Fate and Solace

A couple months ago, I joined an ongoing role-playing campaign. We met once in August, then just had our first meeting since a Sunday or two ago. It’s set in a world the GM devised, running with a slightly modified version of the Savage Worlds rules, plus what seem like magic systems of his own devising.

I feel a little like I’m seeing how the other half lives — the half that actually plays role-playing games on a periodic basis, rather than just writing about them and thinking wistfully in between game days and conventions. Getting it all to work is even rougher than I remember. Remember I said I first played with the group in August? We didn’t get together again until mid-November.

In the intervening time, everything about the game fell out of my head. I spent that August session mostly getting my bearings. There were a lot of proper nouns flung around the table: player characters, non-player characters, places, things, deities and so on. All that fell out of my head after the session ended. So I took diligent notes in the second session. Writing things down helps me remember them without even having to check the paper. I think I’ve got it all straight now.

As one of those unfortunate souls who’s done far more talking and thinking about role-playing games than I have playing, it’s disconcerting to see how other people play or run a game. Because it never matches up with one’s imaginings. Right now I’m on the side of biting my tongue because I don’t know enough about the group dynamics to understand what’s open to commentary or discussion.

Tomorrow’s the next session. The characters found themselves in a hard spot, as often happens. The form of a decision point looms up ahead. I have a very good idea of who’s going to fall on either side of the decision, assuming I understand everyone’s backgrounds correctly. We’ll see how it plays out.

Savage World of Solomon Kane: The Church Job

Honestly, I don’t know if there’s anything to be gained by writing about this game. It was lots of fun, but in retrospect, it seems even more like one of those “you just had to be there” experiences than most role-playing games. With players and GM alike fueled by robust Russian fare, vodka and other fine boozes, we went for a howlingly ridiculous romp in early 17th century peasant Russia. Our motley assortment of adventurers — I played the aged last of the Aztec priests — while maundering around the Eurasian landmass, found themselves in a village beset by uncharacteristically ferocious animals. It transpired they were driven to retrieve the scattered remains of a dark monk that once terrorized the village long ago, when Christianity first came to the region.

Highlights included:

  • Two completely wilderness unsavvy travelers, one of whom was an alcoholic samurai, not only getting lost in the woods, but finding Baba Yaga‘s hut, traipsing past the skull-topped fence posts and banging on the wall — Baba Yaga’s hut, of course, always faces away from you until commanded appropriately.
  • My Aztec priest getting into an increasingly goofy, vodka-fueled debate with a laconic, gravel-voiced black bear: “Now suppose, and I say ‘suppose’ because I know animals understand if-then clauses, someone took the skull out of the church. What would happen then?”
  • One player breaking out his time-honored ” . . . and then we’re on fire!” plan; no matter what the initial steps of the plan are, it invariably, albeit accidentally, ends with one or more of the player characters on fire.

Weird Wars: The Troll Under the Bridge

A couple weeks back, I made the trek down to Rutland for a friend’s Weird Wars one-shot. While not my first foray into “historical event plus supernatural or otherwise bizarre oddities” — perhaps the most notable being Crashing a Conference at Wewelsburg at TotalCon in February — this was my first outing with Savage Worlds, which, quite frankly, I was not psyched about. Savage Worlds is one of those systems for which some people really drink the Kool-Aid, particularly over at RPG.net: “Bloo bloo bloo, fast, furious and fun, bloo bloo bloo.” I found it difficult to believe any generic, multipurpose system could be so amazingly better than any other without a heaping helping of personal taste to shift the bias — and still do. Having now gotten two play sessions under my belt, I’ve got no complaints about Savage Worlds, but I don’t buy it’s so exceptionally better or faster than any other generic system of comparable complexity, a la Unisystem.

The set up for game cast the players as the only members of an airborne infantry platoon that actually landed where they meant to after parachuting into occupied France in World War II. At first, there was much fun with missing leg bags, questions over which of the available characters we’d chosen had useful items, like a map or a compass, and the timely arrival of a German patrol. The GM’s love for Band of Brothers really shone through here.

It was a very light, off the cuff evening, with forays into the extreme silliness that role-playing games engender so well. After seeing Nazis snarfled by a troll living under the village bridge, we got the low-down on the story from Madame d’Exposition, elderly keeper of tidbits useful to motley gaggles of itinerant adventurers: troll wakes up periodically; troll peckish for goats; once troll gets goats, it goes back into hibernation. A quick trip out to a local farm yielded the two worst goats twenty American dollars can buy in wartorn France: Herve and Rupaul. They sated the troll, but not before we got in some more Nazi-bashing. My mechanical engineer from Brooklyn got a solid eight to his body count, mainly by playing Bowling for Nazis with grenades. Simple and very straightforward, but immensely entertaining along the way, thanks to everyone having a good sense of humor about them.

I’ll leave you with a bon mot that came up in play as the bruiser of the group attempted to drag two goats to their resting place in the troll’s digestive tract: “Caber tossing‘s for pussies. They don’t kick!”

Weekend Breakdown

Blimey, I had a busy weekend of gaming and gaming-related activity. In particular order — that is, chronologically sorted and neatly placed in nested lists — this weekend, I:

  • Carb and protein and fat and oil-loaded at Handy’s with the Lafayette, featuring country-fried steak in sausage gravy with eggs and hash browns, before going to:.
  • Playing board games at the Fletcher Free Library with a host of new faces, namely:
    • Two rounds of a mix of Dominion and Dominion: Seaside; the second being a draft sort of affair after a monstrous game in which the Thief drove everyone to scrape for points, for lack of money.
    • Chrononauts, which was delightful and unpredictable as always.
  • After that, I booked it down to Rutland, where delicious Russian food — apparently the solution to making cabbage taste good is cook it in as many different kinds of meat as possible — was had before launching into a Savage World of Solomon Kane one-shot set in where else but 17th century Russia.
  • Got home in Burlington around 1:45 in the AM, giving me a solid five and a bit hours of sleep before:
  • Heading off to the wilds of western upstate New Hampshire — i.e., just across the Connecticut River — to discuss convention doings.
  • Arrived back in Burlington around 5:00 PM for my first fondue experience, sampling The Kung Fu Mummy and thoroughly enjoying Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s lambasting of Future Wars, with its hand-puppet dinosaurs of variable dimensions.

I really intend to do a write-up of the Solomon Kane game, which was drop down hysterical for most of the time, thanks to the liberal application of vodka, beer and wine to the participants, but the whole weekend’s run together so much, I don’t know if I can do justice to any single element of it.