Agon: Death of a Prince

On Friday we held the fifth session of our beta playtest of AGON 2nd edition and visited our third island.

The lying in state of a body, terracotta pinax by the Gela Painter, latter 6th century BC.

Our heroines landed on the island of Nimos, where they were surprised to learn of the untimely death of the crown prince, one of their companions during the War. The royal family and the whole island were in mourning.

Continue reading “Agon: Death of a Prince”

Agon: Seeds of Democracy

Tonight was the fourth session of our beta playtest of AGON 2nd edition and our second island. Dolia’s player was unavailable so our heroes were Antiochis and Phaedra.

Our heroes landed on the islands of Ion and Soros, linked by a land bridge. Usually there was a gate on the island but it had been destroyed and masses of people were fleeing from Ion into Soros. Orta, the giant who controlled Ion, was raging; his cries of rage and stomping could be heard from afar and every stomp was accompanied by a ground tremor.

Seeing something big going on at the royal palace on Soros, the heroes went to check it out. King Vlakas was preparing to pronounce judgment on his daughter and leader of the Soros army, Commander Tyla, for failing to stop the Ionian refugees by force. The King assumes that the heroes were sent by the gods to restore order on Soros. Tyla recognized the heroes and called them by names and deeds, asking them for support.

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Agon: Boarding Action!

And now for a recap of our third episode of the AGON 2nd edition beta playtest (see the first and second episodes.) Thank you to Kim for taking notes during our games!

In the final thrilling episode for this island, an epic naval battle took place between the heroes and Thesekyra the pirate queen!

Attic pottery, 6th c. B.C. (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Battle!

When last we saw our heroes, it was just before dawn; the storm was rising again and Thesekyra’s ship was coming fast for them. The masses of dark clouds coalesced on the horizon, evoking the shape of a gigantic but stately woman which the heroes recognized as Hera. The storm cloud woman extended a staff in the direction of the pirate ship and the heroes heard, reverberating in their minds: “Retrieve my gift!”

On the opposite side of the horizon, the clouds were even darker but crackling with lightning. They moved to evoke the shape of Zeus, pointing to the pirate ship, and the heroes heard: “Sink the abomination!” For a moment, the silhouettes of the deities looked like two combattants about to throw themselves at each other, then dissolved into cloud masses. [I felt I had not made the gods present enough and wanted to give a little mythic boost.]

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Agon: Stormriders

Quick recap for our second episode of the AGON 2nd edition beta playtest (see also first episode.)

When last we left our heroes, they were about to give chase to Thesekyra the pirate queen, who had sailed away with the stolen Pillar of Storms. Before leaving the panicked inhabitants of Kryos, Dolia convinced the villagers to hide in the mines from the harpy attacks.

Our heroes set sail after the pirate queen, with a captured harpy attached to the mast with a length of yarn as a guide. The closer they got, the stormier the sea was, thanks to the stolen artifact. Unfortunately, the attempt to outmaneuver the pirate queen was met with abject failure and the heroes’ ship was driven into the magical storm.

Odysseus, Norman Lindsay 1925.

Dolia attempts to call upon Hekate for assistance, pouring a sacrifice of sacred oil onto the waves, but the sacrifice did not go so well and the ship capsized in the towering waves. Phaedra rescued the bound harpy rather than let her drown. Antiochis rallied the boon companions and Phaedra shamed the harpy into not abandoning everyone. With her help, they were able to find a nearby island and tow the capsized ship there.

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The Warren: City Park

On Sunday night I was scheduled to run an episode of Blue Rose, but for a variety of reasons this was not a good time emotionally-speaking. However, the whole group was available and eager to play so instead I ran a light-hearted adventure of The Warren (Bully Pulpit Games) by Marshall Miller. This game a sort of Bunnnies & Burrows powered by the Apocalypse, very easy to run with minimum preparation,

I used the “City Park” playset created by Kristin Firth and Eric Mersmann. It’s based on Central Park in New York but we decided to set it in Austin, Texas instead. This matter because of the weather, wildlife, plants, etc. Because it had been a crappy week, we agreed to make it more My Little Bunny than Watership Down.

Our Rabbits

Nutmeg the Thumper (female), a Strong rabbit; a young, energetic, go-getter, with a short-haired white coat and a black streak. She had an ongoing dispute with Oakley the squirrel, who kept getting to the best acorns first. Played by April.

  • Character Move: Thumper. When you cuff, kick, or knock another rabbit about, you may roll +Strong instead of +Shrewd when you Speak Plainly.

Pip the Swift Runner (male), a Swift rabbit, young and overconfident; the best runner in the warren, he would do anything on a dare. Played by Adi.

  • Character Move: Swift Runner. You have never met an animal you couldn’t outrun. When you Bolt, treat a roll of 6- as a 7-9.

Fluffy the Hutchwise (male), Shrewd rabbit despite being less than a year old: given to a child as an Easter gift, but left in the park to “run free with his rabbit friends” when the realities of caring for a house rabbit sank in. Known for his long soft coat, and floppy ears, a bit unkempt at this point. His rival for expertise on humans was an escaped laboratory rabbit called 76, with a very different perspective.

  • Character Move: Hutchwise. Raised in a cage or hutch, you are familiar with humans’ routines and mysteries. When you Pay Attention to humans, add “Why do humans do that?” to the list of questions you can ask. The GM will tell you a truth and a falsehood—pick whichever is more interesting or useful.

Peanut the Pigeon-Speaker (female), a Steady and experienced rabbit, currently pregnant. Her short coat’s shades of gray and ring marking around the neck made her look uncannily like a pigeon, so she had forged a bond with them.

  • Character Move: Circles of Life. The fight for survival makes for some strange bedfellows. When you first use this move, choose another type of animal with which you have history and rapport.
Continue reading “The Warren: City Park”

Agon: Amazons and Pirate Queens

On Friday night I ran the first episode of an AGON mini-series for a beta playtest of the second edition. I had three wonderful players: Misha Bushyager, Sandy Jacobs-Tolle, and Kimberley Lam.

The Heroes

Heroes are created by giving them an Epithet, which translates to particular ability in a Domain (Arts & Oration, Blood & Valor, Craft & Reason, or Resolve & Spirit) and a specific Strength (e.g, Authority, Ferocity, etc.); a deity, which lends them another specific Strength (or increases their Strength if it’s the same they get from their Epithet); and picking their lineage, description, and weapons. 

We had discussed characters online and they had created the following characters:

Open-Hearted Antiochis (Kim), daughter of Helene and devotee of Aphrodite. She is large as a bear, with short, wild white hair and a playful quirk to her lips. She wears piecemeal armor and she prefers to wrestle rather than use weaponry. (d8 Resolve & Spirit, d8 Daring, d8 Beauty.)

Phaedra the Clever Eyed (Misha), daughter of Sophia, devotee of Athena, known at a glance by her panther-like stride, piercing amber eyes, dyed braids, shining dark armor, and paired khopesh. (d8 Craft & Reason, d8 Cunning, d8 Judgment.)

Dolia the Wayfinder (Sandy), daughter of Polytropos, devotee of Hera, never at a loss to man or spirit. Lean, rangy woman, tanned and tough from the hillside ranges and simply dressed, with an oak staff at the ready. (d8 Resolve & Spirit, d10 Cunning.)

Continue reading “Agon: Amazons and Pirate Queens”

Next playtest: AGON 2nd edition

AGON is a game inspired by the Iliad and the Odyssey where you play heroes of antiquity having adventures and tossed by the whims of capricious gods. John Harper (One Seven Design) published the original game in 2006, but a new edition has been in the works for a year and a half, this time written in collaboration with Sean Nittner (Evil Hat Productions), as well as the design chops of Jason Morningstar (Bully Pulpit Games)..

The intensive alpha playtest resulted in a streamlined but also more structured system to create episodes with minimal preparation. The game has now been released outside the development team for some beta playtesting, and I was invited to participate.

According to the playtest document, the game plays best with one Strife player (game-master) and two to four Hero players. The default setting is Ancient Greece, but it’s easy enough to re-skin for another pantheon of Antiquity or fiction, such as the Egyptian, Tagalog, Norse. or Marvel’s polynesian pantheon.

We chose to stick with the default. We’re merely in character creation for the moment, but I look forward to our first episode. I have three players right now, three great ladies who I only ever get to play with at conventions or online because we’re scattered across great distances. It looks like this will be a Themysciran Odyssey—and maybe for the characters too. 😁

Since Google is closing G+, stripping down Google Groups further, and tinkering with Hangouts, we decided to go for a Discord server for both chat and voice; and I started a great big Pinterest board of visual inspirations.

My 2018 in gaming

[Updated to add the names of some women and enby game designers I had somehow failed to copy-paste from my spreadsheet.]

Once again, I review the list of games I played during the year we just said goodbye and good riddance to.

Despite having fewer health problems in 2018, the number of different games once again dropped, to only 28, down from 62 in 2015, 47 in 2016, and 44 in 2017. I had a lot of challenges this year again, plus little money to attend conventions (only Big Bad Con and one day at KublaCon), and no space to play at home.

As a result, I played only 7(!) different tactical and strategic games (board, card, and miniatures games), from 30 in 2015, 26 in 2016, and 18 in 2017. That makes up 25% of the titles I played.

On the narrative game front (role-playing games, story games, and live-action role-playing), I played 21 or 75% of my titles, compared to 32 in 2015, 21 in 2016, and 26 in 2017. Of these 21 games, I ran 7, or 33%: At the Stroke of Midnight, Blue Rose RPGFate of the InquisitorMisspent YouthThe Quiet YearThreadbare RPG, and Turn. Continue reading “My 2018 in gaming”

RPG test drive: Turn

I had a chance during the holidays to play with one of my online groups. You know how hard it can be to get a group together, especially when they are spread in different time zones; when the friend who was supposed to run the adventure had to ask for another week to prepare, I offered to run something in our original time slot so we would not lose our precious gaming time.

Since this group has greatly enjoyed Golden Sky Stories, I first thought I would try running Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, but I just can’t quite grasp how play proceeds, let alone explain it to others. So I decided to playtest Turn: A Game of Shapeshifters in Small Towns instead.

Turn (Daedalum Analog Productions) is “a slice-of-life supernatural roleplaying game set in the modern era”; I think of it as Northern Exposure meets Teen Wolf, or Twin Peaks done by Studio Ghibli.  It’s written by Brie Beau Sheldon and recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign (where you can find the beta playtest version, freely available.) Here is what the author says:

Players in Turn are shapeshifters in small, rural towns who must balance their human lives and habits with their beast needs and instincts in quiet drama. Their baser natures will challenge them as they strive towards goals from everyday tasks to life-changing experiences, and they will need to find comfort in one another to make it through without becoming stressed out.

Turn is part of the family of games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA), which means that a lot of the setting and story creation comes from the players, not just the game-master. Starting a game involves group creation of the small town where the stories will unfold, and player characters are designed by picking one human role and one beast archetype and selecting from their menu of options to customize your characters.

Continue reading “RPG test drive: Turn”

Play report: At the Stroke of Midnight

Continuing with play reports from Big Bad Con: Friday morning in Games on Demand, I ran Meguey Baker’s At the Stroke of Midnight (Night Sky Games). The premise:

The sun sinks in the sky, bringing long shadows and a wisp of cool air. In a handful of hours it will be midnight. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is growing thinner with each passing moment. At midnight it will open, and those who are able to stand unshaken before the Beloved Dead will be allowed a boon. You and your friends set out for the graveyard, each eager to meet the Beloved Dead and ask a favor from those who have gone before.

It felt perfect to play in October.

System and Setup

Meguey released it three years ago; the full version which I was using is on her Patreon site, but she also released a basic free version on her Medium blog, so you can take a look.

I had scheduled it as a two-hour game, but it’s hard to gauge how long a given episode will take: you can play with 2 to 6 players and the Yahtzee-like mechanics make it difficult to guess when the end is near. As play aids, I had created a cheat sheets for the Signs; and I used my dry-erase Noteboard so we could draw the elements we created. Continue reading “Play report: At the Stroke of Midnight”