Monday, December 19, 2005

[Mortal Coil] Old Gods Get Mean

So we got together again last Friday for another playtest session of Mortal Coil. This was a follow-up session to the one I wrote about last month, and we preserved the characters and the theme document from that first session. This session gave the rules a much more vigorous workout, and I felt that as the GM I was able to introduce a far more compelling conflict. The first session was a basically a quest story, where the characters tracked down and recovered some purloined beer from their favorite bar. While everyone enjoyed it, and I felt the rules had been very successful in the session, it was a bit lame. I had chosen to play off of a conflict in everyone’s character. They all had written Passions related to this bar, and a threat to it was the easiest one to come up with on the fly in the first session.

One of the ways this session was more successful is that I applied better stakes to the conflicts, and the thread at the Forge about this issue was invaluable. When I finish writing up the rules, I plan on tightening up the instructions on how to do this considerably.

Here’s what happened in play. We had only two PCs this time. The player of Loki didn’t show, and my wife had let me know beforehand that she wasn’t up to playing that night, so we had Pluto (Russ) and the leprechaun (Bill) as our player characters. I had prepared a few NPCs for the evening that tied directly into the character’s Passions (surprisingly easy to come up with, actually—it took me about half an hour to put nearly a dozen together).

So, Pluto and the leprechaun are having a drink at the bar. They notice a newcomer, and Pluto learns this fellow is Coyote. He mostly seems to be there to mess with the other gods. He is defined as a trickster god, and this actually gives this NPC access to the facts that were created by Loki’s character in the last session since both are the same type of god. Soon after, Jupiter arrives, accompanied by Proserpine, Pluto’s old flame. It becomes clear that Jupiter is here to rub Pluto’s face in the fact that Jupiter has picked up someone his brother lost. Juno also happens to be in the bar, and attracts Pluto’s attention. They decide to try to humiliate Jupiter and peel Proserpine away from him. The leprechaun is happy to assist, and so, it turns out, is Coyote, after the leprechaun lures away the ladies he had been wooing. The only new fact in the game is established at this point: that leprechauns can charm and distract people with song and dance making their victims lose track of time, but that if the victim can outperform the leprechaun, the tables are turned and the leprechaun is charmed instead. Coyote then turns his attention to Proserpine under Jupiter’s nose.

Pluto tries to distract Jupiter to allow Coyote the chance to move in, using one of his Passions (a hatred of more successful gods) twice in the same conflict. This causes the Passion to increase and another to fall. Pluto fails this conflict, the consequence being that Jupiter now knows what Pluto is up to. They come up with a new scheme, Pluto conferring with Coyote in the bathroom and getting his tacit approval. They will try to lure Jupiter into a drinking contest with the leprechaun, a contest that the leprechaun is sure to win. Russ wanted to add a new fact about Jupiter, that he was proud and easy to lure into contests, but I countered that this was not a folkloric fact about Jupiter. None of us could come up with a good example when this had happened in myth, and referring to the rule on our theme document that the facts must be based in real folklore, this got dropped.

Coyote managed to lure Jupiter into the contest, and while the leprechaun packed away considerable quantities, Coyote used his Magician aptitude to fake drinking. Jupiter lost miserably, and passed out. Coyote then scooped up Proserpine and left the bar.

The next morning, Jupiter awoke, and went hunting Pluto seeking revenge. The leprechaun trailed along behind, in case he was needed. Jupiter confronted Pluto in his office, and Jupiter decides to get physical with Pluto. Russ decided that he wanted Pluto to resist with his will rather than try to get in a physical conflict with the far stronger Jupiter. Not wanting to call on his hate a third time, Russ decided that all of this had created a new Passion for him, a Hate for Jupiter, and dropped another Passion he had never used. With the help of this new Passion, Pluto managed to face his brother down with willpower alone. Humiliated, Jupiter stormed out (greatly weakened by both this and the drinking contest, in which he had fatigued himself).

The final conflict took place that night, when Pluto returned to the bar and found Jupiter trying to scam on the bar owner’s wife. Both the leprechaun and Pluto joined in to force Jupiter to leave, and he had little choice at this point, slinking away three times denied.

All in all, it was a satisfying session. Pluto was definitely the spotlight character this time out, although it Loki’s player had made it, things would have been a lot more complicated. I plan on focusing on the leprechaun next time I run this.

Several rules were invoked this time that worked very well.

  1. An appeal to add a fact was vetoed based on a previously established rule in the theme document.
  2. Pluto’s Passions changed a great deal during the game; once because he called on the same Passion more than once, and another time because he felt that a new Passion would be more appropriate. Russ’ comment was that the Passions really reflected a dynamic and evolving picture of what was important to the character, which is the purpose of this mechanic.
  3. Fatigue gained from going “all-in” really had a telling effect this time out. Basically, characters have a pool of action tokens they can use in a conflict to perform different acts. If the player decides to commit all of the tokens for a single action, one of them is spent (temporarily, they do regenerate). Jupiter ended up having to do this three times, and by the last conflict he was seriously weakened, so much so that he had to retire and come back later if he wanted to win anything.

I see several things I want to clarify and tighten up in the rules as written to better reflect how we were actually playing, but the rules were humming this time and everything worked together the way it was meant to. We even remembered to throw around bonus tokens for any of the cool actions people took during play.


At 5:42 PM, Blogger Frank said...

Wow, sounds really awesome fun, Brennan! I hope I'll be joining that oen soon:)


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