Sunday, June 16, 2019

how my silent titans game crashed and burned

"I stopped paying attention because every time I looked up you were struggling with a series of adjectives"- my friend

The overland exploration part of the Silent Titan is pretty busted. You get to choose between two random paths; the paths themselves are described via complex pieces of prose:

Some examples.

Some of these are a little hard for me to visualize, let alone describe. "Escher-maze of cracked concrete steps."

And the courts kept showing up-- Court of Wapentake, Court of Wassail. 2 primary entries on the random encounter table. Good the first time but stopped being weird and started being repetitive. Not much was happening between iterations of mock trials, parades, and Ouzel visits.

It feels like a failure of with the system. Wir-Heal can be weird to navigate but it shouldn't be onerous and repetitive.

It would also be better if the paths you could take were more succinctly described as paths and not just landscapes. "Do you head over towards the gogmagogic buildings or the dense maquis?" Along with the vocabulary and diction it's a clear case of style over function.

The paths they took would often lead right back to where they started, which grew frustrating. It felt like a slot machine where most results were boring, creating boring gameplay.

Things I should have done to save the game:

  • Not just read the prose describing the paths, but rather use the prose to inspire some simpler options. (In retrospect, I did this: "Tarmac paths or concrete steps"- but it was too late?)
  • Fudge the results on the random encounter table to achieve more interesting results.
  • Completely substitute the navigation system as soon as it stopped working. 
  • The players were trying to ask locals for directions, which I resisted giving. 
 I also think the players could have been more inspired to find the titan's mouths. That might have ameliorated the aimless frustration. 

How it crashed and burned: the end of the 4th session I realized all the business with the tables and rolling options and being marble-mouthed at the prose wasn't working out, and we the gaming group decided to play something else... another Veins of the Earth campaign.

Ironically I'm having similar overworld journey struggles with the exploration rules in Veins, the setting thereof being a giant series of underground caverns.
My new overworld map for Veins.

Navigation in strange environments probably a continuing difficulty for roleplaying game's mechanics... blogosphere dead, unable to sort it out... Nonetheless I'm applying best principles and dropping a massive amount of preparation which has shown itself as unworkable.

I used to get heartbreak over this kind of thing, reading a big beautiful rpg book, preparing for weeks, and then not getting to use most of it... Difficulties in the rpgtext forbidding an ultimate experience. Well I've been through enough to not be too troubled. Maybe it will work out next time.


  1. i didn't struggle with the navigation but the titan dungeons as written have a problem where they're either too easy or impossible

    we went to r8-by straight away and it's like - if you go the right way you can just walk up to the ego machines, grab them and walk out. but if you go the wrong way there's a room with an infinite amount of killer robots in it, and they kill you. which i fudged, obviously, but then it just ended up being easy again

    the whole aesthetic is so good but a lot of the systems in the book seem to fall apart as soon as you actually try to run them

    1. Yeah, the book seems to focus only on the Book -> GM idea transfer and completely ignore the GM -> Player step. Under the prose and art it's just... N2: The Forest Oracle.

  2. If you ever do figure out travel in VoTE I'd love to hear about it. I'm absolutely enthralled by the setting and doing games in it but I feel it lacks travel protocol useful to me and that's held me back from doing more than oneshots