Kingsport 1692: Monsterhearts 2 in Lovecraft Country (1 of 4)

Kingsport 1692: Monsterhearts 2 in Lovecraft Country (1 of 4)

Kingsport 1692: Monsterhearts 2 in Lovecraft Country (1 of 4)

Over on the Gauntlet I’ve started a project of doing Monsterhearts games set in HP Lovecraft’s Kingsport, Massachusetts. This is the first session in our 1692 chapter!

Against a backdrop of the witch trials in Salem town, the girls of Kingsport get themselves into intrigue, family dramas, moments fraught with sexual tension, and the possible bewitchment of Grace Baxter, daughter of one of the town’s leading families. And just what is sexy man-with-an-ax Fear-the-Lord Woode up to? (Besides Fortune the witch, that is). An excellent cast dives right in and lets the darkness blanket Puritan New England.

https://youtu.be/0fnK492_PNs

A hack of “The Man” playbook I posted back in July 2016 included, without permission, the description of the Man’s…

A hack of “The Man” playbook I posted back in July 2016 included, without permission, the description of the Man’s…

A hack of “The Man” playbook I posted back in July 2016 included, without permission, the description of the Man’s Farm and the move A Man’s Domain from a previous version of The Man playbook created by Keith Stetson, Matthew Aaron, and Brendan Conway. I deeply regret and apologize for using that content without their permission. If you reference the version of the playbook I posted, you must include them in any attribution.

They have graciously allowed the playbook to stand as written. I have, however, decided not to let it be distributed any further while I ponder the best way–if any–of reissuing it, so I’ve unshared the GDoc and asked Jason Morningstar to do the same with the layout he made of it.

Again I am truly sorry for the offense I gave to three designers I have the utmost respect for.

(also shared to my public profile)

(Going to try to repost this, it seemed to get lost in G+s feature set…)

(Going to try to repost this, it seemed to get lost in G+s feature set…)

(Going to try to repost this, it seemed to get lost in G+s feature set…)

+Vinicius Lessa had some questions in the comments on my rewrite of The Man, and given G+’s, um, “feature set” I thought it would be easier to reply in a new post 馃檪

I found the comments to be insightful, and what follows isn’t a defense so much as an explanation of my thinking in the hope that smarter people than me will make this thing more awesome!

“1) There seems to be options in the different sections that are linked. Ie: If you pick the “you owe someone else for you homestead” at first page, does that mean you must also choose “paying debts” in the second page ? Is this intended ?”

Not necessarily, although of course it’s an option. NOT choosing to make it an Obligation means that, for example, “you owe someone for your homestead” will need to be worked out in the fiction, using the other moves, and will tend to foreground it, since there’s no simple mechanical way to handle it.

“2) some options don’t see to mesh well with the others within some sections. Ie: a thermal spring sounds more like a natural feature than an “improvement”, no ?; the “your homestead is unfinished or needs repairs” doesn’t seem to follow the logic of the other options in the section on 1st page (“your land it hard to protect”, “a neighbor covets your lands”, etc). I would move the thermal spring to a natural feature, and cut off the “homestead repairs” for something new.”

Here’s what I was thinking of with “thermal spring”: http://www.west.is/en/west/place/gudrunarlaug

That is, something that has consciously been improved, which is why I put it on that list. However, you also make a good case…

I’m pretty sure the “homestead is unfinished or needs repairs” was a way to incorporate true homesteading and/or interesting backstory (I was probably thinking of Hjardarholt from Laxdaelasaga as an example of “needs repairs”.)

“3) having a homestead improvement for free at start sounds too easy. There are already a handful obligations that give bits and handfuls of silver for the Man to acquire. The way it is, It doesn’t sound that hard to get the necessary silver to survive winter. Perhaps moving the improvements list below the “improve your homestead” obligation and forcing the player to pick it (and the potential catastrophe that comes for trying to build it ) would be better.”

I was probably following the original playbook with the free improvement, as well as giving some color and identity to the farm. You make good points; maybe the “improve your homestead” stuff needs to be made a bit more rigorous.

“4) The feast-giver move sounds weak. Perhaps getting bonds to be used in the feast, instead of questions, would be better, as bonds can have more uses.”

Well, the thing here is that you don’t need ANY bonds with the person you’re asking, which is kind of powerful given the greater difficulty men generally have in acquiring Bonds. You’re probably right that bonds would be a better reward, although this requires some caution–allowing the Man to essentially turn silver into Bonds is pretty powerful.

“5) your Reputation condition says “every time you meet an important person”, when the correct should be “when yo meet an important person FOR THE FIRST TIME”, right ?”

Yeah. Obviously that’s straight out of Apocalypse world so I might have mangled the wording on cutting and pasting.

“6) you Raid obligation feels too rewarding (even if the catastrophe is equally bad). It seems like it could obfuscate the Huscarl Viking move (which rewards just a few bits, or a handful, of silver).”

Definitely possible! Of course, the Huscarl comes away only with the share due to a crew (even a crew leader) while the Raider obligation presupposes that it’s a significant fronting of capital with a parallel ROI. Perhaps that should be made part of this: front an amount of silver and on success you get back the next category up (bits->handful->etc) but you can’t work this obligation until at least a session has passed? Dunno. I wanted to add the dimension that the raiding parties were really essentially investments by rich Norse nobles rather than adhoc wildcat prospecting, but maybe I haven’t quite caught it…

“7) perhaps allowing the Man to resolve and swap obligations at will in the start of every session is better than conditioning it to a 10+ roll. Otherwise I fear certain obligations may not always make sense in the current fictional situation.”

Yeah, according to my own playtest notes I suggested the same thing, although it means the Hard Work move will need to get re-written.

Thanks so much for the comments! And glad you enjoyed the playbook!

http://www.west.is/en/west/place/gudrunarlaug

+Vinicius Lessa had some questions in the comments on my rewrite of The Man, and given G+’s, um, “feature set” I…

+Vinicius Lessa had some questions in the comments on my rewrite of The Man, and given G+’s, um, “feature set” I…

+Vinicius Lessa had some questions in the comments on my rewrite of The Man, and given G+’s, um, “feature set” I thought it would be easier to reply in a new post 馃檪

I found the comments to be insightful, and what follows isn’t a defense so much as an explanation of my thinking in the hope that smarter people than me will make this thing more awesome!

“1) There seems to be options in the different sections that are linked. Ie: If you pick the “you owe someone else for you homestead” at first page, does that mean you must also choose “paying debts” in the second page ? Is this intended ?”

Not necessarily, although of course it’s an option. NOT choosing to make it an Obligation means that, for example, “you owe someone for your homestead” will need to be worked out in the fiction, using the other moves, and will tend to foreground it, since there’s no simple mechanical way to handle it.

“2) some options don’t see to mesh well with the others within some sections. Ie: a thermal spring sounds more like a natural feature than an “improvement”, no ?; the “your homestead is unfinished or needs repairs” doesn’t seem to follow the logic of the other options in the section on 1st page (“your land it hard to protect”, “a neighbor covets your lands”, etc). I would move the thermal spring to a natural feature, and cut off the “homestead repairs” for something new.”

Here’s what I was thinking of with “thermal spring”: http://www.west.is/en/west/place/gudrunarlaug

That is, something that has consciously been improved, which is why I put it on that list. However, you also make a good case…

I’m pretty sure the “homestead is unfinished or needs repairs” was a way to incorporate true homesteading and/or interesting backstory (I was probably thinking of Hjardarholt from Laxdaelasaga as an example of “needs repairs”.)

“3) having a homestead improvement for free at start sounds too easy. There are already a handful obligations that give bits and handfuls of silver for the Man to acquire. The way it is, It doesn’t sound that hard to get the necessary silver to survive winter. Perhaps moving the improvements list below the “improve your homestead” obligation and forcing the player to pick it (and the potential catastrophe that comes for trying to build it ) would be better.”

I was probably following the original playbook with the free improvement, as well as giving some color and identity to the farm. You make good points; maybe the “improve your homestead” stuff needs to be made a bit more rigorous.

“4) The feast-giver move sounds weak. Perhaps getting bonds to be used in the feast, instead of questions, would be better, as bonds can have more uses.”

Well, the thing here is that you don’t need ANY bonds with the person you’re asking, which is kind of powerful given the greater difficulty men generally have in acquiring Bonds. You’re probably right that bonds would be a better reward, although this requires some caution-allowing the Man to essentially turn silver into Bonds is pretty powerful.

“5) your Reputation condition says “every time you meet an important person”, when the correct should be “when yo meet an important person FOR THE FIRST TIME”, right ?”

Yeah. Obviously that’s straight out of Apocalypse world so I might have mangled the wording on cutting and pasting.

“6) you Raid obligation feels too rewarding (even if the catastrophe is equally bad). It seems like it could obfuscate the Huscarl Viking move (which rewards just a few bits, or a handful, of silver).”

Definitely possible! Of course, the Huscarl comes away only with the share due to a crew (even a crew leader) while the Raider obligation presupposes that it’s a significant fronting of capital with a parallel ROI. Perhaps that should be made part of this: front an amount of silver and on success you get back the next category up (bits>handful->etc) but you can’t work this obligation until at least a session has passed? Dunno. I wanted to add the dimension that the raiding parties were really essentially investments by rich Norse nobles rather than adhoc wildcat prospecting, but maybe I haven’t quite caught it…

“7) perhaps allowing the Man to resolve and swap obligations at will in the start of every session is better than conditioning it to a 10+ roll. Otherwise I fear certain obligations may not always make sense in the current fictional situation.”

Yeah, according to my own playtest notes I suggested the same thing, although it means the Hard Work move will need to get re-written.

Thanks so much for the comments! And glad you enjoyed the playbook!

http://www.west.is/en/west/place/gudrunarlaug

Alpha test of the new Man play took place on Saturday in a generally successful first look.

Alpha test of the new Man play took place on Saturday in a generally successful first look.

Alpha test of the new Man play took place on Saturday in a generally successful first look. The player reported she liked making all the choices although she came to dread making the roll, considering the negative consequences 馃檪 The constant threat of needing to have a handful of silver on hand by winter did a good job of adding pressure to the Man’s decisions, I think.

We had a couple of the “catastrophe” occurrences, one which we did on screen: getting ambushed by outlaws while trying to take goods to market. The Thrall took a spear to her back, but Thorolf the outlaw eventually tried to help her escape Iceland out of guilt.

Observations and open questions:

* If you get Bonds as a result of the Profit, name who you have them with right away! We didn’t always do it, but at the very least it will create a larger imaginary space of community.

* A well run farm will have the Man’s wife or close friends using their Bonds with him to help his work 馃檪 Or he can go to the Seithkona to get some black magic.

* Could we perhaps simplify this move so that you might have something like: Pick 1, 2, or 3 jobs from this list, pick as many Profit as jobs from this list, and then choose as many Catastrophes from this list. On a 10+ profit all around, on a 7-9 you pick one profit and the MC picks at least one catastrophe, on a 6- it’s bad all around.

* It might work better if the Man can just choose his Obligations anew each time. The Operator has Gigs, and they’re specific ongoing jobs; but the Man has some obligations that don’t make sense to keep carrying through. The Hard Working move will need to get rewritten, probably, in this scenario.

* I made a small change to the Raiding obligation, which I initially saw as hitting another small farm in Iceland but probably makes better sense as buying a share in a raiding venture to the British Isles. The reward became a chest of silver, the catastrophe impoverishment, making it a very high risk and reward venture.

ETA: Jason Morningstar聽honored me with this marvelous translation of my little hack:…

ETA: Jason Morningstar聽honored me with this marvelous translation of my little hack:…

ETA: Jason Morningstar聽honored me with this marvelous translation of my little hack: https://www.dropbox.com/s/cstv4o31vbvjtvv/sagas_of_the_icelanders_man_playbook_ramen_version.pdf?dl=0

I decided to take a crack at my own hack of The Man playbook.

I decided to take a crack at my own hack of The Man playbook.

I decided to take a crack at my own hack of The Man playbook. It’s powered by my use of the Moonlighting move from Apocalypse World to abstract out the work of running a farm and dealing with the web of community obligations the settlers found themselves in.

I owe Keith Stetson thanks and apologies for appropriating parts of his own hack of the man, specifically the farm details and the A Man’s Domain move. And also for letting me rant to him a bit at Dreamation 2016.

Since it looks somewhat likely I’ll get to run SotI this weekend, I welcome any commentary on this people are generous enough to provide; I’m hoping to get an alpha test in during the session.

Dexcon After Action Report

Dexcon After Action Report

Dexcon After Action Report

Greetings Comrades!

I ran two sessions of Night Witches at Dexcon 2016 (many thanks to Jason Morningstar for the shout-out) and both went well.

I used a mashup of the “Pashkovskaya Nocturne” and my own ideas from when I ran that duty station for my meetup group. This involved adding a couple of stock characters I use, some of which play against type a bit. You can see them on the linked TOE I made for the sessions (the large blank boxes were so that I could write in the names of the PCs.)

Here’s the new NPCs:

Capt. Ekaterina Pavlovna Zaharina, REGT Chief of Staff: a new transfer from the 587th; she was invalided to staff duty following a crash. Capt. Zaharina is dedicated, and one of the few officers to have been in the Red Army before the Great Patriotic War. She’s not doctrinaire at all, and sees her primary responsibility as keeping the regiment happy and healthy so that they can kill Germans.

When I ran this scenario for the meetup, I succeeded at making the captain the kind of CO people would gladly fight and die for, which was my purpose; it’s so easy to fall into the kind of crapsack world (I mean, life was legitimately terrible) that the war story meme of the officer you’d follow to hell sometimes gets overlooked. At Dexcon, Captain Zaharina was in the background mostly.

Capt. Nadezhda Ivanovna Toropova, REGT Zampolit: In 1943, the politruks were taken out of chain of command; to reflect that I use the contemporary term “zampolit”. Capt. Toropova is young, blond, and perky; I basically describe her as a Komsomol camp counselor in over her head. (Her motto is “Our goal is socialism, our weapon is education!”) With Nadia I wanted to play against the stereotype of the evil and uncaring politruk. In the campaign, she eventually broke down from the darkness around her; at Dexcon, she mostly kept her optimism. (I based her, slightly, on the interview with a political officer in A Dance With Death.)

SLT Olga Olegovna Lavrova, Deputy Zampolit: Of course, I still wanted a vicious zampolit somewhere, and Olga filled that job. She was a Bolshevik before there were Bolsheviks, having been sent to the camps by the Tsar after the 1905 Revolution. (She also liked to name drop how she’d been at Finland Station when “Vladimir Ilyich” returned to Petrograd.) Olga probably is affiliated with SMERSH and is definitely antagonistic to the PCs. (One of her specialties is asking a PC to execute a prisoner–with an unloaded pistol, not that the PC knows that–as a test of loyalty.)

Senior SGT Ksenya Krykov: Ksenya is the squadron chief mechanic, a wiry woman in her 50s with close-cropped curly grey hair and a cigarette constantly hanging from her mouth. She’s never lost an air crew and demands of the section CO that she keep up that streak. She’s a Father Hen figure to her three teenaged mechanics.

SGT Lara Nemstova, Squadron Armorer: Lara is a master scrounger; I generally introduce her with a scene where she drags in an ammo box full of cigarettes for her section. She always wears a bulky winter coat and a stocking cap, and has huge round eyeglasses. Lara is also a zek, a political prisoner who was released because of the manpower shortage; if you look closely, you can see all her fingers have been broken. (I usually explain her background as having been a teacher–she likes to read Chekhov–who taught the wrong thing on the wrong week.) Lara is determined never to go back to the camps and carries a straight razor with her at all times to ensure that.

In both sessions, I had the centerpiece be a party thrown in celebration of the visit of Lt. Gen. Miroshnichenko’s visit. I included both times the American businessman on an observation tour with the general, who talked in mumble (“Hermm ha herrmmm ha”) because nobody in the section speaks English 馃檪 But the Hershey bars he gives everyone makes up for that.

(When I announce the party, and mention that the gallant airmen of the 218th are coming, I like to wait for the male players to suddenly realize that maybe their PCs need to find some lipstick…)

The Sessions: Thursday night’s session was the lighter in tone of the two. Nadia asked each section to do a talent show for the general; Section 2C was going for interpretive ballet and ended up with one of the airwomen doing contortions to accordion accompaniment; this was described as a little “formalist” by Nadia. Olga staged her mock execution, the section CO was commanded to put a “disloyal” airwoman in the lead plane, but everyone mostly made out well.

Friday afternoon got darker. The section CO, Lena (props to Rebecca W for playing an amazingly dedicated officer) and her navigator were both dedicated, loyal, and conscientious. So conscientious that they actually tried to save Lara by having the political officers declare her rehabilitated. (This never happens!) One airwoman got in trouble and was assigned a punishment detail…helping to decorate the school where the party was going to be held. (The section navigator was asked to make an American flag, but nobody knew what that looked like, so they had to ask Lara…and they still managed to hang it upside down.)

With the engine blown on her lead plane, Lena made a deal to find dates for Ivan Dmitrich, son of Dmitri Popov of the 218th. Ivan was a pig, his comrade Val a cad, but Volodya was sweet and Grigory spent the entire evening weeping on his date. (Val lost a drinking contest with his date, resulting in him and some other 218th airmen dropping in the new engine into the lead plane in the middle of the night.) Meanwhile the performance of the new Soviet Anthem went well, with the Chrisitan member of 2C (who had a surprising baritone) dueting with Major Popov’s pleasant and powerful Russian bass-baritone.

The final mission was the beach supply drop; Lena was flat out told to volunteer for it. (“We’re suspect?” her player asked me. “You’re very loyal; so of course you are,” I replied.) This got messy, with a plane going down…but Lena and her navigator managed to survive both their “behind enemy lines” and “informal interview” moves, so it was a happy ending…I guess?

In all, they were two very nice sessions, I got some flattering comments (probably undeserved) about my MCing, and I spread the glory of our Night Witches game to several new Comrades! Na zdrovie!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw8iFfIRXgBOZk51SXVEalJnZUU/view?usp=sharing

To what degree (if any) is the MC justified in asking a player to take a Mark as the consequence of a 6- even if the…

To what degree (if any) is the MC justified in asking a player to take a Mark as the consequence of a 6- even if the…

To what degree (if any) is the MC justified in asking a player to take a Mark as the consequence of a 6- even if the move doesn’t normally call for one?

I did this recently under these circumstances: one of the PCs was sent with an NPC scrounger to get back a couple of drums of motor oil that the 218th had made off with. The NPC brought the PC (Masha) to a Jewish community hiding out in the woods near Krasnodar; the plan was for the NPC to exchange some barley the PCs had scrounged up for luxury goods that could be used to scrounge back some motor oil. While they were there, Masha decided to do some scrounging of her own. I asked what she was going to trade with, and her player said that since we had established that Masha was a physician in civilian life, she’d trade medical treatment for goods.

The PC then managed to get a 6-, so I said to take a Mark in addition to the other consequences; this seemed to fit, since the condition of the refugees was pretty terrible and probably would shock a reasonably compassionate physician. I don’t feel that was necessarily the wrong call (it was following the fiction), but I’m curious as to what other people feel about using Marks as a consequence, given that there’s no specific MC move to do that.

I’ve read enough Russian novels* that I often find myself reaching for the patronymic in play even though most of…

I’ve read enough Russian novels* that I often find myself reaching for the patronymic in play even though most of…

I’ve read enough Russian novels* that I often find myself reaching for the patronymic in play even though most of the PCs don’t have one. So I made up a little sheet that lists a bunch of the most common ones (lifted from the State Department’s Russian embassy site, thanks guys!) and bundled that with a one-page handout that gives a bit of background on the youth organizations Night Witches PCs might have belonged to growing up, as well as a short note on the difference between comrade and citizen in ordinary use. Neither is necessary, but on the odd chance you or your fellow gamers like a little extra background, have at them!

*Well, War and Peace a bunch of times, Anna Karenina twice, and The Master and Margarita which I highly recommend for a wry look at this period.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw8iFfIRXgBOSktXU3Z3YlQ2Nlk/view?usp=sharing