Ran Sagas for a table of the uninitiated. Of course it was great; SotI can’t fail, it can only be failed. We’re gonna try running it for a few sessions, which is exciting because I’ve never tried that. It’s a little intimidating!
I’m looking at the annual, seasonal and per-session rules with a very different eye now. The stuff for The Man’s homestead was surprisingly relevant in our session: he’d rolled really well, generated plenty of labor, so had enough extra to host a family meeting. I think my players are getting better all the time at going with the fictional flow and just being okay with whatever moves get triggered. It’s not perfect, and playstyles are such that for some of them it’ll never be perfect (or at least preferred), but so far so good.
The fronts and threats rules are also interesting. In SotI, the fronts are the gods, and they have like… meta-moves that add seasoning and tonal consistency to the threat moves. And literally every NPC on the map is considered a “threat,” from which you pick two or three to really concentrate on. I don’t know that I’ve seen another PbtA that does that, it’s interesting.
The cast for the first session was also smaller than I typically put together for a one-shot con game: The Man, The Matriarch, and The Goði. The Man and the Goði are brothers; the Matriarch is their mother. The oldest of the three sons recently died, leaving his gorgeous second wife and her husband’s exceptional lands in question. The r-map is complex but understandable, as always. SotI’s r-map technology has yet to be matched, IMO, much less exceeded. It produces such excellent webs of very human and relatable problems. Probably why I’m good at running it, to be honest.
I think I’m going to run each session as a new year, although that undercuts some of the most interesting stuff about The Man’s homestead management. I hadn’t noticed that his “adjacent land features” were season-specific, that’s an interesting bit of balance, and a drive to take the “expansion” move and spread out the income. Dunno, maybe seasonal. But one of my players (The Man) can’t make it and two new players need to get integrated in. Gosh, I just don’t know until they choose playbooks. I had initially thought I might aim the players toward playing consequential NPCs that are already on the map, but then they don’t really know the situation. If I’m honestly interested in playing this longer and more expansively, it probably can’t hurt to just add in their relationships and hope for the best. Just because they won’t share bonds with the first batch of characters doesn’t mean they won’t get folded in fictionally.
So I’ve found, five or six games in a row now, that setting expectations for The Man is totally key to making it an enjoyable playbook. The player who took it accepted the “boring moves but central position” tradeoff, and oh gosh he was so great. Unequipped to be at the center of the r-map, right on the edge of awful shit happening over and over again, delicately de-escalating (I’ve rarely seen successful Viking de-escalation tbh, although the Dreamation game with Mikael Andersson, Keith Stetson, Jason Morningstar and Catherine Ramen somehow also achieved it — maybe I’m getting soft).
* Using my r-map powers to slyly ask about ages of various characters in order to make things awkward. “OK so your relationship with this NPC is that you want to marry her? Got it. How old do you reckon the neighbor is? 30? OK. You know, I’ll bet the neighbor is that NPC’s father. So how old could she be…hmm…oh yes, probably about 14.”
* Doing Mikael’s trick of building a proper family tree after the r-map’s first draft to reveal missing relatives. Terrific, very useful, I’m astonished at how many characters and relationships I miss.
* Accepting a physical challenge to overdrink at a wake. The Man ended up drunk and stupid and the player gleefully fucked everything up on his own.