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Ceremony in, Ceremony out

Scott, Robbie, and I have concluded our play of Darkurthe: Legends with session 6. We might get back to these characters and situations, because I think we all agree that there is much to develop, and perhaps a reflection upon hubris to discover, but we'll reconvene and schedule for it at some future date.

Briefly, I am really interested in the relationship between our two player-characters, which has begun formally but changed during play. That's occurred for several understandable reasons, e.g. fighting at one another's side, discovering a common enemy, seizing an opportunity for the future .. but also more subtly, in that they are now emotionally dependent upon one another. Without forcing it, speaking as audience-of-ourselves, I can see an immense range of outcomes - the full spectrum from uplifting to horrifying - when and if Pyxy and Hannu connect fully as people within the (misleading?) context of their spiritual and social association.

I don't want to summarize or review the game as such here. It features likely the single best, most intelligent fantasy setting among the heartbreakers as I've defined them and written about, and likely in the top few such settings I can think of across the hobby's history. It's that good, partly because it doesn't try to "be different," but instead takes some familiar tropes and shapes them hard into understandable, even haunted forms. I could go on with various bullshit summary statements like "rate 1 for best of all time, 2 for excellent, 3, for very good, 4 for good, 5 for average, 6 for average with minor flaws," etc cetera, for all sorts of individual features, but I hate that sort of thing and won't do it.

Instead, I want to focus on a few features which I know I'd like to bring forward, hard, if I GM the game myself (which is likely), or if we reconvene to play, I'd make sure to raise for discussion and emphasis.

  • Level: this is a minor mechanics term, referring to one's rating in the hierarchy of a chosen institution (cult, guild, "race order," whatever). What it means is extremely various: sometimes it depends on metrics and sometimes on qualitative things, it may be mundane or very weird, it may be a primary focus for play or it may be incidental background. It's easy to miss, but it provides a solid "corner" among the many contextual aspects of the characters and their desires, or the people they may know, or the social expectations they live within.
  • Faith: this score matters greatly because there are three "alignments" (the free-will variant; it does not restrict behavior in the moment), and you are rated either at 0 or at some value grading upwards in one of the three. Not only is it a base score or modifier for important skills or spells, it changes according to the GM's judgment per adventure, and sometimes per action. It especially matters, I've realized, for NPCs, and for the critical mechanic called Aligning which is always specifically to a stated god or similar entity, not to the "alignment" in general. Knowing it, tracking it, changing it, and applying it should occupy the entire group's attention.
  • Magical/religious insight and impact: here I'm talking about any "vision" or "guidance" effect, which in our game is most evident in my character's Ceremony spell. Given his very high modifiers, the six sessions began and ended with two successful castings ... the question stands whether this is core material, welcome and integrated into play as significantly as any fight or even more so, or a frightening and disruptive curve-ball thrown at the GM. It can be the former, but only when the players and GM know that and understand what to do with it.

With these in firm view, including the understanding that experience points and improvement are generous, and less attention to or stress over "how many gold pieces do I have left," or similar things, this game has so much to offer. It's especially able to provide incredibly different stories (situations + potential relationships) depending on the location chosen at the start of preparation and upon the remarkable opportunities at character creation.

For us, setting it in Ilraithe with one of us being a Living God and the other with a Faith of 6, and with the specific traits we chose, shaped play to be about things of a certain kind. I can look at any other place on the map and feel confident that this same effect - but about different things - is likely to occur.

For reference: the original post for the game is Darkurthe Legends! and the video linked below is session 6 within the overall playlist.

Actual Play


Ron Edwards's picture

Scott, Robbie, and I met to talk about our experiences with play, linked here at the end of the playlist.. The first part is just me and Robbie enthusing over the setting and some system features. Then Scott joins us for some discussion of playing NPCs, which following Robbie having to leave, leads into a dialogue between Scott and me about GMing.

At one point I state that Darkurthe is a better game in every way than any iteration of Dungeons & Dragons, which I don't consider to be a frightening or important statement - it's not alone in this - but I'd be happy to explain why in some detail if anyone is interested. Or better yet, to organize some more play.

For example, Legendary Lives is neither better nor worse than any version of D&D, it's merely a different game, arguably, even an entirely different kind of fantasy. Therefore when I say "better," I mean something very specific.

The final third of the session has the most general interest, I think, regarding what procedures of play are actually for in extremely concrete, experiential terms. The explicit topic is "how to GM," basically, but there's a lot that overlaps with the topics in the My Character and Whoops labs, and I'd really like to see others' responses to that section.

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