I had a chance to try this game as a homework assignment for the Phenomena course taught by Ron during this period. If I’m sharing the game’s journal, first and foremost, it’s because I found a particular pleasure in the imagery that developed around this apocalypse, and a particular sense of fondness for the characters that went into its construction. There was a lot of sweetness and a bit of pain amidst the harsh body horror tones and pounding synthwave of Perturbator; it was unexpected, and I’m glad for that. There are, however, very interesting points, I think, in carefully analyzing the dynamics concerning the narration of the outcomes as presented by the tarot. I’ll throw out just two small points, already discussed in part with Ron:
-There’s an interesting property of the game that I noticed: sometimes I simply felt like cutting it short. And sometimes, instead, I felt like explaining, illustrating thoughts, writing more. But there is no correlation between this and the importance of the events at play. There are no particular expectations of what I have to write; it’s very liberating. These gave rise to moments that, even if they did not always occur, constituted unexpected and welcome elements – such as ACID’s memory of his Korean ex-girlfriend.
– I found it interesting how certain outcomes can be partially altered by the description of events: choosing whether Hemlock, temporarily knocked out of the game mechanics by the failed exploration, had been injured or gone into shock is a good example. More subtly, I believe that the description of a given event constructs a next set of logically connected decisions: in this case I would argue that the exercise of narration also impacts the definition of the next situation.
4 responses to “Fallen Angels: a Swords of the Skull-Takers actual play”
One of the great solitaire RPGs
Swords of the Skull-Takers dates back to 2011, in one of the Ronnies activities I used to do (the first set in 2005-2006, the second in 2011). The terms at that point were soldier, skull, old, and sword, and it's pretty obvious which two Joe Prince chose. This particular round was coordinated with another activity held by Emily Care Boss and Epediah Ravichol, focusing on solo play to celebrate the calendar date 01-11-11; a given entry could be eligible for both.
Some of Joe's games are available at DriveThru RPG (Prince of Darkness Games), but I think he considered this one to be left in draft form; it used to be available with a number of other "play this, it's not done" works at his old website, no longer extant. Therefore I'll take the slight risk of presenting it here, not the original entry but his revisions based on play, which I regard very highly. Joe, if you're out there and don't like me doing this, let me know.
It follows a journaling method which, remarkably, is extremely visceral and expressive, to the extent that I think one can play this with more sense of role-playing in the moment than I've often observed during group play at many in-person tables. It is definitely not second-best or lonely-fun play. When he was working on it, at one point Joe even decided to use videos as in-character broadcasts, instead of journal entries, so the effect would be found-footage rather than an old notebook or similar.
The best way for me to demonstrate my appreciation for Adriano's account here is to reach back almost ten years myself and share this: my Swords of the Skull-Takers play 2012 – which Adriano did not see, therefore you can perhaps tell from two independent experiences just how well the game draws out the best in oneself regarding character play, thematic punch, aesthetic investment, and expression.
Outcomes & Descriptions
Could you go into this a little more?
Where does the description come from? Did you write it down before or after deciding Hemlock's fate? I am interested in how the procedures work in play.
I’m interested in Adriano’s
I'm interested in Adriano's reply, but in the interest of common ground, make sure to take a look at the rules that I linked to in my comment above. That way he can reply directly without having to explain them.
Hi Sam! Forgive me for
Hi Sam! Forgive me for replying so late. I assume that you followed Ron's advice; in this way we can already start from the fact that the description of Hemlock's fate is first of all a consequence of the partial failure of exploration during the day phase, reported later in the diary in written form. As you can see in the actual play – specifically, on days 7, 9, 10, 11 – this condition was realized over and over again. There is a common constrain in the narration of these effects. But, and I feel it is important to point this out, it seemed to me that reporting these effects in the description of the diary partially altered their meaning, generating ever-changing impulses and stimuli. At times, I seemed to find a renewed source of anxiety and pre-occupation for my characters – Hemlock's frustration when the group arrived at Koto, for example. And sometimes, I simply found that outcome boring or not particularly inspiring. In this case, though, I didn't feel compelled to pull out a particularly brilliant narrative. I mean that, even if in a way that is not 100% replicable, this last step didn't just drag out the effects of the outcome.I feel like I can summarize that a strictly mechanical effect of an outcome – the "exhausted" condition for an npc – changed – not ignored, but pushed a few inches further – the definition of the situation of the characters under consideration.