So, last time I played Trollbabe was almost exactly three years ago, and as documented by this post on La Locanda, it didn’t go too well.
Some years of Adept Play courses and constantly playing The Pool later, and re-analyzing Trollbabe through that experience, and I felt very confident to pick up the game again at FroggyCon in Milan — a play-only convention that I help organize. I was right — after going through Situation & Story, Trollbabe GMing was effortless fun. I played for a 3h session with three other trollbabe-players, two of which female, one of which I can only describe as a real-life trollbabe in demeanor and look — she was a delightfully inspired player and might be posting her side of this session sometime soon.
Being familiar with players choosing the same adventure location as a crutch, so they can default to team-play and everyone being in the same scene, I suggested they all select different locations, so we can experience that you can indeed play together without your characters being in the same scene all the time. It was awesome to see that I didn’t need to prod — everyone was commenting on everything that was happening, at all times. One player even triggered a conflict, in a scene her trollbabe wasn’t in, when me and the other player were getting caught up in dialogue and taking too long to take up dice. Great players make great games.
Then, something occurred that I think is very legitimate Trollbabe play — all three trollbabes (initially) wanted little to do with the problems in each settlement and actively fought with NPCs to be able to go their own way and get back to their travels. This was as good of a commentary on the stakes in each adventure as willing involvement would have been. And through conflict with NPCs, some of them got enough perspective to start taking a side — one didn’t, and that’s fine. Her ending was to finally leave this place and leave these people to their own devices. This type of fruitful play out of rejecting adventures is very much in contrast with common RPG non-play where player-characters must go along with NPC-given quests, lest the adventure not even start.
An unfortunate reality of convention play is that 3h weren’t enough to complete three ventures for three trollbabes. But we didn’t force a conclusion — wherever we got, we got, and I think it’s something important to commit to when playing in these limited time-slots. I’d rather have 3h of real play than starting to railroad in the third hour to get to a “satisfying conclusion” — not that Trollbabe as a system would react well to this kind of manipulation.
But finally — most of all this post is an excuse to share the stupenduous character sheet artwork drawn by our real-life trollbabe, who’s an amazingly talented artist as well — because of course she is.
6 responses to “Real-life trollbabes adventure on their own terms!”
Italian version of this post on La Locanda:
I would like to go more into detail and learn more about your experience. Specifically:
Did having female players instead of male players make the experience different from having only men at the table? Do you consider it a factor that significantly impacted the game?
What has changed since the last time you played? What made you feel that everything was easier to manage?
I think I’ll amend or re-shape that question a little. I don’t want any “yet another man explains what women are/want” dialogue here. Maybe it wouldn’t go that way, but regardless: let’s put this differently.
Claudio, what was your experience in gender terms if any, in playing this game?
Regarding female players:
I’ll leave my answer as it already was drafted before Ron’s message, as it pretty much answers Alessio without going in the direction Ron feared.
I don’t really have enough datapoints of successful Trollbabe play to say how having women at the table influenced play. I personally didn’t notice anything, although that doesn’t mean nothing happened.
The cool part about this session was not really about the gender of the participants, but specifically the one player that reminded me of a trollbabe in her demeanor — very much a compliment.
Regarding what changed: I think two things changed.
The first one is that the players that I got for this session were genuinely interested in Trollbabe, open-minded, and some of them had tried it before. None of them seemed to struggle with basic medium-play and stepping over authorities. In my session three years ago, players were not that committed to Trollbabe and had only vaguely heard of it as this “amazing game by the great Ron Edwards”. I can now remember and identify several places where players got confused about statements made during a conflict’s outcome narration but before the conflict was fully resolved. They kept trying to re-negotiate the situation despite us being out of Fair and Clear and fully into Conflict resolution. They also chose to play in the same adventure and tried to team up several times (not necessarily a bad thing, but it was in this context). It was a murkfest.
The second thing that changed is that my tools for handling these situations and understanding of basic roleplaying, authorities, listening, fundamental medium stuff and such, increased a lot from three years ago, mostly from frequenting this site and participating in the People & Play and Situation & Story courses. I’m trying a lot less hard, listening to others, facilitating un-murking when it happens, and enjoying myself a lot more.
I can particularly point at Italian play culture and the marketing of the Italian publisher surrounding Ron’s games as “amazingly designed” as inviting players to open them up and expect the game to play by itself, if you only follow the procedure precisely.
Very little attention is given in Italian play culture to what you need to do as a group to make play function, it goes in two directions really:
– Either everyone at your table is subconsciously trying to fuck over the game, so you need a strong leader who will guide the story or cheat on dice to keep things on track. (Alternatively, just do the same thing, pass around the beachball, and call it “distributing authority”)
– Or everyone at your table is subconsciously trying to fuck over your game, so you need a perfectly designed game that will do everything for you so you can’t make mistakes.
In both cases, it’s based in fundamental non-trust and non-listening.
The way that Trollbabe is often promoted (here in Italy) falls in the second camp. It doesn’t really fit the game.