Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Mysteries And Machinations

Notice: This posting is about the second session of an RPG game for personal use based on the copyrighted works of Cherie Priest. The caveat from the first post continues to apply, namely that I will continue to avoid revealing plot points from the story, instead focusing this post on the gameplay itself. If you enjoy these Actual Play posts, perhaps you should think of picking up Dreadnought or Boneshaker by Cherie Priest from your local book store, or at any number of locations online.

I arrived at The Connection on Cambie nice and early to get set up. Thanks to my wonderful wife, I was full up on a delicious dinner and ready to game. Due to unavoidable circumstances, one of my players from last weeks game was absent. However, during the week, we picked up another player, so we had four regardless. Despite this, I played the missing players Player Character, and the new entry to our ranks was given a new PC.

The previous session had ended at the first station stop on the journey, and anyone who has read the books knows that a few new characters board the train at this point. So when another player told me he would be free and interested in joining, I honestly couldn't believe my luck. This was too perfect. He'd just play one of the new characters that would otherwise have been an Non-Player Character. Honestly, I couldn't have planned this if I had tried. That said, I would have preferred to not have one of the starting players miss the game, but nothing could be done, so we motored on regardless.

After our new player had a chance to read over his character, and some brief questions about FATE were asked, the game got going at around 7:15pm.

Where the first session opened with an opportunity for everyone to introduce themselves, this week opened with some conversations on the stations platform before the whistle blew and everyone boarded. After that, we had a long roleplaying session where mysteries were raised, everyone learned a little more about each others motivations, and uneasy allegiances were formed between Player Characters. This brought us right up to 8pm, and the next station.

A quick stop, some new passengers, a few more questions between players, and we had our combat of the evening. That ran up to and beyond 9pm, but the staff at the store are super awesome, and we were let run a little late to wrap things up. Combat over, one more revelation with an NPC, and I called it for the evening. My watch was just rolling on to 9:20pm.

So, how did the evening go? Pretty good, I think. Let's review.

It opened with some fantastic roleplaying from everyone. More silly accents, more hilarity, more intrigue. Facts were doled out in tiny bites, and players fished for clues in everything that was said. In fact, I was worried that it was too slow, and used my power lent to me as the controller of what had once been a PC to move things along once. I'm not sure if that was great idea, but I felt that we were tight on time, and some of the players had to spend more in the scene time listening than interacting due to the character, so I felt it was worth the risk. It's not something I wanted to do, as I love letting players converse back and forth with each other at leisure. Regardless, most of the facts were laid out by the end, which was the important thing.

Combat was once again the slow point for me. I think this is something I need to work on. For something that is supposed to represent a fast, frantic event, I find combat in most games to be slow and boring. I tried to liven it up with dramatic descriptions, but in the end, it's going to be "I rolled one Plus overall, giving me Great Guns", "They rolled only Fair on their Drive, so you do 2 Stress". Still, we had some fun moments, like one player spending a FATE Point to make a Declaration that the carriages were steam heated and so had bags of coal stored away somewhere, then using that coal to help take out an opponent! Or another player using Investigate to discover a weak point, making that a tagable Aspect.

The game ended with one last round of roleplay, and, just before everyone relaxed, the arrival of something far in the distance.

One of the things I'm enjoying from the game is watching how the players and dice cause the story to divert from the book. Upholding my self-imposed ban on spoilers, all I'll say is that, by now, in the book Mercy was aware of one of the major secrets the Dreadnought held. Try as I might, I could not force the events of the book to play out in the game. The dice constantly rolled against me. I love that! There is every chance this secret will never come to light, and if that is the resolution, then so be it. I'm not going to press the matter. It's my game, based on Cherie Priests work, but this version of it is the players story. Kind of like a Marvel "What If..." Except without the Watcher.

I still didn't really Compel any Aspects, unfortunately. That is really something I need to work on. It's a core mechanic of the system, and I'm pretty weak at it. Granted, combat didn't really need any, but there must have been a moment or two where I could have pressed the players one way or another during the earlier scenes.

So there we have it. More adventure, more mystery, and more interparty conflict! Next week may or may not wrap everything up. There is a chance that we'll run for a fourth week. Tune in again to find out!

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