[The Mountain Witch] - Forge Midwest '08 - More Cross Dressing

Started by Nev the Deranged, April 16, 2008, 09:34:26 PM

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Nev the Deranged

The TMW game on Sunday was out of control. We had eye-gouging (I don't feel a TMW game is complete without eye-gouging, since the game where Alexander lost his), and, as Willow's GM notes put it, "More Cross Dressing". And I got to trot out the Norseman Samurai idea I'd wanted to do for a while, even if I didn't play him as well as I'd hoped.

The game started (and started, and started) with multiple additions and tradeouts of players, until we had (forgive me if I forget anyone), Jae, Juli, Dan, Tim K., myself, and Tobias... I think that's it. There was some interesting discussion with Tobias afterward about the differences between TMW and various forms of gaming in Sweden... I'm not sure if anything concrete came of it, though. I think we all may have done a lot of talking past each other without actually engaging on the same page. It was interesting nonetheless.

During the game there was an interesting running thread about Jae's character's transvestisism (is that a word? it is now). Willow later brought in a samurai named Ryoko who presented as female, but was in fact male, as a love interest for Tim's ronin. There was a lot of IC contention over Ryoko's fate after it came out that she was a former servant of O Yanma, but her final scene, in which several ronin held off the Witch's minions while others helped Ryoko commit seppuku, was powerful. Especially when the Witch tried to claim her soul- her female soul- and Dan's Shinto priest cleansed her and prayed her into Heaven. I'm not ashamed to admit I got a little misty there.

There were plenty of other twists and turns (I still wonder what Princess Koihime was doing with the chained oni... and I'm totally stealing the "chained singing NPC" bit for my own game, Willow). The finale was pretty brutal. Willow completely (and wisely) fucked me over by making O Yanma a frail old man who was afraid to die, rather than the serenely puissant master of sorcery I've come to expect. Torn between upholding my samurai honor by completing my mission, and the warrior's honor espoused by my brother Bjorn (an ally of the Witch, naturally) that forbade killing a helpless geriatric... I went with the honor of my adoptive people. It sucked having to make that choice- in the best possible way.

Just like the choice Tim gave me when I attacked his ronin- he had to leave, so he decided I was definitely going to kill him out of the game- the roll was to determine whether he picked up his sword and died honorably, or died on his knees like a coward. Except, of course, what it was really about was whether I would strike down an unresisting foe and lose face before my brother, or strike down a fellow warrior and earn my brother's approval. I've gamed with Tim a few times now, and he's a right bastard when it comes to that sort of thing- no surprise from the guy who wrote Hero's Banner.

There was a lot more to the game that my memory is fuzzy on... I was tired then, and after coming home and working a few 12 hour days, I'm not much more coherent now. Hopefully others will speak up about their experience.

Forge Midwest '08 was a great experience.



It really was a great game, though I feel like I stepped on Tim's toes a couple of times during it and I'm not happy with that.

The first was the scene with Ryoko.  I agree it was very powerful and I loved the direction it took.  When Jae said, "And her soul is a woman's!" it just clicked in my head and was suddenly perfect.  That scene actually was the one that finally made my character for me who, until that point, I had no firm ideas about.  It was at that point that I decided he was there to safeguard the spirits and honor of the other companions and to betray the witch.  Unfortunately though, I pushed so hard for the outcome I wanted to see in the scene I feel like I might have walked over what Tim wanted out of it.  In retrospect, I think I should have stepped back for a second and asked if he was cool with the way things were going.

The second was the scene in the witch's court.  Tim only had 10 minutes before he had to leave (or so he said, I think he left about 45 minutes late!) and I had Sugino render him helpless.  That also had the effect of taking Tim, the player, out of the game during those crucial, climactic 10 minutes.  Willow and I picked up on the problem shortly after and got him back into the game, but I think I could have worked out a more considerate alternative.



One thing that's interesting about the Mountain Witch is that the Witch is always going to be there- he's in the title of the game after all, he's a constant, but every time he can be different.  Generally, I play the Witch to throw the trust/betrayal network into stress- if people have been tightly at each other's throats, I portray the Witch as clearly fiendish and evil and consorting with demons and someone who needs to die.  On the other hand, if the company has been more or less a cohesive unit, I portray the Witch more sympathetically.  Sure he's an evil sorcerer, but that doesn't mean we can't all solve this reasonably, right?

Another thing about the Witch is that he's not the most badass person in the room.  (That's going to be the player characters.)  He's the guy that knows everything.  He knows all the character's Dark Fates and all their dirty secrets, and is perfectly happy to torment the player characters and drop information, especially if it leads to them killing each other (or themselves) instead of him.

So, with the exception of Tim's character, everyone was pretty much getting along well, and the untrustworthy one had been subdued.  I made the Witch a monk to highlight Tobias's issue (his niece ran away to join religion!) and the Tobias/Daniel Hates-Monks/Is-A-Monk conflict.  With all the still-alive-important-NPCs in the room, there was pretty much every potential axis of conflict right there.  Which led to the shit hitting the fan in a way that was climactic, even beyond the typical standards I've come to expect from this game.

Also, the Witch's death was a seppuku.  It happened something like this:

Jae:  If I win, he kills himself.
Me:  Okay!  If I win, he convinces you to admit the horrible truth (that she's been disguised as a man all this time- something the Witch has been trying to draw out.)
Jae:  Now those are some Stakes!  Let's roll.

First time I've seen the Witch kill himself, but certainly appropriate, and with interesting potential consequences.

Nev the Deranged

Oh, man, I had totally blanked on the Tobias vs. Daniel plot thread... that was also powerful. I am pretty disdainful of religion myself, so I really sympathized with Tobias' character's motivation on the one hand- to not let his daughter's life be poisoned by a religious upbringing. At the same time, my character was a faithful Buddhist who had great respect for Dan's character and had backed him up throughout the journey. Also also, my character had just met his own niece, (Princess Koihime, the Witch's daughter(!)), and I felt a strong pull to support the family bonds of others that had been denied to my character growing up so far from the land of his birth. It was a tangled, nasty mess.

I think Tim managed to come back for a strong finish, so I wouldn't worry too much, heh.

So, we had religious issues, gender identity issues, feminism issues, culture clash, self-mutilation, multiple ritual suicides... this was one intense game.

Where the hell has Tim been lately anyway? And why the hell is this game out of print?

Tim C Koppang

I know that I sort of rushed the game a bit at the end, but I was still satisfied with my character's ultimate demise.  He did, after all, manage to turn 180 degrees from a selfish backstabbing jerk into someone of humility, albeit in the afterlife only.  While Daniel's character knocked my guy out, I wasn't actually too worried about being excluded from the game. I was confident that I would be able to come back in somehow.  Once I did, I think I was able to heavily influence Daniel's character's fate as well as Dave's.

What amazed me is how heavily interwoven all of our character became at the end. Whether we had previously betrayed or blindly trusted one another earlier in the game, all of our stories couldn't help but influence each other's in the end.  I can only imagine what the game's conclusion had come after the full five or six round's Willow had originally planned. I think the final scene would have been all the more interwoven because we would have had all the more time to develop relationships with the other characters.  As it stood, I only really had a strong relationship with a couple of characters.

Tim C Koppang

Wow. My previous post is a rambling mess of grammar errors.

Quote from: Nev the Deranged on April 16, 2008, 09:34:26 PM
Just like the choice Tim gave me when I attacked his ronin- he had to leave, so he decided I was definitely going to kill him out of the game- the roll was to determine whether he picked up his sword and died honorably, or died on his knees like a coward.

Dave, you forgot to mention that my character specifically dropped his sword in the moment before you were about to strike him down. The best part about the entire exchange was that I didn't actually drop the sword to screw your guy over. I dropped it because of my interactions with Daniel's character. By gouging out his eyes, Daniel's character managed to convince my guy that honor and humility was better than arrogance. My guy decided that the only way to repent was to die, and so dropped his sword. Only then did your guy come after him. It was a wonderfully serendipitous example of timing.

Now if I could only remember all of the characters' names...

Nev the Deranged

I did forget that part, yeah. That made it especially tragic, because just as your ronin repented his betrayal, I was like "time to die!". THEN the extra layer of tension on top of that.