Eye of the Kraken
One of the nice things about the quest templates in Follow is that they get everyone on the same page about the kind of task we’re performing, but they’re flexible enough that you can easily change the flavor or setting. Want to steal the plans to the Death Star? Whip out the Heist quest. By default it’s a standard robbery caper, but with a flick of the wrist it could just as easily be Rebel spies lifting Imperial secrets.
So when we sat down to play the dragon-slaying quest the other day, we decided to reskin it as fierce Viking warriors hunting the Kraken that plagued the seas with storms and brought ruin upon the clans. Easy-peasy. The reskinning part, I mean.
Slaying the Kraken? Not so easy-peasy. It turns out when the runes say you need the Spear of the Gods to slay the beast, and you spend months sailing all the way to the frozen north to find it, you really shouldn’t let it fall into the icy depths, forever lost to mortal hand. Empty-handed, we return to face the Kraken anyway. We fight and fail. Some die, others wander in exile, fighting countless battles in the vain attempt to erase the stain of dishonor.
Which brings up another thing I’m really enjoying about Follow, but which may shock those who have followed (ahem) my other games: there are mechanical randomizers. Not dice, but still: randomizers. There is always a chance of success or failure, but the odds are very heavily weighted by what we think makes sense. If we look at what we did and we all think we should succeed, it’s very likely we will. On the other hand if we look back and we all think we puttered around and didn’t do a good job confronting the challenges in our way, we’re very likely to fail. Everyone’s opinion has equal weight, and if we disagree, the odds start to split and the results become much more unpredictable, which is as it should be because we don’t agree what should happen.
In our final battle against the Kraken, some of us were really rooting for our heroes to succeed, but given everything that happened in the fiction, it was a hard sell. The odds were not great, and fortune handed us a failure. Winning would have been easy to narrate (“yay, we conquer, woo hoo!”) but this result made us think about what failure would really do to these characters — the survivors anyway. Our epilogue was far more interesting because we had to think about how these would-be heroes would handle the consequences of utter defeat. How they would carry on having lost so much and gained nothing in return?
Did I mention that bad draws also kill characters? Oh yes they do.