[Mist-Robed Gate] I'm missing something here

edited September 2009 in Play Advice
I got the PDF of Mist-Robed Gate a week or so ago, since the Indie RPG Awards thread(s) prompted me to take another look at it. I'm a little confused about some aspects of the game though. I know Shreyas posts here, and I thought maybe he or someone else could enlighten me.

In the "Waging War" section, the text states "The next step in the process is to divide up the social landscape into factions."

Is there a process for this at all? Or is it freeform? I'm assuming the players just kibbitz a little about it, and decide on how many factions they would like to have, but I'm not positive, since the example uses only two. Is having*only* two the way to go, or is that just how many the example happens to have?

My copy of the PDF didn't include anything aside from the rules, although there are references to Character, Set and Prop cards. Am I actually missing part of the game, or are the players just assumed to jot things down for those categories?

I really like the detail the text goes into about how to think and talk about the game ahead of time, but overall reading through it left me a little confused about how I'd go about playing. I'm assuming that I'm missing something here, since there are many glowing APs out there for the game.

Comments

  • Hi Brian! I'm not Shreyas, but I hope I can help.

    Somewhere on Shreyas' blog are some character sheets, prop cards, and set cards he made. In practice-- and I think he mentions this in the text? Dunno-- we usually just use index cards. For the prop, all you need to write on the card is.. what the prop is called. NUCLEAR CODES, Xiu Lian's calligraphy brush, twelve red teacups-- whatever it is. That's it. For the sets, all you need to write on the card is what the set is-- Desert, the temple, barbarian lands-- and how many people can fit on the set. As such, I don't really see the need for CARD cards. It'd just be more fussy stuff to print out and prep before a game, and who wants that? Not me.

    Dividing the social landscape into factions is totally freeform, sort of in the same way as coming up with a cast of characters. It really doesn't matter at all how many factions there are, as long as there are at least two. Everyone should belong to one faction and have a conflicting loyalty to someone (or a prop, or an idea) that is a part of an opposing faction.

    If you've got any other questions, feel free to post 'em. I'm sure we can get you squared away and inflicting emotional violence on your friends in no time. :)
  • Thanks for the response, Elizabeth. It is super helpful.

    I was almost certain that there *were* actual cards, and that I simply hadn't received them, so that is good to know.

    Simply writing the information about a set or prop on a card is fine, and make sense. I wasn't sure if there were more pieces of information for them.

    As for character cards, that definitely confused me, and made me feel pretty sure my copy of the game was incomplete. The rules say:

    Each player should choose a character they want to play from the influential faction members, and then fill out a character card for her. You’ll see on the card that characters have three Displays: a signature Color, distinctive Weather, and a Quirk.

    I'm perfectly content to make my own character cards, if that's the thing. And, now that you point it out, I was able to find them on the blog. Thanks.
  • I think Elizabeth pretty much covered your questions here, but there's something I want to add that maybe isn't in the text:

    In practice, we tend to make a list of character ideas and then claim them after we're satisfied, merging concepts and making connections as we do.

    Like, say we're playing a game about gang violence in kung-fu Miami. Maybe the factions are the lifeguards, Madame Lo's gang (she owns a nightclub) and the police.

    So we come up with some concepts like:

    • Lo's son
    • The good cop
    • The bad cop
    • The out-of-work spy
    • The Hasselhoff
    • The lady who runs in slow motion
    • The irascible cook
    • The sketchy DJ
    • The bartender who knows everyone
    • The pretty girl who never seems to drink anything
    • The barfly

    etc etc.

    Then someone is like, "Hey can I be the irascible cook? I think she's this like...thirtyish Chinese punk chick and she can't swim very well so she has a crush on Hasselhoff..."

  • Right. And then someone else is like "Hey, I want to be the good cop. I was thinking maybe he was also Lo's son? That'd be a good conflict of loyalty."

    Etc.
  • Yeah, around the same time Shreyas was writing MRG, we were having all these conversations about the "big-budget wuxia film directed by 5th Generation of Chinese art film director" subgenre, which is actually pretty huge and includes most of the wuxia most Americans have ever seen. A big part of these movies is setting up the "trainwreck heartbreak" that ends with everybody killing each other and themselves because their problems are irresolvable (end of Crouching Tiger, end of Hero, end of Flying Daggers, etc. etc.). This means you need to start out in the beginning setting up these relationships that will eventually be put under IRRESOLVABLE TENSION. And making sure the factions and love interests and indebtedness crosses all over the place, like an obscenely tightly bound relationship map that's basically a parody of what would actually happen in real life... that's a good way to prep for it. Then you just start laying down the tension and watch things expode.

    It kinda makes me wanna try a messed up hack of MRG and Jason's new game, Fiasco, which is similarly structured.
  • edited September 2009
    Thanks, Shreyas. It's funny that both you and Elizabeth seem uncertain about what is and what isn't in the text. It's like you wrote the game moving fast in a darkened room, and didn't get a close look at it.
    Posted By: HohoIn practice, we tend to make a list of character ideas and then claim them after we're satisfied,merging concepts and making connectionsas we do.
    Cool. I like it. It *sounds* similar to character generation in In A Wicked Age, which I really like for how well it generates intertwined characters.

    As an aside, I don't know how much I got out of the filmography in the book, but a) I love Hero, Crouching Tiger, House of Flying Daggers and the like, and b) I have never managed to enjoy any "old-school" of classic wuxia films, so I like that the focus was on the movies that I assume most people have seen, rather than on the older, less accessible stuff. I can totally see how someone really into that genre might have gone in the other direction. ("Yeah, Hero's okay, but you REALLY have to see [obscure 1974 martial arts film].")
  • Honestly, a lot of the old stuff is really crappy, enjoyable mostly for nostalgia and by people like Tarantino who cultivate a taste for things that are bad. There are a few things worth seeing, though. Bride with White Hair. Ashes of Time. Dragon Inn.
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonA big part of these movies is setting up the "trainwreck heartbreak" that ends with everybody killing each other and themselves because their problems are irresolvable (end of Crouching Tiger, end of Hero, end of Flying Daggers, etc. etc.). This means you need to start out in the beginning setting up these relationships that will eventually be put under IRRESOLVABLE TENSION. And making sure the factions and love interests and indebtedness crosses all over the place, like an obscenely tightly bound relationship map that's basically a parody of what would actually happen in real life... that's a good way to prep for it. Then you just start laying down the tension and watch things expode.
    You're familiar with In a Wicked Age, right?

    Do it like that. Except without oracles.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • Posted By: BWAThanks, Shreyas. It's funny that both you and Elizabeth seem uncertain about what is and what isn't in the text. It's like you wrote the game moving fast in a darkened room, and didn't get a close look at it.
    Truth of the matter is, neither of us have read the book in ages. It's the most fun (I find) when you've got more than four players, and the crowd around here isn't much into one-shots anyway, so we don't often get a chance to play it outside of cons. The last con we both attended was.. Dreamation, so you do the math. :)
  • good morning runs fingers through bedhead in futile attempt to make it look neat

    thing is that when i wrote the book, my whole plan was to lay out the rules alongside my thought process for using the rules, and honestly it's the thought process that makes up a) the bulk of the book and b) the useful part; while the rules don't change, my thoughts about them do, and it's hard to remember where i was with it when i wrote it.

  • Questions!

    I have to get nit-picky for a second here, not because I think there is a definitive correct way but more or less for intent or clarification.

    So the knife, Alice wants an explanation for all the items that have "gone missing." Doesn't speak it aloud, simply raises an eyebrow and pushes the sheathed knife across the table to Bob.
    Bob looks to Charlie, draws the knife, and says "You must explain why these things are missing, and make it good, because you have stolen from us before."

    Charlie... has the option of escalating to bloodied and stabbing someone's sheet? In which case someone is most likely going to end up dead.

    Three options here.
    -> If Charlie escalated and stabs Alice, Charlie is making a counter-demand to Alice in doing so. "I've had to turn a blind eye to the thieves only because they're holding my nephew. You must go and trade your life for his." Is that right? Is that the level we're going for? Escalating requires a counter-demand?

    -> If Charlie accepts the knife but does not escalate, Charlie explains "I've had to turn a blind eye to the thieves only because they're holding my nephew. You will never understand my shame." Knife goes back to center of the table, but remains unsheathed. Even after the end of that "scene"?

    -> If Alice interrupts Charlie's decision and says "to wirework!" Does Charlie have to answer Bob's request?

    Had a blast with the game last night, but looking to take it to a convention this weekend, and just fishing for few opinions.
  • edited April 2012
    My sense is, when you stab someone's sheet, you're demanding that they die, rather than giving them what they want. At that point, they can choose to fight you instead of dying (wirework) and they generally should. You're not playing characters with no deep passions who just choose to die all over the place (I've tried that in play and it tends to suck, like when Shannon Riddle tried to fight my character two GoPlays ago and I lamely chose to just perish; sorry Shannon!), in fact, you're playing just the opposite. So there's not really a counter-demand there except "Die! I won't give you what you want!" (There is such a thing as a strategically placed "Okay, I jut die," like Broken Sword at the end of Hero, but you only earn that after having a long game full of fighting first).

    You've got the second one (choosing not to escalate) right. The blade stays unsheathed.

    When the knife is getting passed around, I tend to think other players shouldn't interrupt the ritual. Like, if Charlie has the knife, it's between Charlie and whoever he's targeting. If there's a pause in the ritual and Alice wants to take up the knife, that's cool. But you have to let the knife ritual play out and allow the players to make their choices. Then, if someone is left so unsatisfied that they have to do something about it, you return to the knife ritual with a new set of players and characters involved. Otherwise, the knife ritual has no teeth if it can be interrupted from outside and we never get to know what choice someone would have made.

    I'm not sure my explanation matches 100% with the book, but that's how I've played it and seen it played.
  • edited April 2012

    If Alice interrupts Charlie's decision and says "to wirework!" Does Charlie have to answer Bob's request?

    Alice can't do that because Charlie has the knife, so he's the guy that gets to answer it.

    EDIT: In more words,

    Each knifework transaction is an event that passes between just two players - it's part of the explicit unreality of the game, that when you're focused on a particular relationship, no one else exists. What Alice wants in no way matters when we're talking about Charlie and Bob. (Redirecting is actually a pretty effective way of denying what someone wants without actually saying "no.") I mean, sure, Bob could use wirework to fight for Alice's demand, but why wouldn't he use Alice as an excuse to fight Charlie because Charlie has been sending love notes to Daphne and Bob is jealous! "Stop being in love with Daphne!" is a way better demand than "Give Alice the answers she wants!" (Not least because it's an awful thing to ask someone.)

  • Yeah, demanding impossible things is awesome. Most demands often boil down to "Be who I want you to be!" or "Make yourself and others miserable for my vengeful enjoyment!"
  • So essential advice then is "Demand big, unreasonable things or don't bother with this knife business." ?

    Thanks for the clarifications. They helped a lot.
    Essentially, there aren't "turns" where one person gets a spotlight, except for when the knife or wirework is in play.
    So anyone can call for either at any moment, but wirework can't interrupt the knife, and vice-versa. Right?
  • So essential advice then is "Demand big, unreasonable things or don't bother with this knife business." ?

    Well, remember that when you make a demand, you are literally giving someone else a knife so that they can turn it on you. Making a demand exposes your heart literally as well as figuratively, so you've got to make it worth it.

    So anyone can call for either at any moment, but wirework can't interrupt the knife, and vice-versa. Right?

    If I understand you correctly, you're saying, "When someone is holding the knife, someone ELSE can't call for wirework, right?" In that case, you're right. You can think of the knife like a talking stick or whatever - when you have it, everyone has to listen to you because you're the only dude with a knife.

  • Yeah, have you played Dogs in the Vineyard? Making demands with the knife is pretty similar to making "raises" or "escalation" in Dogs, where they specifically have to be "things the other character can't ignore." Otherwise it falls flat and isn't worthy of the knife ritual. Like, I don't hand you the naked blade and say "Tell me what you know!" if you're perfectly willing to tell me. But if I press for information and you beg that you can't possibly betray the trust of your lord, your secret true love, THEN I reach for the blade and bring on the real pressure.

    There's definitely the danger in MRG to engage the knife ritual as if it's just like the central resolution mechanics of another game. Like, when you want to make something dramatic happen, grab the blade. That tends to not work so well. One thing I'd love to hack into MRG at some point is a fuller post-Apocalypse World description of how the fictional positioning works. Since you generally use the blade to demand stuff that people REALLY don't want to do, the play before that MUST involve (among other things) finding out where different characters' redlines are, so you can subsequently use the knife to demand that they cross them. Really, that's what all the indirect implying and stuff is for, before the blade is drawn. You're trying to figure out what people are and aren't willing to do, to discover the best way to get what you want.

    Really, MRG is super emo and cutthroat and you really have to engage it that way to get the best out of it, I find. The characters are all people that love something so hard that they're willing to kill and die for it, and they act like calculating, manipulative monsters in order to get it. I actually just watched Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame a couple nights ago and, man, nobody in that movie is a good person, even Detective Dee. They're all petty, narrow-mindedly focused on their own interests, and downright cruel. That's pretty important. You are all Lady Macbeth.
  • I see your play style instantly with those last two sentences. Thank you so much.
    Looking forward to Detective Dee. Funny you mentioned it, because we are watching it tonight.
  • Let me know what you think afterwards. I haven't read the original stories, but it's a totally bizarre mixture of logic-based deduction and totally impossible mysticism, which really violates all my expectations from Western detective stories. "Aha, this is clearly caused by [totally magical thing that's never been mentioned before]! Of course!"
  • Movie was awesome, and the game was pretty good too. That advice really helped a lot. More later, and in other threads, but again, thanks!
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