Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chariot: The Rain of Fish

Yesterday, I ran Chariot in preparation to write a review (if you're gonna review RPGs, you should play or run them first, IMO). It was a lot of fun, and I definitely had the right group. I'm bummed that +Travis couldn't make it because I think he'd have really gotten into it, but that's the way the bear eats you sometimes, or whatever the saying is.

Anydangway, you can read up on the game at that link I shared, and see chargen in action here. So let's meet the characters:

  • Megan played Nonix, an Atlantean minor bureaucratic functionary. She's Fated to be the Fool, and went through the whole game never really know she was Fated at all. 
  • Sarah played Narayan, a Tlavatli priestess who shipped out with a crew going out to find food (pickings have been slim in the Five Islands of late) and got blown in to Keriophis by storms. She's also Fated to be the Healer, and could stave off the effects of starvation, but it comes back.
  • John played Kosh, a Rmoahal escaped slave and mystic. He's hiding out in the slums of Keriophis, among his people, performing magical feats for money and out of the kindness of his heart. He's Fated to be the Lover, meaning he can see not only the pain of his people but the casual indifference of those who victimize them. 
  • Amanda played Lyra, a Lemurian nomad who traveled with her tribe...until she was Fated to be the Trickster. Now no one trusts her, and she wanders alone. 
We start in the coastal city of Keriophis. Lyra is heading for a small community of Lemurians living near the water (we affectionately called it "Little Lemuria") looking for Tae, her mentor, who for unstated reasons also left the wilds and now lives in the city. She finds Tae and talks with her about how she's cast out, now, because no one can trust what she says. They look up and see a larger sky-chariot and a few smaller ones zipping over Little Lemuria and into the slums. "They're going to rout slaves," says Tae. "Happens often. They recapture them and give them back to their owners, or take them out to sea, attached stones to their collars, and toss them in if their former owners don't want them back."

Meanwhile, Narayan's ship is putting in to the Keriophis harbor. A sky-chariot swoops in and asks their business, and Narayan responds that they've been damaged in the storm and separated from their fellows, and new to restock and repair. The soldier gives them permission and they move toward the dock. Someone notifies Nonix, whose job it is to make sure that ships arriving have their paperwork in order. 

Kosh, meanwhile, is hiding among his people when the sky-chariots arrive. They start rounding up Rmoahals, so we make this a Conflict. Kosh and Lyra (who follows the sky-chariots, uncomfortable with this whole "drown people" thing) want to keep the Rmoahals free, while I want to have the Atlanteans recapture them. 

Kosh runs, waving his arms, making himself a distraction, trying to lead the soldiers away. One of them, an Atlantean named Kwt, is an acquaintance of Kosh - Kosh used magic to heal Kwt's son once. Kwt chases him, fully intending on letting him escape. 

Meanwhile, Lyra calls the Rmoahals to her, and hides him (she's the Trickster, and if she wants something hidden, it's hidden). Unfortunately, the slavemaster (hovering on a person sky-chariot, with prosthetic eyes that zoom in like telescopes) shouts to the Rmoahals that if they don't give themselves up, they'll start bombing the buildings, where the old and infirm are probably hiding. This works; the Rmoahals push away from Lyra and surrender. Kosh escapes because Kwt doesn't chase him.

Lyra slumps to the ground, despondent at having failed, and Kosh, sending what she's feeling moves to comfort her.

At the docks, the ship arrives, and Nonix interrogates Narayan about their intentions. This becomes a Conflict as well (Nonix wants Narayan to fill out the forms and follow the rules, while Narayan just wants to go on shore without all this hassle), but it's quick because Narayan's player slaps down the Hanged Man and wins. Nonix is flustered and a little dazzled by Narayan (she's a Tlavatli priestess, so she's pretty fancy), and finally decides it's quicker if she does the paperwork herself.

Narayan, who isn't even the captain, goes into the city looking for people who might need healing. She comes across Lyra and Kosh, and recognizes them as Fated. She soothes Lyra, and listens to their story of what happened.

Nonix, meanwhile, realized that Narayan took her pen with her, and she wants it back (this is the kind of ridiculous thing that gets the Fool into trouble). She finds Narayan and the others as they've decided to go get something to eat. Nonix, a little intimidated (she's out of her element and with a Rmoahal and a Lemurian), goes along at Narayan's invitation. 

They find the Lemurian equivalent of a restaurant (I was figuring lots of shellfish that you can just crack open and eat, since we're by the sea). The characters talk a bit, and the others laugh at Nonix a bit for not knowing how the shellfish work (she's used to cooked food), but Kosh can relate to her, whether he wants to or not (he's the Lover, he relates to everyone). As they're eating, they hear rain - the storm has finally reached Keriophis. Lyra realized the rain is heavy - those aren't raindrops, they're large objects hitting the ground. Hail?

No. The characters finish eating and go outside and discover that marine animals are falling to the ground. Kosh, never quite knowing where his next meal will come from, picks one up, and the fish immediately pops its scales and slices his hands to ribbons. He drops it into his sack, and Narayan bandages his hands, healing him. 

They decide to get further inland, and Nonix, feeling perhaps a little caught up in all this, says they can go to her home. The Atlanteans ignore Kosh (thanks to Lyra), and they wind up in her apartment, overlooking the city. 

The rain of fish is moving further inland, but there's worse than that. The rain of fish is accompanied by torrential normal-rain. As the characters watch, a sky-chariot hums overhead. Nonix recognizes it. It's full of slaves. They'll take them to the levee and force them to shore it up; many of them will drown in the process, but the city will be saved. Nonix relates this, and the others decide that this isn't fucking acceptable. 

Nonix tries to explain that if the levees aren't shored up, the waters might flood into the city, killing many more people than the slaves that would die. Kosh argues with her, saying that maybe that's true, but that's no reason to force people in bondage to kill themselves in the process (it's a Conflict, and both Lyra and Narayan aid Kosh). In the end, Nonix agrees (Kosh plays the Lovers and wins), and the characters head down to the levees to help. 

They arrive as a line of Rmoahal slaves are working to fix the levee, but the flood-waters are already rising. We made it a Conflict; Kosh and Lyra working to free the slaves, with Nonix attempting to get the levees strengthened and Narayan just trying to make sure no one dies. I used the world (the storm) as a supporting character, and also the slave master. 

Lyra runs down the line, trying to open the slaves chains, but a slave of Kosh's acquaintance, Soqi, who has become throughly assimilated, yells for help. The slave-drivers pull Lyra back, and, angry, she calls down magic, opening all the clasps on the slaves' collars. 

Nonix finds Yima, her ex (but still friendly), and explains that they needed a large amount of stone to brace the levee. They start moving it in by crane, but one of the guide-ropes snapes. Narayan sees her captain, Leonadis, and he and the crew start helping with the crane (if the city floods, the Tlavatlis aren't going anywhere). 

Kosh throws a rock at a slave-driver, Ctusk, whom he's had run-ins with before, trying to distract him and free the slaves. When the collars open, though, the slave-drivers rush in and attack Lyra, and the slaves attack them, everything devolving into a brawl. Nonix, meanwhile, uses her own magic and just creates a bunch of stone on the levee to brace it. Narayan, simultaneously, uses magic to push back the flood waters, and the storm starts to recede. 

The slave-drivers beat Lyra, but then she hides, and the brawl just continues. The slaves are recaptured and put back into bondage, but the levee is secure. Kosh disappears into the city, as does Lyra. Nonix goes back to her job. Narayan and the crew of the ship steal an Atlantean vessel and head for home in the confusion (what the heck, it's already full of fish, and the Five Islands need food). 

I really enjoy this game, though I have some concerns about the Conflict system that I'll get into in the review. Basically, large-scale conflict seem almost completely impossible for the players to win (but it may have been the hand I was dealt, too).