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No Safe Harbour (Shooting the Moon)

Sam Kabo A.
user 30231972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 43
Setting: Generic Caribbean swashbuckly pirates. All three of us were pirate captains.

The Beloved: Anne the Red Maiden (Dani).
Slew Salty Pete, Bold, Maverick, Street Smart, Carouser, Fastest Ship
Opportunity: long-lost lover, now ready to move on
Obstacle: the British Navy is out in force, and she's a wanted pirate
Dream: finding The Eye of the Gods, a hazily-described jewel

Suitor 1: Kayylee Stone (Drew).
Straight Arrow but Constantly Tempted
Notorious but under an alias
Drunkard, but only with wine
Person: long-lost brother Kyyle
Place: The Wench & Parrot, the nastiest bar in port
Thing: the fanciest hat
Conflict: a mutinous first mate

Suitor 2: 'Thunder' McLeod (Sam)
Rulebreaker but Strong Moral Code
Unblooded but Menacing
Puritan but makes bawdy comments and jokes
Person: Dee, his illegitimate daughter
Place: Dead Man's Cove
Thing: an ancient spatha, the Crocea Mors

The Prize: Taking Anne back to your own ship

The story opened in Port Ransome, and ended up taking place almost entirely in port. Anne's fast ship, badly damaged in an earlier engagement, was stuck in harbour undergoing major repairs for most of the story, and her unwillingness to abandon it and flee kept her stuck in town, with things steadily getting more dangerous and complicated.

Admiral Ethan White, initially confused about Anne's identity after Thunder tried to shield her from identification, offered help in getting her ship unimpounded in exchange for a date to the governor's masked ball - which Thunder naturally broke into, only to become detained by former paramours, including the Governor's wife Elise (who was, it transpired, Dee's mother). The pirate-hunting fervour of the Governor kept going up, with Kayylee becoming a fugitive in the town and Thunder having to slip port under cover of darkness. Eventually, White (who was slowly figuring things out) proposed marriage to protect Anne from the Governor's arrest warrant; after only running away once or twice, she accepted, before absconding with her finally-repaired ship on her wedding night.

The Suitors' Conflicts built nicely over the course of play: Thunder, who really wanted to reform in order to become a Good Parent, found himself drawing more and more on the skills and unsavoury connections of his wicked youth - flirting with Kayylee to extract information about a black-market source of pitch, then using old connections to steal it out from under her; drawing on his old understanding with Elise to get forewarning of arrests, finally breaking the one rule he had never broken and murdering a marine in a back-alley to protect Anne. Kayylee, meanwhile, got steadily more loose-cannonish, drinking more and more heavily, resentful and suspicious, hunted by the Governor's troops, ignoring the perilous situation among her crew in her fixation on Anne.

Kayylee finally regained control over her crew, and Thunder retired to North Carolina to bring his daughter up right, but both of them felt pretty broken-down by the end of the story.

This was a really fun session of Shooting the Moon; we made the mistake of rolling the dice by the book, though, which resulted in way too many tied conflicts. (Drew had zero dice to roll for final resolution, which I've never seen before.)

Also, hmm, I think that the mechanics of StM encourage the Beloved to fall into a more passive role - which made Anne feel at times more like a demure maiden rather than a lusty pirate queen. No reflection on you, Dani - the Beloved's a tricky role to play, and that slant of the game isn't necessarily obvious the first time around. But... maybe it's of helpful for the Beloved to have a Dream that they can work towards actively, or get the Suitors to work towards, rather than it being just the thing that happens if the Suitors fail? Not sure. I've played games where the Dream is very much the thing driving the plot, and I'm not sure that that's inherently better.
Dani L.
user 87036972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 5
It was my first experience with Shooting the Moon for those that might not have known. The whole set-up process is very collaborative and I like that a lot. I totally appreciate the flexibility of the system too in allowing you tell different kinds of stories. Although there is a lot of narrative freedom that stops just short of taking a character out of the action or dying... This isn't necessarily a bad thing but it could be with the wrong mix. I do like the system and the concept though.

The cheat sheet was immensely helpful. I think the scenes we chose to explore made for an interesting tale with moments of tension. Since there are only nine scenes, it's important to make sure that the scenes don't feel arbitrary. None of ours did. Now, about the tied dice! It happened a lot. I found something in the text of the book that would have been good to know.

"If there is a tie among the highest dice of two or three players, the Beloved’s Player gets to add a trait to each of the three characters. The tie is then resolved by re-rolling the tied dice, and compare once more. Re-roll until a decisive win is made. In this case, that player gains the points and narrates the outcomes, but omits creating new traits."

So there IS a way to resolve ties.

And I see what you mean about the mechanics and how they might influence the role of the Beloved. I appreciate your kind words, Sam, thank you. I was starting to realize that towards the end but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the game or Anne any less. Her traits definitely suggested a more active, bolder character than she came across as sometimes. She felt like she should have been a more proactive character than a reactive one. Anne's Dream definitely didn't push her to act as much as it could or should have and it didn't add a lot of depth to the story in the end. A different choice could have encouraged me to play her differently and influenced the world in an interesting way. Definitely have a few notes to keep in mind for next time. I did have a lot of fun with her though! And it seemed like all of us had fun which is what matters.

I was totally rooting for both the suitors. I would have sent Anne out of port but I didn't want to make it difficult for one Suitor or the other to find an excuse to show up. One of Anne's traits should have been "user" because she left nothing but broken hearts in her wake. :P Her jilted husband the Admiral, poor Thunder who killed for her, and Kayylee who almost lost her ship because of her love for Anne...

A really fun experience. Thank you Sam and Drew for being patient with a first-time player (of this game) and a novice story gamer!

- Dani, aka Anne the Red Maiden (The Beloved)
Sam Kabo A.
user 30231972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 44
"If there is a tie among the highest dice of two or three players, the Beloved’s Player gets to add a trait to each of the three characters. The tie is then resolved by re-rolling the tied dice, and compare once more. Re-roll until a decisive win is made. In this case, that player gains the points and narrates the outcomes, but omits creating new traits."

That's just for Beloved scenes. (I think we resolved the ties on Beloved scenes in the way it says there.)

Anne's Dream definitely didn't push her to act as much as it could or should have and it didn't add a lot of depth to the story in the end.

Well, I'm not sure how much this was a fault about picking the Dream so much, now that I think about it; when we were setting up, I think the expectation was that we'd move out of the port and have adventures on the high seas, and that never quite happened - we had a perfectly good time getting entangled in port. We had a number of scenes that were more or less continuations of the previous scene - which is a great idea in, say, 5-player Fiasco where there are going to be twenty scenes to get through, and the details of the action plot are more important. And it's not as though it's lethal in StM, either! We still told a fun story. But when you've only got nine scenes you can afford to be pretty bold about pushing the plot forwards.

One of Anne's traits should have been "user" because she left nothing but broken hearts in her wake. :P

Yeah, that's the other thing - it's easiest to play the Beloved as emotionally cool and reserved and hesitant, playing their cards very close to their chest, being quite calculating about the tokens of affection they bestow on the Suitors. And that's cool - the game works fine that way. But it's good to be aware that you don't have to do it like that, because it does - I've done this a lot - sometimes make the Beloved into a character without very much interiority, with external threats but no internal struggles. The Suitors have it easy - they have two big things driving them, the Beloved and the Conflicts, that can overlap in awesome character-building ways. The Beloved has fewer tools available for that - and they get fewer traits in the course of play, too!

What I'm getting at is that the Beloved can be the toughest role at the table, so bravo for taking it on.
Dani L.
user 87036972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 6
Now that I've looked at it, you're right, that is just for Beloved turns.

I see what you mean about getting involved in affairs in Port Ransome. The story could have gone radically differently if they'd left port, to state the obvious. A lot happened there though! And yes, it was a good time. Having never played Fiasco (to date) I'll take your word for it. Yet another thing to take away from a very enjoyable experience! I'll definitely be bolder about the scenes with the next game of Shooting the Moon that I play.

And those are the characters I enjoy the most, the ones with internal struggles that may complicate their lives just as much as any external threat. Anne was a fairly interesting character (in my opinion) who could have benefited from me giving her some depth and fleshing her out in play somehow. You are right about the tools. It just means that good use must be made of those that are available for the Beloved. :)

...bravo for taking it on.

Thank you for that. And once again for your patience and facilitating.


Martin
user 10655881
Seattle, WA
Post #: 46
For the benefit of anyone reading this who may not know the alternative, we often play with a house rule on ties: the tied dice are discarded, and then we see who wins based on the remainder. While in general I like Shooting the Moon's system, the tie rules as written are very silly. Since large numbers of dice will be rolled, ties are the most likely outcome, and the official system says to resolve such conflicts with a 50/50 randomization. Which generally means every conflict will be randomly resolved, so why even have conflict mechanics?

I don't think the mechanics encourage the Beloved to be passive, so much the mechanics don't force the Beloved to be active, and our romance tropes tend to produce passivity. It's almost always better for the Beloved to be actively trying to decide how to feel about the suitors, rather than just going about life and waiting for one of them to be impressive, but almost everyone's instinct (including mine) is to make an aloof or unaware Beloved. The Dream can help, but the Dream is rarely interesting in itself- we don't care about the Eye of the Gods, we care about romance!- so pursuing it will come across as background to whatever the suitors are doing.
Sam Kabo A.
user 30231972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 45
Yeah, I feel that ties should definitely be possible, just that you should only have an average of one a game or thereabouts.

I suppose... hm. We have a tendency to make the Dream something remote and distant, sometimes. It doesn't do much good having the Dream be 'go to college' if the whole story is framed as taking place within the scope of summer camp: that's setting it up to only be useful as epilogue. But that wasn't what happened here: we just sort of wrote ourselves into a corner where Anne couldn't accept the offer of a Suitor's ship, because that came awfully close to being the Prize.

Also, I like what Ben did the last time we played StM - straight-up pause the narrative midway through and ask a bunch of out-of-character "so how are you feeling about this?" questions about the Beloved's inner state. Not sure that'd work every time, but it's an option to consider.
Dani L.
user 87036972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 7
It was just the luck of the dice. But yes, next time a house rule to figure out how to deal with them more efficiently would probably a good idea. Martin's idea isn't bad!

And I agree, this system seems to focus more on the pursuit of the Beloved which is fine! I like that the Beloved has something to work towards as well though. I would have liked the Dream to color Anne a bit more in retrospect even if it was a secondary part of the story compared to the Prize. I think it's a great idea to have the Beloved be trying to sort out their feelings for the Suitors, that could add a lot of narrative depth.

As for the Prize, I'll admit that the one we chose did make it a bit challenging as specific context for bringing Anne back to the ship was never established. It would be no fun if she gave it up so easily. Not that I am complaining- I felt with the story we told it would have fit into the ending very nicely and it worked for our narrative. There were good reasons she could have gone with the Suitors to their ship.

That could be something to incorporate on the Beloved's second turn or between the First and Second Suitor's second round? I definitely think it's something worth considering.
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