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Lady Blackbird: End Game

This post was prompted by a recent Rob Donoghue tweet. To save you a click, he’s arguing that most RPGs have bad endgames: there’s no set process for what happens at the end of a game.

I recently finished up a Lady Blackbird game, and yep, there’s nothing explaining how to finish up the game. I mean, sure, the PCs achieve their goals probably, and perhaps those goals have changed over time, but. Look at it this way: Lady Blackbird explains exactly how to start a game, with situational advice and a solid reason to act. Nothing much on endings.

Thus, Lady Blackbird Montage. This isn’t exactly how I ended my game but it’s how I might have done it if I’d taken a bit longer to think about it.

“OK, build one final roll! You’re going to be narrating the bit in the credits where the voice over explains what your character does next in their life, so pick a trait and tags that reflect what you’d like to narrate. No dice from the dice pool, sorry. You can get an assist die from other characters if you both expect them to be spending a long time in each other’s presence, for whatever reason.

“For each success, you can narrate one cool thing that happens to your character. For every two failures, rounded down, you have to narrate one problem. You can remove a problem if you also drop a cool thing. So if you had three successes and two failures, you’d narrate three cool things and one problem, or you could do the trade and narrate two cool things and no problems.”

This is basically lifted from Fiasco but that’s a good game.

Lady Blackbird & Miro

Finished up that Lady Blackbird campaign I mentioned earlier, which was a blast. I might actually be about done with feeling like I’m a mediocre GM — still had the same tension I always have right before a session, but we got through this one with zero delays on account of my stress levels, which is pretty good for me and I feel great about where our improvisation led us.

More to the point, I’m completely sold on Miro. I’d been thinking I needed to do a ton of work to make a Miro board useful, and that I’d need to be messing around with it a lot during play. This is in fact untrue. I just set up an image board for NPCs and dropped a couple of reference images in it (one map, one picture of The Owl), and that was immediately helpful. Later on, I added a couple of rules references. Again, useful immediately without any serious work needed on my part.

Also great: using it for links to our dice roller, Google Sheets character sheets, and so on.

Actual Play: Lady Blackbird

I’m running a brief Lady Blackbird campaign for S. and some old Boston pals, and it’s going swimmingly. They’re all happy to help drive plot and I’m happy to throw in complications and the game sings pretty well under those conditions. I was curious to see how forgiving the mechanics were; it’s easy to make dice pool mechanics pretty brutal (hi, Blades in the Dark). In this case the huge dice pools and the ease of refreshing them means the characters feel pretty heroic. The players also seem to enjoy the part where you put together dice pools, so that’s all good.

I’ve been using Miro as a visual board, and I’m really digging it. Starting small and expanding use as we go is working well for me. Right now it looks like this:

Next iteration is probably trying to do character sheets on Miro. Oh, and adding a rules cheat sheet, that’d be easy.

I am tickled pink at my little annotations on the NPC portraits. Prince Lupus there has very soft hands and smells of gardenias. The PCs freed him while they were escaping from the Hand of Sorrow.

DEFY Wrestling: Mad Kingdom

I hit DEFY Wrestling: Mad Kingdom last night. Right before the pandemic, I had tickets for a DEFY show starring The Great Sasuke, plus they co-promoted the Super J-Cup show that S. and I went to in 2019. I thus had warm feelings, plus I’ve heard good things about them, plus Eddie Kingston was main eventing and like so many other fans I’ve been really impressed by his AEW run. So I decided to take a calculated risk and go out to an event.

It was pretty fun! Overall it wasn’t an exceptional show, but three of the matches were good to excellent and every match had something to like. I liked it enough to subscribe to their Patreon and I’m thinking I’ll make this a monthly excursion.

20 Years On

As I have linked before, albeit more sporadically as time goes on: thank you.

Ars Technica seems to have lost the photos, but the Internet Archive has them still. Once upon a time, this post was a symbol of the good will we squandered. These days I think the damage Bush did during the War on Terror is nothing compared to what Trump did. So it goes.

I think the 20th anniversary is, therefore, a good time to make this the last repost.

FoundryVTT on Fly.io

FoundryVTT is a high quality virtual online tabletop platform. Unlike Roll20, however, there’s not a central server — once you buy a license, you have to run it someplace. There are a few services that will do this for you at a reasonable price, but I’m a geek, so if I start using FoundryVTT I want to host it myself.

Fly.io is a very cool new application hosting cloud. I experimented with it a month ago for hosting an NJPWWorld RSS feed generator and it was awesomely simple. They support persistent disk, so I couldn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work for FoundryVTT. And it did! Details after the cut.

Go Alone: Actual Play

I sat down and played a session of Go Alone yesterday. It’s a solo journalling RPG in which you play an ancient magical sword that dreams of the day they can retire. It’s very hard to reach that goal; you’re pulling blocks from a Jenga tower, and when the tower falls, the sword breaks and the game ends.

The core loop is simple: you take 1-6 actions (usually inventing memories or describing events) based on prompts randomly selected by playing card draws. Most card draws require you to pull a block from the tower. That’s one day. At the end of the day, you make up a short in-person narrative about the day and what you’ve learned about your bearer and yourself.

I found that the deliberate separation of the two phases helped me set aside the knowledge that I was controlling the fiction; I consistently felt like I was reacting to events that were outside my control. There was no guarantee that I was going to get prompts that would let me tell a particular story. It also helped that the Jenga tower was completely uncontrollable. I knew I couldn’t force the story in any particular direction, because after a couple of days I was never expecting to survive.

I realized pretty early that I had to be careful about not answering unasked questions. If the prompt didn’t call for me to make up a particular bit of background, I didn’t make it up. This was relatively natural for me, since I tend towards developing characters in play anyhow, but still took some care.

In the end I wound up with a slight emotional attachment to my PC — less than usual but still there — and a narrative that arose from my treasured intersection of oracular divination and storytelling. I will do this again.

After the break, the actual play. I wrote all this in GoodNotes — the handwriting recognition was capable of capturing my scrawl, which is pretty impressive. I have a few notes on what I was thinking; these are italicized.

Protests: A Comparison

The Seattle Police Department has a detailed timeline of events in Seattle on 6/1/2020, the day the SPD decided to barricade a street and prevent protestors from reaching the East Precinct. I’m also drawing on Heidi Groover’s tweets from that day. NPR has a detailed timeline of the Capitol coup attempt; Aaron Rupar’s tweets were also very useful for timing of the rally.

Seattle

5:40 PM: Crowd [at Westlake Park] now approximately 7000, crowd talking about marching to East Precinct
6:02 PM: Crowd starts moving
7:11 PM: march stopped at police line, 11th and Pine [roughly a 25 minute walk from Westlake Park]

Washington, DC

10:53 AM: Giuliani calls for trial by combat
12:03 AM: Trump begins speaking
12:19 AM: Trump calls on his followers to show strength
1:11 PM: Trump’s speech ends with a call to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue
2:07 PM: Rioters arrive at the Capitol Building (roughly a 30 minute walk from the Ellipse)

Comparison

I don’t think we have a solid source for comparing numbers, but each group was in the single digit thousands.

Both cities had plenty of warning. Seattle had been seeing sometimes violent protests for a few days. In DC, Trump had been calling for his supporters to show up. Any difference in preparation is due to a difference in threat assessment.

In both cases, it was unclear that there was going to be a target for the marchers. Seattle PD had about 30 minutes more warning of where the protestors were headed.

I don’t think there’s any excuse for the difference in effectiveness here.