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Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › Let Sleeping Gods Lie (Our Last Best Hope)

Let Sleeping Gods Lie (Our Last Best Hope)

Dani L.
user 87036972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 14
The Crisis- an ancient god awakens!
The Limit- first to know
The Plan- find the Chosen One
The Assets- Global Occult Coalition, Shard of Tetzcalipoca’s Smoking Mirror, Sir Reginald Ellesly Chalmers

The Cast, in alphabetical order:

Anna Barnes, the Scientist- An American woman of indeterminate age (did we ever establish one for her? I apologize for forgetting. Anyway…) who possessed some precognitive ability as well as training in certain supernatural arts. (Martin)

Dr. Bridget Rourke, the Doctor- An Irishwoman in her early thirties, she was a counselor/psychiatrist who had experience helping people exposed to the supernatural. (Dani)

Major Jurgen Fiedler, the Soldier- A grizzled-looking man in his early forties, he was a former major in the German army who had distanced himself from his former homeland. (Ben)

Our story was set just before the onset of WWII and began in the English countryside. They had determined that the Chosen One was either a sickly man from Nebraska or an unborn child in France. Circumstances dictated that they probably wouldn’t be able to effectively contact both so they decided to go to France first. On the way there, a fire broke out on the boat and sudden severe weather meant they had to deviate from their original course.

An attempt to enlist the aid of one of the villagers was interrupted by an attack. Their attacker died before they could get any answers from him. The team connected with GOC operatives the next town over. On their way to the city where the pregnant girl was, they nearly ran into the envoy of the One Who Sleeps. It turned out the girl was a nun! A plague of biblical proportions (but no, seriously, insects) and the police, who had been corrupted by the One Who Sleeps and good ol’ fashioned bribery couldn’t stop them.

They returned to England with the nun to await the birth of the child. Anna was possessed by the One Who Sleeps. It turned out the Global Occult Coalition had woken the god, like they had so many times before, only this time it went wrong. And Dr. Rourke had encouraged this latest attempt! There was a serious lack of trust after that, especially when Dr. Rourke ended up possessed too. The story concluded as the possessed garrison stormed the manor where they’d holed up after the birth of the child. Anna died but not before giving Jurgen the final piece of the puzzle necessary to banish the One Who Sleeps forever as Bridget helped the new mother and child.

Considering that none of us had ever played this game before (including me) I think it went pretty well overall! The fiction we created was interesting. The setting is intended to evoke a cinematic feel and if the story we told was on the big screen, I would have gone to see it. I really liked all the characters. There were some interesting dynamics taking place. (Favorite moments include Jurgen and Anna's conversation when Bridget was talking to the nun, the scene where Bridget and Anna's secrets came to light, and Anna and Bridget's conversation in the kitchen.) And it was a good night around the table. We all had fun despite the issues we had with mechanics.

Which brings me to the mechanics. There are certain things I like. The Secret and Fear cards, for example, and letting other players choose when to bring those things into play. However, the Sane and Crazy cards felt more like a way to generate Story Points than impact the fiction and didn’t feel powerful enough to really help develop relationships between characters. I wish the Fears could have come into play at other times aside from Threats. Having to roll the dice multiple times for each Threat AND rebuild your dicepool from scratch became frustrating. (Also it quickly could become mechanically expensive.) Luckily none of us ended up with any Harm at all during Act I, otherwise things could have gone way differently.

I personally like not knowing what Threat is coming up or even when. The challenge is having a Threat that may not serve the story and potentially interrupting a great scene. (We seemed to do a pretty job of choosing good moments to bring the pain, I am glad Martin wasn’t afraid to ask me to wait when it was my turn to handle Threats!) Having a Threat every scene didn’t feel necessary for the story but it was the only way to generate dice for the pool at the end and Act I couldn’t conclude without having a certain number of dice there. If our setting had been more limited (a spaceship for example) coming up with new and interesting Threats would have been more challenging. There were a couple Threats we recycled but that worked out nicely.

Martin made an excellent point in post-game discussion that I agree with. In films of this genre (Independence Day was the one he brought up) we get to see these characters and learn a bit about them before. The game starts with the Crisis happening and a Plan already formed. Sane and Crazy cards are supposed to help with establishing character relationships. And Touchstones, which I like, are supposed to help flesh out characters but like with the Sane and Crazy cards feel more like a mechanical advantage than a narrative one.

Since it was the first time any of us had played, it might have helped us get a better feel for the mechanics if we had chosen a different kind of Crisis. (The one we chose allowed for good fiction, which is what we wanted, but for getting to know the system…) Once we’d dealt with a couple Threats, rolling the dice was better. But again, having to roll multiple times and rebuild each roll was frustrating.

I see what the system is trying to do and I like the kind of stories it’s designed to create. But the way Threats are resolved and having one crop up every scene don’t necessarily help you. Overall, it wasn’t a bad experience. Facilitating and playing a game I’ve never played before meant this wasn’t my best night creatively. As always, I’d like to play this again to get a better feel for the system. There are probably things we did wrong or didn’t do at all that might have helped. (The Captain’s position felt pretty unofficial in our case, which was fine, and it turns out that they’re supposed to introduce the Threat in scenes with all three characters, for example.)

Thanks to Martin and Ben for being brave enough to try something new with an inexperienced facilitator and their patience!

-Dani, aka Dr. Bridget Rourke
Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 408
Which brings me to the mechanics. There are certain things I like. The Secret and Fear cards, for example, and letting other players choose when to bring those things into play. However, the Sane and Crazy cards felt more like a way to generate Story Points than impact the fiction and didn’t feel powerful enough to really help develop relationships between characters. I wish the Fears could have come into play at other times aside from Threats. Having to roll the dice multiple times for each Threat AND rebuild your dicepool from scratch became frustrating. (Also it quickly could become mechanically expensive.) Luckily none of us ended up with any Harm at all during Act I, otherwise things could have gone way differently.

Yep, this is me agreeing with everything you're saying. There were a lot more mechanical bits than seemed productive. I think you could accomplish stronger results with maybe a third as many widgets.

And like you said, having threats every single scene was a bit much. There were definitely some death spirals in the mechanics which is not good. We mostly managed to avoid them but decision-making was very mechanical and meta ("do I spend a point now to add a die or save it to elevate a six to move the story along?!?") which was pretty distracting from the fun.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad experience.
Yes, our story and characters were pretty great, despite the mechanics. I agree, our best scenes were when we were just having heated confrontations or heart-to-hearts. I did not expect the okay-yeah-Nazi to be the conservative character.

Did you notice we did not have a single scene where someone played another character? (I'm not counting the mumbling cultist) That was kind of neat.

Facilitating and playing a game I’ve never played before meant this wasn’t my best night creatively.

It goes with the territory. I suspect when you're wearing more hats it always *feels* like you're playing flatter than you really are. But take my word for it, Dr. Rourke totally held up her end.

As always, I’d like to play this again to get a better feel for the system. There are probably things we did wrong or didn’t do at all that might have helped.

It's inevitable that we'll get things wrong on a first try, particularly with a game like this that has a lot of mechanics. Even after reading it again I'm not sure I understand all the ways you can bring your death into play to score points.

The only biggish thing I saw we skipped were the rules for the captain, supply officer and MIMIC, which determine who introduces / controls the threat and who gets to establish what is true in a scene. I think we did okay winging it but it's more relaxing (I think) to know who has authority to make stuff up. Oh and we only needed 3 dice per character, so our act 1 would have been finished at 9 dice not 12, which is good.

Can you imagine that whole game if we'd gone to Nebraska instead? I mean really, who picks the middle aged Mid-Westerner for their chosen one instead of an unborn baby (whose mother turns out to be a nun, no less)?

France + kidnapping pregnant nuns = so much more fun.
Dani L.
user 87036972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 16
We mostly managed to avoid them but decision-making was very mechanical and meta ("do I spend a point now to add a die or save it to elevate a six to move the story along?!?") which was pretty distracting from the fun.
Exactly. I think now that we have a better idea for how the system works, it might be easier to figure out things like that next time.

Yes, our story and characters were pretty great, despite the mechanics. I agree, our best scenes were when we were just having heated confrontations or heart-to-hearts. I did not expect the okay-yeah-Nazi to be the conservative character.
I agree whole-heartedly on all front. Definitely one of the more fun parts of the experience was watching these characters develop more fully.

The only biggish thing I saw we skipped were the rules for the captain, supply officer and MIMIC, which determine who introduces / controls the threat and who gets to establish what is true in a scene. I think we did okay winging it but it's more relaxing (I think) to know who has authority to make stuff up. Oh and we only needed 3 dice per character, so our act 1 would have been finished at 9 dice not 12, which is good.
Yeah, we did fine winging it, but next time I think it'd be good to try it that way.

And that is good to know! Somehow I read it as 3 more dice on top of the 3 that started out in the Event Pool.



France + kidnapping pregnant nuns = so much more fun.
The only thing I have to say in response to this is... yes.
Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 409
Another rules thing I spotted but forgot to mention: ties actually spawn a second simultaneous threat. So the team has to split up and fight both at once. Much more interesting.
Dani L.
user 87036972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 17
Ah! Yes, that would have been much more interesting. (And also more opportunities to roll 6s to add to our Event Pool.)
Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 410
Oh and you can only add one black or white 6 at a time (I can't remember if that's the whole threat or for one roll).

So math-wise, the pacing should be about 2 scenes per player in Act 1: you roll about 6 dice each time, which means you're getting roughly one 6 per scene and you need two each to move to Act 2. In practice I think it would be a lot less predictable because you might roll more 6's in one scene (and be unable to move them), etc. And you might not want to move white 6s because you'd take harm and yadda yadda yadda. Definitely a lot of meta decisions.
Dani L.
user 87036972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 18
I think it's just one per roll, not the whole Threat.

It could totally change the results of the roll. Of course not moving the white die does mean more Story Points. But you've got potential to get into the death spiral you mentioned earlier if you take Harm. (Then again, playing the death card to confirm your fate does get you white dice.)

I am actually kind of intrigued by this meta-ness actually. Wondering if you made the right mechanical decision seems fitting with the themes of the game, though it can be distracting too.
Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 411
The trick to good metaphor in design is that even if you knew nothing about the rules, if you made decisions that made sense by the metaphor those would be good decisions in the rules. But here there's a definite disconnect between the rules decisions and what's happening in the fiction. What does it mean if I spend a story point and move a white die? No idea. It's abstract.

Now if the rules said something like "moving the white die means you're taking a risk or making a sacrifice for the good of the mission" we'd have an idea what was happening.

Same with rolling a 6 and moving a black die. What does it mean? What just happened? We have no idea.
A former member
Post #: 50
The threats are also filler. They aren't steps in the plan to overcome the Big Doom, and they aren't things the Big Doom is doing against you, in the default case. They're an oxygen leak in your spaceship on the way to confront the Big Doom.

So all of the tactical maneuvering isn't even about the best way to stop the Big Doom- you made that decision in scene 1 and mechanically speaking you're stuck with it. It's about how to allocate completely abstract resources to deal with filler subplots en route. For some reason, the more effort you spend fixing the oxygen leaks in your spaceship, the less effort you will be able to spend defeating the Big Doom when you finally get there. And if your dice come up 6, then you fix the oxygen leak in a way that makes it easier to confront the Big Doom later, but you have to spend more abstract resources to make that happen. There's nothing for the character to discuss in this decision. And that's why I agree with Ben that one threat per scene is far too much- I've never seen a movie that had THAT many filler subplots, and no threat-less character scenes in between them.

(We made our threats not-filler by making our Big Doom intelligent and aggressive, but that's not the default case.)
Manu
user 75984102
Seattle, WA
Post #: 17
This is an interesting conversation! To put it in my own words, you mean there's a kind of disconnect between the fiction and the mechanics, so that player decisions in the fiction wind up not meaning much?
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