The Fall and Rise (and Fall) of Antal

Intense game of Follow at Story Games Seattle. We played the Rebellion question, but our fellowship was nowhere near equipped to overthrow the new nobles, House Jakab, that had ousted our traditional rulers, the beloved House of Antal.

Character creation led to a wonderfully complex interpersonal web: “My mother was a nanny for the nobles, so you would have known her when you were a teenager at the castle, which means you knew me as a child.” “Awesome, so that means your son [someone’s else minor character] would be someone I would have known since birth and I feel I can totally trust.” Almost every character, main and minor, were connected back and forth like that. Sometimes the connections weren’t immediately obvious, but were “A-B and B-C therefore A-C” relationships. I think this is one of those places where having both main and minor characters really shined: that deep bench helped us establish more detailed interconnections.

Even with five players (and ten characters), I was the only one playing a noble of the old house. All the other characters were looking to my grey-bearded patriarch, Ambrus Antal, to step up and be the leader, but just to throw a wrench in that, I decided he had seen how fruitless wars had been and was weary of the suffering of the people. He was quietly brooding, reluctant to take action. Deep down he felt the common folk would be better with their fate in their own hands, instead of being pawns and fodder for lords and priests (the Church was up to all sorts of shenanigans). And yep, I told all the other players that was my deal from the start, because if I kept it a secret they wouldn’t know how much trouble we were in and to pile it on.

Lots of great stuff in play, as all these relationships came into play. We lost the first two challenges, hard. Red-red, red-red. Not really a surprise, because in our scenes all our plans were unfolding like disasters on stilts.

The second betrayal was particularly beautiful, as one of our main protagonists, Miklos, looked around the dungeon cell where she had been locked up (again!) and very reasonably decided she had had enough and ratted out both our plan to tunnel into the castle *and* the fact that the foreign-born wife of Lord Jakab was secretly sympathetic to our cause (and in fact a character in our fellowship). Which of course begged the question, would she also tell them that the other end of the tunnel was being dug from the basement of the inn of her childhood friend, Katalin (another main character), and throw her under the bus too? The inn where our would-be rebels secretly meet all the time, but which her so-called friend wouldn’t give her shelter because it was too big a risk, so go sleep in the woods? That childhood friend?!?!

Katalin had good reasons, but Miklos would have been incredibly justified in going for the trifecta and betraying Katalin (and our secret HQ) too. But she didn’t. She held revenge in her hand and then… just let it go. A great last moment of character development before riding off into the sunset.

Our final challenge? Rise up and fight. Despite the fact that we’d established from the very beginning that “the people” just wanted to stay out of trouble regardless of who ruled. And despite the fact that the current rulers had troops, strongholds, and far more military might than we could muster. These two points were literally our “what makes our quest difficult” points from the beginning of the game, and in the fiction nothing had changed them.

So yeah, a bold but probably doomed choice. Heck, if we’re going to lose, why not go big? This was looking like a swan song, a proper annihilation to end our rebellion. By the end of our round of scenes, we’ve got the remaining handful of Antal old guard taking the field for one last battle, leading a rabble of peasants and bandits against the massed ranks of Jakab knights and men-at-arms. We have no doubt it’s going to be a slaughter.

And we draw stones… and win! Red-white. Do we win the battle by some miracle? Of course not, we decide. Old Ambrus Antal is cut down on the field, surrounded and alone, and our meager army is scattered.

But our bold act of defiance–and our crushing defeat–stirs up the people. And then they *do* rise up. Final score: half the fellowship dead or gone, but our rebellion succeeds.

    Ben Robbins | February 19th, 2018 | follow | leave a comment