ensure his blackmail of Adams is not revealed.  Maggie agrees to help under the condition that Greg lay off on the relationship thing.

5. Maggie sends Magnus to the station, where he takes Adams.

6. That evening, Maggie and Magnus/Adams are at home.  She talks to Anne on phone.  Anne talks about their parents, but Maggie changes the subject.  They talk about what an ass Greg is.

7. Detectives arrive with questions about Angel.  Maggie satisfies their questions.

I'm not sure just when #8 happened.  It was sometime after #5 and before #9.

8. Moebius asks for help again.  She refuses again.  Soon she hears that Jen, Greg's ex-wife has been kidnapped.  I should have required a Humanity check here, but didn't think about it until later.

9. Greg shows up, in a panic about Jen.

10. Comming home from work the next day, Mobius attacks Maggie in her car, saying, "I've been ordered to take you."  She manages to stop the car, get out, and talk Moebius down.  He tells her all about Bobby, and she agrees to help him.

11. She gives the low down to Greg.  They meet to go confront Bobby.

12. They, with their assorted demons show up.  Bobby doesn't last long.  Jen is rescued, although somewhat less than whole.  Greg carries Jen out in his arms.  Maggie fails a Humanity gain roll.

13. Moebius, now without a master, begs Maggie to bind him.  She says no.  She says yes.  Lucio complains, but the binding proceeds.

I probably have something out of order, but that's basically what happened.  Please criticize my decisions.  I love the feedback.
Jeffrey Straszheim


(I feel like the odd duck out, being pretty much the only one asking questions, barring that one post from Mike; I hope you lurkers out there are at least enjoying reading it!)

The pacing of your story feels fine from here, but I am far from the authority to judge on such matters.  You're right - Bobby feels somewhat weak through your narration, but then again, the Kicker your player chose, plus the way you narrated events, still places Moebius as the primary cause of events.  I'm still not totally convinced the Kicker is resolved... Moebius still has a lot of potential, and really should be the focus, not Bobby.

In #6, does Mr. Adams have any family at all, wife, kids, or even a live-in girlfriend?  Anyone who'll miss him while he's staying with Maggie (as Magnus)?

In #12, did Moebius help Bobby, or did Moebius (continuing his rebellion from earlier) either stand aside or turn on its purported master?

So between #8 and #13, you really missed two checks?

#10 really sounds like the neatest part.  the sorcerer beating the demon down and wresting information from it.  plus the getting-attacked-in-car bit.

#12 how is Jen less than whole?  do you have any plans for this?  this sounds like something that could be looked into more.  Bobby, as we know, meddled enough to get Moebius; did he meddle with other horrible things and involved Jen?

#13 I'm still curious as to why Maggie suddenly said yes.  In fact, this just heightens my curiousity even more.  I'm also more convinced Maggie has officially found an enemy in Lucio...
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Michael S. Miller

Quote from: Jeffrey StraszheimWhat Now?

The way I see it she resolved her kicker, insofar as the whole Bobby/Mr. Adams/Moebius thing has been resolved.  There is lots of room, though, for further conflicts here.  I'm now waiting for my wife to come up with a new kicker.

Okay. This may seem curt, but I'm in a rush. What struck me about this is that I barely see you touching the Kicker your wife wrote at all. I mean, the entire session seemed to be about backstory stuff that you came up with, not her. The NPCs in peril we important to Greg, not Maggie. No wonder the "super dramatic thing" didn't happen.

OTOH, now you've got her in a good spot to really run with the Kicker she wrote (go back and re-read it w/o all the other prep stuff--it basically says that "I look at stuff, and people die!"). Now that the cause of th problem is bound to her, you can jack it up to 11, but have Moebius claim to be elsewhere when people drop dead. Make him really sneaky about it, even fawning in gratitude about her taking him away from Bobby. All the while he's trying to kill people that Maggie cares about. Like her sister. Or even Gregg.

Just a thought.
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Ron Edwards

Hi there,

I'm with Michael, I think. My apologies for not contributing more so far, but I'm having a lot of real life at the moment. Will post more later, next week.