Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Balls In The Air

Gail Simone has some of the best content on twitter. Snarky, witty, and wise.

Here's a wise one.
Here is my advice to writers.

If you throw a ball into the air, SOMEBODY better catch that mother******.

And that inspired me to make a list at the end of each of my game sessions. It's a list of unresolved plot items and it accumulates more with each game session. It's a list of ideas that I can drop back into the game as I need to. It helps to keep the game tight and meaningful, as well as ensuring that good ideas (or characters) aren't lost.

Here's the current Balls In The Air list for O Mortal.
  • Hector Long (guilty? who else? what was he doing?)
  • Stablehand
  • The water spirit - You're not the one I'm looking for. Who is it looking for?
  • Artis Chapter (what contacts can be made here?)
  • What did Qualthorn see in Robus?
  • People know that Alain Fitzroy was looking for someone who knows how to destroy Dwarven artifacts
  • Who wrote the unclaimed note?
  • Forest, three days in the future, one bell after nightfall.
  • Qualthorn is disappointed in Malasil for turning away from elven traditions.
  • The Hunter is still in the prison
  • Martha has high astrology skills, making observations about the dates and times

None of that will mean much to you within the context of my own game, but any of it is enough to trigger a scene for almost anyone in any game. For my game, I want all of these to get caught sometime. It might be in the next game or in a few sessions after that. And if no one catches any of them, we just get more balls in the air.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Lunar Cycles

When I first pitched O Mortal to my players I included the premise that in seven months, the querub would arrive to announce the end of one dynasty and the beginning of another. The clock began to count down. Time is an aspect of this game.

Every game session, we track elapsed time. After just five sessions we've passed about eight days so at that rate it's going to be a while before the querub comes. Well, if we assume months of similar length to the player world, that is.

So let's talk about time in this game world.

There is a major moon, Soma, that determines the lunar cycles. It has a 22 day cycle, and the inhabitants have constructed months around this. There are ten days between full moon and new moon and ten days back to full moon. The inhabitants of the world have created two weeks of ten days around this, with rest days at new moon (Monnovi) and full moons (Monpuni).

There are two other, smaller moons called Anahid and Khons. They have 14 and 37 day cycles respectively. Lunar alignments are rare but celebrated.

Monnovi and Monpuni are always celebrated religiously by elves (it's a bit like going to mosque or temple each week), and often by humans. The elves connect with nature spirits as their principle religion whereas humans worship gods of places and areas. Human gods with a lunar connection would inspire more devotion on these days.

The days are divided into 22 hours, reflective of the lunar cycle as well. Clocks are not widely used outside of cities and even in cities the residents rely on a central clock tower to ring the bell each hour from one hour before sunrise through to one hour after sunset. Inside the towers are a variety of timepieces, ranging from hourglasses to clockwork mechanisms to (rarely!) magical constructs.

And as for the year? It's just not as important as the months. The new year does not happen on the same date every year, but is a moving date. Years last between eight and nine months and is calculated as the first storm of the rainy season. The seasons are based around weather, plant, and animal behaviours. Over a year, the cycle moves through rains, blossoms, bird migrations, snowfalls, and dry winds. As with all seasons, individual days are variable (e.g., during the dry winds season, rain is still possible).

Friday, 2 March 2018

Adjusting to the Crunch

The third session of O Mortal played out last night. At the end we spent a couple of moments talking about the game and one player said, "Wow. Only eight rolls all game."

For context, we played for two hours. That's one roll every 15 minutes or so.

At first I shrugged it off but the players reminded me that this is Burning Wheel. Every roll is a test. Every test helps towards advancement. Advancement is built into the psychology of this game. Therefore, by not asking for die rolls I'm hindering the players' desires for character advancement.

As a GM this was a great moment for me. My players are telling me that they want something from the game that I didn't give them. They want the game to be Burning Wheel and I ran it as though it was Fate or DramaSystem. This kind of disconnect can lead to players being dissatisfied with the play experience and potentially with the game system itself.

My role as a GM includes participating in creating the conditions for enjoyable play. I'm included in the mode of production of the story so I have to respond to the others at the table in some way. It might not be acquiescing every time, but it has to be a response that moves towards greater enjoyment.

More importantly, my role as a GM is to respect the game that I run. A game is written to be run as that game. It might be similar to other games but that still doesn't make it the same. After playing PTA and DramaSystem games for the last few years, I need to adjust to the crunch of Burning Wheel.