The Glittering Trumpet of Kutaraja session 3

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Session events

Based on the feedback from the previous session, we spent a bit of time at the beginning rewriting Exemplars and going over some rules clarifications.

I also retconned the location of the Glittering Trumpet: all along, it was displayed in pride of place, hanging from a couple of wires from the ceiling of the Sultan's audience chamber.

That night

Charlie waited in the Yang Peka Badak for people to leave. Phisut left first; after he left, Charlie went to the room and confronted al Zahr about the goings-on. al Zahr was rather flustered, but eventually regained enough composure to explain that he realised he was being taken advantage of by Phisut, but felt helpless to do anything about it. He offered Charlie, and the other picaros, his gratitude (in the form of jewels and gold) if they could find evidence of his involvement in the plot to kill Mambo Violine. Charlie agreed and al Zahr wrote a note that Charlie could give to the loyal Dhien to arrange access to Phisut's rooms.

Loki asked to see the Sultan that evening, but was rebuffed by a palace guard. Loki returned to her room.

Next morning

Mohit went into town and roused ill-will against the Sultan. He succeeded (Buying the Result for a 5d Advantage and a Flourish). The Sultan's secret police noticed his agitating and nearly caught him.

Lady T went into town to buy a new dress for the official reception that evening. On the way, she met Merian Headley (from Nan Madol), walking around the palace walls, divining for ley lines with a pair of orichalcum rods. Merian told her sob story of being trapped in Kutaraja after her airship crashed, trying to run the Dutch blockade. Merian said she was trying to track the ley line to Nan Madol, that it was corrupted by something in Kutaraja, and that Merian could make it worth the picaros' while as she was a princess in Nan Madol. Lady T thought this was implausible and left her to her divining.

Phisut visited Loki's room while she was reading Mambo's notes. Loki made excuses why she couldn't see Phisut now. He replied that he had a proposition for Loki and she should visit his suite as soon as she was able.

Loki then went to Charlie's room and secreted Mambo's notes there. Charlie climbed the outside of the palace to Phisut's suite's balcony, narrowly escaping being spotted. She searched Phisut's room, discovering all manner of official paperwork plus some other notes and messages from Louis T Leonowens in Angkor Wat, seemingly connected with Mambo and her assassination.

Lady T and Mohit had a brief R&R scene, where Mohit revealed that he was given his idol by a guru on the slopes of Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) and that his mother used to call him "Little Cha Cha". Lady T revealed that the "T" stands for something, but didn't say what.

Back in Phisut's suite, Phisut returned. Charlie hid on the other side of his desk then sneaked round in an attempt to silence him before he could raise any alarm. Phisut's magical amulet alerted him at the last moment, there was a brief struggle, then Charlie pulled a brick-like thing from her coat and knocked Phisut out. Charlie searched him, discovering his amulet and tattoos. The other picaros arrived in the room and had a brief conversation about what to do next. Phisut was left trussed and unconscious in his bath. Before they could put plans into action, they heard shouts, crashes, and gunfire from outside the palace as the Aceh Nationalist Uprising started.

The uprising

Still in Phisut's suite, Mohit expounded his Manifesto and persuaded Charlie and Lady T to assist the Nationalists. Mohit rushed to the palace gate to help the rebels. Loki cloaked Charlie and Lady T in shadows with her magic and the three of them headed to the Sultan's audience room.

Mohit found the main palace gates locked, but bowing under the pressure of the Nationalist mob. The guards inside were shooting over the mob's heads while others were setting up a Zinderi tekrar-gun to fire on the gates, and the mob. Mohit and Bandamasa channeled the power of the spirits to destroy both the gate lock and the gun. Unfortunately, he only had power to do one. The gates burst open as the gun started firing. Several people were killed, but the mob soon overwhelmed the tekrar-gunners and then rushed into the palace.

Meanwhile, the three women entered the Sultan's audience chamber, still cloaked in shadow. Some of the palace guards were at the windows, shooting out at the mob. Some of the mob were shooting back. Just as they were considering what to do with the Trumpet, they saw the Sultan, al Zahr, and four palace guards rush through the audience chamber. The picaros decided to follow them; the Sultan was led into a cellar, through a secret door, and into a tunnel. The picaros followed them, emerging into a safe house somewhere in Kutaraja. The Sultan's party then changed into civilian clothes, discussed the picaros' airship, and headed out into the city. The picaros followed, but the shortcut they took ended up making them arrive at the airship after the Sultan's party.

Back at the palace, Mohit and Dhien met in the Sultan's audience chamber. Dhien thanked Mohit for his help with the uprising and the two of them agreed that Mohit could take the Trumpet, as a token of appreciation.

Mohit and a few nationalists arrived at the picaros' airship just as the other picaros offered passage to the Sultan and al Zahr away from Kutaraja. Following Phisut's paper trail, they headed off to Angkor Wat.

It was getting to the end of the session, so we skipped over the negotiations and the escape through the Dutch blockade.

Outstanding threads

  • Information leading to Mohit's father.
  • Charlie's double standards when it comes to sex.
  • The limits of Charlie's avarice.
  • Loki's schoolmates, and the people who set up the school of theurgy.
  • Lady T's resorting to killing as a solution.
  • The return of de Zoet at the worst possible moment.
  • Loki has Phisut's magical amulet.
  • Phisut's pursuit of the picaros?
  • Aceh nationalists want the Trumpet back

Playtest comments and questions

Play style

After the game, we had a discussion about tone and playstyle. Renny Jennys is very much a game in the vein of the Forge tradition, by way of Smallville and Marvel Heroic. It's a game where engagement with the mechanics is required to guide the fiction, and the fiction guides how the mechanics are used. It's not a game where "roll playing" is different from "role playing", and it's a game where the players have to move stances from In Character and Actor to Author and Director fluidly and often. It's quite a different play style from more traditional games, where role playing is the ideal and mechanics are only grudgingly used for combat and similar events.

It's also a game where the picaros are never in control of events. Everything worth doing carries some risk, and most actions will come at a cost. Actions always disrupt the status quo. The risk and cost are encouraged through the mechanics, particularly the Dev economy. I think this is an unfamiliar play style for some of the players.

Finally, it's a game that uses Protagonist Play. The players should be driving their protagonists (the picaros) hard towards their goals, with the GM as a fan of the characters (as Apocalypse World would have it), playing the NPCs hard, and using the game to find out what happens.

I bring this up not as a criticism, but as something that might usefully be highlighted in the game text.

The difference in familiarity with the play style became apparent in the amount of Dev earnt: Mohit ended up with about 8 Dev, while Loki had none.

Mechanical questions

I tried a few "simple" contests in this session, where the idea was to use the mechanics to quickly resolve an issue without going into the whole iterated-roll detail of Standing Attempts and all that. This led to two comments.

  • Most of these "simple contests" were initiated by the PC, with a Threat Pool rolling in response. The PC rolled a number of successes, applied to the Attempt, and the Threat Pool's successes were applied to either Denying the Attempt or Exploiting the picaro's failures. However, this meant there was no opportunity for the picaro to Exploit any failures rolled by the Threat Pool, which would reduce the Threat Pool for later actions.
I'm not sure if that's a design feature or what, but it seems slightly strange.
  • If I want to quickly resolve a conflict between two or more picaros acting together, collectively opposed by a single Threat Pool, it's not clear how to combine the effectiveness of the picaros. Assits don't seem to be appropriate, as they come into play the beat after an Attempt is partially Denied. The other obvious alternative, that of building a large dice pool from all the participants, would lead to large groups steamrollering all before them.

Finally, the handling time of conflict resolution still seems long. It takes a while to identify the appropriate cogs and gears, justify why they might be appropriate for this conflict, find and roll all the dice, and apportion successes to the various effects that could result.

I hope this doesn't make the game head towards Dogs in the Vineyard territory, where the conflict resolution mechanics only come out for major events. I'll give it another couple of weeks to see how much things speed up when people become more familiar with the mechanics.