Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead

Our game of The Mountain Witch ended last night, which was a session earlier than I had originally planned. The players just grabbed the reins and kicked it into overdrive, however, so I’m not at all disappointed that it did. I feel like making it last another session would have destroyed the great momentum we had created.

As usual, several ronin ended up dead, and as usual, all of the deaths were at the hands of the other player characters. In this case it was Roy’s character (Hanjo) killed Ted’s (Asano) because the Witch promised to free the soul of a man he had caused to become an angry ghost. Asano and Tsune (Christina’s character) had already managed to kill the Witch, but its malevolent spirit lingered for a few moments, giving Hanjo hope the deal might still be honored. Alas, Hanjo was cut down by Mike’s ronin, who had sworn revenge on Hanjo for killing his wife. All in all, it was a fine ending.

I definitely understood the game better this time around, and I’m glad that I ran it again. In fact, we’d all like to play it again, now that we’ve got a little experience with it under our belts. A big change for me was that I didn’t know what people’s Dark Fates were, and I think that greatly improved the game for me. It gave the players a lot more responsibility, because the burden to foreshadow their Fate had to be carried by them alone. There was a fun “feeling out” process that we went through as people would give hints as to what their Fate might be and I would respond with provocative scene framing or stakes. When it happened accidentally, it was even better. Ted had the “Worst Fear” card, and he decided that Asano was terrified of the restless dead. He had dropped several hints, but when they group was attacked by zombies, it just took off.

The other thing I learned this time around (and here’s where my improv classes are starting to peek through) is that Dark Fates work best when players use them to engage the other players. They’re not called Dark Secrets, and there’s a reason for that. My advice to future players is to find ways that make your Dark Fate something that the other players can play off of. It shouldn’t be something that’s purely between you and the GM.

And don’t forget, the Witch is a MacGuffin. The GM’s goal isn’t just to threaten the players. The goal is to make that by the time they get to the Witch the ronin have sufficient reason to kill each other.


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