I was thinking earlier about Hi-Ho! Cherry-O (as is so often the case). This and Candyland are generally accepted by parents as the worst board games ever invented. But now I’m thinking that is actually because of a misapprehension. See, they’re both educational games — Hi-Ho! Cherry-O is designed to teach counting and Candyland is designed to teach color matching or sugar addiction or something. Which means the intent is for an actual developable skill to be involved. Which means they’re sports, not games. So in this context it is perfectly sensible that they’re lame for parents — it’s like complaining that tee ball is insufficiently challenging.
There are two obvious ways to fix this. One would be to fix these two up so they are at a more appropriate skill level. Like Candyland could have more sophisticated color gradients a la this arrangement test. Or Hi-Ho! Cherry-O could have a spinner with things like “Add cherries equal to the largest prime factor of 600851475143.”
But what’s more interesting to me is the idea of adding some kind of meta-game layer on top which the parents would appreciate. So, say, what about Fantasy Candyland? Get together with the other parents at preschool and form a league, draft kids and then report results back to the PTA. Suddenly your games become much more gripping — you have $50 riding on Billy down the street drawing a blue in the next two cards. The only problem is if Billy just can’t perform up to standards and keeps trying to eat the cards, there’s nothing much you can do about it — you can’t send somebody down to the minors when they are a minor.
Ok, the game ran two sessions and seems to have hit a good stopping point, so perhaps I will write a little about it. As usual the original GM notes didn’t end up having more than a vague resemblance to the final product, but that is pretty much par for the course so I didn’t have too much invested in them. Anyway, let me talk about this in a couple of different ways.
I wrote up a review of Inside Woman in the usual place. Summary: pretty typical Andy Phillips game, but the puzzle quality seems higher than usual and there are a few unusual themes.
For people who are playing and get stuck, here are a few nudges (in rot13):
Saturn’s Children (Charles Stross): Given that this book has an important chicken referred to as a “plot capon”, and it has a museum of religious evolution named after John Scalzi, I am inclined to wonder if the cover is an intentional joke as well. See, it’s got this slightly-inhuman lady with purple hair in a 60′s-tv-idea-of-sf costume and a revealing pose, exactly like terrible sf novels stereotypically have — except here the protagonist really is a not-quite-human pleasure droid, so the cover is in fact totally accurate.
I didn’t pick it up based on the cover, though, I picked it up because somebody said it had Jeeves in it. Which it does, quite a lot of him. Cloning is big in the future, see.
Ok, what you need in this kind of improv setup is a vague idea of what’s going on, a list of names, and some power groups to interact with and start trouble. I’m going to try to get a little more tactical here so I also intend to make some zone maps.
So what’s going on is up for change as the game goes on, but the working hypothesis is going to be that Captain Danvers is a bad guy, that he intended all along to cheat his crew and keep the gem for himself and, furthermore, he is now up to something nefarious with this party. But that could change: he could have lost his memory, been replaced by a doppelganger, or just genuinely believe his crew is dead (but this last seems a little uninteresting unless then he turns out to be in trouble and need their help or something — clearly he can’t just hand the gem back to them).
Anyway, power groups. I figure I want at least a half-dozen and ideally more like nine, and obviously they should be linked to each other. Thus:
- Captain Danvers:
- Map: his estate
- Minions: estate employees (guards with swords, etc)
- Wants/plans: not clear; likely candidates including turnaround robbery on the guests, or doing some weird sorcery with the gem and the house and the guests’ souls
- Notes: has the Sea’s Blood; estate has five guarding aspects of various types (dogs, guards who are watchful and loyal, voodoo spirits (?), exposed (and hence hard to sneak across))
- Seven Blades (out-of-town thugs):
- Map: warehouse by the docks
- Minions: thugs with daggers, fists, and crossbows
- Wants/plans: Perhaps Danvers stole money from them and they want it back; or perhaps they’re muscling in on the local smuggling trade; or both (maybe they don’t know who Danvers is — that might be why he stays at home)
- Notes: Probably from Vodacce; named like Orio and Pipo and Lara and Gino and Isa
- Local smugglers:
- Map: smugglers’ caves? tavern?
- Minions: smugglers (not very tough, but might set up (non-lethal?) traps)
- Wants/plans: Worried about getting busted, worried about outsiders muscling in; don’t really care about Danvers (or does he have a deal with them to bring him in stuff? or is his estate on the smugglers’ tunnel, perhaps unknowingly? Or perhaps he knows about the tunnels and intends to use it to escape down to meet somebody?)
- Notes: Are sort of good guys; smuggle to Vesten (“it’s an old family tradition!”); Tom and Ned and Sal and Meg
- Map: pirate ship
- Minions: pirates with cutlasses and hook hands and belaying pins
- Wants/plans: Why are pirates in this area, anyway? Are they chasing someone? Or desperate?
- Notes: Perhaps their ship is called the Golden Parrot. Wouldn’t that be enticing? Named like Bloody Dave and Pete the Peg and No-nose (he’s got a nose, but he’s a biter!) and Perkins
- Old Money:
- Map: ball (social map)
- Minions: various nobles, old and young, who are arrogant, drunk, hot-tempered, bored, giggly, stone-faced, or hoity-toity
- Wants/plans: Irritated by new-money folks like Danvers coming in and buying up the estates, but with land prices falling and blah blah; anyway, they want him gone, probably; but some probably also want to buy the gem if it’s awesome
- Notes: Hoity-toity! Lord Roderick wants to buy the gem at the urging of his daughter Madeline; Colonel Williams leads the want-him-gone movement; Lady Genevieve is conciliatory but her son Arthur is hot-blooded and gets into trouble; Lady Samantha is young and cute and bored and dangerous (perhaps she knows thugs?)
- Map: ball (social map), auction (social map)
- Minions: various merchants, avaricious, ingratiating, sharp, friendly, drunk, social-climbing, eavesdroppy, sensible
- Wants/plans: Want to make trade deals, want to buy the gem if it’s a reasonable price, don’t want to offend the nobility who they need to buy the wool from
- Notes: Rachel is the top trader looking to buy the gem; Johannes is looking to bump her off his pedestal — they don’t get along (perhaps Johannes doesn’t even want the gem, he’ll just bid it up); Dominic is working with the smugglers
- Local Farmers and Shepherds:
- Map: tavern (social/combat map)
- Minions: semi-rustic folk but come into the city a fair amount, dumb, quiet, watchful, quick to anger, get drunk easily, looking for a sharp deal, willing to cheat strangers, honest, clannish
- Wants/plans: Think they’re being overcharged by the nobility, want someone to ask Queen Elaine to get rent prices dropped
- Notes: Jim and Hank and Emma and Zeena and Nate; probably working with the smugglers
I wrote up a summary of the rules earlier but here is a more up-to-date version of some things to know.
Ok, shuffling around everyone’s preferences, it looks like we’re going to be playing on Saturdays from 12-5 mud time (ie, eastern), starting May 16th and running 3 or 4 weeks. Here’s the premise:
Four years ago, the Golden Parrot, under the command of Captain Danvers, set out on a dangerous mission to find an enormous emerald, known as The Sea’s Blood. Danvers put together the crew on the promise of sharing the wealth equally should the jewel be found, and after various dangers and troubles, it was. But the gem was never sold: on the night before the crew was to arrive back at port, a huge storm came up and the ship sank. Most of the crew survived, but not Captain Danvers. Or so they thought.
A few weeks ago, one of the former crew heard the news of a newly-arrived stranger in town, a man with a priceless jewel he intended to display at a fabulous ball and then auction off at the ball’s conclusion. The jewel was the Sea’s Blood. The man was Captain Danvers. It was time for justice.
The remnants of the crew gathered back together, intent on piecing together what really happened, and getting their own back from Danvers — one way or another.
Interested? Awesome. Let’s talk characters:
Summer movie season has started, and you know what that means: we all play swashbuckling rpgs on the mud. Well, ok, it doesn’t mean that, but it should, and it’s starting with me. Starting in a couple weeks, probably the weekend of May 16th or 23rd, I’m going to run a 3-4 session swashbuckling-type game: you can expect duels, jewels and fools; swinging and singing; drinking and thinking; broochies and smoochies. System-wise it’s going to be my Spirit of the Century/7th Sea conversion or some variant thereof — if you are familiar with either system you should have no problem.
If you’re interested, please let me know your preference for scenario and time. I’ve got the following slots available:
- Saturday afternoon: noon to five, eastern
- Saturday evening: three to eight, eastern
- Sunday afternoon: noon to five, eastern
- Sunday evening: three to eight, eastern
(Note that the Saturday ones overlap with ClubFloyd, which is lame, but the swashbuckling must go on)
And here are some scenarios, though I am open to other proposals:
- In Search of the Golden Parrot: The PCs are crew or passengers on a ship, which might be explore-y or pirate-y. They come into possession of a treasure map and race to track down the treasure before their rivals do.
- For the Honor of the Queen: The PCs are guards in Montaigne, and find themselves involved in politics, war, and romance (probably a similar vibe to the game I ran way back when)
- Balls and Back Alleys: The PCs are members of the court of one of the Vodacce princes, and have to move between high and low society to carry out the prince’s affairs.
- The Big Score: Some kind of heist game, swashbuckling-style. Probably set in Vesten or Montaigne.
- Who Was That Masked Man?: Zorro-type action in Castille. Probably involving raids on horseback. (lpsmith has dibs on El Vago but I figure there’s room for more without stepping on toes.)
So let’s hear it! (And if you’re not convinced, watch this.)