Integrating The Season With Gameplay

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Integrating The Season With Gameplay

Postby ARudzki » Sun May 22, 2011 8:49 pm

In my table-top report, I recently talked about going through the phases of a Season with my player. I ran through all of it in one sitting, since it was a lot honestly, and it felt kind of awkward. We sat there, wrote it all up, rolled dice and resolved it, and then proceeded to play out the Story for the night -- with none of the benefits he had rolled, because (after all) the Season wasn't over yet. It was strange... So, in reporting the game in my thread, I posted my personal thoughts on how to handle the Seasonal phases such as Planning, Trouble, Action, and Harvest and tie them into game-play. These are just my thoughts! Only me! If they don't work for you, hey, that's 100% legitimate! I'm only typing out loud here. But please, talk to me in a response and share your thoughts!

What follows is a copy-paste from my table top thread...


I actually went ahead and proceeded through all of the Steps, which I wouldn't do again (something I'll talk about after this post I figure).

My thoughts on this basically go like this: Proceeding through the Season with a group of players strikes me as potentially tedious, and hard to manage overall -- It just seems hard to organize doing all of these steps with every person in a group. With just one person I managed to make a couple goofs that needed to be handled, and I could see more cropping up in a group of 3 or 4 or 5...

I checked in the book for any helpful advice (beyond the step-by-step breakdown) on handling this, and I found none. Now, let me be clear: This is no attack. Goodness no. I am honestly loving this game. I'm having heaps of fun. I just openly acknowledge that this system does not receive the same treatment as other Narrator business in the final chapter of the book. So, This is my contribution to understanding how best to handle the Season Phases, from Planning through Harvest. These are just my ideas and impressions, take them or leave them:

Alfred's Guide To Managing Season Phases And Influencing People
Herein, I refer to adventures as "Stories."
Herein, I refer to game sessions as "Chapters."

1. The Bait & Switch Betrayal
If you want to play Axis & Allies, go play Axis & Allies.
If you want to role-play noble, backstabbing society -- role-play noble, backstabbing society.

Rule one of my personal guide is simply that there shall never ever be Season Phases in the first Chapter (Session) that I Narrate. That first Chapter will serve as character creation, introducing the characters, explaining the concept of Wagering, giving examples of things, and maybe even playing through the first Story I have planned for them, but I will not go through the Phases. Most likely, you have gotten your group to sit down and give this game a try because they like role-playing. Ok, yeah, sure maybe you got your friend who loves Risk to play because you mentioned the Province-Management System, but the first thing you're probably focusing on is role-playing right? That's the point of Wagers, after all! So, the role-playing happens first. I will happily explain, in general terms, what Vassals do and how they're useful to help guide them -- and I won't conceal the fact that there is a meta-game of resource management, deal-making, and improvement. However, the first Chapter will not (in my games, in this guide) be host to the Bait & Switch Betrayal of walking through the rules and spending time getting people to decide what to do with their Provinces 3 minutes after making them.

2. Making the Rounds
This is an idea that just appeals to me, and just as everything I say here is solely my experience and ideas and can therefore be ignored at your earliest choice to do so, this idea is probably the easiest to throw out.

I don't think I believe in making the first Story longer than one Chapter in length. Tell all of it in one gathering of your close group of pals. I figure, run a variation on the Roses & Thorn Story -- not necessarily identical by any means. Ideally, just make up an occasion for a Party, for people to be gathering under fairly calm conditions. Let your players have control over what kinds of NPCs are introduced, but if they are hesitant to get in on it, you have 100% justification to bring them in yourself -- it's a party! Shmoozing is the point! You can get your NPCs out there, get some characterization going, and discard those that the players don't have any interest in.

Making the Rounds. Several NPCs and PCs make the rounds, and only the ones who *click* keep in contact with one another.

Making the Rounds.

Use this first, potentially very light Chapter to give each player adequate attention when introducing their Characters, and give adequate attention to the NPCs you introduce, and their interactions. While, yes, you should be doing this every session -- the First session is vital to get your bearings so you can at the very least run those NPCs on steam later on once you know how they work.

And obviously, use this as an opportunity to introduce as many of the rules systems as you can, in brief.

These guys argue, explain Debate.
THOSE guys argue, let someone be on a Jury!
These guys look around, explain Cunning wagers.
These guys flirt, explain Romance.
These guys lock horns, explain Insult.
These guys think, explain Wisdom wagers.
These guys fight, explain Duels.
These guys deal, explain Contracts.
These guys ambush, explain Mass-Murder (if you're so inclined!)

Make the Rounds. All the way around. Engage everyone, engage everyone as differently as you can. Let them sample, as participant or audience member, everything the game can offer. I figure, fill the First Story with all this so that everyone is hooked. Leading into...

3. Wait, I Left the Oven On!
...start of the Second Chapter (and if you followed #2 above, the start of your second Story) go ahead and make them handle managing their Provinces! Now, yes, help the players...100%. Make sure they understand what their regions are making, what resources they start with, what it means to choose between two resources, what it means to make goods, all of that.

However! Only run through Steps 1 and 2. Only run through Planning, and only run through Trouble.

Let them go ahead and select what they'd like to see their Regions producing, go ahead and let them see what they want their villages making, go ahead and let them have their 1 Action as a part of Step 1. And then roll the dice, and PRAY they get some Trouble :twisted:

You will have already finished a Story by now, so you're not interrupting the narrative any! You give the bookkeeping a time and a place! And once you have plans, and you see how they've gone awry?

Start up Story 2, and make sure the NPCs have ALL heard word of the Trouble plaguing the PC's lands. Word travels fast, when everyone is out to get you. Make the NPCs twist the knife, and really make the PCs a little nervous about their Troubles. Hey, maybe someone uses Cunning or Wisdom to help blame their Trouble on another ven! Sounds like a brilliant Story to me! Maybe a favor is owed and that means you don't have to Quell your own Trouble! How nice is that?

Let them Plan.
Make them watch their Plans fall apart.
And then jump back into the Stories, and make sure everyone is talking about the problems.
And only the *wrong* people are talking about helping.

4. Draw it Out
Your Second Story? Let it go on for a few Chapters. Not a lot, maybe. As many as are necessary, of course! Do not ever kill the group's fun, obviously. But in terms of the narrative pace that you, the Narrator, ought to be contributing too, draw it out just enough. Maybe two Chapters, or maybe three Chapters. Don't let the players get back to dealing with their Trouble. Continuing with the dealing, the wheeling, the alliances and betrayals as we should all be trying to make happen, and let the troubles keep coming up in conversation if it makes sense.

Don't piss the players off that they haven't had their Season Actions yet.
Just make them really want to have their Season Actions.

When the Second Story closes out, go ahead and let them decide on their Actions right there. For one, waiting until now gives them all of the previous sessions to be thinking about it! It even let's them benefit from any useful connections made during the Story! Suddenly, you don't HAVE to use an Action you were going to, because your ally will be! And there is no die rolling right now, because Espionage, Craft and such resolve in Harvest. So. Yeah, this mirrors Planning! The players will simply make their Action lists at the end of the Second Story -- as you clean up the space, have them stay seated and write out their Actions, while they talk to you about what they enjoyed!

5. Experiencing the Harvest
As I said above, handle Actions at the end of the Second Story. That would place that theoretically around what? Chapter 3 or 4? (1 session for adventure one, and 2 to 3 for adventure two) Run through all of Story 3. However many sessions. Wait until the very end. If you have a large group, this much time to handle their actions could be necessary (or at the least helpful)!

If their action was to spy on someone's land, well, damn, you'd better work out what their land is like! Sure, give them the chance in play to make a Wisdom check to know some stuff, but take that and run with it and add to it during your downtime! This is your opportunity -- between the end of Story 2 and the end of Story 3 -- to be able to answer the player's questions the way they deserve! Figure out what people's Security and Loyalties are! Figure out what an NPCs actions would be! Figure out who the Traitors are! OBVIOUSLY: Anything you don't want to solve, you don't have to. You can leave it in their hands to a degree -- however, you shouldn't be left out of the fun just because you're the Narrator! Throw in starting details (Three Truths, remember!) and let them run with it. The players trust you after all! That's the point!

So, use the time between their Actions and the Harvest to determine all the necessary info to actually help them. So you know what dice to roll, so you know what of their plans have been sabotaged by enemies (probably made during Story 2 and Story 3, haha!), so you know who is trading them what, etc.

Run them through Story 3 and be sure to use this opportunity! They made plans and arrangements during Story 2, remember! They made enemies and friends! Use those to inform this Story! Enemies of your enemies and friends of your friends, after all. This is gold in terms of storytelling. And hey, even better, this gives you a unique opportunity! Maybe someone's Seasonal Action creeps into the game, yeah? Maybe those spies you figured Baron Example was sending as his action? Hey, let them interfere with this Story. Could be interesting, yeah?

Finally, when everything is said and done, and Story 3 comes to a close and you've done all you can for the season: Then let Harvest happen. Harvest is one of the fun little stand-ins we have in this game for age-old Leveling Up... that's how I feel about it. Your resources grow, your land expands, your vassals improve, your family grows -- let your players Experience the Harvest! When the story ends, take this chance to run through Harvest like you would experience points and leveling up in any other RPG!

Go around and dish out the Resources like XP -- you've been processing their Actions for the last couple games, you could easily handle this!

Go around and dish out the Maneuvers earned by Vassals and PCs!

Go around and figure out who's Holdings are done, who's Goods are done, who's Art is done, etc!

Go around and roll the small die pools first, typically for actions performed solely by Vassals!

Go around and run through the die rolls for Seasonal Actions requiring the PC next! The big die pools!

And then resolve them Espionage Actions! Bam!

If it's Winter you're resolving, then cap it off by having them roll their Age, and any adjustments necessary for that.

6. If It Works, If It Works
I can't guarantee any of this makes sense. I can't guarantee any of this works. It sounds reasonable to me, and it's what I wish I had done when playing. I think it helps integrate the Seasonal considerations more closely with the rest of the narrative -- at least to me, if only to me! This is how I figure I will be handling it in the future, and go through this pattern with a view variations as necessary from Season to Season. Otherwise, players will know what to expect, and can plan accordingly -- few surprises, so it's not like you're robbing them or cheating them or what have you. They know when they'll get the chance to plan, etc!

If this works: Repeat it, and see where it takes you, until it stops working or you find something better.

Just my thoughts! Thanks to anyone who read this!
Sometimes I roll dice and make stuff up about it (

"I fought for the most glorious woman of a glorious race, and I fought for a great love and for the mother of my boy."
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Re: Integrating The Season With Gameplay

Postby Keith Fyans » Tue May 24, 2011 1:36 pm

I done things a bit slower. I let folks know what all the sub-systems that were open to them then either a player would introduce it to the table, or I'd have an NPC press it when appropriate. I would often stop to give the basis in the original ven works for what was happening and have it as a showcase moment.

Also, nearly all my stories were based on a players Trouble and/or their Season Actions. Trouble can be caused by anything: an overt attack (By whom? Ork, Ven or uprising), Shanri/The Storm, a local festival, espionage, sabotage, sorcery, etc... Simply offer the player a Style Point if you get to Name the trouble. If they accept name it and add the Three Truths. Encourage the players to use Style to do the same, spending a Style Point to name the things they are interested in doing and giving it Three Truths. If you like the idea award the Style right back. Add a Wisdom Wager for everyone involved and the story is on!
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Re: Integrating The Season With Gameplay

Postby ARudzki » Tue May 24, 2011 3:36 pm

Sounds solid to me, and very interesting!
Sometimes I roll dice and make stuff up about it (

"I fought for the most glorious woman of a glorious race, and I fought for a great love and for the mother of my boy."
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Joined: Tue May 17, 2011 10:59 am
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