[Swords without Master] Curse of the Panther God

edited March 2010 in Actual Play
I have to admit, sometimes I feel a bit prescient (or am just prone to self-fulfilling prophecy). Either way, I know sometimes that I'm going to like something even before I really try it. This was true when I walked into the theater to see Six String Samurai, for instance.

So, I had already been on Epi's case about Swords without Master. And I knew that, without fear or reservation, I could run his game for him after sitting in on only one session. Even though the game isn't written. I honestly think it has more to do with how simple the game is than familiarity of source material, but either way I convinced him to let me do so.

Thus began our game of Curse of the Panther God. Epidiah, Frank, Kevin, Andrew and I sat down in an impromptu session. Epidiah and I shared some of the initial GM duties and I came back to him a few times, but otherwise I ran a really fun game (for me, at the least, and for the others, maybe).


An African Plains spear hunter whose tribe became giraffes,
A Middle Eastern sailor who wore a boat on his back for penitence,
Discovering the welcoming brothel only to have it corrupted by a curse,
Vampirically charming Crazy Jack's mind as an example of combat,
Plumbing the underwater temple of the Sea Serpent God to recover the bride,
and the final curse of the Sea Serpent God as we learn not to mess with the gods ever again (yeah right).

I love the way motifs get used and how mysteries evolve in the game. I think people will have fun with it when it comes out. I can already see my group enjoying it and then using it for another setting, say Shadowrun?

I'll ping Epidiah to post some of his thoughts.


  • I am really looking forward to this game.
  • Hot! When we made Monkeydome, we didn't know it would create such beautiful offspring!
  • This game was like SUPER great. By far the most fun I had gaming at dreamation (and probably in a long time). Here's the thing that really got me:

    It felt like we played a years worth of D&D story arc in one session. It was rewarding and full and we didn't gloss over the anything we didn't want to. It really has a completeness to it's play.

    It's gonna be a great game.
  • Kevin,

    Were there any spots where you felt the mechanics got in the way or or interfered with good story? How about emphasize or help realize?
  • Oh, and, by the way, Kevin - that Taylor Ham caused me grief for days afterword. And it was still worth it.
  • Aw shucks, fellas.

    For those without the whole backstory, this particular game was a Saturday night pickup game that Mark talked me into at Dreamation.

    The previous night I ran a session of Sw/oM for six players, including Mark, as part of the regular Dreamation schedule. That game was not the best Sw/oM game I've participated in, but it wasn't atrocious, either. There was fun to be had and some shining moments, but the system is far better suited for three to four players. So we saw where it wore a bit thin and we stumbled. It was followed by a tremendously helpful two-hour feedback session. All in all it was a win in my book.

    But then everything changed. Mark was all like, "So, do you think it would be helpful for you if I ran the game and you could just play?" And I was like, "Does Pooh shit in the Hundred Acre Wood?"

    What followed was exactly the sort of game I wanted out of Swords Without Master. Sword and sorcery miscreants living by their wits and steel, and paying for their hubris in glorious ways. It starts just outside the jungle temple of the Panther God, as we're making off with our loot and drums are heard in the distance. And it ends up right back at the temple with one of us transformed into an avatar of the Panther God and another of us cursed to wander alone in search of a suitable replacement for the bride we stole from the Sea Serpent God. Along the way, we spent all our ill-gotten treasure at brothel at the bottom of a crater, fought the war dolphins of the Sea Serpent God, and swam for weeks with the sarcophagus of the stolen bride.

    My memory, being not what it used to be and never very good to begin with, has faded some, so I don't recall who rolled what and when. I do remember that by the end of the game, Kevin had reincorporated the Motif elements of Transformation (first introduced at the brothel when the women turned on us and attacked with animal savagery) and Panther (introduced in the beginning) to turn his character into a giant golden panther. Andrew's character taught us the Moral related to not making deals with the gods when he was cursed to wander alone until he found the bride. And my character absolutely did not learn his lesson about not sticking it in things he didn't understand.

    With all the grandeur and whoring, I think my favorite moment might have been the most dungeon-crawl-y one: when Frank's character saved us all from a trap--from a flooding room--by capturing a pocket of air in his dinghy and buying us the time to find our way out. There was something just so very satisfying about watching this man carry a boat on his back throughout the adventure, and then seeing it put to perfect use at the very end. It makes me want to play more dungeon-y stuff with the game. I've got For the Love of Dungeons lying around here. I should bust that out.

    And I loved watching this evolve out of nothing. I don't think any of us had any inclination about where this game was going when we sat down.
    Posted By: jenskotHot! When we made Monkeydome, we didn't know it would create such beautiful offspring!
    I had an inkling four hours after that first playstorm when I had to contact my doctor to report that my erection had not yet subsided.
  • Like eppy my memory is a little hazy. I think we floundered just a little bit in the very beginning just because we were learning the ropes, but by the end we had our shit together.

    I personally felt like I could have been more driven to abide by the dice's "style" (glum or jovial). There probably ought to be some kind of feedback loop there. Otherwise nothing stands out in my memory as being difficult, and certainly nothing was un-fun.
  • I enjoyed the game, but then I like and respect everyone that was at the table, so I'm pretty sure we could have had fun whether we were playing GURPS or just freeforming.

    What I liked:
    * The thematic stuff that went on cards
    * The idea that you don't fail, you just get stymied for the moment (at worst)
    * The duality of the possible response to problems

    What I didn't like:
    * The terms of "glum" and "jovial" to describe the possible response. I'd either prefer different words, or more explicit instructions that you need to build a Conan-like character that must necessarily react in these ways. I already mentioned this after the game.
    * The lack of some sort of mechanical restriction or player vetting on narrative elements that are introduced. I guess I was the only one who didn't like the "war dolphins," because they didn't feel right to me. I was willing to let it play out and see how it ended up, and while the idea got cooler, I still didn't like it after all was said and done.

    What I'd like to see:
    * Some force to use the card stuff, or penalty for not using it. It might just be that I didn't see all of the system, but it felt like we could just ignore most of it and wander around without adhering to the structure.
  • I want this game now.
  • November 2010 is the release date. See the latest update, now with a cover, for more details!
  • Big ups to Eppy for resisting the deadly siren song of Gen Con.
Sign In or Register to comment.