I went to OshCon
over the weekend and played a ton of really great games including The Mountain Witch, My Life with Master, Burning Wheel, Beast Hunters, and InSpectres. I also ran a game of Dust Devils. In preparation, I came up with a little scenario called 3 Days in Hell, which I ran once at the con and once two days prior as a practice run. It worked quite well, and I told Matt I'd share my experiences.
First, the scenario. The situation was pretty simple. The characters are all in the town of Brownstone, Montana. Just recently, a really bad man named James Cartwright was thrown into jail by the newly appointed sheriff, Zachary Hayes. In 3 days, federal marshals will arrive to take James away to jail. But in 2 days, James' gang is going to roll into town to bust him out.
Apart from the above supporting characters, there are 3 others in town. These are:
* Leona Chase: James' girl. Sweltering, manipulative, deceitful.
* Charlie Pierce: James' second in command. Ambitious, treacherous, vengeful.
* Bartholomew Cartwright: Mayer & James' father. Compassionate, torn, fatherly.
Character creation was as normal with the exception of the selection of situation elements. I took this idea from Hans' GenCon Dust Devils game. Players had to select one from the first list and one from the second. The one from the first list had to be unique to each character. The lists:
* Bartholomew's son/daughter
* In love with Leona
* In James' gang
* Here to kill James
* In love with Charlie
* Fucking Leona
* Fucking Charlie
* Bartholomew is in your way
* James owes you a fortune
* You owe Charlie a fortune
I also provided the exact stats for each of the supporting characters to all of the players. I strongly encouraged them to play the supporting cast when their characters weren't involved in a scene.
So, a pretty detailed AP report on the first game can be found here
. A pretty detailed report of the second game can be found here
. Also in that thread can be found AP reports for the other games I mentioned above, as well as some DitV and some SotC. I won't cover the ground already tread there. If you want details on the games, read those posts. I'm going to move directly onto my observations.
My first observation is that Dust Devils is a fucking awesome game. It's one of my favorites. It's so simple, yet the mechanics force you down this path on which you learn really important things about your character, things you might have had no idea you wanted to learn. Regardless of whether the story ends in tragedy or triumph, you get to judge your character as a human being and that character is, inevitably, beautifully flawed. I started each game by telling the players that Dust Devils is a game about people with a very dark place inside them that gives them strength, but also leads them to tragedy. I also told them that it's a game about doing violence as a means to your ends. They took that strongly to heart. Like my player Sabe said, "What a brutality engine."
Next, the situation elements rocked on toast. They really started things off with a bang and the two games, despite sharing the same setup, weren't anything alike. I could probably run the game a dozen times and not have any strong similarities between them.
Finally, an interesting thing happened in both sessions, but particularly in the first one. In the first scenario, at the end of the game, we discovered that James and Leona (both supporting characters) were the actual protagonists of the story. They rode off into the sunset after killing all of the PCs and the entire story wound up being about their plot to remove some snakes from their nest. It was awesome. In the second session, one of the players wound up playing a supporting cast character for almost the entire game rather than the character he created. I think that level of engagement with the story was awesome and I'm looking forward to finding more games and/or styles of play that help create that sense of story over character.