Con of the North 2013, part VI: The Valley of Sands

The Valley of the SandsMy second and last GMed game of the weekend, this went a bit looser than Karna’s Cache did. But as with the prior game, I made sure to have a good variety of important characters for players to choose from, good handouts (in the form of manga with all relevant pages marked), and a pretty linear plot that both had a bunch of points for each character to make meaningful contributions, and had a couple problems with no predetermined resolution.

This game was also something of an experiment. First, I didn’t originally write Blade & Crown to have guns. On that front, it adapted very well; the combat was easy to make just as smooth as the combat was in Karna’s Cache. Second, it was very high-powered, in the form of very high Trait levels. All the characters had Traits at rating 4, for example. This side of the experiment was less successful; I should’ve been clearer about the possibility range for rating 4 Traits, because players didn’t really start doing the amazing things that those high Traits imply until fairly far into the game.

And in terms of running the game, there were a couple hiccups I should’ve prevented, or at least stopped in mid-stream. One, the players ended up going into the Sea of Corruption not one, not two, but three times: first by airplane, then by kai, then by airplane again. It was understandable, but it left too little time for other pursuits and made the ending a bit rushed.

The second hiccup was the end, which was not only rushed, but a little too loose. I realized as I was running that I needed more detail about the starship and its environs, but I hadn’t prepared much, nor did I have much time to do so. But I improvised some appropriately Miyazaki-esque aesthetics and ideas along the way — giant flea-like creatures spewing engineered miasma, and a bizarre structure that looked like a fractal tree or bronchial tube — and hopefully the players enjoyed it well enough.

The open-ended problems proved to be pretty interesting and flavorful. The initial incursion of bugs and miasma could’ve been handled violently, compassionately, or something else; the players figured out a way to do it compassionately, which was very in keeping with Miyazaki’s vision. The final confrontation with the pseudo-heedra ended up going more violently than I’d hoped, but it was dramatic, at least.

One player was perhaps unsatisfied with the end. He left a couple minutes before the scheduled end, in a rush to get out. I hope he was rushing to his next game, rather than rushing away from my game. He seemed to be having a good time throughout the game, at least. I didn’t get his contact information, or I’d inquire.

The other players, though, agreed it was a good amount of fun. By my standard that the players should have plenty of opportunities to do important things, and that everyone who wants to do something important should get to, it was pretty successful. Playing a game set in the world Miyazaki had built was great. I could even see myself running more games set there.

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