[Solipsist] The King of Monaco and a girl's undead father

Started by Gregor Hutton, July 28, 2008, 01:00:50 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

Gregor Hutton

At UK Games Expo I ran a long-format game of Solipsist on the games schedule. I had three signups, which was very good considering most other games that weren't D&D4e or Dr Who didn't run. Anyway, Solipsist got three players and they were curious and interested.

I had 6 pre-generated characters and I spread them around on the table and the players picked through  them studying them while I explained the principles behind the game. Solipsist is a game of characters who can change reality by their obsessions and are only held in check by their own limitations, the presence of other Solipsists or the antagonistic "Shadows".

We had a good dynamic at the table as a GM and players. Two of the players were a couple and were new to Indie games, the third player was younger than the other two and had become interested in Indie games in the last year or so. They were all very open with discussing actions and reactions at the table and we had more contributing to each other's actions than I've seen in most games at cons (where everyone just gets on with their own character and takes a passing interest in anyone else's). I think the mechanics of the game help this actually.

So, rather than pick through the game scene by scene describing what happened in the fiction I'll just pick out relevant game moments from play.

Overall, it was a success from my point of view. I had a number of Shadow Tokens to control my input and pace the game. Both those things worked very well. I was able to break the session into discrete elements with a measured opposition in them (I think we had 6 scenes where I was opposing with Tokens and a few other scenes in between where just fictional stuff was going on with the characters). The Shadow Tokens also allowed me a free hand for throwing in elements to the story. A couple of "threads" that I created were passed over by the players for other ones they were more interested in, which was very cool. A case of "here's opposition if you want to face it..." and the players choosing to face up to other things in the fiction first, then going back to the unresolved deadly elevators Thread. I threw in a character's murdered father, robotic train stations, murdering elevators, which became a deadly stennah stairlift, and a few other twists.

For finishing the game the Shadow Tokens also created a visible track of where we were in the session and heightened the sense of the climactic in the final showdown. Needless to say, a green light went on in my head when using this mechanic.

The players started off finding their feet in what they could and couldn't do. The initial changes were probing and slower, but once they got the hang of things the world had changed quite radically and effortlessly (it didn't seem strange anymore that one character was the King of Monaco -- I'm quite sure we'd all forgotten that at one point he'd been a school janitor, and he might be again to our surprise -- also he had changed Monaco from a Principlaity to a Kingdom without realising it). Also, a great point was later on when our female player announced that she had always been married to the King so that he could follow her into the morgue to see her (undead?) father (he'd attacked Jag's character earlier in revenge for his daughter murdering him). Delightfully she'd announced that she was also already married to the Jag's PC too and she used the soft and fluid changing of her marital status without fear. She had totalled up her Obsessions and felt on sure ground that she could pull it off and gain some Infestation in the process. Once inside the morgue she put the King in his place that it was definitely a marriage of convenience not for love as he desired, and in fact might not be a marriage at all. The fact that Jag's character hadn't recognised his own father in law made sense, since (a bit like 1984) he had in fact known it was his father-in-law he'd just chosen to deny he knew him at the time. There is no absolute truth (except for your own Obsessions and Limitations and that you exist).

The first change of reality in the whole game was key to opening up this fantastic world of altering perceptions. The scene was downbeat and low-key. It was in a hospital and the three characters had converged on the bed of a work colleague from school. There was the school janitor, who was a friend of the ill NPC and all three PCs were aware of each other. Interestingly the janitor wanted to heal his colleague as he couldn't stand to see them so ill. The other two PCs opposed?! Perhaps to see how the mechanics worked, or perhaps because their Obsessions and Limitations better fitted nature taking its course? Who knows? In any case the janitor failed, his colleague died and his limitations grounding him to an awful and cruel reality strengthened. "Thanks guys!" was the janitor player's reaction. "You're welcome!" was the reply.

But it did show the door to the players. So we can change reality, or not. Help each other, or not. Spend Infestation or gain it. Tick Obsessions, or Limitations, depending on the result. This early change also got the players looking at their character sheets and deciding what their Obsessions were and how they saw them in both narrow and wider terms. The same was true for Limitations.

Another good scene later on was when Jag's character was trying to get into the female character's house and she was ignoring him by baking a cake. It was a scene of decidedly "mundane" attempts to persuade her reality to notice his. None of the wild and outrageous, just pleasantly subtle as each player batted their obsessions back and forth on why they would/wouldn't notice him at the door/window/back garden. Then the King of Monaco arrived and his secret service team knocked in the front door!  It was funny and interesting that this crude intrusion washed over the more subtle scene. But soon the secret service men were being reined in -- they were soon fixing the door and everyone was having cake and tea. The garden gnome almost used as a murder weapon earlier was untouched of course...

So, in the end, did they win? Yes. The nefarious force of the Shadows was defeated though a few Tears were gained along the way. In an ongoing game these would be excuses for the GM to bring in more Shadows and to re-incorporate the elements that brought them about.

The characters changed, and yet they also didn't. I think the players found their characters in play and the Obsessions and Limitations followed the characters they were playing. So, by the end of the session the character sheets were showing what characters they were playing and how they were doing so.

I was nervous before running this game, actually. David who wrote Solipsist wasn't at the con and I wanted to do a good job of representing it. The game really did a good job of helping me out. The game we played out was at times surreal and really enjoyable throughout.


Sounds like it was great Gregor, and I'm glad you felt the rules helped you along strongly, as you know that was something that the last few revisions of the text really focused on. Having run a pile more since the game came out myself I've been pleased by how little of what's written in terms of advice I feel I'd tweak before a second printing.

I'm interested in the bit you mention about the initial failure

QuoteIn any case the janitor failed, his colleague died and his limitations grounding him to an awful and cruel reality strengthened. "Thanks guys!" was the janitor player's reaction. "You're welcome!" was the reply.

I get the idea that he was thanking them because it helped clarify how Limitations (and reality) help to chain down Solipsists where they are unfocused, is that right? In this game was that seen as something to be overcome, or a welcome thing that prevented excess?

You also mention that some Tears were gained, did you experience the feeling for any of the characters that they were surging towards their Visions too strongly? i.e. did any of the players seem to feel "woah! I should ease off and maybe fail a bit here or I'm going to vanish!"? Some short games don't seem to do this, and some do, so I'm interested in more data points.

Gregor Hutton

No, I think he was a bit stunned that he'd been thwarted by the combined will of the other two PCs on such a ...mean... thing to do. It was downbeat, a sombre and touching moment. The GM, me, got narration and the NPC died. His limitations got ticked and it satisfied the visions of the other two PCs. But it really was pointed for his character and he was a bit taken aback. The other two players were seeing how it worked, and after that point he could see how it worked too.

It wasn't about doing the "right thing" as a group in itself, but about doing it and following your character's vision too. I mean, that player's girlfriend had already embraced the fact that her character killed her father as he was getting too old (and I, of course, had the shadow re-animate him as a restless soul to confront her about it).

It was a meatier story for having these issues in game, to be honest.

I didn't find them getting wilder and looking for the awesome. Sure, there were times they changed big things (all the trains in the UK now run exactly on time, Monaco is now a Kingdom and always has been, etc.) but as much there were small things. The stairlift blew up at the top of the stairs, the door was unlocked, the TV was too loud to hear him come in, etc.


Thanks Gregor, that makes sense.

The key point is on p.31 "Changing Reality is all about what you get out of it right here and now." You are free to make massive sweeping changes to the world to get what you want, or even as a side effect of what you want, but you don't have too, little changes are just as effective at getting what you want, you redefine the world just as much as you need to get it the way you want at the moment.

Where I see Tears pile up is in two situations

(1) Players grab their special abilities (e.g. Flight) early on, and get a Tear for satisfying their Obsession

(2) Someone is determined to make a really high difficulty change (rather than letting it ride) and both push and overshoot in the process, which is two Tears. Sometimes they satisfy an Obsession too, which is really dangerous

Gregor Hutton

Oh, there was a point when the King of Monaco got his motorcade to drive him across town and the others just got the train that everyone suddenly realised he had satisfied his Obsession. When he got the Tear for that it was really an affirmation by the group rather than me as a GM that he'd done it. It was very satisfying as we all sort of looked at each other and the King -- then gave him the Tear.

I think the players were watching the Tears carefully and calculating how many they could "safely" have with their Limitations. We did the post-game stuff too where at least one of them (the girl with the undead father) got rid of a Tear by doing the satisfying a Limitation thing (p. 41 of the book). I think she visited her dad's grave?