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Author Topic: [TSOY] The Long Bridge  (Read 18218 times)
TonyLB
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« on: May 11, 2006, 08:12:29 AM »

Well, we had a game with drama powered entirely by The Shadow of Yesterday's Keys mechanic.  Good times, good times.

The general idea that Sydney pitched us was off of my throw-away line of "Battlestar Galactica, but in a dungeon."  Basically, there was a great land, and then it fell into corruption.  The capital city was abandoned and overgrown (and all magically nasty) as people vied for control in the country-side.  Then The Horde invaded, because really who's gonna stop 'em?  So our people are getting slaughtered and what's the only place so crazy-ass dangerous that even the Horde won't follow us?  The capital city, of course.

This was our first session:  we created characters, and made the terrible dash from the country-side to and across the only remaining bridge into the capitol.

  • Khaidu (played by Jennifer):  A hillman of the same general stock as The Horde, but from within the kingdom.  Neither loyal to the old kingdom, nor opposed to it, he has a soft-spot for the weak and helpless ("Key of Conscience") and a savage ("Key of the First Wolf" ... basically Conan-style cool barbarism) willingness to fight ("Key of Bloodlust") for anything and everything he thinks is right.
  • Father Videl (played by Eric):  Our only real talker, Father Videl is charged ("Key of Mission") to guard ("Key of Guardian") a holy relic ("Secret of Chalice") that ... well, it's probably bad-holy.  Probably holy to a God we aren't gonna like too well.  That's cool.  He still has complete faith ("Key of Faith") in the God, whatever it turns out to be.
  • Yoshi (played by me):  As a young-ish girl, Yoshi's reputation was ruined by a casanova NPC (Severus) who claimed to have had a liaison with her.  He hadn't, but he said he had.  Why?  Because he's an asshole.  Yoshi's father didn't give any weight to her claims that nothing of the sort had happened, and so she was exiled from her family and given over to an organization of fallen women who act as assassins and spies.  So, basically, she does terrible things that men tell her to do ("Key of New Moon") and suffers a huge amount ("Key of Masochist") when she tries (and so far inevitably fails) to avoid those missions of violence and bloodshed ("Key of Cowardice").  On her most recent mission she was sent to infiltrate the Horde.  Nobody cares that she looks nothing like them and can't speak their language ... she's expendable.  But Khaidu saved her, and Yoshi fell for him hard ("Key of Unrequited Love).

These three characters together were, as Sydney put it, "an XP-generating machine."  After character creation we played for about two hours and I think between the three of us we totalled more than 40 points of XP.  From what I've seen, that's a fair amount in TSoY terms, but all of it was totally inevitable (well, except pushing the old folks off the bridge ... I could have escaped that).

Each of us had a "gift that keeps on giving" Key or two.  Coward ("It's the Horde!  Run for our lives!"), Conscience ("I've got to act to save these helpless peasants") and Mission ("Got to get away and protect the Chalice") were all so exactly aligned with the direction that the story clearly had to go anyway that we just kept writing down XP awards, one after the other.

Then we had our inherent (and dysfunctional) personality dynamics.  Yoshi wanted Khaidu to be safe ("Coward," "Unrequited Love") but he wanted to take risks ("Bloodlust," "Conscience") and so he'd tell her what to do and she'd cave ("New Moon"). 

We haven't yet gotten a chance to mix Eric in to this very strongly, although I think we'll have equally good dynamics:  Videl will demand that things be done the traditional way ("Key of Ancestors") and Khaidu will have contempt for civilized society ("First Wolf") and Yoshi will be torn between which one to obey ("New Moon").

Buying new Keys mid-game was totally the awesome.  Khaidu ended up facing some of his country-men in battle, and we all said "Wow!  He doesn't have Key of Outcast!  He totally needs Key of Outcast for this!" so Jennifer bought it and it basically paid for itself in XPs during the course of that combat.  Character elaboration on the fly!

And then Videl was set to abandon a whole passel of innocents and flee the hordes into the city to protect his chalice.  'cuz that's the direction all his Keys pointed.  But he said "Man, I don't feel like I've got a choice here ... or, rather, if I choose to stick around and help it's at the cost of all the XPs I could earn otherwise."  So he picked up "Key of Conscience," and immediately worked it hard by risking himself (and his mission) in the defense of the common people.

But what I really, really loved was how the Keys rewarded us for making all those dysfunctional relationships really, really obvious.  I think my favorite moment was when Yoshi's father (and his cavalry unit) were preparing to pretty much ride through the peasants who were clogging the bottleneck of the bridge, Yoshi stood before him and said (in her quiet, desperate way) "These people need help..."

He smacked her down with the flat of his blade.  Over a few exchanges we set stakes like "If I win he does the right thing, if he wins then he gets to dismiss my very existence as irrelevant" and my personal favorite:  "If I win this conflict then I can raise my eyes to look at him."  Lost that one, and ended up with Yoshi averting her face in shame and anguish, wracked with quiet sobs.

Then, of course, Khaidu was all "Is this how civilized people act?  I have nothing but contempt for a man who would abuse an innocent girl that way," and Yoshi desperately interceded.  "No, Khaidu, please ... You don't understand.  It is right for him to beat me, for he is my father!"

Heh.  Smell the dysfunction.

What makes me crazy is that I can see how really, really good this stuff is when it works ... but I have the feeling that we're applying some unrecognized skills when we make the combinations of Keys that interact in that way.  Does TSoY always work out that well?  'cuz if so, wow!
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Ricky Donato
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Just chillin'


« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2006, 09:21:37 AM »

Wow. I'm just...wow.
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2006, 09:22:12 AM »

That's sounds like big fun.  One thing I spot immediately is that you guys are Keying off each other - in my TSOY game, most of the Keys are external, and it doesn't sizzle quite so much.  There are still some XP engine combos (My PC has Key of Clan, Key of Commander, and Key of the Cripple, all of which came up in every scene last night), but we've just started tying our Keys closely among each other like you did from the start. 

40 XP, 3 people - that's a goodly amount.  But it really depends on how you guage advances whether it is a satisfying amount.   We've spent some time clarifying what sorts of circumstances warrant 5 XP awards, which are the top fuel dragsters of the reward system. 

Do you think it was just good luck that you looked within the group to tie Keys together, or is that an artifact of your experience as players? If so, what in particular drove those choices?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2006, 09:39:43 AM »

My personal opinion is that it wasn't good luck, it was done deliberately.

For instance, the moment Jen said that she wanted to play a rough, taciturn barbarian I said "Oh, I am so totally taking 'Key of Unrequited Love.'"

But I think, beyond that, I figured out what sort of interactions were going to net me big XPs, and I tried to shift things around so that other players would get big loads of XPs off of their Keys by giving me the conditions I needed to get big XPs off of mine.

To be specific:  With New Moon (XPs for giving in to male domination), Masochist (XPs for fighting about it first and losing) and Coward (XPs for non-violence) I get big rewards whenever I'm in situations where Yoshi wants to avoid violence, pushes a man to flee with her, but is forced to defer to his desire to stay and fight.

So the moment I saw Khaedu (and his Bloodlust + Conscience Keys) I knew I needed to latch on to that.  Every time I help Jennifer get points off of those two Keys, I very easily get points off of all my Keys.  So I supported the idea of a helpless peasant group, under his protection and domination, with Yoshi filling the dissenting lieutenant role (at least a little).

And now I'm eyeing other combinations.  Key of Coward gives you three points for resolving a combat through non-violent means.  With The Baron and Khaedu in close quarters, vying for control over the direction of where everyone goes next, I can play that role of desperate peace-maker very easily.  Get in between the two of them, get a little bloodied (Masochist), convince Khaedu to back down (Coward), possibly by trying to gain his affection (Unrequited Love) and it's a hefty payout.

Now why would Khaedu want to get into a fight with The Baron?  Bloodlust, of course.  Conscience, so long as the Baron is abusing the weak and helpless (which isn't hard to arrange).  Key of the First Wolf, so long as the Baron is using the high moral ground as a "civilized person" to justify the things he's doing.

It won't be at all hard to convince Jennifer to have Khaedu get into that fight, so long as the fight is presented in a way that appeals to all those keys.  I profit by facilitating her Keys in a specific direction.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2006, 01:37:20 PM »

The two short games of TSOY I've ran was more like Jason's experience - the players didn't automatically hook their characters into each other in this way. And when both players in one of the groups saw how easy it was to take Keys to get experience for things they planned to do anyway, they actually avoided taking those Keys because it felt like cheating! Despite my attempts to persuade them to try it and see what happens.
So I definitely think you're correct that your players were using specific player skills that were well-suited to this game, and my players hadn't learned those skills yet.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2006, 06:24:46 PM »

The two short games of TSOY I've ran was more like Jason's experience - the players didn't automatically hook their characters into each other in this way. And when both players in one of the groups saw how easy it was to take Keys to get experience for things they planned to do anyway, they actually avoided taking those Keys because it felt like cheating! Despite my attempts to persuade them to try it and see what happens.
So I definitely think you're correct that your players were using specific player skills that were well-suited to this game, and my players hadn't learned those skills yet.

Darren,

That is super-interesting, seriously.

Tony,

Glad your game rocked. I've found it usually does when the characters are heavily inter-woven and the players just hammer their Keys.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Darren Hill
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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2006, 06:42:37 PM »


Darren,

That is super-interesting, seriously.

Yeah. But the funny thing is, I could understand where they were coming from. They are used to games where experience was something that you had to suffer to get (and probably suffer the GM's whims, too). They said, "if we both take this key of fraternity, we'll be getting free XP constantly! That can't be right, surely. " I distinctly remember feeling this queasy sensation as my indie-fu forcefield weakened, and doubts crept in - "you know, you have a point there. Um, let's try it anyway and see what happens."
Has no one else seen that kind of thinking? I know I can remember a time when I'd have felt the same.

The other gaming duo liked the idea of keys a lot, they just didn't know how to design characters to maximise them the way Tony's fellow players did. Working together, sharing ideas and openly collaborating when creating a character is still pretty new to the groups I belong to.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2006, 06:48:20 PM »

I distinctly remember feeling this queasy sensation as my indie-fu forcefield weakened, and doubts crept in - "you know, you have a point there. Um, let's try it anyway and see what happens."  Has no one else seen that kind of thinking? I know I can remember a time when I'd have felt the same.

Huh!  Now that you mention it, I remember a moment.  We were playing through the first scene, and every time we thought we hit a Key Jen and I would sort of look at each other, then at Sydney, and Sydney would say "Oh!  Uh ... you get 1 XP for your Key of ... uh ... lemme see your sheet."  Okay, he wasn't that clumsy.  He was cool about it.  But it was still clearly a large amount for him to be processing.

Towards the middle of the next scene I asked "Hey, Sydney, do you want to be the gatekeeper for us getting XPs?  Or should we just say 'Okay, I'm taking an XP for Key of Masochism,' and write it down?"  He immediately said "Oh, you gotta keep track of your own Keys.  It's way too much for me to be tracking all of them.  So yeah, if you think you hit a Key just write down the XPs."

So, yeah, I guess we had that moment too.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2006, 04:04:44 AM »

"Key guilt" - it's real.  One guy in our group has been very reticent about stepping up and declaring that he's hit a Key, and we've made a solemn pact to punch him in the arm every time he doesn't take XP he ought to.  Positive reinforcement is not HARDCORE.
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Glendower
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My name is Jon.


« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2006, 04:26:59 AM »

"Key guilt" - it's real.  One guy in our group has been very reticent about stepping up and declaring that he's hit a Key, and we've made a solemn pact to punch him in the arm every time he doesn't take XP he ought to.  Positive reinforcement is not HARDCORE.

This is eight kinds of awesome! I'm totally incorporating it into my own game, though it'll involve thrown popcorn instead of a physical beating.  Most of my players are bigger than me.  :)
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Hi, my name is Jon.
Mike Lucas
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« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2006, 07:07:01 AM »

Thanks for the entertaining and educating thread Tony.

Regarding who should keep track of the Key XP, here is a quote directly from the rulebook (italics mine):

Quote from: The Shadow of Yesterday (revised) by Clinton R. Nixon
Giving out experience points

As a Story Guide, you are responsible for binding the game together into an enjoyable narrative. You may be considered responsible by the players for their experience points and advancement. They are, of course, as wrong as they can be. When you see a player have her character act in a way that should earn her experience from a Key, feel free to announce that out loud. Feel just as free not to: that character is that player's creation, and she should well be playing attention to what's going on, and be invested in her character's advancement.

With the exception of Key Scenes, which you are responsible for, an ideal flow of experience point giving should go like this:

    Jack, a player: My character, Willis, leaps forward, his ratkin legs kicking to land in front of the sword-blow coming down on Jeph. (rolls) Success! Hey, that hits one of my Keys. 2 experience, right?

    Jennifer, the Story Guide: A-yup.

Enough said!
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2006, 07:10:16 AM »

We punch because we love.  Seriously, we know it is his responsibility but we're trying to help in a good-natured and potentially painful way. 
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TonyLB
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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2006, 05:53:45 PM »

I wonder how many other games suffer from something akin to "Key Guilt."

I think Capes does.  For instance, people could narrate for other players' characters but they often they don't.  Even when presented with the option, they'll shy away from it, because they have an ingrained sense that it's naughty.

That's a really interesting way to view the design challenge in some of these games:  How do you convince people that they're allowed to play the game by the rules?
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John Harper
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flip you for real


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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2006, 10:25:33 PM »

Wow, Tony. Good question.

I don't have a good answer right now. But I will say that I got to play Capes last night with a group that contained some seriously old-skool gamers and... well... "key guilt" was only one of several* problems, but man, it was everywhere in that game.

And not just self-policing, either. They were doing it to each other. "Oh no, you can't say that because it's about my guy and I can say that doesn't happen." Huh? Argh.


*some of them had not even read the friggin' game. "oh yeah, I kind of paged through it." gah.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2006, 10:28:20 PM by John Harper » Logged

Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!
Frank T
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« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2006, 12:17:08 AM »

Hi Tony,

Quote
but I have the feeling that we're applying some unrecognized skills when we make the combinations of Keys that interact in that way.

Well, of course you do, cause you are Narrativist bad-asses. I remember reading through some MLwM Actual Play you wrote up a year or so back (forgot which one it was), and I thought to myself, boy, these guys really got much more out of the More Than Human/Less Than Human than we did, story wise.
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