Drowning and Falling - Dungeons and Vegas

Started by Selene Tan, April 30, 2009, 04:38:43 AM

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Selene Tan

This is a writeup of a Drowning and Falling game from last last Thanksgiving. I started the writeup soon after playing, then got sidetracked and forgot about it, and unearthed it in response to Question about Drowning and Falling. So here it is.

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, my husband and I visited his parents. While there, I played Drowning and Falling with him (Alex), his brother (Bob), Bob and three of his friends (Ashley, Roger and Cruz). Alex and I have played D&D and Deadlands together, and various other RPGs separately. Ashley, Roger, and Cruz hadn't played tabletop RPGs before, though they all play World of Warcraft. Bob had been trying to introduce Ashley to RPGs for a while; he wanted to run a D&D session with her, but she wanted to just watch. I pitched Drowning and Falling to them as a short, fun game (I didn't initially mention "RPG").

We went through two dungeons. For the first one, I acted as facilitator. I walked people through character creation, which bogged down somewhat during spell selection. I urged everyone to make two characters, which most people did.  Then I tried to explain the room creation rules, and made some example rooms. I don't think I explained them all that well at first, because people tended to put down single-card encounters during the first dungeon. The last thing I did pre-game was run through a practice encounter with Alex, who volunteered since he had the most experience with RPGs.

For the practice encounter, I put down an easy challenge and described it (I don't remember what it was anymore). Then I prompted Alex for his first helpful attribute; I think I used the phrasing "So what are you using to help you get across?" He narrated using one of his traits. I picked a harmful trait, narrating it as "But your ____ prevents you by ____"

The first dungeon went a bit slowly. When I first explained the encounter rules, I forgot that the attributes used must be changed every round, with no repeats. By the second encounter I'd remembered that and put it into place. There were also a lot of simple and Easy encounters in the first dungeon; I'd distributed 4 cards per person, and people pretty much all put down one-card encounters. D&F seems to bog down a little bit with 5 people, especially when the encounters are all one-card ones. One thing is that there's more down-time between your encounters. Another is that since the encounters are spread out over more people, the damage gets spread out as well. There was only one character death in the game.

Note: the thread I mentioned above made me realize that I'd gotten the rules wrong: I had only one character face each encounter, when every character is supposed to face every encounter. It would have made the game a lot more deadly, and increased the rate of loot and level gain.

As I facilitated, I realized that I couldn't remember or find anything in the rules indicating turn order for facing encounters. For the first dungeon, the person who had just faced an encounter could name the person who would face the next one, unless that person had already been picked that "round". When everyone had faced an encounter, it was the next round and everyone was up for grabs again. For the second dungeon, I decided that going clockwise was a lot easier, and we did that instead.

One rules-change we made was that instead of the person to the challenger's right determining the second helpful trait used in the round, the challenger got to choose who chose the second trait. We had a couple of times when the person to the right was also the person running the encounter, and we felt like it was a bit of a drag to have them choose. The other players liked the change because it gave them a little bit more to do when they were not facing an encounter. It might have made the game a little bit easier on average, but because there were so many players, nobody really remembered who had what high attributes anyway.

We eventually finished up the first allotment of cards (the first dungeon). One character died at the second-to-last encounter. The player had not made a second character during character creation, but since it was the penultimate encounter, it didn't really matter.

People were up for a second dungeon/round of cards. I took the time to explain more fully the encounter creation rules. There was some confusion about cards being used for more than one modification to the encounter (e.g. using a black card for both a monster and an extra die of damage on failure). One thing I noticed was that people didn't like to make up encounters at the beginning of the dungeon, preferring to do it on-the-fly when it was their turn to provide the next room. Alex just told me that he didn't realize they could make up encounters in advance, even though I remember giving them time after I handed out cards. Oh well. I did mention the post-it-dungeon thing that's mentioned in the book, and Bob decided to keep a map on paper of where we'd been. (I'm not sure what's happened to the map since then.)

The player whose character had died rolled up a new one, and I made a character for myself to join in. I started off the dungeon deciding to try something different. So the first encounter was trying to avoid falling in love with a pretty girl. The second involved a bevy of ghostly girls, and the third was to avoid falling into debt and the predations of a loan shark. After that, we decided we must be in Vegas, and that was the color/atmosphere used for the rest of the dungeon's encounters.

The encounters were much more varied in the second dungeon, partly because of the possibility of metaphorical drowning and falling, and partly because people were using more cards per encounter and thus had more material to work with. Some memorable ones involved not falling into buffet food, which was hindered by a possessed strawberry; and avoiding the casino waterfall while facing the Casino Guardian, a bouncer with "D-O-O-M" tattooed across the knuckles of each hand.

As a side note, despite the dungeon being in Vegas, I completely forgot about the rules for drinking. But nobody had a getting-drunk encounter, so it never come up.

We played for about 3 hours, and finished the second dungeon's cards sometime after midnight. The last encounter had the challenger in bed, falling asleep, and trying to avoid falling out of bed. Which he managed, despite the pesky Sandman with his sleep sand.

Overall I think everyone had a lot of fun. There was some anxiety about making challenges "creative" enough; I especially noticed this with Ashley. But everyone was pretty supportive of each other's challenges. I also noticed that people played cooperatively -- there was no fighting over treasure, and the person picking the second helpful stat always tried to pick a high one.

Since then, Bob has managed to run D&D for some of his friends, so the game was also a success in that regard.
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Jason Morningstar

Thanks for sharing this, Selene.  As I've said elsewhere, I think I like your version better.