We played 1 hour of Cold Soldier with my friend Benoit. Benoit was playing the Cold Soldier, I was playing the Dark Master. I was facilitating the rules that Ben had not read.
Cold Soldier formalizes a lot the distribution of authorities.
Backstory authority is shared between the players. In our game, we decided together to play in the past, and that the Dark Master was a powerful sorcerer. We decided to play somewhere in our region (Belgium, more specifically around the Silva Carbonara and the Ardennes, a chain of small mountains), during the Merovingian rule, with a shared agreement that we should be bound by historical accuracy and that we can be influenced by Sword & Sorcery literature. We were in some kind of local barony, in the old, abandoned castle of a previous king. Part of this castle was transformed into a Monastery – not the post millennium Dominican educated thing, but more Irish Monastic hardcore austere culture with stylite fanatism. The Dark Master was an old Superior Monk corrupted by some entity he worshiped.
Situation authority is fixed and influenced by the GM through the designation of tasks.
The aenda I gave to the Dark Master was, as I discussed explicitly with Ben, “something between the objectification and submission of women and ethnic cleansing”, without a clear decision. Those are not trivial things to put in a game so we can deal with it without endorsing them. This orientated me to gives, as Dark Master tasks, the obsession of submitting the local Countess a mind-shattered slave, but also to infect and control all the women of the local people by infecting them with some insect magic and controlling them to create a dark beastly army.
Here are a few things that I think are relevant for discussions.
- Reincorporation. This one is the most important thing for me. I find it difficult to creatively assign new tasks ie. Playing the Dark Master. It may be my own need to improve a skill of reincorporation, I don’t know. When I played S/Lay W/Me with Christoffer, the game went so smoothly, and I’m trying to identify what I do or not do that may make things difficult for me. I still struggle, as a Dark Master, to find repulsive task and agenda that are not just a patchwork of body horror made up scene after scene. I know that this post and particularly the discussion has been milling in my head for long with this type of game and may be relevant: https://adeptplay.com/actual-play/mars-colony-talking-heads. I found myself someone trying to make up something, kind of nowhere, like I don’t see anything in the outcome of the Cold Soldier scene that inform me to reinject a new task that is not made up from nowhere. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. Specially when the Cold Soldier resisted to the task, and it affected the Dark Master’s plan. I’m sure I have something to deconstruct here. Here are the tasks I assigned:
- Go into the royal crypt of the castle and bring me the organs of the ancient queen. I described the opposition as a sacred aura repealing the cold soldier.
- Go slaughter the Monks in the Monastery, except the Superior Monk.
- Take this weird disgusting head-sized spider larva and force the local Countess, Fredegund to eat it.
- Open the way to the Spider-creature so it can infect the county.
- Agency. To the opposite, Benoit was really good at doing his job. I really appreciated what agency was at a specific moment of the game. During the assignment (a) (“go into the royal crypt”), Benoit remembered a memory about him when he opened the perfectly preserved queen’s body to get her organs. The scene described was two royal stone sepultures, with the tomb of the king being open and empty. I was throwing him the idea that he could himself be the king, that he could activated through a memory recall. I didn’t communicate this to Ben. , Ben chose to describe a memory of him hunting a dear and opening it, while he was opening the perfectly preserved queen’s body. At this moment, I really felt “yeah, it matters a LOT that it’s not anyone playing the Cold Soldier”, memory narration has a huge impact on the game.
- Character’s goal. Ben chose to resist the Dark Master’s orders directly after the first task. Instead of bringing back the Superior Monk to the Dark Master, he killed it first, remembering how this Monk welcomed him and healed him before.
- Then, once the Cold Soldier entered Fredegund room during the night, Ben stopped the game and asked me “why should I resist the Dark Master at all? Why should I have any motivation about that?
- I answered by getting by to the rules of the endgame (which Ben didn’t read), what were the stakes of the Cold Soldier and how the mechanic of cards, and flashbacks could lead him to lose any type of desire himself and just be an objectified tool. The text couldn’t answer by himself, so we had a discussion about “The Dark Master is not a quest giver, he is a terrifying bully controlling your life”, and Ben discussed about how it all makes sense that he built himself his own character’s motivation to resist through the use of flashback.
- After that, Ben was suddenly far more attentive to the cards and how it works, trying to build his hand in his hole. He played very hard for the resistance of everything that he (and I) found repulsive in the Dark Master’s plan.
- Emergent themes. It may be relevant to say how Ben resisted and how those repugnant stories of woman objectification went in play:
- Ben successfully resisted to the Dark Master’s order to force Fredegund to digest a weird spider larva. After our discussion about the motivation to resist, he called for a memory recalling that he was Fredegund lover. He blocked her door and forced the Count to ingest the larva, which created a horrifying spider-count-creature, locked up in his room.
- The Dark Master ordered to free the Creature so it could impregnate the whole country. The warned soldiers of the castle were running around there and formed the opposition, and Ben resisted by pushing the guard to kill the creature.
That’s how we ended this game. Unfortunately, the Cold Soldier failed to secure his stake (who became obvious: protecting Fredegund), and failed to kill himself into the flames, the will of the Dark Master bringing him back to him.