Running Legacy: Life Amongst the Ruins at Revelation 2019

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Revelation 2019 was a bit different for me, as I signed up for Steve E’s multislot game of The Sword, the Crown and the Unspeakable Power (SCUP) which covered the whole of Saturday, and had decided to run the Generation Ship playset for Legacy: Life Amongst the Ruins myself on the Sunday across both slots.

The Generation Ship setting is a plug-in for the Legacy rules that allows your players to explore the fates of the crew and passengers of an interstellar colony ship who have woken up several hundred years into a voyage, long before they reach the intended destination. The ship isn’t designed as a generation ship, but that’s what it becomes. There’s lots of great SF out there that uses a variation of this theme, ranging back to Brian Aldis’ Non-Stop. Noumenon (Marina J. Lostetter) used ‘generation fleets’ and Hull Zero Three (Greg Bear) did it more traditionally. To my shame Aurora (Kim Stanley Robinson) is still on my list to read, even though I’ve had a copy for a while. In the world of film Passengers (2016) looks at this but personally I don't like the film because I think the male character is a dick[1].

The game begins perhaps a hundred years after the first survivors woke up, so the memories of the times before the fall are distant. Perhaps there are one or two people around who remember what life was before the ship, but they are rare. The game has some objectives hardwired in; restoration of the ship systems. These replace ‘wonders’ in the main game but are mechanically similar. Obtaining control over a ship system gives the owner long term benefits, and can result in another family facing fortunes, trials or both.  

Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) games can tend to eat plot much more quickly than some of the more traditional brethren, but I was a little concerned that two slots were going to be tight. That gave us about 6 hours of gaming time after you take into consideration natural breaks and the need to get some food. I decided that the easiest way to get around this would be to do the preparation work online in advance, the same way I had done in previous years. Instead of using a soon-to-be-defunct Google+ community, I decided to use the expanded functionality of the Tavern (https://www.gamingtavern.eu/) . All the players agreed as they were either already there or willing to join. Maybe two months before, I set it all up, took a roll call, and got everyone to set the notifications system to alert them to a new post.

Legacy operates at two different levels; it has a Family level (used for ‘zoomed out’ big picture play) and a Character level (used for ‘zoomed in’ focused play around critical actions). It’s one of the mechanics that attracted me originally; the game is built to be set against the sweep of history. Characters can leave relics behind, and their actions will cause the family to rise or fall over the generations.

When I did my initial read through the game, I discovered that the playbooks file had two of the six families missing. A quick email to Jay Illes, the creator of the game, quickly got me a set of the family playbooks, and the file at Modiphius was updated as a result. I then had to cut the file into several blocks (Family Playset, Character Playsets and Moves/References) so I could manage the information flow to the players into viable chunks. I uploaded the family playbooks to the Tavern, and the players - to their credit - swiftly chose the families that they wanted to play.

I was all set to start a staged run through the options that they had on their playbooks when the Tavern was taken down to transfer between hosts and registries. It was meant to be for a long weekend, but events conspired and it went down until after Revelation. This blew a hole through our preparation plans; I did consider falling back to the Facebook group, but that didn’t happen because I was expecting the Tavern back and then I became embroiled in the Garricon organiser’s response to the issues raised by Zak Smith’s behaviour, finding myself draft policies and managing responses rather than preparing for the convention.

Faced with truncated preparation, I decided to go with completing the playbooks at the table, knowing I could reduce the difficulty of activating the ship systems to compensate. It’d need to be focused, but I figured that was the way that things usually go at conventions.

Preparation took us over two hours, something that I hadn’t expected. It was hard to achieve the same kind of focus and energy with this as I had when I ran SCUP at Furnace in late 2018. On reflection, this was partly due to the information overload that the players faced with two playbooks and two sets of base moves plus gear to absorb. Legacy excels in worldbuilding, but there were almost too many relationships available and agreements around treaty proved complex. Treaty is the subsystem of favours owed and held between the families, and it proved challenging to establish and several of the players just didn’t get it at first. In discussions after the game, Jay (who was attending the convention) mentioned that the new book based on Legacy, Free from the Yoke, simplifies the treaty system significantly by removing the different levels.

I used self-adhesive flipcharts for the game in a similar way to how I did this for SCUP. However, the number of moving parts and elements meant I was answering questions rather than taking the notes so everyone could see them. As a result, we didn’t have an ‘in-your-face’ break out of relationships and motivations, hooks that the players and I could link into. On reflection, I should have started this, and asked one of the players to cover for me when I was answering questions.

The game begins with an opening Council meeting between the players, and we were definitely feeling our feet and getting our balance. I needed to give a big push to get the game going and moving, but the players got stick into it. It took me a while to get used to zooming in and out between family and character levels. The setting isn’t strong for flipping up and down like this, especially if you’re using the Into the Dark move (which ended up feeling like one long travel sequence from The One Ring). As the various families start with limited resources, and the easiest way to gain them is to explore the ship and scavenge, the early parts of the game need to far more focused on exploring the setting and by necessity being in character-focused play.

One thing that caused some issues was that the content of the playsheets didn’t match the information presented in the book. Now, the book definitely looks like it was the final version, but some move names weren’t aligned and the ways that they worked and the options you could select from differed. They definitely need a proper review and an updated version issuing.

The first age of the game was all about the life support system; riffing off the backgrounds of several of the families, the council determined to send an expedition to find out where the recently awoken survivors who had been appearing came from and to locate the control system for the hydroponics and life support. The mission had the wholehearted backing of two of the families, and the others generally concurred. The Into the Dark move worked okay, but it did mechanically extend the narrative in some parts when I think we could probably have drawn it to a close much faster. Ultimately, the characters prevailed; I’m not sure if they ever felt truly threatened (we never got to a point when harm was done if I recall correctly), but they came back having achieved their objective. Tech, data and surpluses were spent as investments to lead to control of the ship system.

There was a really interesting interplay at the end of the first age when control of the ship system - the life support - was wrestled from the Throng (think drug and vice dealers) by the Enforcers and others. Treaty was used and deals struck at the family level. Most of the players rolled well when they resolved trials and fortunes at the end of the age there was a huge payoff when they realised the potential benefits of a ship system being brought into control. Glenn - who controlled the Enforcers - was looking a bit glum that he didn’t get all these benefits right up to the point where he realised that he could control the environment of the other families and potential force needs upon them. He also got access to surpluses each age he had control of the system. Suddenly, there was a prize and a reason to explore the ship or to try and take control from the other families.

There was a moment, just before lunch when I wasn’t sure whether this would work out. Even with significant reductions in the investments needed for control of the ship systems, the need to run in character mode and explore the ship was making things feel very slow and much more like a dungeon crawl I expected. As this was a double slot, I was worried because I’d asked the players to commit half their convention time to the game and I feared that they would go away disappointed.

However, after lunch the pace of the game quickened, no doubt spurred on by the proximity of trains for some. At the end of the first age, we advanced the timeline by a mere six months (which was good as it meant only two characters were changed). I need to give a shout out to Penda here, as he grabbed and ran with the idea of getting to the ship systems which helped me no end. With new energy, a desperate search started to local a computer network room which would allow us to identify the location of the bridge. Hints of alien involvement grew and the tension started to rise when it was discovered that the ship was off course. In the end, we came to a conclusion in the bridge of the ship, which left the families knowing some kind of alien intervention had happened, that they appeared to be off course, and they needed to get the astrogation arrays under their control if they wanted to restore the ship to its original course rather than ending up in orbit around a planet circling a neutron star. I think that the players went away happy with the result.

Those of us that weren’t on a hard timeline discussed the game for some time after we finished. Jay Illes dropped in the conversation and was very friendly and helpful. He ended up apologising in case his advice seemed like criticism, something that wasn’t necessary! He’s definitely played the game more than me and knows it in depth. He also observed that in a more normal game of Legacy you can easily spend a full session on world-building.

We had some challenges with players focussing on the moves on their sheets cutting across those who were more narratively focussed, but I think that happens across the gamut of PbtA games. Players will inherently have different ends of the spectrum that draw them. As the mechanics are there to drive interaction and the plot, I don’t have an issue with this except when it destroys the flow.

On reflection, I think that the game that I delivered at the table was a solid B. With slightly different circumstances, it would have seen me on my A game.

What would I change?

First of all, I’d either make sure that the pre-generation of families and characters was completed in advance or alternatively pitch this as a three slot game.

I’d consider pre-selecting the family moves to make this faster to the table; not sure if I’d do this.

I’d review the beta of Free from the Yoke and consider simplifying the treaty mechanics for the game.

I’d enlist the players to make sure that we captured all the key-points on the flipcharts so they were visible to everyone.

I’d manage the release of the moves information; this may actually not be necessary if pre-generation was completed in advance. Five sides of player aids (two for each level playbook and one for gear) swamped the players and it took quite some time for them to get their heads around them.

I’d have prepared more beats as I underestimated how much narrative the Into the Dark move chews up. I’d also draw the players in more by asking them about what kind of threats they are facing and how they plan to overcome them.

Conclusion
All in all, I think Legacy is a great game; albeit more suitable for a more extended session than some of its peers. It definitely gets that epic feel of a narrative arc more than other games. I’m happy I ran this and would love to return to it in the future.

Thanks to Nigel, Keary, Glenn, Penda and Remi[2] for the way they embraced making this a fun day.

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[1] SPOILER - I don't have an issue with the actor, I just have an issue with way that the character woke up the female passenger and condemned her to the same fate because he was looking for an attractive companion. Just felt very wrong to me, and not 'romance' which is one of the categories the film is listed under.

[2] Remi gave me a moment of amusement when he rolled out his second character, Alexa (Mother). Before then, his character had been a replicant with a hive mind who was part of the ship's maintenance functions. It was only later that we discovered through the fiction and 'Alexa/Mother' that she was in fact the education AI who had tried to help her charges by creating replicants programmed using the science and engineering training packages to fix things and support those who had woken up. And she was a hologram, projected from fittings through-out the ship. She knew the IP address of the bridge, but couldn't access it, triggering the quest for a data centre.

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Furnace 2017 (Furnace XII)

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The twelfth Furnace has been and gone, and I enjoyed it for its relaxed atmosphere and the catching up with friends. The run up had been more fraught than planned as I didn’t make the progress I’d hoped for on my scenarios, but I managed to complete the badges on the Tuesday night (the main delay being the fact that I’d run out of them!) so had a few nights to tidy things up.

I arrived on Friday night, early on compared to usual, checked in and caught up with a few people in the bar before I nipped out to see Blade Runner 2049 on the IMAX in Sheffield. I don’t have an IMAX close to home so this was a great opportunity. I enjoyed the film, but no spoiler’s here. Got back before last orders and had a few pints and enjoyed the discussion about whether Graham had arranged the Furnace themed beer[1] and had some reminiscences with Ragr about Esoterrorists. It was also great to catch up with the Guv’nor (Satbunny) and his better half, even if he did try to talk me down from my post-film buzz. Went to bed later than planned and it seemed far to early when I met Graham and Elaine for breakfast.

Set up went smoothly except for the lack of an uplighter, and then a quick dash to Morrisons for tape for the Tsarina to put the game rooms up. We had a panic over the tables for the jailhouse but sorted it. Graham did an updated speech (v12); for a bit we had thought we’d have to run a repeat from the one’s on YouTube or even have Elaine or I do it, but fortunately he got away from packing before he moves house for a good part of the con.

Slot 1, I mainly mooched as for once there weren’t many latecomers and so I wasn’t needed to do anything. Had a good natter with George on the Patriot Games stand and time to pick up some goodies. I then did lunch with John Ossoway and Steven Elves, and we caught up.

Slot 2 brought my first game; ‘Ice Cold in Arrendale’. It was a sandbox riff on Frozen, set a year after the film, using the Black Hack derived Spearing authored Heroic Fantasy. Two parties - one from Britannia and one from the Southern Isles - tried to establish why an unnatural winter had swept out across Europe and also to build diplomatic and trading ties, and find an errant younger noble sibling. What they found was a dictatorship, lycanthropes and a hint of cannibalism, all set against a backdrop of foul sorcery. The scenario was a sandbox, and they never left Arrendale town proper, probably wisely avoiding a confrontation with the Snow Queen, Ice Witch, Elsa. It seemed to go down well and I was asked how they could get the book and if I’d share the scenario by some of the players.

Slot 3, I played Julian H’s DCC engined play-test of Dark Trails. This is a Weird Western hack of DCC, moving to much the same territory as Deadlands. We had fun; Jules worked hard, bringing Tequila, a scary tomato and orange brew and lots of bling, and also dealing with a group happy to chew the scenery and relish the interaction. Guy Milner’s “La Pantera” Mexican Luchador was the memory I will work away from. Not to mention, Violet from Chorley, the half-breed Navajo speaker with the dead. The character interactions made the game for me as the scenario was limited in options other than fighting. A great evening.

Caught up with Mr Newt of d101 fame and channelled my inner Han Solo (you’ll need to see the Facebook picture for that to make sense) and also gave Tim Gray a sanity check on print quality for the proof he had to show me. The bar beckoned, but I didn’t want a really late night.

Woke up nice and fresh for Sunday. Had to deal with an issue that Elina kindly helped us with but Elaine found a solution so hopefully it ended well. Arrived feeling a bit rushed into Evil Gaz’s Tales from the Loop Slot 4 game. Set in Sweden in the 1980s, this was great. I loved the co-creation with characters and it really nails that Super-8 and 80s kids movie vibe[2]. The system mechanic is very swingy, but the various rules to re-roll, push or use your pride make it feel great. It encouraged us to do all the crazy things kids do in films from that genre. This was a lighter touch Gaz than I’ve seen before and he absolutely nailed it. Great scenario, great ref and great players. I went away from this with a smile and a feel-good factor.


I also went away understanding the engine used in the game better, which was good because next up was my Slot 5 Coriolis game, which is from the same family. But before that I had raffle tickets to fold, and my back-room status on the committee to be confirmed. I spent thirty minutes trying to keep Coriolis in the front of my head by re-reading my notes.


I was fully pre-booked, and a little nervous. I broke one of my cardinal rules here and took out a system that I have never run before with a home-brew scenario. If you’re in the know, you’ll be aware that Coriolis is an Arabian themed SF game, full of competing factions, missions, mysteries and more. Typically, characters are like a Traveller crew, or the Firefly crew, a mixture of backgrounds and beliefs. Unlike Tales from the Loop, there is far less co-creation. I cheated and used the pre-generated characters from the QuickStart.

We departed for Coriolis Station where the characters worked as cut outs in a negotiation, discovered an important artefact and then tried to find out where it came from. This involved a trip with two portal jumps to a system under interdiction by the Zenithian forces. The players found the source of the artefact, and showed great caution in their approach. We had no combat, lots of sneaking and manipulation, and I was amused (rather than horrified) when Declan F spotted part of the denouement just before it happened. Those early episodes of Blakes 7 obviously stuck with my subconscious. Hat tip to Remy for the support while GMing, and I hope I met Matt N’s challenge to entertain him for his birthday. I like Coriolis, I just wish that it was better presented to quickly reference.

And then it was over. People had drifted away over the last few hours, and I was the last of the committee to leave. A few people lingered on; I had a quick natter with the Patriot crew, but the M1/A1 beckoned with the road home to the North.

On reflection, both scenarios I wrote had far more material than the time we had allowed for, so needed some tweaks to ensure a climax. I hope that worked. I was impressed by the willingness of the players to go for it with the characters they were presented with. I was, once again, blown away by the effort put in by the GMs and others who helped out. Thank you.

Onwards towards Revelation and the North Star.

Furnace will return.[3]


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[1] The answer is ‘kind of’.
[2] I’m not going to say Stranger Things, The Goonies, or ET here as I’m only part way through the former and have only watched bits of the latter two! Yeah, that’s my geek cred gone.
[3] And we will announce the new date soon.

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Furnace 2016 (Furnace XI) - The Great Plague

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Once again, the seasons turned and Furnace was upon us again. Of course, as the junior committee member, my main concerns were making sure that the badges were printed and the raffle tickets ready to use. There was a moment of panic with this when someone observed that the Facebook post that I had shared with the badges in had people who weren’t going to be there. Fortunately that turned out to be a simple failure to clear a few cells in Excel, so I didn’t have to spend a second evening preparing the badges again.

I’d taken the easy route this year for GMing, opting to run two games that I had rolled out earlier in the year at TravCon.

Day 0
I arrived at the Garrison around nine thirty in the evening to discover a murder mystery evening going on. At least, that’s what the signs said, as some of the costumes wouldn’t have been out of place in Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”. A quick pint at the bar, and some chat about Marillion, gaming and more. I managed to dodge the Brexit moans, but it was great to catch up face-to-face with people I usually play with on Google Hangouts. Shout out to the One Ring gamers, and the Esoterrorists!

Day 1
Graham, Elaine and I met when the breakfast opened, and were quickly back into the routines that we had in place. Graham and I got the rooms ready, while Elaine made sure that the Games sign up and signage was all in place. Main issue this year was in the Armoury, which was lacking in both chairs and light. Fortunately, this was quickly solved. We activated the reserve GM for Slot #1 as we knew that a few GMs were missing. Unfortunately this backfired a little, but we quickly adjusted.

Graham did the kick off speech (see the Facebook page for this if you want to), and we were off. The backfire was that the reserve GM pulling out of the game he was in led to that game not going ahead due to lack of players. It was at that point that we realised that - as well as a GM shortage due to the large - we also had a number of players missing. Main change was that we reduced the call up of reserve GMs after Slot 1 to make sure that we had filled games. We also deliberately didn’t get the ‘big bag o’games’ out of the car, as we felt it may discourage people joining in some of the games.

I don’t usually play in Slot 1, so I’m on hand for stragglers and/or issues. There weren’t any as such so I headed to Morrisons in the company of John O and Newt, and we caught up as we bought lunch and supplies.

Slot 2 came around soon enough, and I was running. This was Traveller, and I had been tempted by the new shiny of the second edition by Mongoose, so I quickly opted to use the bane/boon dice, which worked well. The new book is well laid out and easy to reference, and I used it throughout[1]. The scenario was set on a border world outside the Imperium, in the Vargr extents, and the characters were the two grandparents, and four kids (15, 13 3/4, 10, 10). A carnival run by Vargr came to town and event ensued. As of that game, Goober is now “Princess” in my mind, as that’s what Max (playing “Gramps”) called his 15 year old cheerleader throughout the game. I think everyone enjoyed themselves. It ended with a suitable set of explosions.

Slot 3 had me in my pre-sign of Matt N’s Delta Green. I was curious about which rules; turned out to be the 7th edition which flowed very smoothly. We played British PISCES agents, and the game had mild PVP and some nasty elements. I enjoyed this a lot. We ended up playing late, being urged out of the upper room by the Garrison’s supervisor. I had a quick chat in the bar, but went to bed soon after.

Day 3
Early breakfast again, and a bit of amusement; we went to book the Garrison for Furnace XII next year, and found it had already been booked and someone had put a room reservation in place. Now, Graham swears he hadn’t booked it, and we had gone down with three potential dates. By late afternoon the hotel was pretty much booked out!

Slot 4 saw me in Andy S's fun OpenQuest based “Guardians of Gloriana”. I was just getting into this when I got a call from home from Jill, my better half. She’d been called into work on an emergency, so I had to go home to look after the kids. I was gutted, but needs must. Handed over the raffle, apologised to my pre-booked players for Slot 5 and to Elaine and said my goodbyes. Furnace was over all too quickly for me.

Swag: Traveller Core Rules (Mongoose 2nd edition), Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu and The Cursed Chateau (LotFP).

Next Con: Dragonmeet.
Next Garrison Con: Revelation.

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[1]: Although it was only starship combat and the tables that I really needed.

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