Friday, December 18, 2020

Carp, Dragon, Generals

This is the Chinese Garden by South Seattle College in West Seattle, on an almost deserted Thanksgiving weekend during covid.  

Things to find if you click to enlarge: a giant carp called the dragon carp (from the legend that any carp that could climb the cascades at Dragon Gate on the Yellow River in Hunan would be transformed into a dragon), two terra-cotta generals, the downtown Seattle skyline, and two lions. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

AGON Again


I enjoyed John Harper’s original version of AGON, but I never ran or played that version. I’m quite a bit happier with the second edition. My capsule review would be: “AGON is as much fun to play as it is to look at. And it’s gorgeous.” A tip of the helmet to the illustrator and layout artist—oh wait, that’s all John Harper too, ennit? Well, a tip of the helmet to co-writer/designer Sean Nittner and all the Evil Hat people and other friends who helped get the game out, then. 

I’ve been running two campaigns, both for six players. Well, seven players if you use AGON’s counting method, since the ref counts as the Strife player. AGON mentions that the system creaks a bit with over five players, but both groups have been going well.  It’s possible that it’s working smoothly because neither group has high expectations for speed. The Stormcrusher group (and no, Zeus wasn’t happy about the name of that ship) has two players who are entirely new to roleplaying, so explanations and deliberation are a natural part of the session. The other all-veteran group loves to chew the scenery so AGON’s extended storytelling riffs have kept everyone entertained.

It’s also true that I’m running the game differently than I would for fewer players. I’m adding more threats to the Battle sequence, so that there’s more at-risk even though the higher number of players makes it more likely that at least one of the heroes will win. I thought I’d frequently split the party during the Trials stage, but the players have resisted that, sometimes for roleplaying reasons and sometimes because they’re metagamers. Instead I’ve spun out separate microstories from the same challenge with the understanding that some challenges play out over long periods of time. I’ve also skipped entire phases of the battle and jumped past 50% of an island’s possible story to keep things on track, but no one has noticed a problem so although the system may be creaking, it’s not audible to the players.

Mostly the tone has been delightfully archaic. I had to suffer through a few installments of the Tales of the Silently Gliding Prius, the result of asking the veteran crew to name their ship ‘something Greek,’ but last session, Jonathan Tweet's hero, WEIRDTALKINGKETALOS, failed to prevent a giant serpent from smashing the Prius to bits, so I’m looking forward to the next installment of the campaign now known as Tales of the Serpent’s Fang.