Big Long Blood Red Sands AP Post Ahead!
Faction setup and pre-game account is here: https://plus.google.com/+tonydowler/posts/X25nKue6hFw
This game was now months ago, and the memory is far from clear, but I thought I should do my best to write it up anyway, since I know there’s a lot of interest in BRS and few AP accounts on the web. I’m going to talk a lot about what we did do and what we could have done because I think it’s important to point out how you can and can’t play out your options in BRS.
Our goal was to try the game out and get a feel for it, so we won’t be continuing a full campaign of it. I might facilitate this in a double slot at Go Play NW this year if there’s interest.
Our factions assembled for combat in the swamplands:
· Me as the riders of justice
· Phil as the soul-stealing wizard
· Twyla as the prince in his tower atop the back of his giant
· Brandon as the lizard-riding avengers
· Dylan as the hero
Twyla had the right of first turn as chronicler. Her faction’s goal was to gather slaves, unspecified as to how to do that. So she narrated a scene at a village near a battlefield in the swamps with her giant and her minions gathering up villagers to serve as slaves to the prince’s cause with my faction present and observing.
This scene sets up the Prince to achieve his goal right out the gate, so of course everyone jumped in to stop her…. Except we had no way to do that. This is a weird thing with BRS. When a player is acting as the chronicler, other players have no real opportunity to interfere unless they are specifically targeted with pain.
We were honestly not sure if this was a feature or a bug. During setup, when you add a goal to a faction, you can detail that goal. When the goal of gather slaves was set for the Prince’s faction, we could have specified “gather slaves from…” and make another faction the target. In failing to do this, we gave the Prince a huge head start.
We could also have challenged Twyla’s chronicle on the grounds that it wasn’t justified in the fiction, but everyone seemed to agree it was OK.
With no way to stop the Prince, a few players maneuvered to bring their components into the scene. Dylan narrated his hero being gathered up among the slaves. Brandon narrated his primary character infiltrating the fortress on the giant’s back using his gecko-toed riding lizard. Twyla accepted both characters’ presence, which turned out to be an important point later. I don’t recall the details now, but I believe Twyla actually accepted the weakness “infiltrated by the hero” onto her faction sheet.
Having achieved her goal, Twyla passed. With the Prince having already achieved his goal, it became important for us to find a way to stop her using our own turns as chronicler.
As hero, Dylan had next option to chronicle, which he chose to do. Dylan described his hero busting his way into the throne room to confront the Prince face to face. Twyla had previously established that the Prince never takes personal part in operations, keeping his face hidden, so she offered dice to Dylan to not be present in the scene. Dylan called on the “infiltrated” weakness, forcing the Prince to be present. Brandon’s character also entered the scene, since his presence in the fortress had already been established.
We found this method of constraining the fiction through the mechanics of BRS very counter-intuitive, but also exciting. I think with a bit of play it could become quite natural. It’s one of the parts of the game that I like best.
At thing point, I believe Dylan chronicled his hero decapitating the Prince, at which point Twyla chose to go to a clash.
There’s probably a lot more maneuvering that could have been done here, and pushing for a clash right off the bat may not be the best tactical choice, but we all wanted to see the clash in action.
Here the game almost broke down over negotiating the terms of the clash. I think bidding stakes is an easy place to get lost in BRS. I would recommend negotiating stakes in a freeform manner and use the procedure in the rules only if negotiation breaks down. Here we found, as elsewhere in BRS, when we really stuck to the fiction, things worked. When we ignored the fiction, things broke down.
So Twyla and Dylan settled on the following stakes: the hero loses his trait that represents his desire to atone for once serving the Witch King. The Prince loses his sorcerous bloodline, the thing that ties him to the Witch King.
Brandon’s lizard rider, being present in the scene, opted to join the fight on the hero’s side, which essentially gave Dylan the ability to use him as a meat shield in the fight.
It’s now quite a while since we played, so I can’t narrate the clash blow-for-blow, but I can give my general observations.
In the clash you roll dice that are tied to your traits. You then advance these dice to attack or defend, with higher numbers being better. Dice can also be damaged and destroyed, in which case you could lose them from your character sheet. In addition, each die has an aspect, which gives it some kind of special ability. Some of the special abilities modify what happens to other dice in the clash, like saving a die from being wounded, or stealing a die, and so on. This gets complicated really quickly.
That said, there’s definitely an aspect of mastery here. The rules will become more familiar with time, and it’s an interesting game to try and win on its own. It’s easy to lose the fiction in that, which can take away from the role play.
At that point we were low on time, so we decided to call it and have a bit of a debrief. Our goal was just to play the game once and learn from it, so we won’t be continuing this adventure, unfortunately. We were all really interested in our factions and eager to learn how it would turn out. However, we were daunted by the procedural complexity. With our group, the biggest challenge was keeping the rules aligned to the fiction. This is a game I might facilitate again if I can assemble a group that’s up for it, possibly in a double-slot at the next Go Play NW.
My strongest impression of this game is that describing it as hard-core head-to-head competitive roleplaying is a bit misleading. BRS has a different social contract that most RPGs, and it does enable the players to go aggressively head-to-head in ways that no other RPG I’ve played does. That alone makes it interesting to me. However, it’s still an RPG, and I don’t advise you to abandon fiction the way you would in, say, a board game. It requires just as much commitment to role-playing as any game I’ve played. I don’t think I’m done learning new things from BRS.