Sunday, October 13, 2019

Session Report: Sibub and the River Creature

I have continued last week's adventure with my little brother's knight Sibub today. I too lazy to do a proper introduction for what happened previously so here is a link to that post.

The Session:
  • Sibub hid behind a bush and waited for the creature to emerge from the waters.
    • At this point me and my brother sketched out a layout of the river, house and smithy on the wipe board we have.
  • The creature emerged, wet and slimy and went towards the back of the the house. Sibub circled around it it and observed the creature from around the corner.
    • My brother asked about where the bushes were, and said his intent to hide around them. I explained that this isn't like a video game where bushes are designated hiding points and you just have to keep line of sight off you.
  • The creature paws at the window sill of Breyan's room and moans about how it wants to be with her and to be a human.
    • The name changed from the confusing Brery to the actually pronounceable Breyan.
    • The creature refers to Breyan's grandmother who it loves as "my beloved".
    • I did a silly and mumbly voice for the creature. At first it was barely intelligible but over time I spoke it more clearly.
      • My brother asked for a translation and I explained that naw you you gotta deal with it.
  • Realizing that the creature didn't have malicious intent Sibub walked up to it and started talking to it, at this distance noticing that it has one human eye.
  • I don't quite remember all the details, but the creature explained it's love and it's longing to be a human and asked if Sibub would be willing to trade body parts.
    • I realize now, that I forgot to offer anything in return for the parts.
  • Sibub declines but offers to find willing donors during the day. The creature thinks this is a promise but Sibub clarifies that he will try rather than guarantee.
  • The creature fails to understand the meaning of the word "try" and Sibub only kinda explains it.
    • My brother wanted to go and google the word try to fix the issue but I disallowed it because his character as a blacksmith and knight didn't have the background to explain the meaning of trying in the moment.
  • With that, Sibub retired for the night and went to speak with the witch the next morning and explained what happened last night.
    • I laid out all the npcs for my brother to choose to talk to and reminded him how they relate to each other first.
    • The actual conversation was a bit more all over the place than how I'm presenting it now.
  • He asks the witch what the creature is, and she says that it's a thing of the deep sea, dark caves and places between realms.
  • He asked her what she means by "between realms" and she explains that their is a visible world and an invisible world and that she won't release trade secrets by going more into detail.
    •  My brother asked this question out of character but I chose to answer if from the witch's perspective.
  • He tells the witch about the human eye the creature has which gives her pause.
    • Thought in the end this didn't turn out to be a relavant detail.
  • He asked if maybe the creature took it's eye from it's Beloved's corpse, but the witch explained that body part trading magic only worked on the living.
    • Around this time it occurs to me that the witch can call ghosts and could potentially talk to Breyan's grandmother but I couldn't think of a natural way to sneak those details in so I didn't mention it.
    • My brother also theorized that maybe Breyan gave her eye due to how I ended up drawing it.
      • I cut out the illustrations I made for each npc and made stands for them from binder clips.
    • I didn't point out that her father Harric has an eyepatch as that would be a bit of a too obvious hint.
  • Sibub asks the witch what he should do, and she stated her opinion that humans and creatures such as this one should stay separate. She suggests convincing it that being a human is horrible or getting it to fall in love with some traveler, she doesn't care as long as it's away from her town.
  • Sibub ponders if he should or shouldn't kill the creature and after much deliberation settles for trying to talk with it for two nights and if that doesn't work than he'll kill it on the third.
  • That night he meets the creature, and they spend an hour sorting out the meaning of the word "try" and why Sibub hasn't come with a willing donor. The creature is still frustrated by the end of this hour.
    • This is where I first introduced PW's resolution model in the game.
      • The threat was that the creature would misunderstand and attack.
      • The compromise was that the creature would be confused and frustrated but mostly accept the definition of "try".
      • The outcomes of he roll would be "creature gets it" and "creature misunderstands and attacks".
  • Sibub takes some time explaining what family, genetics and the similarity/difference between family members.
    • In which my brother literally explains these concepts and I act out the creature's responses.
    • Sometime in this conversation with the creature it occurs to me that his Beloved's ghost might still reside in the house and the creature might actually be onto something. There wasn't a natural way to introduce this so I kept it unsaid.
  • The creature asks if the human mind/soul resides within the family or the individual and Sibub explains how different they are.
  • Sibub explains that humans are mortal and all humans die eventually.
  • The creature looks Sibub in the eyes and Sibub can see that it recognises that what he says is true but doesn't want it doesn't want to believe. In frustration it swips at him and...
    • Second time the resolution mechanic is invoked. The threat is that Sibub gets thrown into the air and snaps his neck on landing.
      • I put a dice on one hand and a pencil in the other when I asked if my brother would like to compromise or roll. I wish there was some better object to represent the compromise option. Some scales maybe or some sort of tokens?
      • I don't think we solidly defined what the compromise would be, my brother was eager to toll some dice.
      • He had two dice from his Knight Training and an additional one from his Swift Quirk. My brother didn't want to use any of his motifs because this action didn't fit under either the heroic or grim conditions within the fiction as it was presented and my brother didn't want to mark any stress.
        • As I'm writing this I think I may have interpreted heroic/grim a bit too stringently.
  • Sibub sails in an arc and lands on his head dead as a doorknob. The creature slivers into the river and begins processing the first stage of grief in the depths.
    • My brother with a laugh said that he just knew that he was going to fail that roll.
    • He asked to rewind to before the choice and I disallowed it because that would invalidate the dice roll.
      • It now occurs to me that I should have said that it invalidated the choice, which is what actually matters here.
      • Throughout these two sessions I've allowed rewinds and redos, mostly in situations where there's a miscommunication of some sort.
      • At this point I pointed out to my brother that if he used a motif, than even thought he'd have to mark stress for it, he would have had more dice to work with.
    • Instead of rewinding I offered that Sibub can rise up as a ghost to complete any unfinished business he had. My brother said naw and instead showed interest in being the Narrator next time.
      • He picked Narrator as a name for the GM/DM/referee role himself. It fits so I'm just going with it.
      • As unfinished business for Sibub to come back from death for, he considered killing the creature.
After Thoughts:
What went well:
Everything mostly. The world has solidified become more real in this game which is my personal holy grail of rpg experiences. Things flowed seamlessly and I didn't get bogged down and swamped in details like I often do when playing rpgs. It felt less like I was making choices to hold up an illusion and more like I was presenting the logical conclusions of what was being presented. Another interesting thing that happened is that rather than the traditional sedentary way of playing an rpg where the Narrator sits behind their screen and looks upon the players, there was an amount of dynamic movement. I would convey the creature thought body language as much as voice, my brother would pet the cat, we stepped over to the wipe board to sketch out spacial relations and so forth. It helps that I didn't have anything that needed that much hiding behind my GM screen.

Some may think that introducing complicated moral quandaries to a 10-year old and having them explain the meaning of family, identity and mortality is bit harsh but I think that part of the purpose of games and stories is to introduce these topics in safe and controlled dosages. RPGs are especially good for play with moral issues because of tactical infinity, ruling and fictional positioning can capture the nuance that strict rules often can not.
I recognize that this sounds rather pretentious and conceited to use elfgames in this way. I will attempt to justify my thought process by saying that I don't believe that art for entertainment and serious art are separate. I consider Discworld and Homestuck to be as worthy of the title of literature as anything by Shakespeare. This topic also goes on my list of things that deserve their own post. 

What didn't go well:
I don't think I explained compromises most gracefully, and I ended up offering compromises to the threats I presented instead of my brother. I think this will resolve itself as we play more, where I will get better at explaining and my brother will get better at making stuff up. I also failed to include a good amount of the senario's details in a way that was natural. Maybe I should have spent more time on the recap. It's not the end of the world that not all the available threads got screentime so to speak though.

One downside of throwing moral quandaries at my brother is that at some point when the creature almost became violent, my brother's voice had a tinge of "I might cry" in it. While that shows that he got invested into the game is still a situation where I almost induced tears in a fellow human being.

Questions for next time:
What would be a good object to represent the idea of compromising? It's not necessary but dice have a tactile "mythology" the surrounds them that's older than RPGs. Dice are a physical representation of chance and luck, their fun and evocative while compromise doesn't have that. My current thoughts is to have a tiny scale, when you present a threat you put a weight on one side and when players come up with a compromise they place their own weight on the other. If you don't want to carry weights just weight it down with your finger. I should go see if I can get something like that 3D printed.

As I wrote this report it occurred to me that one of Sibub's motifs was a Protective Helm, which could logically protect him from a snapped neck death. I should discuss this with my brother.

What readings and explanations should I give my brother before next Sunday so that he can narrate well? The rules for Pyrrhic Weasel would be one, a little theory about how rpgs are a conversation would be another, but maybe just having him figure it out as he goes along would be a good approach. I should ask him how much secrets of Game Mastery does he want revealed to him and how much does he want to figure out on his own.

How do I balance positive and negative emotions in my games and writing? Is there some specific actions I could do to balance it or is this a matter of practice?

I feel I should make check if everything's ok with my brother,  how do I word that good?

I brought up how the Protective Helm would have prevented the neck snapping, and offered that Sibub survived but in a crippled state. My brother wanted to add the motif in that case, so he rolled an additional two dice and won't you know it one of them was a six. Sibub survived perfectly fine and only needs a few nights to sleep off his brief flight. Next week my brother is still going to be the Narrator, I'm curious how that's going to turn out.

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