[IaWA] War upon Arkadia

Started by Alan, March 06, 2008, 03:41:58 PM

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March 1, 2008 at the Wayward cafe in Seattle, we played In a Wicked Age for about 3 hours. Players, clockwise around the table, were Alan (me), John, Ken, Pete, and Ogre.

As this was a first chapter, we talked and selected our oracle as a group and drew 4 cards.

Oracle: God Kings of War. Cards: 7S, 4D, 3H, 9D.

  • The guardian spirit of a foolhardy, naive, reckless, and impressionable youth.
  • The arrival of a hundred fearsome warships on an unprepared, prosperous, peaceful coast.
  • An unspeakable demon of atrocity and rage, bound in chains for a 1000 years, aware suddenly of a minute loosening of his bonds.
  • A much decorated company of the enemy's light cavalry.

After character creation, we used the Best Interest sheet I designed to create BIs. This worked well -- it centralized group attention and let us see the developing network. I'll attach or link to a scan of both our BI sheet and the map we developed.

For creating Best Interests, I found it helpful to encourage players to 1) choose something someone else can interfere with, and 2) name another character directly.


Atomus the Guardian spirit, Atomus (John)
Particular Strength: Entangling Fates
Best Interests to allow Arkamen to die; to see the invaders lose

Arkamen, the reckless youth, a cavalryman (Ken)
PS Daring Action
BI Kidnap Attrea to gain glory; stop the war

Tylorus, captain of the decorated cavalry (Pete)
PS Valorous Sacrifice
BI to find true love with Attrea; to utterly subjugate Arkadia

Karkimesh, chained demon of atrocity and rage (Ogre)
PS Incite violence through visions
BI to break his bonds; to see deadly conflict between Arkamen and an invader.

NPCs (Alan)

Attrea, sister to the Archon of Illium (who is held hostage in Hattusas)
PS Diplomacy [morphed]
BI to recruit Arkamen; to recruit the Demon for war

Thanis, ancient priest of the Chasm
PS Blood Rune Demon Binding
BI to release the demon; to bind the guardian

Gorgon, aged general of Illium.
PS Wisdom of War
BI to see Arkamen dead; to win the war

In a few seconds before play, I sketched a coastline, placed a city and came up with a few geographical names. The defenders were the Arkadians, with their main city of Illium. The invaders were using the island of Nota as a staging base for their 100 ships. We discussed which side Tylorus's cavalry was on and Pete said the invaders. Arkamen was one of his cavalrymen.


1. Arkamen has scouted far ahead of his unit. He looks down into a vast chasm that cracks the rolling hills. There a huge demon is chained to the cliff and a priest is flagellating himself in ritual.

Karkimesh, the demon of atrocity, senses Arkamen and, with his power to incite violence, urges him to attack. Ken decided Arkamen did not want to resist, but John wanted the Guardian to interfere, so we rolled a conflict.

The Guardian raised a mist to obscure Arkamen from the demon. The demon blew it off with a sulfuric blast from the chasm. The Guardian flew in and assaulted the Demon physically. In the end the Guardian was driven off.

Now a mounted figure in a cloak arrives (Attrea). Arkamen moves forward to get a better look. [I considered a roll but discarded the idea and said he identifies her.] Arkamen overhears her trying to convince the priest to loose the Demon (one of her Best Interests) so the demon can fight the invaders.

Now Arkamen charges in, throwing a spear at Thanis, the priest, and heading for Princess Attrea. [A new conflict between the Priest and Arkamen. The priest won by doubling in the second round and I described how Arkamen had charged past a squad of temple guards who had been behind a bend in the cliff. We negotiated his capture as the consequence.

2. [Considering a new scene, I thought the story needed perspective on the overall battle and invented a rich coastal town. I also asked the players to suggest a name for their invading force. They were named the Kekatoi.] Tylorus is in the rich coastal town of Sethon, trying to control the infantry and mercenaries who are looting. Pete described a speech trying to rally the troops who are trying to batter in the door of a rich home. I invented a barbarian mercenary [Ogre said "Thracian"] who harranged the cavalry officer for a popinjay. Tylorus had his horse kick the Thracian and we were off to conflict. [I made the Thracian on the fly and only rolled dice for him. When the Thracian started to win, I described the collective action of his cohorts as well, including them as part of the Thracian's success.]

Finally, Tylorus lost the conflict, and we negotiated that the mercenaries and infantry were tied up looting, but Tylorus and was able to rally his crack light cavalry and ride ahead towards unprotected Illium for glory.

[Conflicts up to this point had felt strained for some reason. Then John, who had been skimming the dicing rules, pointed out that we had been failing to reroll dice for Answers. I slapped my forehead. Pete suggested that we just proceed playing with the new rules rather than trying to reroll lost contests. The group agreed. A few minutes later, Ken asked to go on the Owe list in return for losing his first conflict and we agreed to that as well.]

[Pete then started a discussion of how to bring the groups together. In retrospect, I think it was not motivated from the desire to be a party but to be in tighter conflict with the other characters. Ogre said he already had an idea.]

3. Karkimesh (Ogre) visits Tylorus in dream, posing as a beautiful girl of 12, saying she's an oracle, and telling him of the horrible demon and the Princess. [No dice were rolled here.] Tylorus wakes and whips up his men in the middle of the night and they ride off toward the chasm.

4. I opened the scene with the Kekatoi cavalry spotting a column of temple guards and a cloaked horse rider leading Arkamen by a rope around his wrists. I asked Pete what Tylorus was going to do and he said try a surprise attack. Here I decided to skip another potential roll and just reframe the scene directly into a fight. I described the cavalry charging into the temple guards.

At this point Ken said Arkamen whipped the rope around Attrea and leapt into the saddle behind her, meanwhile Tylorus tried to reach them through the battle. We played out a conflict. It felt a lot better with rerolls for answers. This time Arkamen defeated Attrea and we agreed that he took control of the horse and galloped off with her. Tylorus won through the battle [and we agreed his men defeated the guard soundly] and went after them.

5. I took a moment to cut away to Karkimesh, still chained in the chasm. I described how he sensed bloodshed. Ogre said Karkimesh would try to break free. The priest Thanis opposed him. If I recall correctly, the priest doubled Gilgamesh's dice early. Ogre said he was fine with that. He felt the chapter was coming to a close, and observed that he was at the top of the Owe list and so would show up in the next chapter automatically. So he was happy to say the blood wasn't enough and Karkimesh was bound
until the end of the chapter. This proved a satisfying resolution.

6. We returned to Arkamen and Tylorus as they argued over Attrea. At this point Pete was playing toward his character's Best Interest to find love with Attrea, while I was working for Attrea to recruit Arkamen. She leaned in to Arkamen and whispered "kill him and I'll make you Archon of Illium" and used her Particular Strength of "Diplomacy" [I wish I had defined it better; I felt I redefined it on the fly here] to make him attack Tylorus

Tylorus snatches her from Arkamen's horse to prevent the secret whisperings and Arkamen draws steel. He hacks at the captain, while Attrea tries to punt him off the horse. Now John, the Guardian spirit decide he wants to use his particular strength to entangle the fates of Arkamen and Tylorus

In the middle of this altercation, I cut away again to describe how Gorgon, the Arkadian General has finally rallied the defensive forces and has surprised the looting Kekatoi infantry and Thracian mercenaries in Sethon, crushing them.

We cut back to dicing out the fight. Attrea failed to unhorse Tylorus and produced a dagger and tried to slit his throat, then he doubled her dice and we negotiated her hitting the ground and stunned for the rest of the fight. Meanwhile, the Guardian spirit caught Tylorus in his magic and then Arkamen. Because the Guardian won initiative in the last round and the rolls, Arkamen and Tylorus could not resolve their own fight. Now John negotiated for the Fate entanglement of the two chevaliers and the players lied the idea.

We ended the session with Arkamen and Tylorus flanking Attrea as they return to take command of Illium -- and the expectation that they will together face either the Kekatoi or General Gorgon's forces in a future chapter -- with Karkimesh also finally breaking free upon the world.

The End.


I really came to notice how the dice system worked best when players rolled, then narrated. This is opposite what most games do. In IaWA, each narration is potentially the beginning of a consequence negotiation. I like the way that conflict can start with simple statement of an action, but ends by eliciting what would be called an intent or conflict goal in another game.

John (the Guardian spirit) didn't act very often. At the end he said he wasn't sure he fully understood how bests interests worked. I think I'll take more time explaining them the next time I introduce a new player to the game.

I felt uncertain how to handle Particular Strengths that implied supernatural powers, like the Guardians or the Demons. I think John had trouble coming up with magical attacks in scene 1.

One thing I've noticed about the existing Oracles is that demons and ghost show up often. In the games I've played they usually are assumed to have powers, sometime insubstantial, sometimes the ability to possess, sometimes flight and magical powers. I wonder if we should be restricting these characters to more human-level abilities except where their Particular Strengths dictate.

All in all, however, a very rewarding experience.
- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com


Alan, cool!

Things like what powers ghosts and demons should have, I wouldn't sweat it. In the section about creating particular strengths the text says "normal human reach" or something; read it as "normal human (or whatever) reach." What's normal reach for a demon or a ghost? Well, the person playing the demon or ghost has some internal, intuitive sense of what, and will play it accordingly, and that's the thing to do.

Self-consciousness about how you "should" play demons or ghosts will mess up this intuitive sense, so: don't worry about it. They have forms, they have best interests, go.

I'm happy to answer questions, always. Thanks for playing my game!