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Author Topic: [Mud Dragon] "I am Ancient Belly, Ruined of Parades!"  (Read 1262 times)
Alexis
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« on: December 27, 2010, 07:30:54 PM »

So yesterday night I got Ben and his roommate Jonathan R. to play Mud Dragon with me. Ben ran it, and Jon and I played mud dragons. Character creation was quick and easy-- a couple of rolls and we had determined that I was Ancient Belly, and Jon was Stone Butt. I announced that Ancient Belly was convinced he was Stone Butt's grandfather, though since mud dragons don't track genealogy, there's no real way to tell. We rolled up setting (a village) and goal. We lucked out there-- our goal was to find a princess, who (according to the Princess Hotness Sub-table), was like, totally hot. And that was basically it as far as creation went. Then we got to the story!

Stone Butt had returned to the swamp with the exciting news that the local village had a princess who was like, totally hot. This set Ancient Belly off reminiscing about the good old days, and how hot the princesses were back then, and after successfully overcoming his stupidity long enough to remember the name of the village (East Swampton), he announced that they needed to go get a princess as a character-building exercise for young Stone Butt, who had been trying to get him to go princess-hunting the entire time. So off they went!

Our two dragons reached the edge of the swamp, where they saw a mud-covered farmer and heard a faint banging sound in the distance. They wanted to investigate the banging, but as tiny mud dragons, they were worried about the farmer. Ancient Belly was struck by inspiration, and decided they needed to cover themselves in (more) mud, and then he would stand on Stone Butt's shoulders and they would pass themselves off as a fellow mud-covered farmer. This worked about as well as you might think; Stone Butt managed to overcome his laziness long enough to hold Ancient Belly up, but Ancient Belly was way too clumsy to climb onto the other dragon's shoulders, and fell off into the mud, attracting the attention of the farmer. Ancient Belly attempted to scare the farmer off, but totally failed. I decided to turn my failure into a "success in spite of myself" which meant I got what I wanted, but not how I wanted it, and the GM got to modify the attribute in question (patheticness) up or down by 2. The farmer was not intimidated by Ancient Belly's display of dragonly might, which was frankly pathetic. But he did stub his toe while kicking Ancient Belly, and hobbled off towards home.

Stone Butt took advantage of this to sneak away, ending up in the middle of a nearby road, where an 8 year-old girl on a bike scooped him up and took him home for a tea party. He decided that this girl might not be a princess yet, but was bound to be one eventually, so he settled in and enjoyed the party, until he was distracted by his greed for the sword of the toy knight at the party. He was foiled by the little girl, who tried to put him to bed with a lullaby. Stone Butt overcame his laziness to resist the lullaby, but Jon decided to turn his success into a failure, which brought his laziness attribute down by 2. This meant that he resisted the lullaby, but then took a swig of the chamomile tea, which knocked him right out.

Meanwhile, Ancient Belly had found the source of the mysterious pounding sound: a clearing full of humans banging on weird objects, and a pavilion with not one, but THREE princesses standing on it. All three were like, totally hot. Ancient Belly would have done something about this, but then he noticed the shiny shiny hats worn by the drummers, and failed to overcome his petty greed. He tried to climb up the nearest hat-wearing human, but by this point in the game his clumsiness was all the way at 18. I rolled a 1, which led to the best line of the game: "Does this game have critical failure rolls?" "No. Everything you do is a critical failure." Ancient Belly flailed ineffectually at the drummer, resulting in a dropped drum and irritated drummer, but no shiny hat. The drummer was about to kick him, and Ancient Belly failed to overcome his laziness enough to knock the guy over. I decided to turn that failure into another success, kicking my laziness up to 17 but causing the drummer to overbalance and fall over. Ancient Belly took advantage of this to grab the drum major hat and put it on. He was feeling pretty good about things.

Around this time, Stone Butt woke up to see a big human yelling at the little human. He decided to hide under the bed until the fight ended, and then took the girl's teddy bear and tried to use it as a disguise. This worked for about 60 seconds, when the girl's mom found him and chased him outside with a broom. Stone Butt decided that a teddy bear and a pink bow was good enough loot for one adventure and headed home.

Ancient Belly remained true to the mission. While the all humans stared at him in stunned (and confused silence), he ran up to the pavilion and tried to climb it. Sadly, he was too clumsy (19!), and fell backwards in a pile of cloth. That was too much for his dragonly pride. He successfully overcame his patheticness and breathed a little fart of flame, sending the whole pile of cloth and attached pavilion up in flames. Two princesses fled in fear, and the third fainted right away. He was mighty! He barely had time to revel in this triumph when he was challenged! By a knight in red clothing and bearing a strange snaky spear. Ancient Belly overcame his patheticness again, shooting a second little fart of flame at the fireman, who dropped the hose and sent water flying everywhere. The enemy vanquished, Ancient Belly marched over to claim the remaining princess and drag her away. Unfortunately, princesses are like 115 pounds and mud dragons are about two feet long from nose to tail. The princess woke up without having moved an inch. Force having failed, Ancient Belly decided to rely on his natural charm. He turned to the princess and said, "Hey beautiful, how about you and me get away from all this?" in his very best human. We'll never know whether she understood him, but every princess knows that a dragon kidnapping is just the thing for that extra touch of mystique. She scooped Ancient Belly up, screamed "Help! I'm being kidnapped by a dragon!" and carried him off to the swamp.

At the end of the game, Stone Butt got two experience points for his adventure, and Ancient Belly got an extra four for his success in princess acquisition. He actually succeeded more than I expected, but that wasn't really the point. The failures were just as fun as the successes, both because they were hilarious and because there weren't any real consequences to failure. Whenever it's something you really want, you can turn your failure into a success, though the threat of having the GM bump any attribute by two is enough to keep from overusing that too much. Turning a success into a failure was also useful occasionally, because failing hilariously is fun and then you can bump your attributes down. Occasionally we'd get stuck for ideas of what to handle next. That was usually a good time for Ben to make us try and overcome our petty greed. I'd be a little worried about getting stuck in a failure spiral where all your attributes are so high that you can't do anything without risking botching the plan and ending the session. I think for this game, you really everyone to be on board with the concept and the general silliness. If anyone wants to take the game really seriously, it would get un-fun very fast. But for us, it was funny and lasted under an hour, which is pretty excellent.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2010, 11:19:33 AM »

Hey, Alexis. Welcome to the Forge. Thank you for posting this and for hectoring me into running the game.

This game was really fun, and it makes me think that I've cracked a big chunk of the Mud Dragon puzzle simply by:
1) Making attributes much more dynamic (every roll -> plus or minus at least one to the attribute). Using attributes, rather than tokens, as the currency of the game makes things a lot more fun.
2) Dropping the "fail a check" and interpret the rolls as "overcoming your attribute."
3) Making Throwback more likely.
4) Having a better consequence than "running away" for an attribute passing 21 (not that this came up in the game but I think the possibility of "screwing everything up" was a pretty good incentive.)
5) Tidying up the tables and getting rid of boring results.

I think that there's some interesting game writing moral here, but I'm not sure what it is. I had basically abandoned Mud Dragon, figuring that the problem of maintaining both danger, breeziness, and economy was unsoluble. Recently, five years after abandoning the game, Ron convinced me to take another look and I noticed I could make a few tweaks that would probably (and did!) help the game a lot. That, combined with a very complimentary Polish AP report and Alexis's extreme enthusiasm for the game has spurred me forward with it (I'm in talks with a very appropriate artist right now.)

I'm not sure what the moral is, but there's definitely something there.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2010, 12:28:38 PM »

Hello!

Most of my rules-changes questions were cleared up by your post, Ben. They look fun! I can't wait to see the art.

My only concern as a potential GM is to put some brakes on my gratuitous imposition of Petty Greed rolls. I'd prefer not to have the constant, unconstructed opportunity to flash a scratched-up Coke can or whatever at the player-characters. Also, "how to play a princess" might be very helpful. I recognize that this might be the main individual touch a person can bring to GMing this game, but I'd like to know what you would like a GM to consider when doing so.

Alexis, thanks for posting. I've moved this thread to a different forum where it fits better; no big deal.

Best, Ron
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2010, 01:00:03 PM »

Yeah, "when to use Petty Greed" will probably be a focus of the "How to be a Ginormous Mudhole" section. I think that the answer is "when things are slow, when things are too easy, and sometimes just whenever, but try to keep it to less than one per scene."

Would you be interested in a working draft? I'm banging one out today with the rules changes we played with plus a few more tweaks to the situation tables (including the "dumb-ass ideas subtable" which I'm pretty excited about)

yrs--
--Ben
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DWeird
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2010, 02:58:24 AM »

A question!

Throwback - it happens when an attribute drops below 5, right? Well what happens when I start play with a mud dragon with a score that low already?

My first mud dragon was Mud Worm, a nice little fellow with a starting Petty Greed of 3. Instant transcendance, followed by an instant embarassing death?

"Your character died during chargen" is rather awkward.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2010, 12:04:35 PM »

Hi.

In the new draft, Petty Greed starts at 14.

I'm also considering reversing Petty Greed's effects on screwing up completely and throwback. So Mud Worm is more such a buzzkill that he doesn't even want to do the plan.

yrs--
--Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2011, 04:02:57 AM »

Possibly uninformed notions based on reading only:

1. "Fighting amongst one another" sounds like an emergent phenomenon to be enjoyed as such, rather than something to insert into the prep as a feature of opposition. Or to put it another way, all the other stuff in the Opposition list are things the GM imposes, whereas this is something the players would do.

2. Although I do like Throwback being more possible/accessible, it seems to me that having it occur at both ends of a mud dragon's competence scale is a little unsatisfying in thematic terms. However, I could be wrong. As you can tell from this paragraph, I kinda go back and forth on this issue, no pun intended. A playtesting issue for sure.

3. Petty Greed seems to have been a sticking point throughout the history of the game's design and play. Does it really need to be in the game at all? And if it does, perhaps it (or something named differently) should be re-designed from the ground up so it stops being this "except for Petty Greed which works the other way" phenomenon.

Best, Ron
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