[The Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor] Automated Relationship Drama

Started by jburneko, June 01, 2011, 06:52:20 PM

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At Gamex 2011 I ran a game of The Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor (which itself is a version of Monsters & Other Childish Things). What I want to know is why these games don't get more play?  They're great!  The Relationship and Emotional damage rules from the base game are fantastic and Candlewick should win an award for best mechanical use of setting.  I don't mean the typical idea that the mechanics model or represent the setting well, I mean that the setting is actually *part of* the system itself.

The PCs start off as Creepy Orphans with no backstory.  They have monsterous aspects that give them special powers but they also have something called Echoes.  Echoes are evocative things from half-remembered memories.  So "The smell of a woman's perfume" might be an Echo.

Echos have dice associated with them which the player can use as bonus dice on a roll if they tie the Echo into the action.  Those dice are added to an ever growing pool of dice called Illumination.  If the action is successfull then the player gets to roll his Illumination pool.  If *that* roll is successful then Echo gets promoted to a Relationship.

This is where the setting touches the system.  The Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor is basically one GIANT list of NPCs.  There's some cool set piece locations but if you throw the Monsters in with the NPCs what you have is The Great Big Book of Weird Creepy People.  So when an Echo is promoted to a Relationship the Orphan suddenly realizes that one of those NPCs from the setting is really their Dad or their long lost cousin or the guy who kidnapped them or whatever.

Now, because you've been playing for a while at this point that Relationship is likely to be an NPC we've already seen in action.  It's a character already tied into the developing situation at hand and so the highly impersonal nature of the situation suddenly becomes highly personal.

Now this is where the base mechanics from Monsters & Other Childish Things comes in.  You can use a Relationships for bonus dice but if the roll fails then the Relationship becomes damaged.  The rules are super clear that this should come into the narrative in a clear concrete way.  And the only way that damage can be repaired is through another kind of action called Quality Time where the PC takes a concrete action to try and mend that tension.

What this means is that the GM really doesn't need to manage the relationship drama aspects of the game at all.  This is especially awesome for Candlewick which is supposed to be all about reveling in the constant sense of mystery and danger.  One of the problems I constantly have with playing a game that has a high degree of.... let's call it Adventure!.... for lack of a better term is that I'm always affraid the things that make the story matter are going to get lost in the sequence of colorful set piece disasters. 

Candlewick solves this problem rather elegantly.  All the GM needs to do is setup and run colorful set piece disaster sequences and eventually the system will *cue* those moments of painful and awkward kid drama via the Echo->Relationship->Relationship Shock->Quality Time cycle.  It's like having an automated second GM.

Here's how that cycle worked beautifully in just the short con game we played. I started the game by revealing that Star Gonnoman (the spoiled rich child of the local Mill owner) is somehow mind controlling the Headmaster of the school. Over the course of the game one of the players discovers that his Echo, "The Sound of Crying Kitten", links him to Star. Her father made a dark pact and traded him away instead of her. He remembers her getting his kitten. So his Echo turns into a Relationship with Star.

Later they're in the Mill and I describe that one of the NPC children the character's had befriended had been captured and was tied to a large log and was heading for the saw blade! The PC with the relationship to Star runs to the controls to turn it off. He rolls in his relationship with Star saying he remembers having been here with her and seeing the controls operate. He fails. This results in Shock to the Relationship.

So there it was, my cue to have Star actually show up and mock the PC about how he was never any good at operating the equipment. This resulted in a big emotional Put-Down fueled fight that culminated in one PC convincing Star that she didn't have any real friends. They only cared about her because she was rich and her dad was powerful. He offered her REAL friendship and that knocked her Guts score down to 0, so I had her break down and be so grateful that someone really and truly wanted to be her friend.

I really, really want to setup and play a long form game of this.



Have you got a link to this game?

It really sounds like it's worth a good look.
A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.


Yeah the publisher's website is here: http://arcdream.com/home/

You can find both the base game and the Candlewick variant there.



I was the player with the sound of a crying kitten as my echo. I definitely enjoyed how that scene played out.
James R.