[Tekumel] Awesome IM gaming

edited March 2012 in Actual Play
I play a one on one game with a good friend of mine, on average weekly, and on average for about one hour at a time. This leads to some pretty tightly focused role-play, as one might imagine. The fact that we're writing, instead of talking, seems like it also lends a certain character to it - descriptions become very meaningful, and usually end up informing the action, and the emotions, involved.

The setting is Tékumel - specifically in the West, currently in the city of Betrús, and formerly in the city of Tümíssa. The vast majority of the characters involved are members of the Red Sword clan, a middle-rank clan that worships Vimúhla, the Lord of Red Ruin.

A very brief setup for this session: Arísa hiTlakolel is the PC, and is about 18 years old which by the standards of her society makes her a full adult woman, although young. She's aridáni, meaning that she is the legal equivalent of a man in the society. Women who aren't in this category are "clan women", meaning that they don't really have any right to participate in society outside of the clanhouse, but are well taken care of by the clan, and work in the clan's businesses, and raise children, etc.

She came to Betrús with her now husband, Kélume hiTlakolel, who is a relatively highly ranked member of this clan, and who is quite a bit older than she is (late 30s), and is a veteran of the Legion of the Lord of Red Devastation, an elite unit of fanatic Vimúhla worshipers. They are very bad-ass, and are used as shock troops, mostly. They have no children, but they're considering it. They came to Bétrus after Kélume was instrumental in convincing the Empire of the Petal Throne (Tsolyánu) to retake the city from the Mu'uglavyáni, the Empire to the west of Tsolyánu, which had invaded the city during the recent-ish civil war in Tsolyánu. Because of this, he has angered some very powerful people, Tsolyáni people who have ties to Mu'uglavyá, and who were secretly aiding the Mu'uglavyáni in return for greater autonomy for themselves than they were getting under the Tsolyáni empire. His actions, and indeed, his betrayal of these people, since it was once in their number, have made things difficult of late.

The clan house they live in is being rebuilt, and there aren't a whole lot of people there yet (many having fled during the invasion), but Kélume's Aunt Nala and her child, Radái, have come back. Radái is about 13. Nála is quite a bit older, perhaps 45, and has been pressuring Arísa to have kids, and settle down. Nála is cold, stern, and generally rather harsh. Radái is kind of a spaz, and super excited about everything, and wants to be an aridáni too, which she could do in about 2 years.

In a previous session, assassins came into the clanhouse in the middle of the night. Arísa heard Radái cry out, and woke up Kélume, who marshaled the guards, while Arísa went to go help Radái in her room. She found Radái unconscious and hurt, and was jumped by one of the attackers, who she managed to fight off, eventually eviscerating him, but not without being pretty bashed up herself. Kélume and the guards drove off the rest, with some casualties.

This is a day or so later - Arísa returns from going to the Temple, and what follows is a slightly cleaned up version of the IMs we did, (in the first comment, since it was too long to post in one).

Comments

  • You come back from the temple, and a servant comes to you. "Lady, Radái wishes to see you. Come with me, please?"

    "Of course." I am worried about Radai and eager to see how she's doing, anyway.

    He leads you up to her room. There's a servant outside the doorway, scrubbing the floor. (NB: this is where the evisceration happened). Incidentally, you've got a big old bruise on your head/face from having it banged against the floor a few times. And a bright red line around your neck, that is quite sore. And overall, I'd say you're pretty achy.

    The servant leaves you just outside, gesturing for you to go in.

    Stepping around the wet place on the floor, I do. "Radai?"

    Faintly, "Arisa?"

    "I'm here. May I come in?"

    The room is quite dark. There's one small oil lamp, but the blinds are drawn. A servant is sitting next to her, but gets up when she sees you, and makes ready to leave. "Please." says Radai, her voice sounds weak, but like her. Although…not as ebullient. A bit lower.

    I stand aside for the servant to go out, and as she passes I ask quietly if she will bring some lunch, enough for both of us in case I can get Radai to eat. I ate early, and the morning has been long. Then I go in and sit on my heels where the servant had been. "Hello, dear one. Are you feeling all right?"

    "I…my head hurts. A lot. Arisa, what happened?"

    I know that is not good, and worry pulls my frown taut. I tell her as simply and clearly as I can. "Men came who were hired to do harm to Kelume. We don't know why they hurt you, or what they meant to do in total. We had to kill them, and they did not speak of their employer's reasons." I put my hand to her forehead, her temple, her cheek, as though it is a caress. "But we heard you cry out, and we came to protect you in time."

    [we understand the concept that you can get bruised inside your skull, yes? But ... I can't imagine what sort of treatment if any they would have for it, if it gets bad.]
    [the Tsolyani are very experienced in all the sorts of things that come up with violence and accident. The treatments are…well. Not very nice. Sometimes effective.]

    When you touch her, her face scrunches up…and her cheeks are wet. She sort of rolls over towards you, and you find her head in your lap, with the rest of her curled up fetal. She begins to cry, quietly. "I'm scared. Will they come back?"

    "I don't know. I think you should sleep in your mother's room or in our room until we can make sure. Would that help?"

    She nods, hiccuping a bit with the tears. She's silent for a bit. "I know I should be brave. Like you. My mother told me that you killed the man who hurt me. But I don't know how to be like that. How can you be so brave? I…need to know. Please."

    I shift to one side so I am sitting fully and can rub her back with one hand. "I don't know, really. I don't think I'm brave. I'm really afraid, too. When that man was in your room, I just knew that if I didn't hurt him or kill him, that he would hurt you and hurt us, and I couldn't let him do that. If I focused on stopping him, I could keep fighting. If I focused on being afraid, then I couldn't. Does that make sense?"

    She nods, slowly. Still talking into your kilt, "Is it like that for Kelume, too?"

    "I'm not sure. He sings, he says, when he fights. Maybe that's so he can keep his focus in the right place. But you could ask him."

    "He would think I was a silly girl." You notice, in the dim light, that the walls of her room are decorated (which is usual), covered with scenes from an epic you know. One about a good clan girl who becomes a mighty warrior. It looks like Radai might have done them herself. They're quite good, but obviously the work of a younger person, untrained.

    I give a low chuckle. "Another thing that overcomes fear is anger. When you're really angry, you forget that you are afraid. But that's not a very smart place to fight in. You don't think straight, then."

    "I wish I could have killed him myself" and her back tenses under your hand, and she flushes with heat. Her voice is hard. Brutal.

    I nod and keep stroking her back as I look over the paintings, trying to remember the verse in the epic when Sherenái takes up her sword and her helm of flames.

    One comes to you..."It's hilt a heavy stone, it's blade a bolt of lightning, Sherenai lifts up her sword, her life, her lover to embrace. Her helm a circle of flame, a head-dress of fire; lo, her eyes shine with the flame of the Burning One."

    I listen to it with my eyes closed a moment to get the cadence write, then I sing it to Radai. "Your painting is very good," I say after.

    She twitches a bit. She seems to be asleep, curled up there. There is a figure at the doorway - carrying a tray of food. But it's not a servant. It's Nala.

    I smile a little and bow my head to her, speaking quietly, "Come in, honored Aunt." I shift Radai out of my lap and check her sleep. I mistrust it, with the bruising she must have taken.

    She snorts and wriggles a bit, but you manage to get her laid down again - she's so much like a child, although she is really a young woman...
    Nala nods back. Comes over quietly and having seated herself, and placed the food within reach, she looks down at Radai, and smiles, sadly, for quite a while. Without taking her eyes off of Radai she says "Arisa…you saved my child. I thank you."

    "She is dear to me, and a light in this house. Thank you for bringing her." I check Radai once again with a glance. "Will you share this meal with me? We should speak ... outside."

    "No. I have something I must say to you. Radai is my only child. I will never have another. She is a jewel without price. And you must understand. I know you think perhaps I restrict her, deny her the dreams she has." She gestures at the walls. "I do, but it is not out of ignorance. It is out of fear." She pauses. "I was once, like you, aridani."

    I shake my head a little, but not in disrespect. "She has never said that. She does dream now of being aridani, of taking on the mantle of the warrioresses of our stories, but she has never said you stop her. If she thinks it ... well, she must respect you and love you a great deal, for she doesn't say it."

    "I would stop her, if I could."

    "What ... happened?"

    "You see…" she pauses. Her face goes very sad. "I had a husband. He was brave and true and strong. I loved him very much. We had Radai…and then the civil war started. You may not remember. But it was a hard time. There was much bloodshed. Temple fought temple. My husband…he was high in our Temple, and had made enemies. We were in this very clanhouse, and they came for him."
    "I fought them. I killed so many of them. " She looks down. "But they took this from me." She reaches up, undoes the clasp at her throat, and takes off her tunic. You've never seen her without it on. A terrible scar across her belly.
    "So…no more children. And, after a time, my husband died anyway. An illness. He was older than I." she sighs. "I have nothing. Only her."

    "It must be terrible to have come here, come back here, only to have this happen. I can only imagine ... what you must feel." My smile is sad, too. "Kelume is older than me. He is also a man with many enemies."
    I'm not sure how to say what I want to say.
    "I ... love him. He is my life for now. He has calmed me, made me see my own gifts--the ones that use my mind and hands and not my sword or my tongue. You loved your husband? You love Radai? Those gifts--" and now I feel I must ask her, must hear her answer, must harden myself if it is not what I want to hear-- "were they worth the fear and the grief and the pain that you have paid?"

    "Worth?" She shakes her head. "I cannot answer that, because truly, I do not know. But I must try to keep her safe. That is the only thing I know to do. Do you see why?" she pauses, puts her tunic back on. "Do you remember the second couplet of the epic, Arisa?" She sings, a surprisingly lovely voice. "Lo, her eyes like flame - she strides forth to meet her destiny, against demon and storm. She strides forth to glory, and to death". She shakes her head. "Thank you again." and goes to leave.

    I nod. I do remember it, of course. "Nala," I call gently to stop her in the doorway. "If you had not been aridani, though, if you had not fought? What then?"

    "If I had not been aridani, I would have died. And her, too. And it might have been better that we had." She turns and goes, back straight, dignified.

    Her words make me smile, for some reason, as though she answered a question I had not asked. When she is gone I stroke Radai's hair back from her forehead before turning up the lamps and waking her so I might check her eyes.
  • Wow, very cool.

    Would you say you two are very much on the same page as to what this game's about, in tone and theme? It seems like it. How did you get on the same page?
  • Posted By: Hans c-oWow, very cool.

    Would you say you two are very much on the same page as to what this game's about, in tone and theme? It seems like it. How did you get on the same page?
    Thanks! I get a great deal of pleasure out of this game.

    We are very much on the same page. But that's an advantage of one on one gaming - we just make the entire story about this PC character, this _one_ PC character. So if it's going towards what's going on with her, then it's pretty easy to keep on track.

    We got there, and stay there, because we both really like this character a lot, and also because we work at it - we talk frequently about where we want things to go, and have a fair amount of her possible future history plotted out, for example. Then we RP out bits of it, and frequently, things change because of that.
  • So it's all consensus-driven, we're-making-the-story-of-this-character-together freeform. Sounds like.
  • Posted By: Hans c-oSo it's all consensus-driven, we're-making-the-story-of-this-character-together freeform. Sounds like.
    Exactly so, in this case.
  • I am totally taking over this thread. Feel free to tell me to shh if you need to. Also, I have no ulterior motive with these questions, though it may seem otherwise!

    This sounds to me pretty much like collaborative fiction writing, with a loose rpg-like structure (GM writes world, Player writes character). Is that what it feels like to you?

    I felt like I was going somewhere interesting with these questions, but it doesn't seem so: Many RPGs are collaborative fiction writing, just without the writing part. But I guess it seems like you guys don't have a mechanical cycle, where consulting the rules does certain things to the fiction you create, and the fiction you create interacts with the rules. Of course, you have a system [where system (including but not limited to 'the rules') = the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play. cf. V. Baker & E.C. Boss]

    I guess I'm interested in just how related/unrelated what you guys are doing is to the general thrust (as if there were such a thing!) of tabletop play.
  • Hi Malcolm,

    This sounds interesting! I'm especially interested in this bit:

    "We talk frequently about where we want things to go, and have a fair amount of her possible future history plotted out, for example. Then we RP out bits of it, and frequently, things change because of that."

    When you say "things change because of that", how do things change? Do you mean that things happen in the game when you're playing that surprise both of you - like, your reactions to things are different than what you thought they'd be?
  • Posted By: Hans c-oI am totally taking over this thread. Feel free to tell me to shh if you need to. Also, I have no ulterior motive with these questions, though it may seem otherwise!
    Please do!


    This sounds to me pretty much like collaborative fiction writing, with a loose rpg-like structure (GM writes world, Player writes character). Is that what it feels like to you?

    I felt like I was going somewhere interesting with these questions, but it doesn't seem so: Many RPGs are collaborative fiction writing, just without the writing part. But I guess it seems like you guys don't have a mechanical cycle, where consulting the rules does certain things to the fiction you create, and the fiction you create interacts with the rules. Of course, you have a system [where system (including but not limited to 'the rules') = the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play. cf. V. Baker & E.C. Boss]

    I guess I'm interested in just how related/unrelated what you guys are doing is to the general thrust (as if there were such a thing!) of tabletop play.
    Honestly, this is more or less how I play table top games too, so it's kinda hard to say. It's obviously different when you have a bunch of people, but generally, I like to try to make sure that everyone has some sort of connection with each other, there's some sort of "bad thing" happening for them to react to (although it doesn't have to be _that_ bad), and then let them go at it. I get to listen in, and occasionally prompt things, drop bombs, and play NPCs, who I try to have as much sense of as the PCs do of themselves.

    W00t. It works pretty well, most of the time. As far as rules, I mostly play with Amber people, so they're pretty comfortable with "well, what do _you_ think happens" sorts of conversations, and "so this guy is trying to beat you up - does he succeed?" sorts of dynamics. It's always interesting how much "in the sh*t" people will put themselves in willingly, if there's a good story going on.
  • Posted By: Simon CWhen you say "things change because of that", how do things change? Do you mean that things happen in the game when you're playing that surprise both of you - like, your reactions to things are different than what you thought they'd be?
    Yes. And also, even though we both have agreed that certain events will happen in the future, sometimes, we figure out via play that those things aren't going to happen, or not happen exactly the way we expected.

    Some of this is respecting where the story is going. For example, I originally presented Nala as a pretty serious foil to Arisa - someone who could make her life harder. Because Arisa f-ed up some social interactions with her, this was almost certainly going to be the case - Nala had it in for her, and was pressuring Kelume to dump her and get a better wife. Kelume wasn't having it, but there was a lot of tension.

    But now, because Arisa _directly_ saved her kid, Nala may become an ally. Or something else. A friend? Not sure yet. But we're heading into different territory than we had originally thought, which was that Arisa wasn't very accepted by Kelume's family.
  • Ya know, thinking about it some more, it's a matter of throwing a bunch of half formed ideas and interesting situations at the players, and then seeing what they do with them, and doing it in-setting/in-character, mostly. Once something takes hold, and I get a sense of what's working and hitting, then it's more a matter of pushing that harder.

    So, provide interesting situation, with some complexity and reason for being there. Toss in some conflict, find what's resonating with the players, and then push that, hard. Allow them space to do things and act and react, and the possibly modify the details, via NPCs. Push more. Repeat, or if needed due to things like time (at a con) push towards an ending, or at least a good stop point where at least something is resolved.
  • Very cool. I wish I could play a game like this. The method of play reminds me a lot of the freeform Ars Magica game with Meguey and Emily that Vincent described. Or at least they seem to have a lot in common.
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: TeataineVery cool. I wish I could play a game like this. The method of play reminds me a lot of the freeform Ars Magica game with Meguey and Emily that Vincentdescribed. Or at least they seem to have a lot in common.
    I don't mean this to sound snarky, and it is a very serious question. What's stopping you from playing a game like this?

    Location? Willing participants? Something else?

    I'm asking this because it's of interest to me, because I think this sort of game is awesome, and want to share my joy, but find sometimes there are block to participation, and I want to make those blocks go away.
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