*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
November 28, 2022, 09:55:50 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: 112 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: Shadows in the Fog playtest  (Read 16178 times)
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


WWW
« on: July 24, 2003, 07:02:48 PM »

Last weekend we playtested "Shadows in the Fog", by Chris Lehrich.  I was GM.  Players were Gordon Landis, Tor Erikson, Liz Henry, Bill Humphries, Jim Chokey, and Guin Boostrom.  This was also a mixer in that I was meeting Gordon and Tor for the first time.  

This session was half group character creation, and half a brief improvised scenario.  Prior to the game, everyone was asked to read the rules (version 1.2) and come up with a character concept.  They were also asked to think about two sets of questions: the Holmes-ian description of their character, and their attitude towards magic.  

1) MEETING
The game was scheduled to start at 1PM, but with everyone meeting it took some time to get going.  I had come up with the idea of having tea and perhaps cookies and rolls -- but Liz took this whole hog and made little cucumber sandwiches and turkey sandwiches.  I felt this added immensely to the experience.  

2) GROUP CHARACTER CREATION
We started character creation by going around to all the players and having them describe their character concept in whatever amount of detail.  With six players, this ended up taking around 45 minutes.  We then started trying to forge links between all of the characters.  We weren't sure about what order to go in.  Basically, we started with the most obvious links.  Then we made several passes through the PCs, looking for ones who were not as well linked in and trying to make links with them.  

This also involved creating NPCs, who were common links.  I made the suggestion of categorizing connections by community, defining three basic communities: artistic, academic, and high society.  This focussed some of the connection building.  We defined five NPCs here, I think, though one of them was dead.  We decided that Lydia (Bill's PC) was the widow of the twin brother of Humboldt Kingsley (Liz's PC).  

3) INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER CREATION
The next step was to make the character sheets and inner life of the PCs.  This was mostly more quiet scribbling and thinking.  I spent some time consulting with players, but I was also thinking and preparing notes for the scenario.  I knew in advance that it was going to be a social party, but not who was throwing it or what would happen.  

There was then a significant break.  I prepared a little more for the scenario during this time.  I had about five NPCs that I had prepared.  

4) CHARACTER RE-INTRODUCTIONS
We re-started by once again going around to each player and having them talk about their character.  This time, we were filling in details based on having made the character sheets -- in particular mentioning thoughts on magic.  

There was a notable point in here where I wasn't sure.  We had gone almost all the way around, when Jim was pontificating in character about his views on magic.  Gordon then jumped in to discuss this with him, which was starting to be an extended conversation.  I cut this off, though, saying that it should come later.   We hadn't finished going around to all PCs; Guin hadn't taken her turn yet, and we hadn't set a scene for all this.  So I had Guin take her turn, then I narrated an introduction which set the scene.  The conversation wasn't directly picked up on later.  

5) THE SCENARIO
The scenario was a society party hosted by Mrs. Stephenson Kingsley, mother of Liz's PC Humboldt Kingsley.  I set the basics, then we handled how each PC would be invited and come to the party.  

We then started on the party itself.  For the majority of it, this was a long series of conversations.  These sometimes went in distinct drift: i.e. someone enters into a conversation, someone drops out.  This made for some rules confusion, because the SitF rules refer to action scenes.  It wasn't clear here what the scene was: it isn't defined in the rules, though there are some hints that there may be multiple resolutions per scene but recommendations to not have very many.  In this case, is every shift of conversation a new action scene?  We weren't sure, and fudged it.  

There were many bits revealed in the party.  Mrs. Brookmyre-Kingsley (a radical liberal) and Mr. Severn (a party-going frat boy) quickly had major personality clash, but it was generally viewed as a positive and interesting conflict rather than a problem.  There was discussion of spiritualism and feminism, particularly over dinner.  I introduced a plot point: the elder Mrs. Kingsley (NPC mother of Liz's PC Humboldt) wanted to commision a portrait of her missing son Stephenson Jr.  Liz went further with that and narrated that she wanted Humboldt to be the model, being his identical twin.  Some of the characters also noticed that there were middle class people at the party, who turned out to be a spiritualist medium and her guide.  

After dinner, we moved into a more GM-directed scene, which was the seance arranged by Mrs. Kingsley to contact her son Stephenson Jr. -- twin brother of Humboldt (Liz's PC).  This then had a fair bit of GM direction, but after a point was taken over by player direction using the trump-playing mechanic of SitF.  

I narrated how the medium went stiff and then spoke in a voice which said "I am known by many names, but Stephenson is not one of them.  You may call me Tezcatlipoca."  After this, there were six trumps played in fairly quick succession.  The real kicker was that when the lights came up, Tor played The Devil and narrated that the medium was found with her throat slit ear to ear.  Immediately after that, though, Bill played The Magician to say that Dr. Westerbrook (Gordon's PC) was able to save her.  

We ended the session with the PCs waiting for the police.  Two players had to go, so we didn't really test out the rewards/XP system.  

-*-*-*-*-*-*-

Overall comments on the system:
There were a number of things which were unclear in the rules, but in general it went very smoothly and in general the players had a good time, I think.  The characterizations were all terrific, IMO.  During character creation, we discussed skill definitions, and about whether one could take a sub-skill/specialty.  

During play, there were a number of questions over trumps and especially the in-character interpretation of card play.  Also, as mentioned, a scene was never really defined.  Since the whole scenario took place sort of at one location (the party), with fairly continuous time, there weren't obvious scene breaks.
Logged

- John
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


WWW
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2003, 08:03:35 PM »

A few more comments,

Tor Erickson just wrote me and said that the game seems more geared to character and setting simulationism.  That actually took me quite by surprise, but on reflection I can see the sense of it.  I had focussed on trying to play the game as written while still being fun and responding to the players, and I hadn't really thought about GNS.  

Character creation doesn't have any Kickers, story-hooking disadvantages, or other such elements.  Instead, it concentrates on detail  (the Holmes-ian description) and then on building relationships.  But, as Tor commented in the game, there isn't a defined dramatic push.  While there were definitely some directed dramatic events in the game, a large part of it was chatting about Victorian society and issues over tea and cucumber sandwiches -- both out-of-character (during relationship building) and in-character (during play).  

Anyhow, I have a fledgling web page which includes links to Liz's and Bill's session notes, at URL
http://www.darkshire.org/~jhkim/rpg/shadowsinthefog/

Anyhow, I'm curious about anyone else's thoughts.  When I read "Shadows in the Fog", it didn't leap out to me as Simulationist -- but on the other hand I think my playtest was fairly true to it as written, and I see Tor's point.
Logged

- John
Gordon C. Landis
Member

Posts: 1024

I am Custom-Built Games


WWW
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2003, 01:32:45 AM »

Just a quick note for now (and again, my thanks to John for organizing and conducting this game - it's fun!)  . . .  one of my thoughts in the couple weeks since this playtest session, especially upon re-reading some of the the rules, is this: the game text has some fairly aggressive player Director stance focus, even including some Director power over other players' characters (!), and we didn't really play it that way.  Only the "trump" play of the Tarot cards really worked as Director input for us.

It may be that Shadows is hoping that giving the players that Director power will help fascilitate the emergence of some Nar story.   I think that it CAN help, but (as folks always say about stances) there's NOT a direct relationship between any stance and a GNS focus.

I've still gotta sit down with the game text and think things through some more - but I wanted to get that one thought out there,

Gordon
Logged

www.snap-game.com (under construction)
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


WWW
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2003, 01:59:08 PM »

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
  Just a quick note for now (and again, my thanks to John for organizing and conducting this game - it's fun!)  . . .  one of my thoughts in the couple weeks since this playtest session, especially upon re-reading some of the the rules, is this: the game text has some fairly aggressive player Director stance focus, even including some Director power over other players' characters (!), and we didn't really play it that way.  Only the "trump" play of the Tarot cards really worked as Director input for us.  

It is a little hard to tell, I think.  Two-thirds of the session was the character creation, which was pretty much player-run.  I put no direction into chargen except in suggesting ways to tie everyone together.  There were also a lot of assertions during the dinner party, though they happened smoothly because they were just a part of dialogue.  For example, Liz said in conversation that her PC's (Mr. Kingsley's) mother wanted him to pose for his late twin brother's portrait.  This is an assertion, although it wasn't explicitly labelled as such.

So on the one hand, we never stopped the action to use the Commenting mechanic.  On the other hand, the players certainly defined a lot of the background.
Logged

- John
Gordon C. Landis
Member

Posts: 1024

I am Custom-Built Games


WWW
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2003, 02:59:31 PM »

Hi John,

Yes, I think you're right  - we'll need more play time (as opposed to char creation) to say anything with much confidence.  But in GNS terms, I guess the realization that Dir stance does not equal Nar, but maybe can help Nar, seemed interesting in the context of what we did do, and what you related that Tor said about Sim/Char-Setting.

Gordon
Logged

www.snap-game.com (under construction)
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2003, 11:00:10 AM »

Quote
When I read "Shadows in the Fog", it didn't leap out to me as Simulationist
Well, FWIW, I commented in my technical review of the text that it seemed pretty Sim to me for exactly the reasons mentioned. OTOH, add in the mechanics for, what was it called, where you become one with the trump? Add that in, and you have a definite Nar slant, IMO.

That all said, there's no reason a Narrativist player would have any trouble playing that way. So, from that POV it could get the "Abashed" Narrativist title. I mean with all the occult and such going around issues are bound to come up in play, I'd think, in a way that would get players directly addressing them.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


WWW
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2003, 04:11:33 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote
When I read "Shadows in the Fog", it didn't leap out to me as Simulationist

Well, FWIW, I commented in my technical review of the text that it seemed pretty Sim to me for exactly the reasons mentioned. OTOH, add in the mechanics for, what was it called, where you become one with the trump? Add that in, and you have a definite Nar slant, IMO.  

Really?  That's "Assumption" -- the optional mechanics for becoming one of the 22 Roles corresponding to the Major Arcana of the tarot.  That's interesting, since that is an option I didn't care for.  It makes magic self-destructive, while to me the rest of the game is opposed to that.  To me, magic in the game is primarily positive -- an expression of self in a society where self is often suppressed behind masks.  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
 That all said, there's no reason a Narrativist player would have any trouble playing that way. So, from that POV it could get the "Abashed" Narrativist title. I mean with all the occult and such going around issues are bound to come up in play, I'd think, in a way that would get players directly addressing them.

Hmm.  As I understand it, being Abashed implies that the rules are incoherent but easily Drifted to a coherent position.  So would you say the rules are incoherent?  Could you explain that?  

I should point out some notable parts of the playtest game, in my view.  Jim had a great speech where he explained Dr. Coneybeare's view of the magic of philology, that the universe itself was fundamentally different in medieval times and through language we could explore that difference.  On another front, there was the discussion over dinner about the question of women being doctors.  There was pretty animated discussion with all of the PCs contributing.
Logged

- John
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2003, 01:08:10 PM »

Quote from: John Kim
Really?  That's "Assumption" -- the optional mechanics for becoming one of the 22 Roles corresponding to the Major Arcana of the tarot.  That's interesting, since that is an option I didn't care for.  It makes magic self-destructive, while to me the rest of the game is opposed to that.  To me, magic in the game is primarily positive -- an expression of self in a society where self is often suppressed behind masks.
And in that way the regular magic supports Narrativism some I think - very light touch. The Assumption end, however, makes every decision about it pertinent to the "dark" issue that you point out. Do I use it and become less myself, or not use it and let whatever happen? Loads of automatic Narrativist stuff there.

Quote

Hmm.  As I understand it, being Abashed implies that the rules are incoherent but easily Drifted to a coherent position.  So would you say the rules are incoherent?  Could you explain that?  
Abashed means that the rules support both but the ease of the drift means that usually play doesn't end up being actually incoherent so much as functionally hybrid. I think that's what you'll see here - a lot of Sim setting and situation, and the occasional Narrativist choice.

Which happens to be about my favorite way to play, BTW. I think that the possibility of Incoherence exists here, but no more than most games, and not something that I'd worry about particularly here.

Quote
I should point out some notable parts of the playtest game, in my view.  Jim had a great speech where he explained Dr. Coneybeare's view of the magic of philology, that the universe itself was fundamentally different in medieval times and through language we could explore that difference.  On another front, there was the discussion over dinner about the question of women being doctors.  There was pretty animated discussion with all of the PCs contributing.
Sounds dramatically Sim to me. Playing the characters and setting in detail.

Can I play? Hmm. Round trip that's pretty expensive. Damn.

Mike

P.S. first American female doctor was Elizabeth Blackwell who, IIRC, got her degree in 1850. I had to look that up for a CoC game I'm running tonight. :-)
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Gordon C. Landis
Member

Posts: 1024

I am Custom-Built Games


WWW
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2003, 02:42:27 PM »

Mike, you're exactly right about the lots of setting and character detail - these folks are very good, did their research, and Elizabeth Blackwell came up in our conversation (I believe my character - the doctor - responded with something like "Yes, well, our American cousins do seem to thrive on new ideas, don't they?  Of course, new isn't always better . . . ")  

When I went to treat the greviously injured medium, Liz played a card (Justice?) to have her sister Arabella - a trained nurse who wants to go to medical school - help me out very astutely.

The question of whether the "priority" in our play is on Sim or Nar is probably not answerable yet, but I think you're right that the rules text is currently easily Driftable in either direction.

Gordon

EDIT - I went and read the session summary - Arabella's assistance was actually set up even better than I indicated, as Dr. Westerbrock said something more like "but Englishwomen aren't clamoring to become doctors"  and was informed that he should add one voice to his desired "clamour" . . . .
Logged

www.snap-game.com (under construction)
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


WWW
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2003, 12:01:59 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: John Kim
 That's "Assumption" -- the optional mechanics for becoming one of the 22 Roles corresponding to the Major Arcana of the tarot.  That's interesting, since that is an option I didn't care for.  It makes magic self-destructive, while to me the rest of the game is opposed to that.  To me, magic in the game is primarily positive -- an expression of self in a society where self is often suppressed behind masks.

And in that way the regular magic supports Narrativism some I think - very light touch. The Assumption end, however, makes every decision about it pertinent to the "dark" issue that you point out. Do I use it and become less myself, or not use it and let whatever happen? Loads of automatic Narrativist stuff there.
Well, magic can be used in different ways -- hence the rules for Assumption are there but optional.  My preferred take on magic in SitF, though, is that using magic makes one more youself.  It does not rob you of your identity, but rather allows you to express your identity more fully than would otherwise be possible in a regulated society which judges you by your mask of class and position.  Now, this can perhaps be frighteningly chaotic, or show you things about yourself which you would prefer not to see.  But it's different than the Assumption rules.  

I think this is pretty consistent with how the basic rules currently work, but maybe some changes could support this further (?).  Players define the magic as a direction for their character, then play tarot cards for magical action.  The player choice will naturally tend to express the character rather than clash with it, I think.  But I'm not sure.  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: John Kim
I should point out some notable parts of the playtest game, in my view.  Jim had a great speech where he explained Dr. Coneybeare's view of the magic of philology, that the universe itself was fundamentally different in medieval times and through language we could explore that difference.  On another front, there was the discussion over dinner about the question of women being doctors.  There was pretty animated discussion with all of the PCs contributing.
Sounds dramatically Sim to me. Playing the characters and setting in detail.

Can I play? Hmm. Round trip that's pretty expensive. Damn.

P.S. first American female doctor was Elizabeth Blackwell who, IIRC, got her degree in 1850. I had to look that up for a CoC game I'm running tonight. :-)

Yup, as Gordon said, Dr. Blackwell spontaneously came up in conversation.  No medical schools in England currently (i.e. 1887) accepted women, however.  Both Liz and Bill apparently knew this beforehand.  I had no idea.  A great quote, though, was from Tor's abrasive industrialist's son Mr. Severn, who said "One can talk about women doctors in theory -- but I ask you this: If you needed an operation, would you want a woman holding the knife?  And that, I think, is all that need be said."  

(Minor correction to Gordon, Arabella was the sister of Mr. Major -- Guin's PC -- not Mr. Edwards.  It's on the relationship map. :-)

Anyway, I think I see the point about being "dramatically Sim".  But the line still seems very fuzzy to me.
Logged

- John
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2003, 12:24:12 PM »

Quote
Anyway, I think I see the point about being "dramatically Sim". But the line still seems very fuzzy to me.


Did the characters "reveal" anything about themselves that was not just character exposition? A player saying that his character believes that women in medicine are a bad idea is interesting, but probably not generating a theme (sim). If, OTOH, it came down to accepting medical help from a woman or not when his life was on the line, that crucial point of decision where we feel the emotional weight of a decision made on the spot (as opposed to a belief revealed), then that's Narrativism.

OTOH, not being there, I can't really say. Was the earlier exposition on the belief meant to be an insult? To create an alienation between certain characters, for example? It's all in the context. Is the player just portraying the part well, or is he attempting to move the plot forward with the statement?

Probably not helping, am I? It seems very clear to me, but I understand the "fuzziness". I'm just not sure how to combat it.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Gordon C. Landis
Member

Posts: 1024

I am Custom-Built Games


WWW
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2003, 01:26:15 PM »

John,

Uh, yeah, uh, Mr. Major's sister - that's what I meant :-)

(And to think, I'd just looked at the relationship map - smack!)

Mike,

It seems to me like SitF as a game, and the play style of this group (as much as I can tell from one session), is firmly in that fuzzy (until you can look at it right) Sim/Nar zone.  I'm looking forward to seeing what happens, both from SitF as a game and this particular playtest.

Gordon
Logged

www.snap-game.com (under construction)
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


WWW
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2003, 01:55:24 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Did the characters "reveal" anything about themselves that was not just character exposition? A player saying that his character believes that women in medicine are a bad idea is interesting, but probably not generating a theme (sim). If, OTOH, it came down to accepting medical help from a woman or not when his life was on the line, that crucial point of decision where we feel the emotional weight of a decision made on the spot (as opposed to a belief revealed), then that's Narrativism.

OTOH, not being there, I can't really say. Was the earlier exposition on the belief meant to be an insult? To create an alienation between certain characters, for example? It's all in the context. Is the player just portraying the part well, or is he attempting to move the plot forward with the statement?

I'm not sure what Tor was attempting to do.  He hasn't posted here since June (probably because of his move), but I could ask him.  

I'm somewhat puzzled by what you say about decision vs exposition.  To my mind, any decision reveals character.  A difficult decision in a melodramatic situation (i.e. his life is on the line and only a woman can help him) might make character more obvious -- but there isn't a difference in kind.  I tend to prefer more subtle revelation of character. In dramatic terms, the important question is whether the character is changed by the decision.  A difficult decision doesn't necessarily change character.  

As for whether it moved the plot forward...  I'm not sure.  I don't know what the plot is going to be in a larger sense.  I didn't have a large plan going into the session: I knew from the start that it was going to be a party.  During character creation I worked out some ideas for it, and I decided that there was going to be a seance trying to contact Mr. Kingsley's brother.  Later I settled that they would contact an Aztec spirit.  (Side note: during the party I excused myself for a bit to look stuff up in my GURPS Aztecs book about the appropriate spirit.)

Mr. Severn's comment did presage a later event in the session.  Arabella's amateur medical knowledge proved helpful to Dr. Westbrook when he was treating the slashed throat of the medium, such that Westbrook's skepticism was altered by her competence.  That makes it at least a subplot, so in retrospect he was contributing to a subplot.
Logged

- John
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2003, 07:48:31 AM »

Quote
I'm somewhat puzzled by what you say about decision vs exposition. To my mind, any decision reveals character. A difficult decision in a melodramatic situation (i.e. his life is on the line and only a woman can help him) might make character more obvious -- but there isn't a difference in kind. I tend to prefer more subtle revelation of character. In dramatic terms, the important question is whether the character is changed by the decision. A difficult decision doesn't necessarily change character.
You do get it then. The Narrativist moment is where the character might possibly "change", and the player considers that in terms of the plot. Not that he has to change, just that the decision to change or not occurs in some context that makes the decision into "plot" in that thematic conflicts are resolved (and new ones may arise). Revelation of something that the character just feels currently is just exposition. Which can be very important in setting up Narrativist moments, and might be considered Narrativist if done with that in mind. But mostly these things are done just to "play" the character. As such, they're Sim.

Clear as mud, right? In any case, Ron would say that I'm atomizing things too much, and that the "fuzzy" Nar/Sim hybrid assessment is actually the appropriate assessment. The most important point being that nobody is fretting over the nature of the decisions being made, and given the subject matter and rules (and players in this case), probably won't.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


WWW
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2003, 09:25:09 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
 The Narrativist moment is where the character might possibly "change", and the player considers that in terms of the plot. Not that he has to change, just that the decision to change or not occurs in some context that makes the decision into "plot" in that thematic conflicts are resolved (and new ones may arise). Revelation of something that the character just feels currently is just exposition. Which can be very important in setting up Narrativist moments, and might be considered Narrativist if done with that in mind. But mostly these things are done just to "play" the character. As such, they're Sim.

Clear as mud, right?  

Yup, clear as mud.  From your description, it seems that to be Narrativist, the player needs to consciously consider the plot and theme in deciding whether his character changes.  As a player, at least, I nearly always avoid this.   That is, I always try to play out just what the character feels currently.  Now, sometimes this involves change, simply because sometimes what character feels currently involves change.  On the other hand, often it doesn't -- my PCs tend to be pretty stubborn and set in their ways.  If it occurs, the change may not fit with anyone's plan for the theme or plot.  In my preferred style, plot and theme need to bend to fit character, not the other way around.
Logged

- John
Pages: [1] 2
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!