June 2023 Q&A

Maybe I’m too much of a pattern-making story-making animal, but the questions this time really built a single coherent body of inquiry for me. I felt like I was addressing a single important topic from multiple angles of attack.

I introduce the video with a warning, but I’ll say it briefly here as well: this Q&A presentation is not screwing around. I say things which aren’t nice about things which I think are bad.

The Adept Play posts about Väsen are Skräck i gamla Sverige and Neck and neck.

Just after 4:00 in Part 3, I did not quite succeed in saying that, according to the mistaken engineering-for-purpose viewpoint, the alleged purpose is not somethng you (plural) do, but is instead given to you by the game, after you’ve been entrained to its little incentive reinforcements. 

The Comics Madness posts relevant to Jon’s question include Striking twice, some day, Marvelous, meet miraculous, The Big Bang: The Punisher, 1986-Present, Batpulp and its antecedent The not so secret cabal. You can follow the Rorschach and Watchmen tags for a number of posts as well if you can handle not seeing what everyone is supposed to say about them. In Part 4, I should have landed the point better about Captain Marvel in the mid-late 1980s, when they invented the notion that he always has the mind of Billy Batson, and made him not only a kid, mentally, but a singularly goofy and naïve kid. It’s outlined clearly enough, I think, in the Marvelous/miraculous post. 

In Part 6, I should have been more specific about system features in The Shadow of Yesterday, I but wanted to avoid the impression of a picky review. For example, I think more dedicated playful-play, instead of the fetish for cleverness and the rush to publish, would have dialed back the X.P. system for Keys, so that racking up points merely by according with the description would be gone, and therefore switching-out Keys would not have been so constantly available.

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5 responses to “June 2023 Q&A”

  1. Väsen’s amount of scripting sounds awful. Another pretty game with an intriguing background … which then defaults to a Wampus hunt as you say.

    If I understood your comments correctly, the damage mechanics could have teeth *if* one chose harsher and longer-lasting conditions to be imposed on the PCs.

    That does sound similar to FATE with its mild to extreme consequences — it’s up to the participants to make the harsher categories deserve their names.

    I recently ran FATE (https://adeptplay.com/2023/11/03/a-sad-bit-of-fate/) in a deliberately ‘traditional’ fashion – i.e. I took responsibility for tight pacing, providing a story and a happy ending – and found the absence of tightly defined effects (as, say, in Rolemaster) and a formal death condition somewhat useful in this (unsatisfying — see below) context.

    The usual goals of illusionism are (a) allowing the GM to tell his story and (b) keeping the characters alive.

    With death not on the table, I could run the fights in FATE without worrying about (b). In this case, it proved to be enough to choose foes who were aiming to capture or blackmail the PCs, respectively, so I was fine with success or failure.. In fact, I upped the stats of the two bosses I created according to the rulebook, because IME such recommended stats are geared towards the PCs winning.

    As for (a), the PCs could have lost, but it would have meant little: Be imprisoned, escape sooner or later, confront the bad guys again.

    And that’s the crux, really. I missed the excitement of high stakes and outcomes that actually matter, taking us – including me as a GM – to unforeseen places.

    When I ditched illusionist play a decade ago, I chose DCC as a vehicle, because its many tables (critical hits, spell results etc.) unequivocally spell out drastic results.

    I wonder which is worse: A system with built-in consequences a la Rolemaster, which then ‘requires’ cheating (when playing the provided adventures) or a system like Väsen, which apparently softballs things from the get-go (to enable the GM to enact the provided adventures). In both cases, those adventures may be the biggest problem of all.

    • The Critical injuries rules in Väsen, which I do like, don’t involve choosing effects. They occur when a character is damaged to Broken status, either physically or mentally. The effects are rolled using tables, one for physical, one for mental. The results are (i) either non-fatal or fatal for physical, and similarly non-chronic or chronic for mental; (ii) either long-term defects or insights, which are advantageous and sometimes occult abilities. These two things are not 1:1; I don’t want to over-explain here, but trust me that the results are carefully organized for distinct combinations of (i) and (ii).

  2. (To be fair, the Rolemaster modules I’m familiar with – all of them for the Shadow World setting – mostly provide situation only, with neither planned scenes or scene stacks nor guidance on how to run them. However, if one approaches, say, the gravesites in *Kingdom of the Desert Jewel* with a D&D mindset – clear the dungeon, or at least get out with some phat loot -, this is bound to end in disaster, as engaging in fight after fight, trap after trap is not sustainable in the deadly Rolemaster rules.)

  3. *Night’s Master*! I read it a few years ago and was bowled over by its quality, and the fact that I’d only ever heard about it from you. Grand, sweeping fantasy that’s also dark, sexual, and gritty. It reminded me of a twisted version of some Biblical stories.

    Azhrarn is excellent as the titular “demon” (really he’s fae), and the offhand sex-as-something-embodied-beings-do was a breath of fresh vintage 70’s air. What I really love about this book is Lee’s unerring ability to create good ol’ yarns that ruthlessly hold fast to the law of consequence. Nothing that happens is forgotten or insignificant. Each story takes some small bit of a previous one, some thing a character did because of the position the character was in and who the character was, and spins out that decision into fullblown new consequences that create a crisis situation for a new set of characters. I know all good stories do this, but something about the way Lee does it is masterful. She does it so nakedly that you’d think the artifice of her hand would dispel the inherent dark gravity such tales have, but somehow her lean stories press the weight of their mystery on you all the more, even though you see her deft hand clearly at work.

    The prose is good, too! It gets heightened at times as appropriate to the tone of the subject, but it never goes purple.

    I was sorely disappointed in *Death’s Master*. Overlong, for one. I haven’t ventured into the other Flat Earth books, but damn, *Night’s Master*. Damn. Might be time for a reread.

    Regarding The Shadow of Yesterday and further development, Eero Tuovinen released a version of the system scrubbed of TSOY’s setting context, called “The Solar System”. I have it but not TSOY, so can’t make a comparison.

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