[IAWA] Character sheets and that one thing that one dude said that one time

edited December 2012 in Story Games
Hi SGers,

After no gaming for six months*, I am playing In A Wicked Age tomorrow night with some friends, and I need a couple things from the Story Games Collective Race Memory.

1. Cool IAWA character sheets: I have the original ones, and they are snazzy, but I can only assume people have made some awesome character sheets over the years that I don't know about, and the internets are not being helpful.

2. Forum discussion on chapters: There was a thread some years back about IAWA where some people were like "If you don't play multiple chapters per session you may as well play Old Maid" and other people (including me) were like "Muh? We never play more than one chapter per session. That's crazy talk."

I remember thinking there was a lot of great play advice in that thread, but I haven't used the forum much since the interface changed, and I am not having much luck locating it. I'm hoping that rings a bell with someone.


* Sucks, but I have a great reason.


  • edited December 2012
    I'm the guy that normally advocates for relatively short, pointed IAWA chapters because the Owe List really is the innovation and engine that makes the game work. I wasn't specifically saying one chapter per session, but whatever time footprint your game has, you should plan for and push for multiple chapters, and don't do it as a one-shot-one-chapter. IAWA is not really a good game over the course of a single chapter because it can be (relatively) easily manipulated by someone who doesn't care about the owe list, or a couple of bad die rolls can put you on the decidedly losing end and without the owe list (or a new chapter) you never get another chance and the injured/exhausted spiral is very harsh.

    Here's some old threads:

    Argue about A Wicked Age

    Slapstick Comedy and Plucky Birds (someone had an IAWA problem and named it that)

    And the best oracle, my Vista Heights Oracle, fuck swords and sorcery, nobody likes that crap anymore, wake me when someone has sunglasses.
    Edit: "Said One Thing One Time" will be on my tombstone along with "Et In Arcadia Banned"
  • We've been playing it for a few months and we can barely make it through a single chapter in a session. We spend half of the time planning out the characters and interactions -- which is great fun -- and the other half playing it out. I have a train to catch so I usually end up missing the exciting climax :(
  • edited December 2012
    From my experience playing IaWA, the sooner you cut a chapter short, the better. The game really cooks along in a different way if you end chapters on a cliffhanger, as soon as something dramatic has happened and at least one or two characters have either been defeated or have risen to new heights. Resist the urge to keep playing until every last thing is wrapped up neatly!

    Those loose ends? That's what future chapters are for.

    (ETA: My favourite chapters were 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours long. So we always played just one at a time: these weren't really long sessions. But that length felt right to me. Like a strong short story.)
  • Yeah, I like a 3-4 hour two-chapter session myself. The key is that as SOON as someone either achieves their best interest or conclusively loses it, you start looking for places to wrap the chapter. Otherwise you are stuck with narrative dead weight and eventually you stagger to a halt. Another character isn't quite there yet? Cool, they get another go next time.
  • Right, like Jason says!
  • Yep. Cut those chapters short! Follow the "end the chapter" checklist with rigor.

  • All right, that's the plan then. We'll try two chapters over three hours. Perfect-length game.

    Argue about A Wicked Age
    That's not the thread I was thinking of, but it's a lively one. Well worth revisiting.
    John Harper has a cool IAWA character sheet at:
    Nice! Downloaded and printed. Thanks for the heads-up, and thanks John Harper for the snazzy, free sheets. My gaming enjoyment is increased.
  • I've been GMing the last few chapters - in the same group as Snej. We're having a lot of trouble trying to wrap up one chapter in our roughly 2 hour sessions. I usually feel like the story is going pretty strongly, and it would be cutting things off short to wrap it up quickly.

    We generally take around an hour to get through the whole of oracle and character generation - mostly in discussing who our characters should be and then arranging best interests, though the other parts also take time. We then get started on the action, and it goes pretty well (I think), but we end up not wrapping up in an hour. We then usually continue the action in the next session.

    I tried to push to get through more quickly this Monday, but it didn't really work. For us, it takes a while to put together a satisfying set of characters - and once we have that, the situation doesn't resolve very quickly. I don't think it drags - there is generally a lot going on which is why it takes time. I might post an example later.
  • If your current pacing is working for you, then of course don't change it.
  • Our pacing doesn't really work for me, though it is OK. I'd prefer to either have things be more continuous - or if we're going to have a chapter structure, then it should be one chapter per session.

    However, in practice I'm having trouble getting a chapter resolved in a single session. I'm trying to think of some sort of convention(s) or house rules that would speed things up - possibly by simplifying our situations.
  • I also spent way too much time on situations when I first started playing IAWA. A sketchy situation that is fleshed out through later details (or even later chapters) is totally okay so long as the Best Interests are clear and everyone remembers they MUST add details. With 4 players we can usually get through a chapter's setup in about 30 minutes once everyone knows the system. Teaching the system (and making appropriate chargen decisions) takes significantly longer.
  • One of the techniques I have tried to use in the past is to start the action as late as possible. For instance, first time we played, we began with the necromancer's caravan pacing across the desert, the intelligent bloodsucking sword (another character) in the scabbard of one of the necromancer's lieutenants, and the bird-druid who had sworn vengeance on the necromancer eyeing the caravan from afar, planning his move. In post-game post-mortem, I should have started with, say, the bird-druid lashed to a cross in the middle of the caravan, and the sword in the hand of the nearby cheiftain sating his lust on another prisoner... we had lots of scenes that mindlessly built up to nothing, and I should have framed it right in the moment and kicked on from there... we would have got to the meat of the situation (which would still have been fairly complex... I think there was another PC, a healer/wise-woman travelling with the caravan) sooner, and had a pause for breath in the middle instead....

    The other thing (but you've probably realised this from the other thread) is to try proper, nailed-on GM authority on scene framing. I let other players share ideas, but ultimately, if I'm running, I push the next scene and call the conflicts (and, most of the time (although I'm vulnerable to complaints) tell them what to roll). That worked well to keep the ball rolling.
  • If your current pacing is working for you, then of course don't change it.
    I played a good amount of In A Wicked Age a few years back, always in the "one session = one chapter" mode, and always had good games. So that style of play works, in my experience, but I'm excited to try a faster-paced game just for the sake of trying something new.

    Millsy, that's great advice about staring in media res. I often start exactly the way it's laid out in the book, zooming in on some maybe-impending action, which is fine, but it doesn't make for speedy scenes.
  • Also, this game straight up has a GM and works better when the GM is a GM and says "here's what's happening".
  • I think the advice to "play two chapters in one go" is aimed at people playing one-shots. In an ongoing campaign, I don't see the need to play out two chapters each session. Just use the pace you like; the long-term game makes sure the Owe List kicks in.
  • Yeah, exactly. If you're only playing 2 hours but plan to play for a long time, then one chapter is probably fine.
  • Well, we ended up starting late, so one chapter is all we played. But one character was left standing on the 'We Owe' list, so perhaps we'll revisit. Probably not, though, since all three PCs were monsters in both the literal and figurative senses, and our tale ended up with no hero.

  • Well, then, the next chapter should be about how that PC became a monster!

    Go back 5 years (or whatever) and find out how their fall from grace came about.
  • Heroes? Naw. It's a wicked age, after all. Expect no heroes.
  • I donno, you can have at least ONE hero if you pick best interests right, ("For others! With love!") but the PVP nature of the game means that not everyone can be one.
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