Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › "I will call you ... Brind Householder!

"I will call you ... Brind Householder!" or, The Subjugation of the Calalunas (Dog Eat Dog)

sev (.
Seattle, WA
Post #: 43
Players: Jasmine (Brind, a native host whose feasts are widely respected), Jonathan (Elstin, native mathematician of high acclaim), Pat (Kobi, player of both drums and sky-horn), sev (the occupation)

The natives were known as the Calalun. Their traits were:
• practice feasting
• music-based long-distance communication
• matriarchal
• value intellectual pursuits

The occupiers were known as The Seafarers. Their traits were:
• strong naval tradition
• polygamy
• highly value rhetoric
• greedy for silver

The first round of scenes found Elstin trying to impress a merchant with his mathematical proof, only to be manipulated into ordering a math text by an occupation mathematician instead. Kobi was established as a troublemaker passing secret messages in her busking, which was covert enough so the occupation didn't notice (yet). And Brind had her first feast of the game, in which she kissed up to occupation Magistrate Shan, a woman in power who was doing her best to befriend the natives but managed to still be repugnant.

So, when the occupation raised mining quotas by 25%, Elstin asked a perfectly reasonable question about what the Seafarers were planning on doing with all that extra silver, and Kobi started a riot when they didn't take him seriously. Elstin spent much of the rest of the game in hiding (in Brind's basement, with the resistance up in the hills), Kobi lost the use of her hands and her voice (first via an irate guard's unforgiving boots, and later as an object lesson in front of the whole town), and Brin endured atrocities and covered her silent, growing rage with some seriously expert groveling.

In the end, I killed them all.

Elstin was the first to Run Amok, and he took the guard who'd mutilated Kobi along with him in bloody revenge. Kobi became a sacred figure, blessing the rebels, who then left her alone where the occupation's soldiers found her. Brind hung on until the bitter end, poisoning a whole dinner party full of occupiers (hiding the taste of the poison under the Seafarer herbs she was given in the first round -- nice reincorporation!), and then surviving to lead a band of women to take revenge on the soldiers that abused them…only to get slaughtered by those soldiers' compatriots.

Running Amok is what a native does when the player runs out of tokens. I got to award and penalize tokens during the Judgement phase based on how the characters obeyed and ignored the Rules; those Rules were written after each scene by the native players to describe the generally-unwritten rules for navigating life as a subjugated native. These rules, known as The Record, were:
1. The Calalunas are inferior to the Seafarers. (this is always the first rule.)
2. Everything has a price.
3. Natives are available for entertainment.
4. Natives are messy.
5. Don't ask questions.
6. Inform on each other.
7. Don't make music.
8. Show gratitude.
9. Bear witness.
10. There is no escape.
11. No defiance.

I'm interested to hear from the other players how the game mechanics affected your play -- as the occupation, the inequal powers bestowed on me loomed large, every single turn. With the exception of the one scene where no occupiers showed up, I had to (got to) pass judgment on every single player in every single scene, moving tokens around nearly at whim. Any time a conflict came up, I was acutely aware that I could just get my way by fiat.

My goal was to play the occupation with integrity without being a complete jerk to the other players at the table. I got to draw heavily on skills learned from Shock & Polaris about how to be an effective antagonist. But it was interesting to hear myself justifying my decisions -- there's a stereotype of the antisocial D&D player who uses "But it's what my character would do!" as an excuse to be a jerk, and I heard exactly the same kinds of justifications come out of my mouth. "But it's what makes sense in the fiction!" "I'm playing the occupation with integrity!" "Jonathan said it was okay for me to be arbitrary!"

Yeah, right.

I also felt pure glee the first time I escalated a conflict all the way to Fiat, where as the occupation player I just got to narrate what happened, any way I liked. I don't even recall what that first decision was. I've got firmer recollection about the ones where I was conflicted -- where the guard stomped on Kobi's hands, where Elstin escaped and Kobi got the punishment originally meant for him, where Brind had to choose between escape and humiliating one of the soldiers.

So, Jasmine/Jonathan/Pat -- I imagine your experiences were very different from mine. I'm curious to hear it from the other side.

user 8415259
Seattle, WA
Post #: 46
Great write-up, Sev.

I enjoyed our game a lot. I think the key for me was that Sev was such a good occupier, both in terms of providing excellent, cringe-worthy antagonism and doing a great job of not "being a complete jerk to the other players."

As I understand it, the intent of the game is to mirror the in-fiction oppression of the natives with the mechanical "oppression" of the native players. I never really experienced that. Every time Sev pulled a fiat or judged us according to the rules, I found myself thinking, "damn, nice one!" or "yeah, that's fair." Perhaps it was because Sev is a nice person and was downright apologetic about taking control of the narrative. More likely though, I think it's simply that she only exercised those powers in a way that served the narrative well. I just never felt cheated or robbed of control. Maybe that's not what the rules intend, but I certainly enjoyed myself.

One nice effect of the mechanics I definitely felt was the us vs. them mentality with the other natives. It was fun collaborating in scenes with Jonathan and Jasmine as allies, and even more fun when Sev jumped in to mess everything up for us.

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