31 July 2006

Actual Play: The Mountain Witch Chapter One

After owning it for several months, I finally ran The Mountain Witch today. Technically I guess we started last time, as characters were generated then. But tonight the ronin set off up Fujiyama to slay the witch.

Overall, it was very good. We had a great time and the game did what my reading felt it would.

- The dark fates worked well, giving the players a good way to add to the game and put their own spins on the scenes I was building. For this first session I was mainly pushing this - setting a scene and then picking someone and saying things like "the person in front of you is someone from your past - who?" I expect that later sessions will have everyone volunteering more of this stuff.
- The conflict resolution system is quick and easy.
- The trust mechanics work well. We had one (fairly minor) betrayal and a few cases of aiding occur. The choices to do these reflected the interactions and past of the characters involved, in my opinion. Finally, at the end of the chapter updates, the choices made by each player also seemed to fit very well with the levels of trust shown in the character interactions. I'll be interested to see what happens when people have the chance to betray another ronin to their deaths in later chapters...

Another unexpected win was Kleinert's advice for running the game. Preparing over the weekend I had re-read it all, and felt that it was fairly fluffy advice, with little concrete to use. However, a half hour constructing seeds for scenes and then building on them (and what the players threw into the mix) was plenty. The game ran without a hitch... I remember one spot where I needed a few minutes to construct a good situation, but even then I could fall back on the advice and it was easy.

In this case, one of the ronin had been seduced and abducted by a mysterious woman. The others had lost her trail. One of the others had a tracking ability, and the player decided he knew where they had gone. I rolled with this and described where the captive was being held (a small gathouse/outpost). Then we cut inside and I asked for who was interrogating the captive as he came to. He suggested it was a degenerate and debauched cousin who had been exiled from the family home and this provided a very interesting scene in which the ronin promised to betray the others to their deaths before he faked an escape (slaying many of the guards on the way) just before the others charged in to rescue him.

Definitely a great game. The trust mechanics provide a nice way of investigating the issues of friendship and betrayal in the group. The advice for running and background material is really good (although it may not seem like it when you first read it). Also, the rules were simple enough that I only screwed up once - this may be a personal record for me (I have invariably messed up the rules of even games I wrote, as well as others).

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