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Well of Souls 1

Started by Peter Nordstrand, August 11, 2003, 07:27:19 PM

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Peter Nordstrand


I have just finished the character generation session for Well of Souls. I would love to hear some input from you people here at The Forge.

Well of Souls is a narrativist scenario for HeroQuest written by Chris "Bankuei" Chinn (mostly), with some additional stuff written by me. Most of it was written in public, in this thread. A pdf will be made available for free in a near future. Meanwhile, here's what you need to know to follow this thread.

Where? The bannerety of Trymirwal in the Kingdom of Seshnela. Seshnela is your basic feudal society with knights, barons, counts, and dukes ruling a large population of bonded peasants. The King and the Ecclesiarch have joined forces to unite the kingdom and enforce the strict Rokari religion. "One God, One church, One King!" Social mobility is a sin. "To aspire beyond the limitations of one's caste is wicked, with the sinner sure to be punished in the hereafter"

Narrator Characters
Basically, this is what I told the players before character creation.

Lord Eustef Fresleven: Banneret of Trymirwal is in a coma.

Alfan: Lord Eustef once saved his life. He is now a loyal supporter of the Lord.

Father Rance: Is the leader of the largest congregation in Trymirwal. He is also the spiritual advisor of the Fresleven family.

Lady Colette: Lord Eustef's Sister-in-law. They are very close. Probably in a relationship, but they are handling things discreetely, so there has been no scandal.

Sir Serge of the Crescent Sword: One of Eustef's vassal knights. He is a hard liner who handles the rough stuff for Eustef. He is loyal to his lord, respected by his peers, and feared by the peasants.

Guilbert Fresleven: Eustef's eldest son and heir to Trymirwal. Well liked by most.

Etienne: Guilbert's closest friend. Etienne knows how to make a good time for everybody.

Deliam: Etienne's father. A merchant who controls the important dye monopoly.

Raoul de Nesle: A merchant with big city connections. Deliam's competitor and rival.

Sister Josette: A young nun, and a major part of reform and improvement in Trymirwal. She has helped restore churches, feed the homeless, etc. She has a major crush on Guilbert, and he seems to be the only one who has not noticed.

Ecclesiastical Assessor Ratier: Arrived some weeks ago. Works for the bishop. Is here to assess Josette's work to decide whether she will receive further funding or not.

Hugo Fresleven:  Eustef's younger son. More quiet than his older brother.

Brier: A young girl who was taken in as a servant by Hugo when her mother (Hugo's nanny) died.

Sir Maslin: An old, old man, who was an advisor to Eustef's father. He is now retired, living on his own manor. He is a friend of Hugo, who is often invited to his home.

Xavier: Swordsmaster and trainer of the militia. He is also Hugo's personal swordsmanship trainer.

Trencavel: Leader of the garrison of Wells (the largest town in Trymirwal).

Players: Erik, Johan, Jesper. I have not roleplayed with any of them before, which is a little bit scary. I want this to go well and am not sure what to expect from them yet. All three are nice people, though.

I told the players that their heroes needed emotional ties with 3 of the narrator characters, and that it was important that something was at stake in the relationship. Here's what they came up with:

Player: Jesper.

Officially the youngest of three sons of the knight of Biche (a vassal of Eustef's). In truth, he is the illegitimate son of father Rance. His mother is dead, her husband is crippled, and Biche is presently run by his elder brother. Dacius plans to confront Rance, but is not sure what to say, or even why.

Dacius is Xavier's closest assistant, his squire, sort of.

Dacius is deeply and madly in love with Sister Josette. He wants her to leave her order, so that she can marry him. Perhaps he can get her ejected in some way?

-My thoughts:
Father Rance has an illegitimate son! This guy is very respected in the church hierarchy, and one of the player heroes has the ability to destroy him. Rance has always been aided and supported by Lord Eustef.

Dacius realationship to Xavier is rather weak, I think. Not much emotional ompf, but it doesn't really matter as long as the other two relationships are good. Dacius is probably dependent on Xavier for his sustenance, however. Yes, that's a way to see it. If his boss goes, so does he. I'll talk to the player about it.

Dacius' crush on Sister Josette is ... perfect. I never told the players that Assessor Ratier is in love with her as well. If this isn't Bang material, I don't know what is. Wait a minute! Xavier is a strong supporter of Hugo, while Josette supports Guilbert. Oh, what a wonderful mess.

Player: Erik.

Rickard is a peasant who dreams of a better place in society. He is a member of the garrison of Wells, and desires Trencavel's position. Trencavel, however, *likes* Rickard, and considers him a loyal and likeable fellow.

Rickard is also one of Xavier's best students, but he only plans to use the swordsmaster to further his own ends. Xavier has the power to influence Eustef, and in the end it is Eustef who appoints the leader of the garrison.

Rickard is Lady Colette's secret lover! This is yet another way for him to try to influence Eustef through the people around him.

- My thoughts:
Rickard is all about one thing: Become leader of the garrison of Wells. Period. I think everything I throw at this player should be in some way be connected to this central desire. The player obviously wants to play a backstabbing disloyal son of a bitch. I guess the question we should ask our selves is: How far is he willing to go?

Hm... is it too uncomplicated? If replacing Trencavel is all he really wants, his moral decisions are already made, right? Then what is left to discover in play?

Eustef's coma is a bit of a quandary for Rickard. He has been trying hard to befriend people that has Lord Eustef's ear. But what horse will he bet on now?

How much risk is he willing to take in order to get what he wants?

So old (40 something) Lady Colette has affairs with both Eustef and this young peasant boy at the same time. I pictured her relationship with Eustef to be one of genuine love and trust. This changes everything. Why would she do that? And with a farmlad? It is a tremendous risk. The scandal will destroy her. Is she a sex addict? Are there other young lovers as well?

I'm not at all sure how to handle this character.

Sir (name undecided)
Player: Johan

Sir N is a vassal knight who used to be Eustef's right hand man. Serge of the Crescent Sword accused him of stealing from Eustefand took his place in the hierarchy. Sir N hates Serge, and wants to rehabilitate his honor. Unfortunately, he has turned to drinking.

Old Maslin was the only one who protected and supported him when Serge "revealed" his theft. Maslin was the only one who realized what no-one else could see: Sir N wasn't stealing, he just didn't have the heart to make those tought decisions necessary to make sure that Eustef got his income. That's why valuable goods was missing from the treasury. Sir N, of course, couldn't let anyone know that he had a soft heart. Anyway, if it hadn't been for Maslin, Sir N would have been exiled.

Sir N is the father of Sister Josette. He sent her to a nunnery, to protect her from his shame. He just wants to protect her from all evil.

- My thoughts:
Oh poor sister Josette. Squeeze her, and the entire relationship map will be put in motion.

I think Johan nailed it with this character. I have nothing else to add right now.


Next I'll prepare the first proper session. Bangs! Bangs! Bangs!


/Peter N
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


Hi Peter,

One word: Yeesh!  Glad to see that the players picked up on the idea of meshing in their characters with the r-map without too much concern about "stepping on" background conventions. Rickard and Sir N are perfect, and exactly the sort of amazing "conflict engines" that I'd be looking for.  

The key problem with Rickard is that I'm not seeing emotional connections happening.  He has a goal, and he has an affair, but that doesn't really connect him with the NPCs.  How does he feel about Lady Collette?  How about 2 more people?  With Trencavel, is it animosity?  Or does he genuinely like him, but still wants to lead?  Push the player for more solid emotional connections, rather than just goals, you'll get a better feel for the conflict then.

Looking forward to hearing more,



I'd just like to let you know that after trying to get my girlfriend to try narrativist gaming for several months, it was this thread and the creation thread that sold her on the idea.

She's said she wants to give it a shot as soon as we get Heroquest, and she's already brainstorming up ideas.

You guys are some of my favorite people at the moment.
- Brand Robins


Oops, too late to edit...


Rickard and Sir N are perfect, and exactly the sort of amazing "conflict engines" that I'd be looking for.

to "Dacius and Sir N..."


Peter Nordstrand

Hi Brand,

Thank you for the gratifying feedback. I am pleased to hear that someone apart from me finds this useful.


/Peter N
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


Very useful.

Any idea when I'll be able to get my hot little hands on the .pdf version?
- Brand Robins

Peter Nordstrand

Hi folks,

The pdf is a little bit delayed, but if I haven't heard anything from Issaries by monday, I'll make it available elsewhere.


Here are my hastily assembled notes so far. The Bangs below mostly involve Sir N and Dacius. Rickard is a problematic character, as mentioned above, and I'm saving the discussion about him for a little while. Meanwhile I would really, really appreciate input regarding the Bangs.

Things to keep in mind.

- I'll try to aim the Bangs at the players. The point of a Bang is to provoke the player to act, and to make moral choices, right?

- Some of the stuff below are not really Bangs, but rather vague ideas. Should I try to be even more specific when preparing Bangs?

- I don't want to railroad. At all. I will deliberately try not to influence the players' choices.

- The following is just a list of things that has come to mind. I haven't spent hours and hours thinking about the appropriateness of it all.

- I have added stuff that isn't even mentioned in the scenario, such as the law that a legitimate ruler of Trymirwal must be a member of Saint Gerlant's order. I have no qualms about that.

- I have made use of Bangs and other material that are mentioned in the scenario. A lot of it is very, useful I think.

- There may be things below that are contradictory. That is okay. I will hardly use it all.

Power Struggles
- Serge's motivations
Serge acts soon as he learns of Eustef's illness. His first priority is to ensure the stability of the fief. He reasons that the best person to guarantee that stability is Eustef's legitimate heir Guilbert. Unfortunately the young brat is not quite ready for the responsibility, so Serge immediately decides to give him all the backing he needs.

Realizing that the situation can easily get out of hand, Serge tries to make sure that any possible internal military threats are disabled before they even appear. He immediately uses the surrounding fiefs as an excuse to send the most efficient military men to the borders rather than staying at home. (This happens way before any surrounding lord even hears of the situation in Trymirwal. In the long run, Serge's actions may cause a war with the neighbours rather than avoid it.)

- Bangs
Serge summons all fighting men and delivers the news of Lord Eustef's illness. He summarily declares that Guilbert is in charge while his father is sick. Serge orders Sir Maslin and Dacius' brother (knight of Biche) to patrol the borders with their men. He orders Sir N to lead the night shift (and even allocates some of his own soldiers) in guarding Lord Eustef's manor.

Serge uses intermediaries (perhaps even Etienne?) to try to keep Sir N drunk at all times. "Here Sir knight, one petty drink can't harm, can it?" If necessary he can then "discover" that Sir N is drunk on duty, and dispose of him in a suitably humiliating way.

Serge uses Josette to keep Sir N in line: "Your daughter supervised the building of this large stone bridge, didn't she? Funny how much easier it will be for the enemy when they can ride rather than boat or swim across the river, don't you think? How sad it would be if someone accused the innocent little creature of treason, wouldn't it?"

Sir N is a member of the Order of Saint Gerlant, just like Lord Eustef. According to law and tradition, all Lords of Trymirwal must be members of the order...
... but Guilbert is not. It turns out that Sir N is the highest ranking (and only) non-comatose member of the order in Trymirwal. Will he sponsor Guilbert's admission into the order?

Alfan refuses to give up hope on Eustef's recovery...
... and invites Sir N and the knight of Biche (Dacius brother) to a secret meeting to discuss how to handle Serges apparent coup d'etat. If Alfan considers Guilbert Serge's puppet, he may even invite Hugo.
... but the meeting is discovered by Trencavel!

Lady Noella
Lady Noella and her daughter Aimee arrives at a suitably dramatic moment!

Xavier enlists Dacius (his assistant) to protect and watch over Lady Noella, stressing that 1) it is important to make a good impression, and 2) try to keep the details of Lord Eustef's condition from her as much as possible...
... Lady Noella tries to ask, coerce or force information out of Dacius. She is neither below threats nor promises of rewards.
... Aimee runs away, and Dacius must bring her back. Aimee confesses to Dacius that she doesn't want to marry any of the brothers. Lady Noella does not want Guilbert or Hugo to find out about the incident.
... Aimee falls deeply and madly in love with Dacius. She does everything in her power to make him fall in love with her...or at least like her...or at least lust for her... or at least make sure that no-one else gets him either!

The Coma and the Quest
Dacius (?) encounters Rance leaving Eustef's room, blood pouring from his eyes and ears. (Perhaps one of the drops of blood turns into a tiny snake when it hits the ground and slithers away.) Rance explains that he was praying for Lord Eustef's swift recovery, when he received a vision of Eustef's soul captured in Hell, surrounded by evil serpents. "Eustef's condition is the work of the Devil!" he says before passing out ...
... this information is actually instrumental. Once the vision gets out, it is quite easy to figure out that Eustef's condition is related to the Night of the Bitter Scales. Father Rance, Old Maslin, or Alfan are good candidates for suggesting a heroquest.

Alfan "volunteers" a player hero for the heroquest, without even asking for his permission.

Loving Josette
Ratier tells Josette's father (Sir N) about one of Guilbert's wild parties, insinuating that the young heir to the throne is already a full-blown drunkard. (Ratier wants to turn Josette's father against Guilbert.) As soon as Guilbert does something stupid, Ratier makes sure that both Sister Josette and her dad (and everybody else for that matter) finds out about it.

Ratier proposes to Josette...
... who says she will think about it. She asks her father for advice.
... who says she will think about it. Ratier, who cannot wait for her answer, asks her father (Sir N) for her hand. Remember to make it clear to Sir N's player that  Ratier is both powerful and wealthy!
... Dacius finds out about it. From Josette? Perhaps even from Ratier?

Sister Josette gets into bed with Guilbert. Guilbert, on the other hand, is so drunk that he doesn't even remember the incident.
    Josette is distraught when Guilbert acts as if nothing has happened and ...
    ... asks Father Rance for advice. Either Dacius overhears her, or Rance tells him about it for some reason.
    ... asks her father (Sir N) for advice.

    If Ratier finds out about the sexual encounter between Josette and Guilbert, he ...
    ... asks Sir N for her hand, "to save her from dishonor."
    ... publicly accuses Guilbert of rape!

    Guilbert ends up in bed with another woman...
    ... and Dacius catches them flagrante delicto.
    ... and the other woman is Aimee.
    ... and Guilbert is again to drunk to remember.
    ... and Etienne decides that the secret must stay secret at any cost.

    If things get really tough, Josette tries to take her own life...
    ... Guilbert feels responsible and asks her father for her hand in marriage. (Possible reactions from Serge, Lady Noella and Aimee, and Assessor Ratier.)
    ... Ratier offers to take her back to her nunnery in [far away place], to give her a chance to rest. [/list:u]

    When (if) nothing else works, Ratier becomes physically and sexually abusive to Josette. Who will she turn to for help?

Father Rance
Rance's reaction depends a lot on the player, I think. I'll just have to go with the flow.

Is Rance aware that Dacius is his son? I'll have to ask the player about that.

Rance's can react in many different ways, whether he is confronted by Dacius or not...
... Rance denies everything, and calls Dacius a vile liar.
... Rance tries to pay him to keep quiet.
... promises to come clean as soon as this whole affair with Lord Eustef's coma is over.

Rance tries to get Dacius out of town...
... and convinces Trencavel or Serge to send him off to guard the borders.
... and accuses him of a crime he didn't commit.
... and convinces Guilbert

Alternately, Rance tries to make up with his secret son, even if it costs him his own career. He tries to help him in every way possible.

Dacius' brother (the knight of Biche) doesn't want a scandal, and tries to convince Dacius to let bygones be bygones.

Rance organizes a special ceremony to pray for Eustef's soul, but has a nervous breakdown during the ceremony. He accuses himself, loudly but vaguely, of being a terrible sinner.

If the truth gets out Dacius' crippled old father turns up, and challenges Rance to a duel to the death! Will someone interfere on Rance's behalf? On Dacius father's?

Oh I could just go on and on with this, but I arbitrarily chose to stop here.

Am I missing something important? Do the Bangs make sense? Yes, I know that a lot of potentially yummy stuff is left out, but I expect this scenario to go on for a number of sessions, and I figure I don't have to cover the entire mini-campaign do I?


/Peter N
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


Hi Peter,

A lot of these are what I call possible plot twists...waiting to become bangs, which isn't a bad thing.  What would probably be of much more use to you is to become more focal on the PCs, and instead of thinking of things "happening to" the PCs, think of things where the PCs MUST make decisions.  In the WOS scenario, not having PCs, or players to really get a feel for, its really impossible to design those custom bangs.

Some basic, useful ideas to keep in mind:

1) Choices, with no "clear and easy" answers

A lot of the Sir N Bangs seem to be, well, pretty straightforward manipulation.  What would be a moral dilemma is if Ratier talks to Sir N first, before saying anything to Josette, providing perhaps some serious incentives("The Church is considering turning Spring Fountain into a major center...."), and THEN later, Sir N fiinds out Josette probably is pregnant by Guilbert(who also happens to be "in power" at this point).

2) Secret Information is always a choice

Instead of NPCs discovering secret info(which can also be fun), when the PCs accidentally(or intentionally) find out some of the illicit plans or emotions going on, they are always effectively given power, and a choice of "what are you going to do about it?(if anything)".

Perhaps if you think more in terms of applying more direct pressure, and think of instigating more action on the parts of players, you'll get better results.  As it stands now, some of the ideas are very sequential, which means a great deal may or may not apply depending on how things run.


Mike Holmes

One of the odd things about Bangs is that they're often conceptually difficult to come up with, but most can be summarized in one sentence.

Character A is confronted with a crime and must either blame his good friend character B, or accept the consequences himself.

That's a bang. The player has no choice but to do something. But what to do is completely the player's choice.

Lok at what the NPCs want from the PCs. The bang can be generically written: NPC X comes to PC Y, needing Z; Y can only provide it via A or B or C.

None of which (A, B, and C) being things which suggests itself more than any of the others. The results of Bangs will make other bangs obvious. If a player crosses one character, that character will want revenge. Meaning that the first character will have to decide if he should kill the second, or evade him. That sort of thing. Play just evolves from there without the need for any pre-plotted events. Just the occasional bang if/when things get slow.

Probably need less than 3 per PC, depending on how well you can make them such that the outcomes will have to affect the other PCs and NPCs.

Oh, you are also aware that these sorts of scenarios often will end up with PCs against PCs, right? Drama dictates that if a PC has some motive that get's messed with in play by another PC, that they'll likely come into conflict. This is completely expected, and even encouraged in this sort of play. Players can play away from it if they like (they have the power), but they don't have to and PC v PC conflict is common.

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Peter Nordstrand

Oh crap ... *mumble grumble *... yeah, you are both right [insert profanity of your choice] ...

Let's do this again. One player hero at a time. Now this is what I'll do. I'll list all of the hero's relationships, except for followers (never mess with a follower, they belong to the player just like any other ability). Then I'll list his goals. Then I'll list a couple of Bangs, as well as any information necessary to comprehend, justify, or rationalize the Bang.

Father of Sister Josette
Indebted to Sir Maslin
Rival of Sir Serge

Knight of Stalos
Member of the Congregation of Stalos
Vassal of Lord Eustef
Member of the Household of Great Fire (i.e. the order of Saint Gerlant)

Goals: Protect his daughter. Regain his good reputation and seek vengeance on Sir Serge. *Note: The reason why Sir N sent his daughter Josette to a convent was to help her get away from his disgrace. The idea of protecting Josette from his own dishonor was explicitly mentioned by the player.

A Secret Plan
Sir N overhears Serge's plans.

Serge's plans? Serge (who is backing Guilbert) tries to make sure that any possible internal military threats are disabled before they even appear. He uses the potential threats from the surrounding fiefs as an excuse to send the most efficient military men to the borders rather than staying at home. Serge is aware that this may very well make the neighbors feel threatened, but is willing to take that risk. And if an outside threat cannot unite Trymirwal, then nothing can ...

A Tempting Offer
Lord Oleg de Boor (see below) comes with a tempting proposal: "Refuse to sponsor Guilbert's membership in the Household of Great Fire, and you will be amply rewarded." Lord Oleg also offers to lend substantial military support, should Sir N decide to make a bid for the throne himself...

New Info: Guilbert cannot become the legitimate ruler of Trymirwal without joining the Household of Great Fire. Sir N has the power to delay Guilbert's rise to power simply by refusing to sponsor the young mans membership in the order.

Lord Oleg de Boor is the rich and powerful overlord of a nearby fief. He now sees the opportunity to get his hands on the riches of Trymirwal. I haven't decided exactly where his fief is, but that is a hardly a problem. Yes, I made him up five minutes ago.

A Marriage Proposal
Assessor Ratier asks for Josette's hand, offering wealth and reputation in return.

Complication: Josette has already slept with Guilbert. Guilbert, however,  was so drunk that he doesn't even remember the incident.

Maslin Asks for a Favor
Old Maslin asks Sir N to befriend Etienne, and to report anything and everything he sees and hears back to Maslin.

- A Secret Plan
I'm considering making this the first Bang. Serge and/or his men have arrived at Sir N's manor to tell the news about Eustef's coma. They find Sir N drunk and asleep, and start talking. Sir N awakes (with a horrible hangover) and hears what they are saying. I'm not entirely convinced that this incident will instigate action on the part of player, but I'm willing to give it a shot. At least the player will know what's going on. :-)

- A Tempting Offer
In my humble opinion, this is a choice with no clear and easy answer. What I like about it is that it gives a lot of power to the player, should he choose to accept it. As written, Sir N is nothing but a powerless looser and has-been. I'm offering him a chance to play with the big boys again, in return for a little treason. ;-)

- A Marriage Proposal
This is pretty much the scenario suggested by Chris, above. Except that I don't think Josette is pregnant. Why? Because I want to save the pregnancy angle for Lady Colette! More about that when discussing Rickard.

- Maslin Asks for a Favor
Befriending Etienne involves participating in a lot of parties. Parties mean a lot of drinking. Sir N is an alcoholic. Maslin is actually asking for a great deal, and Sir N's player will realize that. Thus the player knows that if he chooses to help Maslin he will be forced to make a lot of troublesome rolls using his Drunkard 10W as a resistance.

- Questions
Is this really enough for one session (3-4 hours of play, that is)? I have no intention of completing one Bang before bringing on the next. On the contrary, as soon as things start to happen in one area, I plan to throw in a new and unrelated Bang to spice things up. Am I misguided?

Are A Secret Plan and Maslin Asks for a Favor too weak?

If Sir N turns down Oleg's offer, does that lead to a dead end? Is that a problem? Do I need to think more about that right now, or shall I make it up as I go? Hm... well, it is always possible that the player uses the information gained from this Bang for some other end, right?

What am I missing? Am I doing everything wrong?

Note to long time Gloranthan fans: Since none of this is intended for publication, I don't care about contradicting official Gloranthan material. While I might check out what's published, I do so for inspiration, nothing else. Right now, this is my game. And when we play, it will be the other players' as well.
Quote from: Mike HolmesOh, you are also aware that these sorts of scenarios often will end up with PCs against PCs, right? Drama dictates that if a PC has some motive that get's messed with in play by another PC, that they'll likely come into conflict. This is completely expected, and even encouraged in this sort of play. Players can play away from it if they like (they have the power), but they don't have to and PC v PC conflict is common.

Yes, I realize that. But I don't really care. :-) Since party play is the norm, it is likely (but not certain) that the players will avoid conflicts with other players. Which is equally fine by me. I will not treat the player heroes as a party, however. Instead I plan to set up separate scenes for each player and then cross-cut hysterically between them. I'll try to throw so much action their way that they will be grateful to get a break from the spotlight. That's my intention anyway.


/Peter N
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


Hi Peter,

Much better, but I think you need to remember the two keywords for good Bangs: Pressure and Drama.  Your concerns about Secret Plan and Maslin's Favor are reasonable, because the pressure isn't high.

Let's come back to the character concept for Sir N.  Shame and Honor.  If you want to apply pressure, increase the amount of humiliation or debasement he suffers, most importantly in front of Josette, perhaps with her catching a fair amount of backlash as well.  To really up the drama, have her be totally resentful of Sir N, perhaps for the having her sent away on top of all the stuff going on right at that moment.

If you totally trash Sir N's reputation, and even go as far as destroying his position, suddenly, stuff like a Secret Plan become much, much more appealing.  You have to be headed towards rock bottom for the dark hand of temptation to mean anything.

Maslin's Favor doesn't imply any moral decision to it, there's no incentive to NOT help him.  Now, if Maslin asked for something, well, more heinous, it could have a place.  

Consider if Maslin asked something serious, such as, "Look, we've got 2 fiefs united against us, and Serge has thrown half of our best men into the stockades or in suicide positions solely out of fear!  If we don't do something, all of Spring Fountain will fall!  Let Guilbert have an "accident" and we might be able to save the day with Hugo!"

And of course, should Sir N choose to partake in such an action, Josette probably will find out...

Remember, push everyone to desperation and drastic decisions, even your NPCs.  It's what makes the drama go.


Peter Nordstrand

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your helpful advice.

QuoteIf you want to apply pressure, increase the amount of humiliation or debasement he suffers, most importantly in front of Josette, perhaps with her catching a fair amount of backlash as well.  To really up the drama, have her be totally resentful of Sir N, perhaps for the having her sent away on top of all the stuff going on right at that moment.

If you totally trash Sir N's reputation, and even go as far as destroying his position, suddenly, stuff like a Secret Plan become much, much more appealing.  You have to be headed towards rock bottom for the dark hand of temptation to mean anything.

And how do you propose I do this without railroading? Two ways comes to mind:
    1. Establish *before actual play* how darn humiliated Sir N is. This requires the players acceptance (which probably wouldn't be hard to get ... he seems to want exactly that).

    2. Ignore that particular Bang for the time being. Instead follow the general principles of a) apply pressure everywhere, and try to make everyone (NPCs as well as player heroes) desperate, and b) empower the player by giving him info. The result will quite possibly be a pretty powerful Bang. ... Hm, I like this better. [/list:u]
    You are absolutely right regarding Maslin's favor, of course. You know, I've been playing rpgs for over twenty years now, and some of the habits are really hard to break even when I've identified them. Story Now goddamit!

    So, what about this: The first Bang takes place in an abandoned old ruined stone tower just north of Wells. I tell the player that his character has been ordered there by Serge, ostensibly to guard against foreign intrusions, but that the obvious true reason is to get him out of the way. Assessor Ratier shows up and asks for Josette's hand.

    Then I keep
Maslin's Favor (revised according to your suggestions) and A Tempting Offer at hand for later.

Now does this seem like enough prep to you? The way I see it, with these three Bangs, almost the entire R-map is involved in one way or the other. Or do I need to shape up the Bangs further, making sure that they involve even more NPCs?

All the best,

/Peter N
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


Hi Peter,

#2 is definitely the way to go.

As far as finding ways to put pressure on, and humiliate Sir N....
Sir N has already been accused of, and found guilty of incompetence, he is drinking, and his daughter either is already in, or about to jump into a forbidden affair...and his biggest rival is coming into power....

Just have Serge and/or his underlings act extra self-righteous, smug, and all around snarky, handing out smart comments, unreasonable tasks, etc.  Just like any boss or supervisor who has ever gotten on your nerves.

As far as Bangs, I usually don't write up a lot of Bangs, but make sure I have clear motivations and personalities for my NPCs.  As I've stated over in my columns, I set up personalities who are likely to conflict, and draw up perhaps a couple possibilities for each:

Sir N- humiliation?  Placed in Danger?  Temptation for dirty work?
Josette- affair?  pregnant?  hates father?  caught between Ratier, Guibert, and Sir N?
Serge- paranoid? too draconian?  initiates the problems he seeks to avoid?  Steps on Guilbert's ego too much?

Etc.  That's the sort of prep I do, which is pretty light, but since I have a good feel for the character's personalities, I know where tension and conflict is likely to erupt, and push for it.  If you deign a couple of characters as jerks, whether they're intentional or not about it, you can use them as pressure devices to keep the drama going.

For example...what if Guilbert does get Josette pregnant, and mistreats her?  What then?  What if she kills herself in shame?  What then?

Just some ideas,


Mike Holmes

A note on Railroading. It's only railroading when it's not good. People have some idea that the Narrativist GM never uses any force. This is patently false. To an extent, all a Narrativist GM does is force characters into situations.

The key isn't restraining yourself from doing that. The key is restraining yourself from selecting the outcome of the Conflict which you have driven the characters into.

In a Gamist game, the GM will spring ambushes on the characters. Is this railroading? No, because the point of play is to make decisions about such challenges. The players want the GM to do this.

In a Narrativist game, the players want the GM to hose them as well. They want to be put into a situation where it's their decision about the situation that the GM has had a hand in creating that matters to where the plot goes next.

In fact, one of the best Narrativist techniques uses overwhelmig amounts of force. That's agressive scene framing. Instead of:

GM: You hear that there's a fight down by the corral.
Player: I guess we go chaeck it out.

Instead of that the Narrativist does:

GM: Cut to your character in the middle of a fight. He heard there was a fight down at the corral, and came on down. When he got there he saw that his brother was involved, and jumped in on his side.

Now, you ask, how have I left it to the player to resolve anything?

GM: As your character looks down at one of the fallen opponents, he sees that it's his good friend. He simultaneously notes that his brother is in trouble. Who does he help?

See, what you do is to assume that the character will do anything that's perfectly in his nature. Just narrate all that you're fairly sure about, right up to the point that the player has to make his decision.

Now the example was for impact, and a bit extreme. But the principle remains true. Simply move the story up to the next point of conflict. Then let the player decide how to resolve it.

That's Bangs. Bangs get you past all the intermediate action that the player wouldn't really have a choice about anyhow (if they hear about a fight, do you really want it to be an option not to go?). And move the story to where the character has to make his decision. Using tons of force.

Again, real Railroading isn't simply the use of Force. It's the use of Force to make the sort of decisions that the players are interested in making. As long as you avoid that, you can use as much Force as you want.

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Ron Edwards

Hi there,

What Mike said.