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A safe, quiet, friendly new home

We've just completed our 13th session of Legendary Lives, with Ross as GM, featuring me, Rod, and Robbie, hence "The Four R's" as I've dubbed the resulting saga. Session 8 closed out the initial set of conflicts set in and around Smith City, and sessions 9-11 concerned the voyage from harbor to harbor as our heroes traveled by sea to the hub of the Elven Empire, Tourmaline. (see the attached map from the rulebook)

Looking over the game as a text with associated adventures and stuff available at the website, and looking over our experience of play, I see an odd "gap" into which play can fall. As far as I can tell, given most of the examples in the book and as implied by the play aids, one plays to experience whimsical, almost caper-like adventures with varying degrees of lethality, and the colorful diversity of character types is there so players can wear different amusing hats. However, the content and processes of character creation not only imply but actively promote much more motivated, opinionated, proactive characters up to their necks in highly individualized crises. In other words the adventures and "how to play" material are all about how you can play a Draconian, for instance, in them, and Draconians are kewl. But if you sit down and make up a character, and happen to get a Draconian (again, for instance), you get very much your Draconian with his or her specific history, opinions, and immediate, pressing problems.

Ross has been GMing the game with his aim on the latter. The whole "scenario" was less of a prepared dangerous situation that just anyone could have wandered into to be "in an adventure," and more of setting the various firecrackers on the three character sheets into the same spot. The effect has been enlightening - yes, we saw serious arc development per character, or at least, for two of the three, but we've also found the game or possibly the system to stumble in terms of "what next" once that has happened or mostly happened. So ... as of session 8, or especially 11, now "away" and "safe" relative to most of our former problems, what happens? Especially in terms of the character-driven concerns, on our sheets, most of which are now resolved. The new adversity and new adventures (as a result, not as a plan) has to grope around a little for its urgency, lacking the same degree of character-proactive fuel.

The embedded video link goes directly to session 12, beginning a new playlist; I'll add #13 to it soon.

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Ron Edwards's picture

Play has focused mainly on personalities and dialogues, feeling out where each of our heroes' priorities lie, I think. Here's the direct link to the start of session 13.

I make no comment regarding the obvious familiarity of every single person in the group concerning certain aspects of paralegal recreational practices.

Ross's picture

I have thoughts. First up I should point out that when I started this the last problem I expected to have was "what will characters be doing in session 13?" I figured we would play a three or four sessions of this slightly goofy fantasy heartbreaker then call it a day and so I definitely front-loaded a lot of the character's "stuff" into the starting situational landscape. Too much probably, not just because you all started to comment on the implausible coincidences, but also because we burned through much of it pretty quickly and now aren't sure where to go.

So that's on me, rather than the game specifically, as is failing to find the right hooks into Rod's character's "stuff" and so not really letting an arc develop for Christabelle at anything like the same pace as Shinning Star or Grrrl. I think theres a good probability that if that had happened we would have hit the point Ron describes and looked and said "yeah, we're done".

On the other hand the game doesn't as a text help do any of that either. The improvement mechanic is on it's own terms good - its always interesting to hear what the players want to try and get better in - but I promptly forget afterwards since the way we've been playing there isn't much opportunity to think "Shining Star improved her Run, I'll make sure she gets to roll that next session". It doesn't generally generate new story driving content as far as I can tell - maybe with the exception of when player's have chosen to add Spell Skills to their characters.

Ron Edwards's picture

The character creation system has a lot of "snap together" potential, as rolls and decisions accumulate in such a way that a unique, extremely motivated character suddenly "appears" mentally. It culminates in a few stated goals which, at that point, pretty much write themselves. From there, arriving at a reasonable place for them to be, and tossing in enough relevant NPCs and other concerns from the character sheets, is pretty straightforward, and also, there's enough momentum from the players to produce a pretty good round of action, at the very least, and possibly emergent arcs.

But you're absolutely right that the text itself doesn't provide much from there. It even seems to lose all momentum toward further play. The player-written goals never appear again, in the GMing sections, at all let alone the notion of writing new ones. And I was thinking, too, that at some point it seems reasonable to revisit the characters' various rolled features and traits to see if they have been revised in play. Shining Star, for example, "cleaned up" not only physically but through a curse-lifting miracle from the Sidhe goddess - you'd think that would be enough to revise the ratty tangled hair, her wrinkles, and slovenliness (all originally rolled). We've been playing it as if they had, sure, but all those things had played their own powerful roll in conceiving Shining Star and her situation at the outset of play ... and now, nothing had been generated to replace them. It's as though you really need a "character creation Mk 2" step once the starting events of play have hit their organic crest, much like you may rewrite any or all descriptors for a Sorcerer character when the Kicker's done.

That led me to think of ways to use the existing materials for a minor reboot.What if each player looked at the Personality Traits table and decided for another player's character which two Traits seemed evident to them, at this point of play? I might, for example, describe the current Grrl as Trusting and Grim, having moved through her arc and no longer being Emotional and Violent. Similarly, especially given a time-lapse, it's at least possible to consider rolling one or two times on the Lifeline table to see what has dropped upon a character in the lapse.

Rod_A's picture

Ross, I don't know that I agree that it was on you to "find the right hooks" for Christabelle. I made the decision to defer contact with Christabelle's personal material - not knowing whether there would be a chance to revisit it but feeling it was the right thing in the moment - and I stick by that.

On the topic of the improvement mechanic, I think it would be more "drivey" if you could plow multiple free checks into the same ability at once, as a more impactful statement about which way this character wants to head.

Ron Edwards's picture

@Rod re: Ross, I fully agree that you as GM aren't to shoulder the burden of making it all work, and that "on you" is way too much weight. Considering the game itself jump-starts remarkable story potential and then drops it like a hot rock, I'd say our first arc was stunning.

I see Christabelle as a stealth hero throughout it, because the more obvious "heroes" of the moment, Shining Star and Grrl, tried hard to deal with their problems but ended up causing as much trouble as they solved, the more so because certain aspects of their problems affected one another between panels as it were. When Christabelle stepped in with her questions, wham, each time, it was like Doctor Truth cleared the air and established a new plateau for what could happen and why.

Ross's picture

All really interesting but just picking up one thing - My worry about using the life path table again would be that it might leave the really interesting stuff happening off screen, still worth thinking about though

I'm also thinking about the impact of the perceived swinginess of the system, why everyone groans when I say "would you like to make a.... roll?" As players is this limiting the goals / actions your characters pursue? I've felt like some of the situations I've presented you've all looked at and thought "that's too tough" maybe taking some of the  momentum out of play? There's  not really anything in the rules that helps scale things appropriately.

Ron Edwards's picture

For the Lifeline thing, I'd definitely want it to be a couple of items at most, to be integrated with or even better, extended from the current situation. If the out-of-sight stuff would progress past a certain plot point, then I guess that's the price we pay, knowingly, for a time-skip in the first place. I guess. It's something to try and can't be assessed any other way.

That issue about rolls' outcomes, and the desirability of rolling, and even the (wait for it) meaning of rolling in this game is very tough to figure out. I've toyed with the notion of some equivalent of "take 10" in the d20 system, i.e., the option to call the roll a bare success without rolling, because fumbles & crits & degree of success aren't relevant or fun in the moment. But then again, some of our extreme results have been very important and enjoyable, even in situations where "take 10" would almost certainly have been chosen. So I'm still a little torn about it. The topic is big enough that we really need a Seminar discussion and dedicated post for it.

Ross's picture

I have more thoughts (endless thoughts...) but for now I felt I had to also say that the "slightly goofy fantasy heartbreaker" description was tongue in cheek and in fact I have really enjoyed playing this game and would do so again if I coul dfind people who were interested.

Ron Edwards's picture

For my part, and indicative of personal failings, I have generated an original list of character races and a semi-original, tweaked list of character types, to create a weird + fun + edgy fantasy setting which I think would bring out the system's strengths.

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