September 29, 2011

Season Two

After an overly long summer break, my Thursday night playtest group will reconvene, continuing to put the first DramaSystem game, Hillfolk, through its paces. At this point, I’m confident that the main mechanism works well. This is the framing and playing out of dramatic scenes, in which one main character seeks an emotional concession from another. We’re still discovering new things to do with it, which will play into the final manuscript’s explanatory passages. The bit that might or might not now be in place is the less-used procedural system. This comes into play in the surprisingly few cases where you need to determine whether a character succeeds at an external, practical goal—what has always been the bread and butter of traditional roleplaying.

Knowing that we were headed for a hiatus, we tried to steer the previous episode to some climactic moment analogous to the season-ender of a serialized cable show. (The game uses the TV series as a reference point but doesn't try to impose specific television tropes or structures on your evolving narrative.)

That big shift point seemed elusive throughout the session. Then, with the magic gestalt that attends a multi-author improvised narrative, we suddenly got there in the last scene. For much of our first season, the Iron Age raiders of the main cast have been contending with an incursion from the culturally similar but more economically and politically advanced nation from the north. After going back and forth as to whether to ally with or fight the forces of King Goldenthrone, our heroes eventually threw in with him. To make a long story short (and simpler) the chieftain skull (played by Christoph) bowed down to him as a vassal, in hopes of eventually becoming king of the southern badlands, and then challenging him. In a surprise scene at last session’s end, Goldenthrone tired of Skull’s maneuverings and fired him as chieftain. In his place, he elevated Skull’s adviser/frenemy Thickneck (played by Justin.)

Tonight, we’ll add a new player. This will dovetail with the cable series tradition of adding new regulars to series in progress. We’ll start the session by deciding how far we want to jump ahead in the narrative, most likely to a revised status quo with Thickneck in charge and Skull looking for his new place in the clan.