Hi All!

Hi All!

Hi All! GeekSpaceTV is running an actual play of Night Witches Saturdays, 3pm PST/6pm EST on Twitch (twitch.tv/geekspacetv). And I’m the GM! Episode one has already aired and you can listen to a podcast version of it here if you like: https://soundcloud.com/geek-space-328086415/welcome-to-the-aerodrome

We’ve got a great cast, and if you are interested in watching another AP of the game…then you’d be very welcome!


Photos from our local gaming con, Kaijucon.

Photos from our local gaming con, Kaijucon.

Photos from our local gaming con, Kaijucon. I ran 3 sessions of Night Witches for a total of 12 people, and everybody had a blast. As seen elsewhere, everybody gets into the spirit of things once they start reciting the oath (badly) while attempting Russian accents (badly).

First session was a good mix of night mission snowballing into multiple lost planes and crew as well as “entertain the visiting general” shenanigans. One of the players was so inspired that he wrote up a lengthy session report on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RPGMalaysia/permalink/1274768472654929/

Second session was a massive night mission that rapidly snowballed into crashed pilots Tempting Fate by skirmishing with German patrols in a swamp, and a great deal of flying in the most insubordinate way possible (to benefit from Suka move). Many medals were won that night.

Third session had almost trouble-free night missions, and most of the time was spent on interpersonal drama, love triangles and flirting with various men and women during the general’s visit. The players referred to the game as “Desperate Airwomen” and they all became extremely attached to the clueless and incompetent NPC crewmember Miska for some reason.

NKVD surveillance photo of the #dreamation2018 “wide con” 4-table simultaneous run of Night Witches.

NKVD surveillance photo of the #dreamation2018 “wide con” 4-table simultaneous run of Night Witches.

NKVD surveillance photo of the #dreamation2018 “wide con” 4-table simultaneous run of Night Witches. The forces of reaction were driven back to their rat holes in Berlin.

Looking to run some Night Witches one shots this weekend in preparation for a con.

Looking to run some Night Witches one shots this weekend in preparation for a con.

Looking to run some Night Witches one shots this weekend in preparation for a con. Have slots on Friday (16th) , Saturday(17th) and Sunday (18th).

All levels of experience welcome.

Eastern time zone.

Session length: 4 hours

Age 18+

Roll 20 for presentation and discord for communication.

Session size 2-4 players.

Let me know if have any questions about the details regarding the session or scheduling.

Edit: Updated new one shots. Click on the link in the comments to vote on dates you can play!


Played our first session of a Night Witches campaign tonight.

Played our first session of a Night Witches campaign tonight.

Played our first session of a Night Witches campaign tonight. Our intrepid young ladies ( Lara, Hanna, Masha and Ira )managed to make it to Engels and through training. Making a name for themselves in some good and bad ways. They managed to make an enemy of Tatyana and her gang of lackeys by standing up to her bullying of the other girls. Impressed the captain with their initiative and pulled off their first bombing mission without a hitch. Now if they could just navigate the dangerous social waters as deftly as they do the night skies.

Now it’s off to the front, Galina and Alexandra in tow,To brave the Fascist dogs and strike back for the Motherland!

Night Witches isn’t working for us

Night Witches isn’t working for us

Night Witches isn’t working for us

I’m running a game of Night Witches at my local club, for four players. Despite all our best efforts, it’s not working.

The game is hard work for everybody. Nothing’s really flowing from the fiction into play. For instance, one of the PCs decided to open a book on an aerobatics competition between a couple of NPC pilots. Another PC decided to make a bet on it. What should she bet? Cigarettes? Choccolate? A week of doing the chores around the base? Whoever won, what would the consequences be for how the game unfolded? What was really at stake for the players (not the PCs)?

Another example: when a plane is damaged during a mission, how does the fiction inform me (as GM) whether the section’s mechanics can repair the plane themselves, whether the PCs need to help with the plane, or whether they need to scrounge for parts first? If they need parts, how does the fiction inform me about how hard it will be to get those parts?

Now, I can just make this stuff up, which is what I’ve been doing. But it’s hard work, as it’s hard to be able to point to things in the fiction that compel me to introduce situations and consequences.

The other main problem we have is with character goals and motivations. The PCs are spending a lot of time simply reacting to events that I, as GM, are throwing at them. The players aren’t finding much they can latch on to as things for their characters to strive for. War stories/films/biographies are full of things like soldiers striving for the basic staples of life: chocolate, cigarettes, sex, warm boots. Those are really important to people who are suffering from a lack of them, but those basic drives and wants are really hard to translate into feelings in players at the table. (Reflecting on this, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most goals suggested for PCs in most games are rather higher up Maslow’s hierarchy.)

The military hierarchy plays its part in this too: to a great extent, it doesn’t matter what the PCs do in the game, they’ll still get the basics of food and shelter, and they’ll still have to fly on their missions every night.

Finally, a smaller problem (but a problem nevertheless): the characters, especially at first, are all very similar. Without a bunch of custom moves, there’s not much to differentiate the character natures from each other.

These problems didn’t become huge until the third and fourth session. Before then, excitement about the game and the general novelty of the characters carried us through. That’s not enough any more.

Moving on to questions: how to fix this? My usual approaches to making games interesting are to have a dynamic, unstable situation with real consequences, and hence have factions/Fronts/threats taking action. But the military setting makes the situation rather static (apart from character deaths), and the book suggests that factions/Fronts/threats aren’t something that the game should have.

We’d all like the game to work. Everyone’s got a lot of experience with various story games, including a whole bunch of PBtA games. But in this game, the fiction being created isn’t doing anything to drive the game forward.


A quick note on the second session of our game.

A quick note on the second session of our game.

A quick note on the second session of our game. We only managed one mission, completing the training station. That was because we were all having fun dealing with the aftermath of the disastrous second training mission.

The deputy politruk told her illicit lover (a PC) that someone would be punished for the disaster, and the PC would be that someone unless she should stitch up someone else. Meanwhile, the rest of the section had realised the PC in question was a disaster and tried to sabotage her plane. It ended up with a brand new pilot (brought in to replace the two who died in the previous mission) being blamed for everything after she chickened out of an attack run.

Two observations.

1) There’s a lot of GM intervention in the game! The PCs haven’t really discovered their own agenda/goals, so they’re spending a lot of time reacting to events. I can see that continuing, with a lot of play being driven by the GM throwing War events at the squadron and the PCs reacting. (I’ll have to prepare a bunch of PC-NPC-PC triangles and see if that helps the game run itself.)

2) The missions throw a long shadow over the game, but there seems to be little “game” in them directly. There’s very little interaction between fictional positioning and the mechanics, with each mission following near-identical structures. (Perhaps that will change when we get more missions under our belt and people are prepared to fail some missions.)

We played through the first session of Night Witches last night.

We played through the first session of Night Witches last night.

We played through the first session of Night Witches last night. We went through the “structured intro” document and did the first two missions. The first went badly, the second was a disaster, with a plane of NPCs crashing into the riverbank when a PCs’ plane flew into it. The NPCs died. (We had three PCs, as two other players volunteered to run additional games in the now-very-busy club.)

Everyone really enjoyed it, and the look of shock and loss when I narrated the loss of the section’s third plane was palpable. Everyone’s keen for next time!

Three follow-up questions.

1. The Mission Pool is going to be vital. How many opportunities should I, as GM, be offering them to build it up before a mission? I think a pool of 3-4 is about right, but things will vary depending on the fiction.

2. It looks like one, perhaps two, of the PCs will fail to get their combat wings. What’s the consequence of that? An earlier post here suggested that she be embarrassed and under the tutelage of an experienced flyer until she can make the successful rolls. Would that put her in a different Section?

3. All three PCs are Sergeants. I think one of them should be the section leader anyway, as having the GM make personnel decisions isn’t fun. But how does that fit with the “tutelage” part of question 2?

We completed our Night Witches (Bully Pulpit Games) campaign yesterday.

We completed our Night Witches (Bully Pulpit Games) campaign yesterday.

Originally shared by Sophie Lagace

We completed our Night Witches (Bully Pulpit Games) campaign yesterday. Here is a look back on the campaign and a mini-review of the the game.


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!