Another Indie RPG Night at Story Games Glendale. Originally I was going to miss this one due to vacation plans, but they got cancelled. For that I'm super sad, but this night definitely got my spirits back up a notch. We had 8 people total, and split into two tables. Asher ran Dialect for three folks, and I had brought a second draft test-run of MR-KR-GR: The Death Rolled Kingdom, for a second table of three.
(If you are interested in game design tweaks I made between the last time I ran this, and this session, you can check out my Design Diary post about this on the Gauntlet Blog.)
We went through a bit of character generation, which now mimics Fall of Magic a lot more closely. It looked like this:
That spawned the following characters with corresponding traits:
- Jenni as Jovin the Macaque of Tohey (+Lucky, -Unnatural, +Trusted)
- Hannah as Diya the Witch of Merating (+Summon, -Poisoned, +Unusual)
- Christian as Najja the Soldier from Afar (+Seer, -Maimed, +Unusual)
The first trait was chosen initially, and the additional traits during the first two scenes, per other changes I made. All-in-all this worked really well, and wasn't too much to keep track of, and pretty much exactly where I wanted the mechanics to be, complexity-wise. The way the players took on those traits was also nice and variable. For example Najja's trait of "Maimed" translated to an ex-soldier with some form of PTSD, and Diya's "Poisoned" ended up being related to her body's purity and her eye, which was restored late in the story.
The story was pretty fun. We had three strange travelers coming into the land, and quickly getting separated at the port. Soon afterwards, they would run into each other some more, and became a party of sorts. There was the macaque traveling at the behest of her queen, looking for a teak nymph; a witch trying to track down material known to create pure forests and remove the corruption of lands; and a soldier with visions, trying to establish and broker some sort of peace negotiations with MR-KR-GR.
We had scenes with the trade lord; tea at the best tea house on Trader's Island: Tears of the God; a trade of information for a royal coin to a fellow that was later spurned by Dien, a Tohey princess; a violent encounter with low spirit vines in the jungle; and a friendly encounter with a tall tree spirit, combined with a ride on a large, summoned insect by our strange insect witch of Merating. And a finale that included Margessa, the third queen, as well as the fourth queen, currently pregnant with a teak nymph.
The mechanics worked very well in the game, not too difficult, but not easy by far, and provided some good fail-forward and success mechanics that helped the story along. The last 3 rolls, once for each player, were: 6, 6, 6. This made for an amazingly happy ending, with Jovin securing a promise from the fourth queen to borrow the teak nymph that would heal their forests, but with some feels when the Macaque looked like she may be turned back to a wild creature! Najja was able to succeed in negotiations, the seer powers being a cornerstone of the success of the treaty and taking down the third queen. And Diya our witch was able to acquire emerald pure wood which she fashioned into an eye and placed in her eye socket to hear her corruption.
I was pleasantly surprised with how well my changes worked from the first time I ran this. The story was very similar in scope and style to my first game, but with varying themes and components. There is still so much to explore in the setting as a player and GM, which is great.
One of the only negatives with the trait "Unusual", which two players chose, but which didn't really get any play. I may remove that and Unnatural from the next version, and they just didn't evoke things that I thought were interesting in play. I'd replace them with something more solid, or maybe just leave 5 positive and negative traits to choose from in those initial scenes.
Another great positive was that the players were so enjoyable! Jenni hadn't played an RPG before, but you couldn't tell if you had watched. She was straight into it, and it was magic to behold. Hannah's witch was super evocative, and I loved the weird insect magic she injected into the story; when I think of the way the lost witches of Merating are described in the setting, I feel like she just hit the spot with her character. And Christian played a great vulnerable character with his damaged soldier, and his epilogue worked really well with all the setup. In all, a really great story, and I can't wait to try this a bit more.
EDIT: Patrick Stuart interviews the two designers. See his Flase Machine blog post on A Thousand Thousand Islands, which also links to the Youtube video of the interview: