Stonetop RPG - Session post-mortems

Alright, we have a lot of play in now. I'm just going to c/p your excerpt from last session's play @Ovinomancer (which was the first session of Summer).

Ovinomancer wrote

What had happened was the near adult son of a recent addition to village started to act out. A few rolls happened steering this in a rocky direction that resulted in the kid trying to violently vandalize the Pavilion of the Gods. As all of the PCs are all essentially priests, we all responded and fun occurred trying to stop the kid without harming him, but his sister who tried to intervene and stop her brother ended up mortally wounded by the brother. As Dap and Trys were saving the girl, Cullen engaged the son and determined he was possessed and decided that right there in the middle of the village was the proper time and place for an exorcism. That went well, except that the demon doing the possession was 12' tall and pissed. Thus began the Cleaning of the Green, or the Day the Gods Walked. Much totally awesome displays of power were witnessed. Lightnings erupting from Trys, Gavin binding the demon with roots and thorns, Cullen rebuking the demon and weakening it, and Dap calling forth the sun to hinder the demon. A titanic battle, with titans all around. Not all was good, Dap did get tossed across the green and badly hurt, and everyone walked away with some new future scars. The Pavilion needs some repairs, and we need to deal with the aftermath of the boy's possession, but never have the forces of darkness and despair seen such a defeat in living memory.

Do you (Ovinomancer), @hawkeyefan , @darkbard , or @Nephis have any thoughts thus far on Stonetop/the play to date (I know the latter two have much less experience, but you also have a huge reservoir of comparative DW play to draw upon)?
 

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darkbard

Legend
Alright, we have a lot of play in now. I'm just going to c/p your excerpt from last session's play @Ovinomancer (which was the first session of Summer).



Do you (Ovinomancer), @hawkeyefan , @darkbard , or @Nephis have any thoughts thus far on Stonetop/the play to date (I know the latter two have much less experience, but you also have a huge reservoir of comparative DW play to draw upon)?
I may have some thoughts to offer, but I doubt it will happen over the next few days, which I anticipate to continue being quite busy. Nevertheless, I'll put a pin in this and return when I have a minute.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Alright, we have a lot of play in now. I'm just going to c/p your excerpt from last session's play @Ovinomancer (which was the first session of Summer).



Do you (Ovinomancer), @hawkeyefan , @darkbard , or @Nephis have any thoughts thus far on Stonetop/the play to date (I know the latter two have much less experience, but you also have a huge reservoir of comparative DW play to draw upon)?
It seems like theory to me.

Silly aside, I'm also swamped but hope to get more in later.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
@Manbearcat

So I have a question based on our last session and how things played out. I leveled up at the start of the session, and decided to take the playbook ability The Hammer and the Book. For anyone reading, here's what it does:

THE HAMMER AND THE BOOK
When you strike a thing of supernatural chaos, roll +WIS: on a 10+, deal your damage and choose 1 from the list below; on a 7-9, deal damage and choose 1, but you also expose yourself to harm or unwanted attention.
  • Deal +1d6 damage
  • Ignore the thing’s armor or other defenses
  • Suppress one of its unnatural powers
  • Force it from its host
This decision became very relevant to the way the session played out, as Lief, the newcomer to Stonetop who had been traumatized by the hillfolk clan we rescued him from, went on a disruptive rant that we tried to quell. It turned out he was actually possessed of a demonic entity from his imprisonment by the hillfolk, and Cullen used his new ability to drive the entity from him.

So my question is a kind of about the chicken/egg aspect of this. You had given us hints that Lief was not well; we witnessed him get violently ill at the end of our previous session. This likely played into my decision to choose the Hammer and the Book as my advance; mostly I think I did so because it seems to offer a nice spread of options. But that last one there was on my mind in particular, given how play has involved spirits and demonic beings and the like.

Did you decide to frame the situation with Lief with my choice of playbook ability in mind? Or was this something that you already had brewing? Obviously, Lief was some kind of issue, but to what extent had you detailed that? The bit about him making the distiller's apprentice get him booze seemed to be one way that Lief was causing discord in the community. Was that the original idea which then got subsumed by the possession idea? Or was the possession idea or something like it there all along?

I think it'd be interesting to see how this threat came about, and when these details were considered and at what point they crystalized. I have ideas or assumptions, but I think it'd be interesting to see a kind of timeline on it from the GM perspective.
 

Perfect question!

Here is it went:

* When you arrived, he was in preparation to have the ritual consummated (mating and then consumed to continue their line). You spared him that and ended the demonic heritage when you destroyed their leader (who perpetuates it) and scattered the clan.

* However...you guys sent a few of the young folks back (Grunhilda, Leif, and another) to the borders of that encampment to retrieve the cart et al. 7-9 result. Hmmmmm...ok, they get it but there is a complication/cost. Leif returns gravely ill for a period, causing a pall over the settlement (Fortunes -1)...but he apparently recovers.

So at that point, I'm already thinking of a few things:

1) At the outset of chargen, I was thinking about framing scenes and following them to test Cullen's Instinct for Harmony vs Dap's Instinct for Hope. Every PC in the game bears some mark of faith, what happens when those approaches collide? What if Cullen feels they have to cast someone out to save the steading? How will Dap respond? What if you guys are backed into a corner with little options?

2) What exactly was that sickness? At this point I'm thinking of the film Hereditary, and I simply write up a tag for Leif - "haunted." That could mean a lot of things given all that we know if his situation. Being the eldest son of a demanding family (perhaps he doesn't want to be a horse-breeder?). Being the object of a horrific ritual that was nearly consummated. Being afflicted with something terrible that nearly took his life and unsettled the steading. Lots of stuff. Don't know what it is yet. TBD.

3) At some point here, I need to make the Homefront move "Reveal Simmering Tensions." This is a fundamental component of a game like Dogs in the Vineyard or any "Hearth Fantasy-type" of genre. The village/towns begin to fray. A swelling population and new people and influences from other cultures (the east! Marshedge...like Dogs' preoccupation with the influence of folks from cities out east).

4) We arrive to a place with two families (both originally from Marshedge but one recently come from Gordin's Delve) swelling the ranks of Stonetop. Everyone is there. We transition to Summer. We've resolved a lot of issues with one Threat looming but its been ameliorated thus far. Alright, lets make a move portending a visceral problem with Leif. He is "an afflicted young man."

5) The distillery was just fortified by Trys. She cares about this. Lets bring that in. She has a great rift with her father that is healing. Lets bring that in. You're the town mediator. Lets bring that in. Sigard needs holy fortification for the unnatural threat where his hopeless was preyed upon. Lets bring that in. Rage/sympathies, Hope, Harmony, Preservation (of the natural order). Lets do this thing.

You chose Hammer and the Book. Alright, we haven't engaged with this soft move in any consequential way yet; we've merely portended an affliction and a blight on Stonetop. Ok. He's possessed by the demon patron of the Maneater's. THAT is his affliction that he endured when they went back to get the cart et al. He's been fighting it and medicating against it ever since and its been manifesting in terrible ways within his family (that they've done their best to keep a secret from the settlement). Its getting worse and he's losing...

...what are you guys going to do about it? Resolve or let it manifest in an actual encoded Threat to the community.

You guys choose the former.

6) So while we play, I take the Cynddaraig from the setting book, throttle it back a hair and reskin its tags, instinct, moves. Things go the way they go and play resolves the way it resolves.




So, effectively this is an instantiation of "Ask Questions and Use the Answers." I had a looming threat out there with this possibility enfolded in it. But perhaps the affliction meant a few other things; mundane things? If play would have resolved via you guys' actions > moves > resolutions + ask questions and use the answers (or you guys just volunteering answers), I likely would have encoded a different Threat onto play once the first 6- rolled in.

But yeah, once you chose Hammer and the Book, that answered the Hereditary question for the soft moves. The questions become how does all of this manifest and resolve? What do each of you do and what animates you to do it (at all and in the particular way that you do it)? What is the fallout? How does the fallout impact your relationship to each other, to your respective faiths/Instincts, to the constituent parts of Stonetop?

So yeah...that is the deal.

Which is why it felt very much like GMing Dogs to me. Create the Town with some simmering threats > Play the Town > Escalate to conflict > Find out what happens when the PCs mete out justice/separate the blight from the bounty/extoll the virtues/perform ceremony to ritually purify & anoint (etc).

There is a lot of Dogs DNA in this game and its pointedly so due to your chargen (where you are each folks of faith or at least touched by it).
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
@Manbearcat

Very good stuff. I think that's mostly how I imagined a lot of your decision making going, but wasn't sure if there would be anything unexpected in there.

Mentioning Dogs, I actually think I decided to go with the Judge because we had discussed Dogs in the Vineyard, and the idea of a teenaged arbiter of law/morality struck me as an interesting idea. I think prior to play I envisioned Cullen as a little more fire and brimstoney, but he's much less zealous than I'd originally imagined.

I'm not exactly sure why that may be.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
@Manbearcat

Very good stuff. I think that's mostly how I imagined a lot of your decision making going, but wasn't sure if there would be anything unexpected in there.

Mentioning Dogs, I actually think I decided to go with the Judge because we had discussed Dogs in the Vineyard, and the idea of a teenaged arbiter of law/morality struck me as an interesting idea. I think prior to play I envisioned Cullen as a little more fire and brimstoney, but he's much less zealous than I'd originally imagined.

I'm not exactly sure why that may be.
Dap?
 

hawkeyefan

Legend

Maybe. I expect it's the other characters collectively rather than just Dap specifically, but yeah, I expect that's a part of it. When we did character generation, Dap and Cullen kind of came out of that with a pretty strong bond, so I'm sure that was a factor. Then Cullen was paired with Trys for the first adventure. Her reckless and direct nature probably made me lean a bit more cautious and thoughtful as a result. Which certainly makes sense given the Judge Playbook's focus on books and learning and so on.

It's likely also that the Harmony instinct lends itself to cooperation and compromise more than I may have been thinking it would. I think prior to play, I'd been thinking of a kind of "for the greater good" type approach. Like Cullen would make the hard decisions when necessary. And that still may happen, I expect, but so far, there has been a way to kind of achieve or at least shoot for a generally harmonious solution to many of the problems we've faced.

I'm curious how the events of the last session.... the revelation of an actual corrupting influence possessing a villager... may impact his views going forward. Not just in how he would handle such a situation because yeah 12-foot-tall monster manifesting in the town square is probably not the best way... but also in his outlook. Is this always the case with bad behavior? Is it always attributable to outside influence like that? Is there more chaos about than it seems?
 

Nearly 5 months into running Stonetop, I just wanted to say a few things that are critiques:

1) The "Take +1/-1" of Apocalypse World and Dungeon World is significantly better than Stonetop's Advantage/Disadvantage because, combined with the myriad of ways to get Advantage and the low threshold for the Aid (and low risk because 10+ hits far too much) move, the latter skews the results upwards too much toward 10+ results.

Hopefully, the live version resolves this by simply changing Adv/Disadv back to Take +1/-1. Best/Worst of 2 is great for damage (a la DW), but its not great for move resolution. The Stonetop Aid move with actual risk (eg you're apt to hit 7-9 and suffer the same cost as the person your aiding) would then be fine (and an improvement over DW's roll bond for Aid) so keep that along with the change above.

2) Struggle as One (Group Move) is a problem. 7-9 needs to be Success w/ Cost/Consequence. As Struggle as One is presently instantiated, 7-9 result total for the group is "you pull your weight" (so everything is fine) and this tends profoundly toward Struggle as One (again, as with Advantage above) yielding the "you get what you want" outcome reserved for 10+ in classic AW/DW.

I would resolve this by treating 7-9 Struggle as One result as actual Succes w/ Cost/Consequence which would mean that virtually every group move is a 7-9 (7-9 is "the best result" for these games).

3) The Blades in the Dark derived Loadout just doesn't do the work for expressing the "scarcity vs abundance" theme of this game. Its tough to punish players with gear related consequences because they just don't have the teeth that they do in Dungeon World where you have a persistent through line of Gear/Coin/Inventory that you have to manage.

Easy resolution is to go back to the Dungeon World model of Gear/Coin/Inventory management which is quite good for the intended "scarcity vs abundance" thematic pressure point.
 

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