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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: Daniel Davis on April 17, 2011, 05:03:35 PM

Title: [Poison'd] Hugely successful first session
Post by: Daniel Davis on April 17, 2011, 05:03:35 PM
I was a bit anxious about running Poison'd. I'd read a lot of threads in which seasoned indie folks expressed befuddlement. But, from reading those, I figured that there was really a single principle that's key to running the game: follow the fiction. I decided I'd just let the players say things and let *stuff* happen, and, when certain rules-specified stuff happened, I'd jump in with the rules.

It worked big time.

We had three players and me, the GM. I think only one of the players had experience with indie games. The others had played D&D 3.5 or 4.

Before I go on, here's the thing I want to highlight about this writeup: this was the easiest game (system) I've ever GMed, ever. I pitched it, got 2/3 of the group to buy in, and, from there, it was smooth (and violent) sailing. I only encountered a couple of hitches (when you roll for leisure, I'm not sure if the text means you add together all results period or if you add together only 1s, 2s, and 3s), but I think I resolved them.

For whatever reason, we used some internet pirate-name generator that used your actual name as input to create the names for the pirates. Everyone liked what he got. We had:

Tempestuous Terrance Williams
This pirate's player absolutely adored the concept of this game. He was sold from the third word of the pitch. He took almost all the sins and almost all the violence. His player wanted to debauch like it was going out of style, and he did so.

Bloody John Roberts
This pirate's player really got into the fiction of the situation. He came up with a quick backstory about revenge on his father; he drew our map unbidden; and he was always thinking with the fiction. For instance, in the second naval battle, he got us all to think about positioning strategy: we'll put this ship here so that it can absorb the cannon fire, etc. Now, he knew that those considerations are not mechanically relevant, but his enthusiasm made us all buy into it.

Pirate Bobby the Disfigured
This pirate's player was the only one who didn't dig it. It didn't have anything to do with the game as such. If it's not D&D, he just zones out. I'm not sure why since he holds the same interest for 4e and Old Skool Hack, which are radically different experiences. In any case, he took no initiative and contributed very little for the session. He mostly played iPhone games. But I don't think he was bored, necessarily. We played this game for yuks, and he followed the situation at least enough to realize when something hilarious or awful had happened, and he responded just like we did to it.

Unlike this report (, we did not suffer one bit from a lack of conflict or urgency, even though, as in that report, our pirates were cooperative. I'd told them up front that this wasn't a "party" game, that the situation primes them for conflict against each other. But the logic of the fiction never dictated intra-Dagger conflict.

And the Dagger: that reminds me. Everyone (again, excepting Pirate Bobby's player) bought in to the fiction and all its accoutrements. There was a lot of discussion over what the Dagger looked like, why we should choose one particular strength over another, etc. The best part was, when we were selecting a disadvantage for the crew, Bloody John Robert's player asked if we could create a disadvantage rather than choosing one from the list. I said sure. He said "Well, what if the problem is that the Dagger's like Moe's? The burrito chain? You've got huge employee turnover. I mean, we pull into port, and we're like 'Welcome to the Dagger!', and we hardly know anyone's name on ship." Everyone thought this was hilarious and apropos, and it's illustrative of the kind of concern for the fiction that we maintained through the whole session.

So first thing's first: the ship's carpenter (Bloody John Roberts, hereafter B, is his mate) drags the traitor Tom Reed to the deck. I read the intro text. And then I say "What do you do?'

Tempestous Terrance, hereafter T, just goes "I shoot him in the face."

I say "Anyone have a problem with that?" Nope. So he does, and I say roll Brutality vs Soul. He ties. So, following the rules, I say you do but to no advantage: it grazes his cheek.

Then I bring the fight. I say, you know what? I bet the carpenter, Jack Frost? He's got Tom Reed by the shirt, and he's holding a knife to his neck. And Tom uses the chaos to grab the knife, slit Jack Frost's neck, and come right at you, T.

I tell him he could have killed him just by spending 3 Xs, and there's a lot of vulgarity, which is great. So we have an uneven fight: knife vs gun. It escalates all the way (Tom got Brinksmanship 6), and ends with a victory for T. I say what happens? And T's player makes us wince. The shot's through the ribs; there's all this splintered bone; it's gross. It's great. And then he says he whispers something to him and throws him overboard. At this point, all of us were totally in.

I figure there's going to be a fight for the captainship, but there isn't. The players just decide to let B have it. (No one had an outstanding bargain about backing anyone.) So, at this point, I explain the captain's special rules, that the game's about fulfilling your ambitions, and that leisure's the only way to do it, and you get leisure by taking prizes. So B's player decides they're going after a prize 4. He specifies a merchant ship. So I create its stats, and we decide it's at this island getting a shipment of citrus and such, which just happens to be the specific Want the players start out with. If they don't resolve it, they're going to get Disease (scurvy) next session. The ship's called the Sand Dollar, and there's an anachronistic dollar sign after it because why not.

Now, at this point, I made sure to make an urgency roll for the Resolute. It had a 4 and a 6 on its card when they went after the the Dollar. This led to a really awesome moment.

After some engaging talk about what the island's like, what the Dollar's like, and some strategizing about how to take it, they sailed up under the mist to attempt to board the ship by stealth. They flubbed the roll, though; so I ruled that they had to fight the crew without much of a bonus. It went just fine, like all the fights they had. But that wasn't the point. Even though they were X-rich and weren't really, really threatened at any point, everyone was glued to the table. After the fight was over, I said the captain of the Dollar barricaded himself in his quarters, and what do you do? But, before they could answer, I rolled for Urgency again, and what do you know? The Resolute shows up.

Since the Dollar was already taken, they moved it as a shield between the Dagger and the Resolute and abandoned it after the fight of cannonfire at range. They won the cannon fight pretty handily, and, between fights T's player sniped (using 3 Xs) the Resolute's captain, which was a great idea since he had a high Brinksmanship. The next captain? Brinksmanship 3. The boarding was over quick. Since T didn't yet have sodomy on his sin list, he proceeded to get it enthusiastically, and B, who had sworn to deliver the Dagger to Rutherford, passed his Brutality vs Soul roll to execute everyone on board before they could spill his secret.

People are pumped about this game! It happened two days ago, and we're still talking about it. B's player is thinking of other people he wants to get in on the play group specifically for this game.


In closing, I guess I want to highlight two things, the first of which I mentioned already:

1. This game is a joy to GM. I felt like it ran itself, and I don't consider myself particularly competent at GMing on the fly.

2. If you've got players who are enthusiastic about the fiction, it can't go wrong. But that's the key.

Title: Re: [Poison'd] Hugely successful first session
Post by: lumpley on April 18, 2011, 05:04:19 AM