Last week I shared some initial thoughts on The Gardens of Ynn and Whitehack (links to both products will be at the bottom). Yesterday we finished up the two-shot and I have some more I thought I’d share.
First of all, damn what a cool point-crawl. There was always some super cool, mysterious shit going on. Bizarre and strange. It always felt like we were on the cusp of discovering just what the heck was going on. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that deep into the “levels”. I think Horst Wurst said we maybe got 9 deep out of 30 something, so it probably would have taken a while longer.
This session also still felt very through the looking glass and haphazard as heck, most likely because of the random tables. We had some discussion about what it might look like if you decided to take the things you liked the most, or even decide on a theme going in and then choosing options to construct the rooms in that way; then having the players navigate and experience the “point” of the Gardens in that manner.
For me, I approach my characters in a meta way. I like to know the themes and tone and then decide what I’d like to explore, crafting a character that explores those things. My feedback at the end was pretty much this. I would have liked to have figured out what was going on before we ended and that I like it when there’s a “point”, reoccurring themes, a theme, etc.
I’m not familiar with OSR products much, or the movement, in general. However, Horst told me that the “point” somewhat with OSR is crafting your character as a reaction. You go in cold, shit happens to you, and that the “point” is that the random shit that happens is the story. You roll random, “regular” people who get entangled in wild scenarios. Sometimes figuring out who your character is based on the random things you roll, even strange gear you have as a character in some systems. It won’t seemingly make any sense, and so you make a storyline emerge from these details. You’d have never thought to craft such a person because it’s so messy and haphazard that it’d have been near impossible to think that kind of shit up. As you all do this and experience these things together, you remember it and talk about it with your friends. If the module landed for you or if things made sense and the point was made, or these details are less important because you’ll be remembering the crazy events that occurred and how other people reacted. To me, what Horst sounded like he was saying is that the point is the shit that happens along the way, not the overall plot (if there is one at all). It seems like that makes sense with the whole random table business and perhaps never making it to the “end of the story”. I would have never considered running an adventure I know we wouldn’t finish, but scanning the OSR stuff up, it seems to be fairly common?
I really like that take. And looking back on those two sessions, I found myself struggling because I clearly didn’t grasp this point at all, while Jason Cordova, by contrast, as well as Paul Staxx Spraget and Agatha, just roll with it; bringing a lot of characterization, while I was tied up mentally trying to figure out what was going on with this place. A few questions were posed to Jason’s character, Vincenzo, through dreams which had a broad theme, which Jason then had to incorporate into his description of the dream. It worked so well!! It was my favorite part of the story, in fact. I expect if you played it through to the end, this would be happening more and more, revealing some of the mysteries hidden beneath the “levels” of the Garden.
In retrospect, Horst was absolutely correct. I would have enjoyed the sessions a lot more had I been more focused on who my character was and how this place was affecting them. I was driven primarily by my desire to figure out what the heck was going on with this place and missed the opportunities to flesh out my character.
I had a fantastic time despite that, though. And took a lot of joy in other’s strong roleplaying and dynamics. I can see the appeal of OSR products for this method of thinking; it does feel different than when I have played D&D and Pathfinder, and not in the way largely spoken about in my small little Twitter world and other social media. Usually, I have seen it condensed to “people who want to play old D&D”, and sure, the various hacks seem to do that. But if this is the larger cultural mythos around the style of play that OSR is going for, this reduction largely misses the beauty of emergent play. Something I have talked about frequently and absolutely adore in my games. In short: I hope to play more OSR stuff. I am sure there is a large breadth of products that aren’t all focused on emergent aspects of play… but there’s gotta be more products into this and I’d like to explore that stuff. If nothing else to see if I would enjoy it or not.
Horst pitied us and decided we hit a milestone of saving one of the missing boys, leveling us up! I have to say, rolling the two hit dice to get 9 HP rather than 2 was more empowering that I thought it would be; it felt great! Poor Jason rolled two dice and got 3 HP… but continued to Thief it up and tap those fucking statues good. We also increased our Saving Throw and Attack Value and continued on.
After Christian Mehrstam let me know about the design intent and the point of being squishy in the last post (https://plus.google.com/+FraserSimons/posts/cyfUb7yHp2K), I intended to get some cool shit into the fiction and if I got killed–whatever. And so, as a monk from the Whispering Tear Monastery with my hand carved staff, I destroyed the marble base of a statue, leaning on my “hard but not impossible” attunement to my staff. It felt awesome and led to some cool shit beyond, exposing a weird crypt with skeletons.
We got to see the bidding mechanics, which I think I like? One-upping each other might lead to a gonzo tone, though, and I generally prefer that scenes in crypts and shit be spooky and more “serious”, rather than kinda funny when people all try and grab the loot. Applying the mechanic to other situations would be really fun and neat, though. A cool way to include multiple people in a scene when others might be bored with a scene consuming a bunch of time with one player.
Looking at the system in a broad sense, I love it. I got to advocate for my character again in a different scene to get the double positive role; love that dynamic with the Referee. Narrowing on character creation specifically: I love love love love it. Because I missed the point, and kinda the spirit, of what we were up to with this point-crawl–it would have been a worse experience had we used a different system. Why?
Character creation made me come up with the coolest bits about my character, and because I was focused on unraveling the mysteries of the Gardens rather than character work, these bits were the things I could reliably fall back on. I’m from a monastery, I know martial arts, I’m attuned to my staff, and I’m a wanderer. Had I gotten the same affliction as Jason’s character, with the dream stuff, I would have been able to grab onto those bits to expound on them, I’m sure. Very cool.
So as with the first session, I felt really supported and felt like my contributions to the fictions mattered. Love the scaffolding and I think it definitely implements the design goal of empowering the players and their characters in the world, shaping it in ways that make the player excited. I want to play more and get more slots, changeup and grow my Groups. Hit on the stuff I have already to try and leverage more double positive rolls.
Totally down to play more Whitehack and OSR stuff; see if I can’t adjust my brain to this different mentality. Thanks so much to Horst for running and to the players; all of whom were fantastic! Hope to play some more of this kind of stuff as it has proven that I don’t dislike fantasy, I dislike D&D and Pathfinder. Neat.
And Whitehack here (super cheap, IMO): http://www.lulu.com/shop/christian-mehrstam/whitehack-second-edition-booklet/paperback/product-22295753.html
Lulu has a coupon right now as well: BOOKSHIP18 (expires end of day TODAY), which gives you 10% off print+free mail or 50% ground shipping.