Sunday, April 17, 2011

HelgaCon IV: Spirit of the Century - King Solomon's Mines

My third session at this year's Helgacon was a "Spirit of the Century" game run by Mr. F.

Spirit of the Century is an interesting game, which uses "fudge dice", which are a quartet of six siders that can give you plus, minus, or neutral results, and relies of the application of "aspects", which are qualities applied to either the scene being played or intrinsic to your character. Thus combats and other situations are more a process of negotiation between player and referee as to what aspects can apply, and less about pure number crunching. It's a much more "improv" style game, and I found it a lot of fun to play.

The situation as laid out was that we were a group of explorers embarking on an expedition into the heart of "darkest Africa" to find the fabled mines. The party consisted of an Alan Quartermain inspired "Great White Hunter", a professorial type expert in antiquities, a burly, hard drinking Scottish mechanic, a Kabalistic rabbi (played by yours truly), and the very prim and proper princess of a lost nation of sentient gorillas.

There were three main set pieces laid before us by our inimitable GM.

The first was a party at the Italian embassy, which was a particularly fascinating example of "social combat". Mr. F laid out two sliding scales, one that tracked how much the cat got let out of the bag about what we were doing in Africa, and one that gauged how much opposition we were in for (from none through cover sabotage all the way to outright jeep loads of soldiers gunning for us).

The rabbi invoked his "You can't say "mazel tov" without a drink in your hand" aspect to keep the opposition liberally greased with booze, while our professor got into a high stakes card game with an enemy agent in grand "Casino Royale" style, while the princess ensnared the Italian governor out on the dance floor with her simian wiles.

At the end of it all, the bad guys had largely figured out our mission, though we managed to glean some info from them as well, especially about the untrustworthiness of a femme fatale who was working the crowd that night, and we kept the opposition on a low level.

We rapidly segwayed to a riverboat voyage down the White Nile, where we passed into the pocket empire run by the usurper Gorilla Khan, who made an all out, all ape attack on the vessel to take out the princess as a potential rival to his rule.

There ensued a lot of monkey punching. Our bwana hunter's faithful guide and sidekick got carried off by gorillas, and the princess got worked over pretty good, but we managed to chase the rotten apes off through a lot of crack shooting, invocations of King Solomon's ancient authority befuddling our apish attackers (my own contribution to the fight), wardrobe malfunctions from the princess, and liberal blows with a monkey wrench from our stout engineer. Of course, by the time the smoke cleared, the riverboat was careening out of control, and ran aground outside our destination city (which I can't quite remember right now) forcing us to hoof it.

The final set piece was a confrontation in a jungle clearing with a bunch of pygmies led by a maniacal female shaman who was invoking dark powers to curse us. The rabbi used the mystical artifact book he carried to block her evil influence by invoking one of the names of YHWH, and was struck dumb as a side effect. The battle culminated in the appearance of a MECHANICAL DINOSAUR that turned out to be one of the ancient golems that guarded Solomon's mines. We beat the thing by our engineer character luring it to a cliff edge and then going down it's throat fighting as it bounded over and fell to its destruction.

It was okay, though. He came strolling into camp brushing the dust off of his sleeves the next morning. I guess after Nessie, any other dinosaurs were just pale imitations.

From there, we regrouped and headed in toward the fabled location of the mines, only to find the femme fatale from the party waiting for us with a squad of enemy zepplins. And on that cliffhanger note, we ended.

All told, it was a rollicking session, and Mr. F knows how to run a good game.

I'll admit, I got a little too rambunctious a couple of times and started bossing other players around about what aspect they should use, especially during the gorilla fight, for which I apologized at the end. I just got really into it. No excuse for being bossy boots, tho.

The overall flow of the session was interesting because it compared to my morning session of Mutant Bastards with regard to the question "What do you do when you have a lot of material and only four hours to use it." In my case, it felt like a first session that got cut off before things could really get rolling.

In Mr. F's case, he had arranged it such that elements could be dropped or included as necessary. While there was a sense that there was more that could be dwelt on, and that this could easily expand to several weeks play if done long form, the "accordion style" where the narrative was compressed to fit the time worked pretty well.

It was a satisfying session, and he got to use the set pieces he was the most excited about. I think this is a good idea for running con style games. Be willing to jettison non-essentials so that the main features get covered.

So overall, a good afternoon's gaming, with a lot of interesting play in a system that's very different than the usual shape of tabletop RPG's. Thanks to my fellow expeditioneers, and to Mr. F for running it.

Mazel tov!

1 comment:

  1. LOL, "a lot of monkey punching", that's spectacular! :D