Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › Firebird Academy (Shooting the Moon)

Firebird Academy (Shooting the Moon)

Sam Kabo A.
user 30231972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 6
Firebird is a prestigious, expensive (but still kind of second-string) magical high school in Phoenix, Arizona. Magic, in this world, is public knowledge and definitely a prestige kind of thing; it's not the exclusive domain of the rich, but it often seems that way. Many shades of Harry Potter, A Wizard of Earthsea, and maybe a little Buffy.

We opted to play the Beloved angle for what it says on the tin: straightforward romance. And thus:

The Beloved: Kat of Montenegro (Martin). Hot (obviously), "bad", well-connected family, legendary past, open book, throws good parties.
Opportunity: breakup-geddon. Kat had a disastrous break-up with the awful stereotype Quarterback Brad (or possibly Chad) around the end of the previous term, and her social set is torn apart over it. Also, she's single.
Obstacle: Hounded by a shadow.
Dream: Get to study abroad. (Mostly to get out of her parents' orbit.)

Suitor 1: Patrice Hartmoor (Marc). Empathetic but calculating, a wallflower except in pairs, a dark side but clean habits. (Parents were on the Evil Magic Side in the last wizardy conflict.)
Person: sister Bethany (never came up), Place: The Music Room (ditto), Thing: ARVALESH THE DEMON-BLADE (possibly responsible for the neglect of poor Bethany, because DEMON BLADE).
Conflict: kind of a nobody.

Suitor 2: Ariadne Delacruz (Sam). Mysterious but disreputable, class clown but studious at home, teacher's pet but failing.
Person: Headmistress Pradesh, Place: The Secret Gallery, Thing: Magical Pocketwatch.

The Prize: Who gets to take Kat to prom. (Not getting murdered by the dark shadow that indwells Kat: kind of a secondary issue.)

General plot: Patrice and Ariadne stealth-court Kat in gawky inept ways. Kat's awful ex Brad gatecrashes her party and tries to ruin her life, so she conspires with Patrice (who knows about the dark arts from her parents) to put a curse on him. Since Kat was kind of haunted by an evil shadow even before she started tampering with the dark arts, this does not go well: the curse goes awry and the shadow attempts to possess Kat. Patrice and Ari cast out Kat's shadow, which then goes on a rampage and murders Brad before the headmistress turns up and rejoins Kat to the sundered shadow. By this point everyone is a social pariah -- Patrice for being super dark artsy, Ariadne for dropping her cool front and declaring her painfully earnest devotion to Kat, and Kat for having a shadow that murders people. With everyone teetering on the brink, Ariadne (who was failing out anyway) throws herself on the sword, gets the brunt of the blame, saves Patrice and Kat from expulsion (but not severe academic probation that keeps them separated), and wins Kat over.

Towards the end all our lives were ruined so hard that it started raining. In Phoenix.

Mechanically... very fiddly, but legitimately so, I think. The involved setup pretty much guarantees characters who are fairly complex and who overlap and conflict in a good number of ways. Characters gain traits all the freakin' time, and there's strong mechanical incentive to double down on, or qualify, or switch-up traits -- particularly traits that relate to suitors' central conflicts. As a result, both Ari and Patrice had arcs that were basically about making their conflicts deeper and more complex: Patrice became more and more of a defence-against-the-dark-arts hero even as she became more and more scheming, reviled and tempted by darkness; Ari's lack of magical talent became active anti-magic, and her clowning and knack bullshitting adults became more and more clearly a front to avoid thinking about her total lack of prospects for a magic career.

And it took us a little while to sort out narrative resolution, because each scene has a whole lot of suggestions (made to earn dice) none of which are necessarily canon yet, so keeping track of what's happened and what's just been suggested can be a little fraught at first.

This was a highly awesome session: it turns out that it is easy and entertaining to play awful privileged backstabbing teenagers. It was trickier to avoid magical conflicts of the form 'Some demons randomly attack!' 'I slay them with ARVALESH', and to turn awkward teenagery non-conversations into plot-moving scenes, but on both of these counts I think we did a totally awesome job. Not every scene was huge on plot movement, but the overall pace felt just right; and the trait system does a good job of ensuring that even side-trek scenes do important character-development work.

The other slight problem was that the conclusion doesn't offer quite enough narrative structure -- or possibly that's my fault for not being able to narrate it cold. But we substituted in a Fiasco-esque montage ending and that worked out just fine.
Olympia, WA
Post #: 44
Great writeup Sam. Thanks!

I enjoyed this game a lot too. I think the crunch runs into the problem of "now we consult table X on page Y" and thus broke the flow of the game a bit, but I didn't mind it so much because I was always so excited to figure out some cool conflicty stuff.

I agree that the long, involved setup allowed for deep and complex characters. And you're totally right about the traits: we were always encouraged to go bigger and go more. It made the characters feel like they grew and changed over time, which is exactly what you want to feel.

I'd like to try this game again with a different genre/setting and a different kind of relationship. Definitely really enjoyed it this time!
Sam Kabo A.
user 30231972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 8
I definitely think it would have been useful to have a handout for each player, explaining the available dice and mechanical results of each kind of scene.
Sam Kabo A.
user 30231972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 10
Hmm. Now that I'm looking at the book, it seems as though we weren't playing with Second Pool rules. That might go some way to explaining why we failed so much. (No complaints, though. Game's complicated enough already, and failure is awesome.)
sev (.
Seattle, WA
Post #: 42
I admit it -- the first time I taught the game at the meetup I omitted the Second Pool because I thought it would make it easier to fit all three rounds into the four-hour-window. If people play using those rules I'm certainly interested to hear how it affects the game experience; I may have accidentally abbreviated the awesome.

also, one-page StM reference (clicky to embiggen):

user 10655881
Seattle, WA
Post #: 27
Yeah, I omitted the Second Pool on purpose. When I have tried to teach it, I find it adds complexity without interest, and it tends to repetition since it means coming up with more responses to essentially the same problem. Maybe if we had more time we would be able to figure out how to make it cool. We also had quite a bit of strange luck, though, which makes it look more necessary.
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