[Steal Away Jordan] First session rules questions

edited June 2012 in Actual Play
We gave Steal Away Jordan a shot, and it was an interesting session and some strong scenes were played. And we'd like to play more (even if, as a GM, I haven't felt this kind of discomfort since one My Life with Master game, even though I was trying to play this safe). But we had some procedural issues, and I'd like to ask for some help and clarifications, and good practices. So let me list these in order, providing examples when necessary, OK?

(1) Relations. (a) Could the person who owns me be my Friend? Surely s/he cannot be an Enemy, and I think I understand why, but I have no intuition here, and the text (at p. 36) does not explicitly deny this. (b) Does starting the game with more that one Friend or Enemy change a lot? We started with one of each, but I don't know what is a good practice here, and what could be the effects of choosing more that one (esp. Enemies).

(2) Are there any limits concerning pushing the luck? Say that Homer and his group are trying to kill Jim the Overseer; the chances are almost equal (four of them and some lucky 5s from the Skull Die for Homer, also they fight for the Snake so that he starts eating "whites" instead of "blacks", oh and also if they kill Jim, Cato, Voltaire and Plymouth will get this lucky talisman from root doctor Homer, and this surely will help them escape; and Jim being big, cruel, hog-like and fighting for his life). And after the second re-roll Jim is at -5, Homer at -1. Of course, as a GM I'm not (yet) happy with this outcome - I have some plans for Jim and other PC, Comfort. So I push his luck. Say I roll 3, 16-yo, straight from the Northern States, at holidays in Louisiana John comes to help his uncle Jim, and we re-roll. After re-roll, Jim is at -7 and Homer at -3. (a) Can I push Jim's luck again? Suppose I roll 6, and the outcome changes in Jim's favor. (b) Can Homer's player push his luck now? (c) And so on and on, until (because - I don't know if that's how it is intended to be done, but I'll go back to that in a sec - we provide some fictional content after each roll) one of us will be satisfied with the outcome? (d) And what if I rolled 1 for Jim - can I try to push my luck again? (e) Or if I got 5 and after re-roll I'm still losing the Conflict?

(3) When a character realizes a Task, what should a player say? Surely what the Task was; but should mention the Motivation as well?

(4) (a) When I push my luck in Conflict, and I get 3 or 5, do we re-roll all dices on the table, or only the non-scoring ones? (b) If only the non-scoring ones, then how do 3s and 5s work in Minor Conflicts?

(5) In Conflicts, should we provide narration (a) after every re-roll and Skull Die roll, or (b) after the Conflict is resolved? Intuitively, we used (a), but examples in the book suggest rather (b).

(6) The narrative competence (meaning, who says what and when) is not clearly attributed. Like, GM or player describing outcome of the conflict, or player adding details to the scene, or player framing the scene, and so on so forth. We used loose attribution, with players describing pretty much everything they wanted to, but from reading the text, it is not clear whether some other kind of attribution isn't intended (and maybe suits the game better) (I imagine that having no narrative competence except for describing character actions - not outcomes! - must be pretty harsh in this game, because of the slavery topic; maybe even to the point of really un-fun; any experience with that?).

Homer managed to escape, with Plymouth as his step-son, and convinced that the human sacrifice he offered to the Great Snake of Earth will make the beast stop feeding on his co-slaves and start eating white people. Of course, there is no Great Snake of Earth; there is only Colonel Smith and his wife and lovers living together in the Smithville at the South of the South, and 12-yo Smith junior, proud of the family, pushing people to alligator-infested swamp. Poor Homer's head.

Comfort tried to convince travelling gypsies to take her daughter North, but failed, and Francois the gypsy chief reported her to Colonel Smith, and got paid well, and the fact that Jim and John were found dead and four slaves missing did not help poor Comfort. She was bounded to the same stake at which Homer was almost strangled by Smith junior at the beginning of the game, and whipped 'till she started talking, and everyone saw this, and then Colonel Smith sold all her children, but not her, as he still is in need of a wet nurse. And so Comfort is worth good 40$ less, and her Goal of liberating and providing education to her daughter becomes a mere fantasy.


  • Yay SAJ!

    1a) Sure, could be. If it seems like a good idea to you to have your owner be your Friend instead of defining a different relationship, go for it.
    b) It widens the focus of the game; never a good idea in one-shots, but maybe in longer games. I would worry also that you'd feel a little bored having to like two people in a row.

    2) No limits. You can keep going until someone dies or (if you have an Alabama Die) gets sold to a plantation down in Alabama.

    3) Unless it's the last task in a Motivation, generally we just say the task was completed, not the Motivation, as it might clue the GM in to further tasks.

    4) All dice, I think.

    5) I would do A because it's more suspenseful, but if you're feeling narratively fatigued don't stress it and just do B.

    6) Narrative competence ties tight around the characters in this game. I like to think of it as, you say what your character does, and as things get farther away from your character you get less and less authority. This means the GM has the most authority because they control the most "territory," with their nigh-unlimited NPCs.
  • I would go with Lula's answers, he runs an awesome SAJ; but if you're curious, here's mine:

    1a. Yes, the person who owns you could be your friend, and he could absolutely be your enemy. It's how your character perceives the relationship. Whatever you choose, think of the implications:
    "My master is my friend."
    "My master is my enemy." 
    Those two statements lead your character down very different roads, and the view on those roads depend on how other characters perceive your character and your character's master. Being the favored slave comes at a price. Thinking you are a favored slave has a price, too.
    B. I agree with Lula. 

    Since you need to make bargains with people as much as possible, good relationships are key.

    (2) You could conceivably push your luck until you win or die, but personally, I would cap it at one time. Otherwise you have a player monopolizing the scene and the dice, and it isn't really fair to the players and the fiction for someone to roll the dice until they get the outcome she likes. If you get a reversal of fortune, you can only re-roll once. As GM, you might set a limit in order to pace the game well. 
    Also, the GM may provoke PC's to push their luck, but cannot force them to do so.
    I am lost in your example, so may I leave it at that? :)

    (3) Players only need to tell the GM that they achieved a Goal. Everything else they can keep to themselves.

    (4) all dice.

    (5) Do what works for your group. Obviously I prefer (b), but I'm not in your group.

    (6) I love Lula's answer.

    Consider that this game was very influenced by my love of traditional storytelling and folk music. Look at the song "Pretty Polly." It's a standard in American bluegrass, Appalachian folk music, and British Isles folk music. The earliest version of the lyrics is thought to be a 17th century English broadside. Sometimes it's called "Polly Oliver." In some versions, Pretty Polly is pregnant, and that's why her lover kills her. Polly's lover is variably Willie, Sweet Willie, and Sweet William. In some versions, William is overcome by guilt and turns himself in. In others, Polly's ghost haunts him. In some versions, Polly begs for her life. Other versions leave William's fate to the imagination of the listener, and the song ends with William throwing the dirt over Polly as she lies in the grave that William dug the night before.
    All variants of "Pretty Polly" have a common theme and similar lyrics. The song has been passed from person to person, and each time it gets molded to fit the tastes of audience and the voice and ability of the performer. So Darol Anger's version and Ralph Stanley versions are both very different, and both work for the performer and audience.

    Hope that makes sense and helps to explain the vagueness of some of the rules of the game. Generally, if I didn't explicitly state it, make it up and have fun, Also, first game, naively written. I had more experience with folk music than with rpg's.
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