Deterministic Resolution Example

2010 Sep 22

Had to get this down before I forget.

Jonathan and John are playing Ghost Opera. Jonathan is the GM. John’s character has just discovered that the local village shaman — his uncle and the man who has taught him the ways of the spirits — has been fucking with the spirit world in horrible ways.

Jonathan: So you come across the shaman amidst the half-flooded temple. He’s dressed head-to-toe in these ritual robes made from bamboo and river rushes, acting as the Huai River Dragon. He’s holding a ritual knife and stabbing a rabbit on an alter while chanting into the burning incense.

John: I come up behind him, wrest the knife from him, and stab him to death.

Jonathan: Awesome! There are a few obstacles in your way, which you have to overcome to accomplish that. First, the shaman is crafty and paranoid. He might be able to hear you coming up on him.

John: No, he totally doesn’t. I’m a master hunter and silent as death. [John’s invoking the “I’m just better at this” clause, one of several ways to overcome an obstacle].

Jonathan: Cool. Can you write down “Silent as Death” on your sheet, as one of your new descriptors? I’m going to mark down that you were quiet enough to sneak up on paranoid old men.

John: Done. What are the other obstacles?

Jonathan: Well, since he’s your shaman, your uncle, and your teacher, I think he’s going to triple-invoke hierarchy on you.

John: That’s cool, but he has to actually do that, right? It’s not just some passive defense.

Jonathan: Sure, well, let’s let it play out and we’ll see if he’s able to do that. So how do you wrest the dagger from him, now that you’ve snuck up on him, silent as death?

John: Hmm, yeah. I think I leave his hand on the dagger and just twist his wrist around — probably breaking it in the process, since he’s an old man — and plunge it into his chest while holding tight onto his shoulder so he can’t turn around.

Jonathan: He screams in pain at his broken wrist and you hear this sucking sound as the dagger sinks between his ribs into a lung. Blood and spit burst from his lips as he gasps, “You piece of shit! I taught you everything you know! This is how you repay me!” He’s invoking his role as your master.

John: Yeah, nothing doing. I pull the dagger out and stab him again.

Jonathan: Okay, that’s one mark of breaking the Great Chain of Being. He moans and then starts speaking to you softly under his breath. Calling you by the childhood names that only close members of your family know.

John: Okay, that makes me pause for a moment, but then I viciously stab him a few more times, to try to make him be quiet.

Jonathan: And that’s another mark of violation. Finally, when he’s lying at your feet, all the blood draining out of him and billowing out in the six inches of water, he invokes the wrath of the spirits on you, for killing the shaman charged with protecting these lands.

John: He should have thought of that before he abandoned his responsibilities and screwed the spirits over. I kick his dying body down the steps of the temple and into the boggy marsh around it.

Jonathan: And that’s the third mark. The shaman’s body bobs and drifts away for a moment before sinking beneath the waters with a final gurgle.

John: Cool. Seems like end of scene, yeah?

5 Responses to “Deterministic Resolution Example”

  1. P.S. I forgot to deal with the fact that the shaman was acting as the Huai River Dragon when John’s character came upon him. That would complicate things.

    I can imagine the hunter character ripping off the shaman’s robes and mask, exposing him to the spirit world as not the Huai River Dragon at all. But I think that would still have implications. For example, the disrobing of the Dragon might cause it to shed it’s skin and be reborn as a new dragon, and one that probably bears a grudge against the hunter.


  2. Zac in VA Says:

    Awesome AP example, Jonathan!
    I really like that the shaman can use his high station as offense/defense, even though he’s clearly not living up to his standards.
    The fact that the Chain of Being backs him up if ignored… well, that’s perfect!

    I’m going to look around at other Ghost Opera entries, but I’ll ask this first: do spirits make themselves tangibly felt in the living world, or are they more subtle? I.e. would the Dragon’s fearless drowned-soul servitors emerge from the water to attack the hunter, or would he just have “bad luck in water” stuck on him?

  3. Zac, the spirit world is somewhere in between your two options there, in terms of how directly it interacts with mortals, but mechanically what happens is that the checks where players violate the Great Chain are used by the GM to basically make Threat Moves and develop parts of the world that are trying to restore the balance, however they can.

    The players are trying to restore the balance too, definitely, but their actions also make ripples and create imbalances. For example, now John’s character owes a karmic debt for killing his uncle, teacher, and shaman. So amends will have to be made, somehow.

    Depending on how the GM has plotted out the existing Threats in the spirit world or develops new ones using the 3 free moves John gave him in this scene… that’s going to determine what happens fictionally and how the spirit world acts against the hunter.

    Does that make sense?

  4. Zac in VA Says:

    I definitely follow what you’re saying. Do you have a rules doc at this time? That might help provide more context.


  5. Not yet. I still have Game Chef reviews to finish. But hopefully after that.

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