Follow at Go Play NW: Rebels and Dragons and Truckers, Oh My!
Go Play oh glorious Go Play! How we miss thee! Yeah, it’s only been a few weeks, but around the country hearts are breaking because we are separated from our dear comrades in creative-arms. We weep, we sleep, and we weep again.
I got to play some lovely sessions of Follow. I scheduled one for the Friday night slot, but I wound up scheduling two more before I even got to the table. Yes, the word is out.
Each game was great but also totally different. Which is one of the things I love about Follow: you can get a range of different play experiences, from light-hearted adventure to dire tragedy. Allow me to elucidate…
Rebellion: the Hills of Ixtraban
First slot of the con, I sat down with Julie, Kate and Gavin, none of whom I’d gamed with or met more than an hour before. Exactly the kind of crowd I want to playtest with!
Our quest: Rebellion! We decided on a 1920s-esque, fictional European country, with a vague Basque or Catalan feel, the eponymous Ixtraban. And oh did we world-build! We spent more time fleshing out our setting than any other Follow game I’ve played, but we reaped the reward ten times over, because the traditions and history we established kept coming back and adding nuance as we played. Our homeland felt real and we cared about its fate.
Our characters were not hardened partisans, just ordinary people enduring an oppressive regime and clinging to the dream that their country could rise from the ashes: teachers, butchers, writers, innkeepers and accountants. This was dark, soulful drama.
So many great moments. I loved that in the final scene, the long, sad arc of Julie’s butcher/widow came home to roost in apocalyptic despair and revenge. The penny had finally dropped and she got bitter closure for her husband’s death when she tried to frickin murder half the fellowship by burning down our secret basement printing press… with us inside. And so I died, but my cherished student lived on. So great.
Interesting rules note: on paper my need was to get forgiveness from the widow for inadvertently causing her husband’s death. But it played out the other way: I was blind to the situation and she really needed vengeance against me, once she figured out I was to blame. Is that a design flaw? Not even slightly. What happened was still entirely true to the events we envisioned during setup. The starting materials literally just get you started, but where that goes in play is up to you.
And you can mark that as the second thing I love about Follow that I’m mentioning in this post: it isn’t fussy. You can (ahem) follow the fiction where you want and it won’t break the game, so long as it’s still about the quest. Characters can betray the fellowship, turn against each other, do whatever they want: the game still works.
Outcome? Yeah, we totally failed. A beautiful tragedy. Perhaps one day our beloved Ixtraban will be free again… but not today.
Next up: We take a break and slay the Dragon…