[Montsegur 1244] The unknown sinners among the Cathars

edited March 2009 in Actual Play
I played on Saturday with three friends. We played the full game in around four hours as expected (including some rules explanation on the way).

1. Starting
We had some troubles with the English texts, as not all the players were used to that. Thus, before playing, I read aloud in Spanish (translating on the fly) the main texts about Cathars, the Faith, Motnsegur, etc. I was also the one reading/translating the introductory texts at the start of each act. It is loosing a little of player implication, but it works.

It was clear almost from the first act that not all players were going to take the history too seriously and the tone was going to be very light. There was quite a lot of mockery. Thus, it was not as intense as the Dreamation's session in which I partipated. But it was still a lot of fun.

I noticed how the players were many times modifying the tone and events to accommodate the other players interests. Something that I never thought it was coming so naturally with such a light structure.

With four players you have three characters, one main and two secondary ones. Sometimes it was too much for the players to keep track of all the connections and names related to their characters. It was much easier with only two, as in our Dreamation session. I also noticed that, while choosing the characters, the players were not yet really aware about the connections between all characters and it was difficult to avoid getting too much connected characters associated to the same player, as recommended in the book. In our Dreamation session Frederik draw a quick relationship-map showing all the names and situation. It was helpful. I'm sorry I didn't do it this time. By the way, player's commented that the character drawings were looking like too "modern" people :-)

2. During play
I forgot about the break after act three. We were already in the middle of the following act when I remembered. Thus, we continued. A pitty.

The pace in the second part of the game was still escalating, and going too fast. At the end, the players were eager to do follow-up scenes across acts. The expected timeline between acts was not having too much sense for our case. We played it very loosely. According to our fiction, the last three acts could have happened in a couple of days.

There was a lot of unexpected alternative history. Bertrand accused Pierre Roger and Bernard of being not redeemable sinners, polluted by their killing and frenzy in combat and bringing the doom to Montsegur. He tried to convince Raimond to hand over the two sinners to the inquisitors since act two. He even tried to get control of the castle in the last act before the epilogue, and there was a riot and combat inside the walls.

Bernard was slowly discovered not to be a real believer. He had joined the Cathars only to look for revenge against the inquisition. At last he was cursing all those fanatics and fleeing with the help of a friend, a Templar knight. He wanted to take Arsende with him. But when he faced the decision of coming back to look for her during the riot, or taking the last opportunity to flee with his Templar friend, he left anyway.

Philippa was really having a problem. She was a complete mess of sexual inclinations. Near the end, it was revealed that the child was the product of an incestuous relationship with his father, somehow allowed by her mother being in denial. She killed her mother with her own hands and also tried to kill his father who went mentally ill. At the end, we discovered she was a disguised witch. She repented doing a complete false confession to save her life.

3. Mechanical issues
We had a couple of strange mechanical situations. Everything was solved with quick dialog. But it felt a little awkward and I took my notes about it. They were related to the application, by the narrator, of full plot/content authority on another player's main character.

Example: How did we discover Philippa was a witch? In one of the last acts, the player was creating a kind of complicate emotional status to explain all the weird things Philippa had been doing. At that moment, another player took the narration control and used the Witchcraft card introducing the fact that she was a disguised witch. It was really disconcerting at first. Philippa's player needed to change completely his idea of what to do in the last acts. But he bought it and worked with it.

Similar example: Philippa finally tried to seduce Bertrand himself for the pleasure of making him sin. Indeed, the player decreed she was seducing him. Bertrand's player was asking about a (mechanical) way to avoid it. The only thing that come to my mind was fighting for the narration control with the scene cards, but it seemed very silly and lame. Thus, he quickly accepted the idea, and this thing changed completely his decision for the epilogue. He was not a perfect anymore and he fully repented and embraced the Catholic church.

Another thing unexpected to me was that some players were really interested on announcing the final decisions and outcomes of (some of) their secondary characters. And also they changed the expected order in which we were narrating the epilogues to build a fiction flow.

What do you think about these mechanical issues?

Comments

  • Wow, you guys played the soap opera version! That's fantastic.

    How much authority the Narration Right grants is definitely going to vary from group to group. With the guys I play with, there would be a "is this cool with you?" moment before revealing something huge about another player's primary character, I suspect.

    About the urge to reveal the fate of secondary characters - I definitely felt that, too.
  • Hi Arturo,

    Great to hear about your game. I haven't heard of a session that went soap/slapstick before - I am curious to hear a more from you about possible reasons why. Is this because the theme of Montsegur and the Cathars is overabused in Spain? Is this because your group is more into light games or more into socializing than gaming? Is this because heavy subject matter makes uncomfortable players escape into comedy?

    The story telling rule for shared narration is really "Don't deprotagonize another player's protagonist" which is not only about killing, but also about modifying the values and integrity of that character. It can be great to surprise another player, but the player should be allowed to say no*.

    Wrt. only telling epilogues for main characters, then this is done to keep focus on the main characters. You can reveal the fate of a supporting character, but this should be done as part of a main character epilogue. The strict order of the epilogue is to resolve that at most one will escape and at least one will burn. When players take turn telling epilogues without the other players knowing which fate, the player will choose for his main character, then this adds to the intensity of the ending.

    *) This is similar to setting stakes in e.g. Dogs in the Vineyard. Do you allow an outcome such as "The woman seduces your character", or "Your characters is decieved and tells all he knows to the bad guy"? In a game about moral choice, the connection between player and character can easily be broken, if a character can be forced into some choice which is not made by the player.
  • Posted By: Frederik J. JensenI am curious to hear a more from you about possible reasons why. Is this because the theme of Montsegur and the Cathars is overabused in Spain? Is this because your group is more into light games or more into socializing than gaming? Is this because heavy subject matter makes uncomfortable players escape into comedy?
    In this case it was a friends weekend with socializing as the priority. We are having the opportunity to meet together no more than once each three months or so. Two of the players are not role-playing usually. Probably they were expecting a board game, but I brought Montsegur to the table.

    Anyway, the key was one specific player. He played with me to D&D and similar things on the late 80s and 90s. But for many, many years he has been disconnected and having no real interest on role-playing (or games in general). I think he was expecting to be a little bored by the game. He was leading Philippa and he set the light tone for fun and laughs on his first scene. I was a little disappointed at first. But I immediately decided to follow him and see what happen.
    The funny thing is that we were slowly adapting our tone to him, but at the same time I noticed he was becoming more interested and trying to adapt his mood to ours. At the end, he was really trying to create more intense scenes and a coherent explanation for Philippa's behaviour, and even the introduction of the witchcraft element still was played with quite a lot introspection and coherence.

    Interestingly, after the game he looked excited about this kind of games. More interested than I have seen him for many years. We were talking about LARPs and Jeepform (we have no real experience with them) and he started a discussion about how to do similar things with other kind of sceneries.
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarWith the guys I play with, there would be a "is this cool with you?" moment before revealing something huge about another player's primary character, I suspect.
    Indeed, in our case it was happening exactly after the proposition. I think these two players are not used to have strong narrative authority and they were experimenting with it on the fly.
    Posted By: Frederik J. JensenThe story telling rule for shared narration is really "Don't deprotagonize another player's protagonist" which is not only about killing, but also about modifying the values and integrity of that character. It can be great to surprise another player, but the player should be allowed to say no*
    [...]
    In a game about moral choice, the connection between player and character can easily be broken, if a character can be forced into some choice which is not made by the player.
    This is what I was expecting. But it is not in the Rules-Tips sheet for the players. And I have not find it on the book. Thus, I was amazed, thinking that perhaps it was intended that these situations could happen. The more experimented player asked me about mechanics because he was surprised not to have such a restriction. I told them there wasn't. My fault. I should have follow common sense here.

    The thing is that the players started anyway a quick dialogue about it, and the proposers were immediately offering to forget about it. But the other players accepted the new events or situations quickly, perhaps adding minor changes by consensus.
    Posted By: Frederik J. JensenWrt. only telling epilogues for main characters, then this is done to keep focus on the main characters.
    This is exactly what I told them and they agreed. But they insisted on adding the others in the middle creating a more colored fictional end and so we did.
    Posted By: Frederik J. JensenThe strict order of the epilogue is to resolve that at most one will escape and at least one will burn. When players take turn telling epilogues without the other players knowing which fate, the player will choose for his main character, then this adds to the intensity of the ending.
    We were also commenting about that. I was understanding that point and I told them about. With the kind of fiction we had played it was not looking so relevant, but finally, we were playing it almost in order and the effect was still noticeable.

    I would say it was a very interesting play after all. And I was amazed about how the game was working anyway.
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