Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Old Gods at Dreamation

Mortal Coil runs again, this time at Dreamation. I had an overflowing session, all six slots were full and Nathan Paoletta joined at the last minute, making this a seven-player session. Also in attendance were Alexander Newman, Keith Senkowski, Thor Olavsrud, Mayuran, and two other players with whom I was not previously acquainted, whose names were Nathan and Jillian, if I recall correctly.

The scenario was Old Gods again, and again we started with the theme document. One of the first things that was established in the document was that gods had no powers unless they were in the presence of believers (or other gods). Again, initial theme facts had a big influence on the tone of the game. Jealousy toward one of the player gods who still had some worshippers drove most of the conflicts during play.

The gods this time: Alexander played Hermes as a bitter delivery man, Keith played Mithra as a completely dissolute and violent addict, Thor chose to play Munnin as a supplier of memories in the form of drugs, Nathan P. played Coyote, who turned out to be the butt of everyone's resentment, Nathan played Xipe Totec, the flayed Aztec god, Jillian was playing Easter, and Mayuran played Sesmu, the owner of the bar.

When the time came around to assign passions, I pushed really hard, which I was thinking was my mistake in the last game. Everyone did as instructed and took loves and hates toward their fellow players. In part because of this, the game took a really dark comic turn, especially with all of the drug themes that were introduced. It played out mostly as a violent, drug-addled farce, with all of the gods attempting to tear each other down. There was a great deal of laughter around the table.

A couple of observations:

1. After running it three times, I don't think improper passion setting is the problem with this scenario. It worked with my home group, but didn't really come across at conventions. This is because there isn't a real point to this setup: no quests, missions, or any sort of outside threat. Really, the scenario needs to play off the relationships between the gods, and that means that it needs pregens. My Apocalypse Boulevard game ran quite well at Recess, but I suspect that was actually a fluke. When I am playing Mortal Coil at a con, I need to take a page from Luke and carefully construct the passions so they interlock and create a compelling situation that can't be ignored.

2. The reward mechanic does something really interesting. There is a pool of tokens in the middle of the table that can be given out at any time, and player can nominate others to receive them (unless vetoed). In the games where it starts to really hum, I noticed that the players have come to an unspoken consensus about what should be rewarded. In Apocalypse Boulevard, it was innovative uses of nursery rhymes to create spells for the children. In the Dreamation Old Gods, it was doing something shocking or unexpected that made everyone laugh.

3. This scenario ended up being very player-vs-player, and I brought in an NPC when things started to drag, just to provoke everyone into actions. The way Mortal Coil is structured, the GM has a huge pile of tokens to create adversity for the players. Since I was doing very little, the one time I drew on this really had a big effect on Alexander. Afterwards, he said he was a little shocked by the amount of force I could draw on in the one encounter where I used these. In Apocalypse Boulevard, with a strong oppositional force that I had to budget my tokens on, this was not a problem. In a game where it is almost all player-vs-player, I had an inordinate and seemingly arbitrary amount of force I could bring to bear. Alexander suggested I play a character next time, and that might be the way to go in a situation like this.

All in all, I was again not completely satisfied with how the game went. Everyone there had a really good time, and we laughed til our sides hurt. I learned some more about the game, and came out with a couple of new small tweaks, so it was fruitful from a playtest standpoint. And everyone is still talking about it, so my own misgivings are probably not shared by the players.


At 2:12 PM, Blogger Alexander said...

Hey, Brennan. I've responded over at the Forge. Just wanted to pop into your space and reiterate that I had a BLAST playing Mortal Coil, my critical thoughts notwithstanding.
- Alexander

At 9:52 PM, Blogger gains said...

It sounds like the run was very informative to me. Especially with the understanding of the balance and how PVP play really let's the GM become more powerful. Even too powerful.

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Brennan Taylor said...

Yep. These have been invaluable sessions, and the game is getting refined because of them. I'm glad you had a blast, Alexander. As I said before, I am confident everyone had a good time. What I want is everyone to have a fucking great time.


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