First impressions (burr, so cold!)

So I tried Cold Soldier (literally ice cold) together with Kristoffer under the tutelage of Ron this weekend; only an introduction really as we didn’t play a full game.

Kristoffer chose a Vengeful god for the Dark Master. Neither of us had played the game before. I had read the rules as laid out by Ron and possibly some play report. I suggested setting the scene in the Arctic in the early 1800s having read The Terror, a fictionalised account of a doomed expedition to find the Northwestern Passage by Dan Simmons.

Ron encouraged Kristoffer to send my cold soldier on a mission he himself found repugnant so he ended up telling me (oh, is it he and me now, not the dark master and the cold soldier?) to destroy a nearby village and kill everybody there. I did my best but was rebuffed by soldiers with guns. Oh well, at least I remembered having a child sometime in the past.

Questions arise like my rotting inuit hunter from the ice (yeah, parts of him stuck to the ice, how cute):

Is it critical to follow the specific order in which we create the setting (situation?)? For instance, I would have liked suggesting The Arctic, early 1800s, before deciding upon the nature of the Weapon. Also Kristoffer changed his Agenda to reflect this particular setting.

Does the DM (oh. oh!) set up its Agenda literally or does he only send the CS on different errands, related or not? Perhaps different approaches might work?

What is the nature of the Weapon the CS wields? A feature or a means to better serve the Dark Master’s commands. Some examples please. I assume it’s not something lame as the Cleaver of Death (could definitely be the Cleaver of Death!)? In our short play the Weapon was a huge monstrous polar bear (I had been reading The Terror and watched the TV-series a while ago as mentioned) that the cold soldier rode upon.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more questions after I’ve posted and reread the booklet but those will have to go into the Comments.

Please be gentle with me or I will cry and run away. No, really.

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16 responses to “First impressions (burr, so cold!)”

  1. Now or then but not the future? People being rather ignorant about other places and times other than the one they live in, why not an option to play in the future? I am far more likely to tolerate different visions of the future than poor attempts at historic fiction or stories ostensibly taking place in a foreign area that turns out to be only flimsy set dressing. What is the reasoning for this restriction? (I spontaneously wanted to play a rotting cyborg. ๐Ÿ˜Š)

    • Absolutely not the future. It destroys the game.

      Cold Soldier operates via its basic anatomy of speaking: that the Dark Master player moves time forward from scene to scene, responding primarily from the changes to their agenda based on the events just played; and the Soldier player provides more and more backstory, which may fragmented or disconnected or only personally relevant, or may be strikingly full of context for the Dark Master, as the player wishes. These informational roles are not in conflict, but they require that each person relates to all the possible information they might use in the same way that the other person does.

      In other words, there really is no “the GM,” i.e., a person who knows and plays and serves out the “world” for the other player to inhabit. The two people have different jobs in determining and providing their respective zones or spheres of information. Playing in the past or present means that both people, the real ones, have the same access to real-world information they may want to utilize in play. Playing in the future means that one of them necessarily appropriates “the world” that they can make up and deliver to the other, i.e., the Soldier player would continually have to ask what something is like and whether they can do this or that, and there’s no way to equalize it.

    • Ah, thanks Ron, that makes a lot of sense. Looking forward to exploring this game more.
      Also perhaps some emotional depth would be lost playing in a time or place that isn’t real.

    • Is it supposed to be something special or just a general description like violence, sorcery, fear and so on?

    • I forgot to give you the text I brought, unfortunately. I’ll make sure you get it next time. This topic will be much easier, and possibly unnecessary, after you have it.

  2. Me and Ron also got into a discussion about whether you could ‘game’ Cold Soldier, Ron mentioning his impression that people tend to have this reaction especially with games using a deck of cards, if I understood him correctly. I felt like you ought to be able to ‘win’ by manipulating the cards and the number of turns, or at least tilt the odds (theoretically, as I’m not interested in doing so but know of players who definitely would). I don’t know if it’s exclusive to games using cards but that might very well trigger a gut reaction that this is something you can ‘win’. (Is role-playing really gaming at all? It can definitely be but is it always by definition? I don’t feel it is and that by calling it gaming we diminish and limit the potential experience.)

    • That is a lot of content in a short paragraph, operating at three different scales. I want to break out the steps carefully because each scale’s reply operates independently.

      1. Inside the resolutions of a single game, in this case Cold Soldier, I do not criticize or demonize anyone being numerate for strategic advantage. That’s part of using any system of any description, including those which include no arithmetic or probability, and instead use meristic or ordering math for speaking.

      2. The behavior I’m talking about is bigger and more subtle: in set theory, shifting to the Axiom of Determinacy from the Axiom of Choice. This means that one is no longer “playing a game with others,” but is instead beating, solving, or devaluing the game so that no one else can win or only you can win. In the sister discipline game theory, “game” can mean anything we do together, so I want to stress that if the thing includes winning or losing, then applying the Axiom of Determinacy means ruining it for everyone, not winning in the familiar or clear or acceptable sense (which retains the Axiom of Choice; most things we call games do). And if the thing doesn’t include winning in this familiar sense in the first place, then applying the Axiom of Determinacy means asserting that it does include it after all, then including an arbitrary win condition that happens to be whatever one is doing or just did.

      In other words, to apply the Axiom of Determinacy is not a competitive or challenge-interested act, but being, basically, a bully and wussy at the same time. You want to win but you want it to be impossible to lose because you’re such a smarty.

      So, regarding Cold Soldier, my point has two parts.

        i) that many people shift into the Axiom of Determinacy when they are at a role-playing table simply because cards are involved, for some reason (again, this is about fake, wussy, I-broke-it “win,” or outright cheating, rather than actually winning in terms of playing well)
        ii) that Cold Soldier’s procedures don’t include any identifiable strategy which solves the game (i.e., doesn’t play it) to achieve the best possible poker hand at the end. Yes, one must be numerate in the sense I describe in #1 above, i.e., it’s a “good idea” to announce a memory every turn, but nothing one can do simply paves the way toward that end. It’s also worth mentioning that the Dark Master player gains cards only at the Soldier player’s option, plays no cards whatsoever and has no strategy available to them toward any ending card composition. Therefore if one does shift into the Axiom of Determinacy, there’s nowhere to go with it.

      3. Role-playing as a medium, considering it as we know it, is a leisure-time activity that by definition makes small-f, minimally-defined fiction. The next question is what for, in a human and social and creative sense. “Game” in the sense of contest or competition among persons is certainly a viable application, staying within the Axiom of Choice just like most games we know. It’s actually one of the only two such applications that I have ever observed. That’s what my old essays were all about. Therefore my comments in this conversation aren’t criticizing that possibility at all.

      Someone else, some day, can address the questions of why anyone (ever) shifts to the Axiom of Determinacy when doing anything with other people that isn’t malign. Or more specifically, why this behavior is sometimes – but curiously consistently – activated just because someone is holding cards in role-playing resolution (especially since playing card games like poker, et cetera, does not shift to that Axiom either).

  3. I much prefer the term ‘play’ over ‘game,’ as in ‘playing.’ I really wish we’d call it roll-lek rather than roll-spel in Swedish, as in role-playing – what would role-gaming even mean?

    • To me at least ‘spel’ has unfortunate connotations. Role-playing is (or can be) something else (tempted to say ‘more’) than a game with superficially similar characteristics, as per the whole popular family of boardgame dungeon crawlers. There can be real depth and emotions involved that I seldom realise in other forms of gaming. (Yeah, noticed that slip.)

    • I feel the same way, and I have seen the term “game” cause at least as much trouble as it serves any useful purpose. Currently, I try to specify that first, it’s a legacy term that isn’t supposed to mean anything (the same can be said for the term “role-playing”), unless the most generic possible concept of “people getting together of their own accord to do something they find enjoyable.” But I add the point that this meaning includes a lot of things we typically don’t call games.

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