Second session of the Willow Ridge scenario is in the bag.
The game’s still pretty fun. Fussy as hell and boy do I hope I get more of it in my head soon. Many little details I would dearly love to get squared away so I never have to look them up again. The actual flow of the dueling, though, is pretty solid now and I gotta say, I really dig the tension and the interplay.
Tonight’s game was a continuation of last session’s setup: the gang is now in town, they’re looking for the Taicho’s ex-wife who has run off to be with this other gang and has stolen an important gang relic. They hang with the tea house owner and his wife, the scout chases the flirty pretty daughter around the county until they end up visiting a magical hot spring (and had an honestly romantic scene there, with the weird old sad spring spirit facilitating the hookup), and the enforcer heads into town to knock heads for supplies.
Well, the head-knocking turns out pretty ugly: doing so makes a Wave (i.e. a GM hard move kind of event), which brings the wrath of the townsfolk down on the enforcer and his cohort. It’s an ugly bloodbath, very nasty, lots of interesting favor and disfavor stacking up on the various involved factions (NPCs and groups). I like that mechanism too — you don’t often see a good model for split loyalties and mixed emotions, and this system provides for that.
The evening ended with a righteous and I think very archetypal bike duel out front of the old hotel where the antagonist gang is holed up. Lots of faction cards invested from both sides meant a really elaborate high-stakes duel, with the heads of the two gangs facing one another on bikes. I achieved a mutual death outcome but the bastard had a one-shot ability called Cheat Death lined up. So he lost but is badly wounded, and the other gang’s boss ended up dead under his wheels.
The one thing I’m noticing is very, very common is that the players aren’t using their abilities because there’s no central repository for the various text-heavy bits the characters accumulate. The two-sided character sheet I think hurts that as well, since all the text is on one side but the values are on the other. Everyone gets how the card game works and they’re ready and anxious to jump in and start throwing cards. But careful management of those abilities and their Ki reserve is where the game’s really at! But nobody’s paying attention to those yet. Nor are they hooked into their birth sign stuff — their Ki trigger and their Lesson trigger. That stuff should be driving play and it hasn’t quite gotten traction yet.
A couple of the characters did invoke their Lesson Triggers after the fact. When they use the system it produces interesting results. Sitting there thinking and talking about whether a character actually learned that “my sins will always come back to haunt the Pack” is an interesting exercise.
I wanted to wrap up this scenario and move on to our own thing, but some wheedling and whinging from the Enforcer’s player got me to hold off for one more session — he has a couple things that punish him if he doesn’t achieve them in this scenario, so I’m bowing to his frustration with not really understanding this stuff and hooking into the behavior-mandating rules. Give me one more chance to start a fight with another pack member!
Next up, after this scenario ends, I want to see what scenario design looks/feels like. I had a very hard time tracking the various elements at work in the Willow Ridge demo scenario — there are more locations and NPCs than I was able to really internalize. It’d be easy as pie to run again but the first time through I missed some stuff. Nothing important! Just kind of rough delivery.