thread: 2008-11-24 : Salt River

On 2008-11-25, Emily wrote:

John, there was a lot of other stuff that made the game go. Ben's getting at it here, so I'll give it a crack, too.

The other rules were within the dramatic structure contained in the fiction, and the way we would poke, provoke and prod each other through character choice and action.  This lead up to occasional rolls. Most of the play was free. Initially in the game, we actually used the rolls to spice things up, intentionally. I remember calling for a roll in order to add complication, rather than choosing to say how a thing went.

When we played Salt River, we started knowing we'd play a western. We had a group discussion of what kind of western, and got a sense that it would be heavily influenced by Dead Wood. Civilization on the march, threatening what our characters cared about was the main theme, which I remember Joshua championing.  I think I suggested the mining town, maybe, and it was a good arena for those conflicts.

Then we each made characters who both took part in that central conflict and who had an important place in the town. Shreyas played the Deputy, Vincent the Sheriff. Joshua took the town Madam, who had an eye to running things. Elizabeth and I created a team: her half-indian miner and my Canook trapper worked together to protect the best claim in the joint. Rob joined later with a preacher, and Eppy played in one session with a comedic minor, part of the John Smith duo along with Joshua.

Shreyas started off with inter-character conflict. His Deputy was sleeping with the Sheriff. Vincent retaliated by having the Sheriff kill himself at the end of the first session. I'm joking about the retaliation part—it was perfectly in keeping with the action and the characters—but it put tremendous pressure on Shreyas's character for the rest of the game. It side-stepped the pressure that Shreyas had put on Vincent through the affair, and raised the stakes. At this point, Vincent's other character, the Pianist, became clearly his main character. That's the one who Vincent felt got good story, I believe.

We each played many, many characters in the game. Early on, I took to casting other people as secondary characters. I remember Elizabeth doing this to me, too. :) At least once, I said "There's something going on over at the mining camp, who's character is it and what's up?" That's where Eppy and Joshua found the two John Smiths, who rivalled eachother in a friendly to-the-death kind of way for the same claim that was in the name of John Smith.

There were several characters like them who were specifically there for the comedic qualities. Others were there specifically to put pressure on us all. Joshua played a Marshall who put his nose into everyone's business. He had history with Vincent's Pianist, and eventually got himself killed by Shreyas' Deputy.  Honestly I think the story was complete with that shot. There was plenty of material there for the next escalation that happened (a Pinkerton coming to town to investigate it) and the railroad coming through. But, that shot ended what we'd started nicely.

Salt River kind of piddled out. I was probably the only one of us whose character got an actual story, so I was probably the only one of us who both enjoyed it while it was on and then didn't mind it ending. Is this because I'm adept with the rules?

Yes, but not the rolling rules. You threw yourself in the way of the plot by giving yourself back-story with the Marshall, and then your character got resolution since your enemy was killed. The rolls, such as with Shreyas' final one with the Marshall helped foster that story that you wove yourself into.

My characters didn't get a strong storyline, but they did affect the main story strongly. I enjoyed it while it was happening, partly because I got so much say in the story by the other stuff we were doing. I enjoyed the hell out of playing lots of characters, poking people with sticks, and watching things unfold.


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