ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
ecreegan ([personal profile] ecreegan) wrote2008-03-05 10:08 pm

Intercon H: Mystery at Faerie Tale Reservation

Extensive, but I think without spoilers.

My Friday night game at Intercon H was Mystery at the Faerie Tale Reservation where I played Cinder Elena (Cinderella, of course.) The gist was Russian fairy tales, but we had borrowings from elsewhere. Other characters I remember were:
  • Prince Fyodor (Prince Charming, Elena's husband)
  • Forest Warden Red (Little Red Riding Hood)
  • Baba Yaga
  • Koschei the Deathless
  • Father Grigori
  • Kupek the Merchant
  • His daughter, Svetlana the Fair
  • Her sister, A____
  • A firebird
  • Ivan the Fool
  • Ivanovitch the Unlucky
  • Sergei the horse
  • G___ (Gina?) the fox
  • ___??? The Wolf
  • T____ (Tarnavotch is wrong, but something a little like that) The beast
  • Al El-Din (based on Aladdin, of course)
  • An American graduate student
  • A Russian graduate student
  • A mortal woman who'd half grown up on the reservation
  • the Fairy Godmother (GM character)
There was the big mystery we had to solve, or deal with another way. There were some villains seeking power (or other things.) There were people with problems they needed to resolve. There were characters with interpersonal conflicts. There was a political issue - some fables wanted more contact with mundanes, some wanted less. All fun, but it was a little light -- it could have used another plot or two.

The game had a couple of amazing mechanics, one of which inspires me to use a derivative. It probably won't happen soon, though, because [personal profile] crash_mccormick  has already gotten bids accepted to Intercon I for a game we need to write, plus one we've been meaning to finish boxing for years, and I don't think the mechanic is appropriate there.

The mechanics in question are the Impossible Task and the Favor.

An Impossible Task is pretty much what it sounds like: you're given something impossible, or nearly so, to accomplish -- the classic fairy tale requirement to bring the skin of a salamander, or gather up seeds scattered to the four winds, or rescue the princess from a tower. The Taskmaster - a GM or a player - would give you an Impossible Task with typically two requirements (find the tower the princess is imprisoned in hidden deep in the forest, then enter the high window above the unclimbable wall.) You found ways to accomplish those tasks (I speak with the animals to find out where the tower is, then I use my carpet of flying to get to the top of the tower.) The Taskmaster either buys your story or s/he doesn't. If you succeed you get a bennie; if you fail you get a penalty.

A few characters can assign tasks in return for something -- Koschei the Deathless had magical abilities he could use but typically required an Impossible Task first. If most characters entered the Enchanted Woods they'd have to undertake an Impossible Task before they could leave (they could leave succeed or fail, but they had to try.)

Most Impossible Tasks had their rewards preset, but some characters had items or abilities allowing them to choose a reward: you could select a reward and then get an appropriate Impossible Task.

And then there was the Favor system, building on the Impossible Task system. With some exceptions (e.g. the Beast couldn't court people normally, he had some sort of special system where when he wanted to court someone the other character had to succeed in an Impossible Task to keep him away) if your character wanted to court another character, you would ask for an Impossible Task. Typically the other character (or her guardian, e.g. the merchant assigned quests for his daughter's favors) had to assign a task. If you succeeded, the other character had to give you a favor. If you acquired three favors, you could choose to get married (the other character couldn't say no.)

The favor mechanic absolutely applied to people who were uninterested, happily married, et cetera. You could make up the world's roughest Impossible Task, but you had to assign one, and if your suitor managed this three times, you'd be swept away and marry him/her. You could tell your spouse, though, and your spouse could also assign Impossible Tasks, so it would take two Impossible Tasks per favor. (I find myself thinking Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot.) I don't think it would work at all in most contexts, but it belonged in this one.

I liked way they did magic items, too. Not groundbreaking, but appropriate: there were a whole bunch of assorted items out there which did various things (which you then got to figure out ways to warp into success in an Impossible Task) and after one use returned to the Enchanted Wood. It just worked well.

I had a good time, though I hit my frustration level pretty hard when the GMs had some sort of snafu and thought there was an additional complication to stage 3 of a 3-part Impossible Task - I can't say more without spoilers. Then the important item we were questing for turned out to already be in game; the GM hinted heavily to help us find it, but we couldn't just get it because it was already elsewhere (in the hands of someone who didn't know it was important.)

I got several compliments on my costume, which was SCA garb made by Thorny Rose -- though I couldn't remember the name of Rosamund's company at the time. Did track down the person who seemed to be most interested in buying one and told her later. The costume was amusingly appropriate: Cinder Elena's writeup said she was Undefeated Champion, "Best Dressed."

This post is misleadingly light on role-playing bits because what I want to say about them involves spoilers, where yammering about the mechanics is fairly safe. Good as the mechanics were, they weren't what made the game. Just that couple of things I want to say about the role-playing that happened don't seem as unlikely to ruin the game for other players.

All in all, I had a good time playing the game; thank you to the other players and especially the GMs.