Though it seems we have more than enough of timing issues with this campaign we are managed to have an awesome fourth session yesterday. And even though we have been using Eldritch Sigils for a few years for the campaign it seems we can still find minor details that need correcting.
It seems like ages ago when I was GMing ANKH to my friends after school and just had to tweak the rules of the game to suit my taste. It might have been twenty years ago but I’m still doing it. And for the life of me I cannot see the reason why?
Why cannot I be satisfied with the rules as written?
While making my own game I naturally have the responsibility of trying to make it work. I’m not that big on balance since I mainly like the rule systems as tools to tell a story not to play a game, so that’s not a problem. But it seems I clearly have a habit of forgetting to add or alter things that have been corrected in-game already.
On the other hand this is a major problem as it intercepts the flow of the story. Do we really need to discuss this ruling in detail while there is something interesting going on in the story?
Usually i would answer “no” but sometimes it is more rewarding to ponder the possibilities and dimensions of a certain rule at the cost of loosing momentum. Simply because it might nag the thoughts of the players and it could lead into a interesting discovery storywise.
Last night we had one of these moments. The game has a move called “Lifting the Veil” that allows the character to peak through the curtain on reality into the Beyond (think From Beyond by H.P.Lovecraft or Revival by Stephen King). One of the characters was using the move and totally missed the roll.
Now rules-as-written dictated he suffered Stress and a loss of humanity but the character had a natural buffer about humanity loss. This resulted into an outcome in which a really powerful move could have no hard effect when failed. I cannot remember if I had planed to leave out the option for the GM to make a hard move or not. But RAW suggested that the character would just be extremely shaken but nothing else would happen.
(If you haven’t played Apocalypse World this might not mean that much to you. But those of you who have (or now about it) can think it as Opening Your Brain with just Doing Something Under Fire.)
This didn’t seem right at all. Powers like that should come with terrible prices or at least allow me to do something. Not just losing some random hit points. While thinking how to handle the situation we didn’t reach a consensus. The move stills to be redone but we did however manage to spring a very interesting event of it.
As discussed previously we use a campaign sheet from which one player nominates a detail towards which each player tries to guide the story during session. This time Ville had chosen “A vital clue can be found with a terrible price”. At first I had hoped that Mikko‘s character would be successful in Lifting the Veil to use this session event. But since he did not I was baffled for a moment. Then I realized that this outcome was even better. I was able to give him a moral choice.
Describing his agony of trying to lift the veil I told him that his character was enlighten by the situation; he understood that to pierce the Veil would grant him a vital clue, but to do it he would need to make a human sacrifice.
After that we narrated only the aftermath of the event and left with one of the most interesting dilemmas I can remember from my gaming life. The characters now need to weigh their need to gain this clue and the price they would have to pay. Since the game has a in-game mechanic of descending into darkness while doing things like human sacrifices it is not granted that they will go down that road. Jani did take the “Cold-blooded Killer”-talent though but Mikko insisted his character would never be willing to open that kind of a door.
I guess I was trying to make a point about discussing rulings during sessions. While in principal I have always been against them this experience has opened my eyes to the fact that they can bring something to the game. If the discussion leads into an interesting story development.