Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Retreat, Take 3

Well, another year has come and gone, so its time for me to update my blog again. We just wrapped up on the 3rd edition of the roleplaying retreat, which some folks are calling BenCon.

So what was the highlight of the week for me? I really enjoyed getting to play a bunch of indie games that I hadn't had a chance to try out. I'm going to try to be blogging for a while about the games we played, but today I'll limit myself to 1, and one I GM'ed no less.

The first game I GM'ed at the retreat was Dance and the Dawn. This is a very interesting game, extremely stylized and simple. The setup for the game is pretty simple. The players (up to 4) play the Ladies of Ash, which have been brought to the Midnight Waltz by the Duke of Ash at the behest of the Queen of Ice. The Queen provides 4 (or 5 in the case of 4 players) Lords of Ice, one of which is her son, the Prince of Ice. After some initial setup of the world (How does magic work? How do the Ladies find themselves on the Island of Ash), you create characters based on completing sentences (I was ____, I loved ____, I lost ____, I will ____), which I felt worked pretty well. The ladies also compose a couplet of peotry to describe their characters. The Lords then are created to help them achieve their "I will" sentences. The game proceeds on a chess board (read the book if you want the full details), there is very constrained interaction between the Ladies and the Lords (and everyone else). At most you probably get to ask like 3 or 4 questions to a particular lord. If you pick the one that was created for you, you have a happy life, otherwise, disaster (the left over lord is the soulless lord, whom no one will be happy with).

So what worked? I thought the imagery questions from the world setup worked really well. We quickly sketched out a very stylish setting and one that was intimately realized for each of the players. People were also pretty nervous about their end game decisions, despite everything working out for the best in my group. Though the soulless one was figured out fairly early by folks. The sense of courtly intrigue and propriety shown through despite the constricted mechanics and setting, which was awesome (in fact I think the constricted setting and rules that only allowed for a dance were the reasons those pieces worked).

On the other end of things, I found the lack of real romance to be disappointing. After having run my True Love game about 4 or 5 times I was looking forward to having a cool romance game that really brought things home other than the one that I made (with the help of others, see last year's write up for details on that game). But, the constrained nature of the game / characters and the clue-esque mystery that was the centerpiece of the game (who is their true love) served to leech out all of the romance and turn it into a more clinical game, at least in my opinion (though I would love to have comments from my players).

Over all, "Dance and the Dawn" worked pretty well, and was very cool, and I think we even told a cool story, but it is not a game about love or engendering player emotions. Well worth a play :).

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