2009-08-31 : Space Tyranny

We played Rock of Tahamaat, Space Tyrant. It was wicked fun and good out the gate.

Rob was Rock of Tahamaat, and Meg and Joshua were people suffering under his tyranny - the sole survivors of an acting company, as it happens. In play they fled Pium, then inadvertantly stole a ship from Rock of Tahamaat's raiding fleet and destroyed one of his shipyard asteroids. Rock of Tahamaat solved the problem by promoting both of their families entire, plus two other families, to war leader status. If we play again, it'll be to follow them as they bring war to the galaxy in Rock of Tahamaat's name, or (perhaps more likely) desert their improbable new posts and try to make some kind of non-warrior's life. Being as they're non-warriors.

We laughed and waved our arms for 3 solid hours. I did an honest spit take and Rob had to lean on the wall he was laughing so hard. J gave himself a headache and sore face from laughing. The game was hilarious and full of fantastic imagery.

If you're thinking of playing it too, I have some GM recommendations for you. They're easy! Two of them are things I did, the third is a thing I wish I'd done.

Before you play, create an aesthetic, and say it up-front when play starts. I spent some time just daydreaming what I'd want life in the Kaliste to look like, in our game. For instance:

1. "Dudes are cheap." Meaning that (a) everything's done by manual labor - I never described a machine doing work, always slaves and laborers doing it. Also meaning that (b) when people die, big deal. I don't have any idea the body count of our game, because Rock of Tahamaat's people were always saying things like "of course we've already put to death every slave who helped build the ship they stole" and the like.

2. No moving parts. The spaceships and stuff were all powered by gigantic crystals sheathed in hand-beaten silver. The high-tech weapons didn't fire projectiles, but instead created invisible slicing rays and planes in space. Nobody rode a bicycle; they walked or slaves carried them.

3. NO ROBOTS. No computer keyboard interfaces. No monitors.

I don't think it's super important what aesthetic principles you prep, just that you prep some. The game could be every bit as good in a Kaliste where life is precious, everything is mechanical and technological, and everybody has a host of attendant robots, for instance. Go for it. Just you should think about it and decide before you play.

The flip side: during play, ask Rock of Tahamaat's player questions. I was all like, "hey Rob, so what IS the fashion at your court? Hey Rob, so what DO the ships of your raiding fleet look like? Hey Rob, so how DO your soldiers dress? Hey Rob, so what IS Rock of Tahamaat eating today?"

Everybody contributed a lot of detail and imagery pretty much all the time, but I made a point to ask Rob about the things Rock of Tahamaat would know and might have decided himself. This created a non-exclusive but especial dialog between Rob and me that the group could rely on for a baseline of good imagery.

Finally, have a name list and name every NPC. It's a Trollbabe trick - name every NPC to make them into people in your head. I didn't do this, and I felt its lack. My NPCs weren't sufficient entities, they were whispy and insubstantial. I was like "the guy who welcomes you to his shipyard, his brother died in your escape. He grinds his teeth when he salutes you." If I'd been able to add "his name is [choosing from a list] Barlo of the Family Tarrk," it would have given me a solid sense of him as a person and potential antagonist.

So there you go. If you play it, let me know! If you have questions about how to play it, ask! It's a fun game.

1. On 2009-09-01, Robert Bohl said:

I had so much fun playing Rock of Tahamaat: Space Tyrant! I was a little worried people would be wigged out by how well I took to the role.

Vincent, how much do you think we brought to it and how much do you think was the game doing shit?


2. On 2009-09-01, Vincent said:

I'm looking narrowly at the question!

I think that we brought what the game provoked and inspired us to bring. I think that a well-designed game creates a vacuum that players rush to fill, and that after the fact you can look at it and go "it wasn't the game, it was us," (a) forgetting how miserable and creatively stunting it is to play a game that's not so well-designed, and (b) of course it was us! That's what a game does.

I used maybe 3 techniques that aren't in the game text itself, 2 of which are the above. The 3rd is harder to explain in a couple paragraphs, but not any more advanced or uncommon than those 2; it's simply attending to conflict in play, as GM.


3. On 2009-09-01, Robert Bohl said:

Does "narrowly" mean "with suspicion?" Sorry!


4. On 2009-09-01, Vincent said:

No prob. Did I answer your question satisfactorily, or did I do that thing where I challenge its premise instead?


5. On 2009-09-01, Ben Lehman said:

When the master has done his work.
He steps back.
And the people say:
"Look what we have done."



6. On 2009-09-01, Robert Bohl said:

This will be a more productive conversation tomorrow without the internet being stupid!


7. On 2009-09-01, Joshua A.C. Newman said:

That was, indeed, fun. I'm looking forward to more. I *may* have my Xenon: stuff written down and thought out by this evening, but my attempts to get it to stop thrashing around and be playable have been met with contempt from my muse. She's a bitch.


8. On 2009-09-03, ShawnI said:

The 3rd is harder to explain in a couple paragraphs, but not any more advanced or uncommon than those 2; it's simply attending to conflict in play, as GM.

I'd love to hear more about this, if you have the time to share.


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