Monday, September 23, 2013

Ultra-minimalist solo experience thoughts

As mentioned here, I have given some thought about a high-speed solo system that provides little fuss, and lots of speed. And so, I've given my Chapter System a try. As mentioned in that introductory post to this fast-paced experiment, the object was to increase speed of play into a format I can accomplish something in one sitting.

I have run two chapters so far, each with a strict limit of 6 paragraphs (some of those paragraphs get some bloat). Was it successful? Sort of...

Getting through a Mythic game is time-consuming, and I have a low record of completing projects. They can easily get derailed, since there is little to regulate the amount of randomness that can sway narrative and action. With Nine Questions, I have a great deal more success. However, I don't have a chance to sit down and journal out an entire game.

The Chapter system is a bit of a merging of the two ideas: 9Q's sense of structure (though in more nebulous terms), and Mythic's epic, ongoing feeling. What I ended up with is not much different than a typical scene with a 9Q's session. However, the goal is no longer an over-arching narrative that produces cohesion and finality like a 9Q game; rather, it is more focused on the short term with a backdrop that it belongs to something larger.

The cool innovation, in my opinion, is that I've adopted a chapter title that essentially becomes the anchor for all of the action in that chapter. I used this little Random Fantasy Novel Title Generator to come up with chapter titles. The object of each chapter is to reference the random elements and ideas against the context of that title. The result seems like a normal 9Q scene (at least the way I run them), but finding that meaning seems to be a nice manageable session goal. I am also keeping a running tally of threads, things, factions, people, and so forth similar to Mythic's lists.

The paragraph count certainly helps. Seeing emerging arcs over the long term is also something that can keep the exercise interesting and somewhat natural, without letting new twists, such as the way they are generated by Mythic, to leave too many open threads to deal with.

Below, I have pasted my first chapter attempt. This is a saga featuring an anti-heroine, Doria Nightraven, the "Dark Raven". The setting is intended to be full of Sword & Sorcery flavor, with a Thundarr-esque sorcery and super-science post-apocolyptic element. I've used FU rpg for this to keep things running lean and quick. Here she is:

Doria Nightraven

Dark-haired and pale-skinned, Doria is an attractive yet imposing figure. She hails from the forgotten north, a place few have seen, finding her way by virtue of the sword. She has served as bodyguard, mercenary, and adventurer. She wanders, seeking to bring down the sorcerers who have enslaved and destroyed her people.

Descriptors: Quick as a Cat, Willful as the Devil, Swordplay, Vengeful
Gear: Iron Longsword, Stiletto Dirks

Special: as a special charm ability, spending 1 FU point and making a Beat the Odds roll allows Doria to summon a flock of ravens upon need to confuse or bewilder.

Chapter 1: The Betrayal of Two Demons

I — scales, pot of gold, sack 

Aldegold — The city of scrap, where merchants, coin, refuse, slaves, and illicit goods are traded and sold to half a dozen races, mutant and pureblooded alike. A red cloud of dust and contaminated haze mingled with the glow of the dying orange sun as it sank, forming a ring around the city of refuse and reek at the depths of a great crater of black stone. Here, a dark-clad temptress — tall and fell — rode slowly through the narrow streets, eyeing the villainy from the corners of her almond-shaped eyes. She noted a particularly shrewd merchant weighing a pile of twisted scrap and measuring out milled grain to a waiting mutant with red pocked skin. Rabid animals fought over the fresh carcass of a bloated and clearly diseased nazrat. All the while, local eyes peered back at the imposing and deadly pureblooded — or so she seemed — passing figure. They looked at the slender longsword strapped across her back, the dirks strapped lengthwise to the tight leggings of her thighs, and to her cold and lethal gray eyes.

II — footprint, crown, chaos 

Suddenly, before the black-clad warrioress came a procession. Several hulking slaves bore a massive palanquin adorned with beaten copper and gold twisted in crude and menacing shapes about its surface. A loud man in a flowing headdress of metallic mesh cracked a whip, sending those who had gotten in his way flying in terror. It just so happened that the multitudes on the Street of Fetid Riches was dense due to the congestion and narrow lanes lined with heaps of refuse, that Doria Nightraven did not notice the procession until the intervening patch of pavement was suddenly cleared, suddenly revealing a vexed procession figurehead, who snapped his whip again. “I said move, vermin!” With that, the man cracked the coil again, but it was abruptly caught in the gloved hand of the rider, who held tight to its end. The procession leader widened his eyes in rage. “How dare you!” The woman only regarded him coldly, unwaveringly, and stood perfectly still. The man pulled, and the two strove until finally the woman was pulled off her horse by the man’s greater leverage. However, she landed catlike on her feet, released the coil, and had sword in hand, all in one quick flourish.

III — pointing man, storm cloud, waves

“How dare you impede the procession of Padh Jerokin, high priest of the cult of the storm giver! Lay thee down and await the wrath of his judgement!” From out of the refuse, Doria heard a whisper. Her attention was momentarily caught as a wide-eyed shadowed figure tried to mime a warning — that somehow the man she now crossed was fearsome and important. “Stop,” came a more audible whisper, “before he calls the demons of storm and flood to destroy us!”


The northwoman had never before heard of the cult, nor the priest named by the fool standing before her. No one stirred, and only a tense watchfulness lay upon the city square. Finally, she answered, still with bare steel in her hand. “The Padh is welcome to find another route,” she said in an uncommonly deep and cold voice, which was punctuated by a snort of derision by her horse. “I go forward.” “Why, you little…!” answered the man, who stepped forward with raised whip. However, that whip was never brought to bare. A thin dagger quivered in the man’s breast before he fell. In a flash, the palanquin was nearly dropped and all the slaves rushed forward barehanded to strike her. Lightning fast spins and fierce strokes dismembered one after another, until the ground was painted in blood and gore.

NPC description: arrow, rainbow, pushing over wall

When at last those survivors fled, the woman in black approached the litter and opened the veil with her bloodied blade to view its occupant. She saw a thin shirtless and bald man sitting cross-legged and straight. About his eyes was painted colored rings and his gaze was intense and equally as deadly as hers. “You know not what wrath you have incurred,” the man said in slow and even tones. The man’s eyes flashed with some sort of intense but brief light, and with it, an unseen wall of force bowled into the unsuspecting warrioress. She was knocked back and to the ground, the air beaten momentarily from her lungs. Her horse fled in terror the opposite direction. The man stood and picked up a shillelagh, and slowly and menacingly approached. “That was most unwise!” He raised his staff up over his head. Somehow, with the promise of death before her eyes, she somehow summoned enough will and speed to thrust her sword through the man’s gut before he could bring the weapon down to crush her skull. His eyes rolled into his head and he slumped to the ground, a hand twitching until he finally expired.

Overhead, thunder rumbled almost in answer to the deed as ominous green-red clouds rolled in, and droplets of red acid rain began to pelt the ground with here and there a hiss like tears of blood. Those hiding souls who had watched the conflict mesmerized still gazed in awe and fear at the stranger who had slain a feared tyrant, unable to react or comprehend what they had just witnessed, or what it might portend.

No comments:

Post a Comment