Follow Races to the Finish

The Follow Kickstarter is closing as we speak! I dug into a lot more detail about how the game works in the updates, so here they are in case you missed them:

If you want even more, check out the interview I did with Brie Sheldon. It covers Follow, comparisons to Microscope and Kingdom, and even digs into the X né the Veil at Story Games Seattle.

Three hours to go! Thanks to everyone who has supported Follow, and an extra special thanks to all the playtesters who have helped make it be the game it is.

I’m looking forward to getting the early access version to backers so you can all start tackling quests!

Ben Robbins | November 16th, 2016 | follow | 2 comments

Heartbreak at Suicide Ridge

I already talked about the Follow Rebellion where we (luckily) failed to awaken the elder god Kanaguk and destroy the world.

I played another Rebellion at Story Games Seattle just a few days later with a totally different group, half of whom had never played Follow before. Playing two Rebellions in a row was chance, not planning. They picked it through the classic process of elimination – including a finger-vote after we’d gotten down to the last two choices – then we brainstormed a setting.

Our choice? A Mad Max-style struggle to overthrow the warlords of Suicide Ridge, one of the few communities fortified enough to hold fast against the roving bands of waste-raiders.

How’d it go? We won the quest! On paper anyway. But we lost, well, just about everyone in the fellowship. After our most idealistic characters went down going mano a mano with the warlord, the community was left in the hands of a scheming defector from the warlord’s council (uh, my character) and a religious fanatic who had knowingly sacrificed mobs of the faithful in a classic suicide attack diversion. Only the terrible people in our fellowship were left to take over. So: the new Suicide Ridge, maybe not so much better than the old one.

But even in the midst of all our dirt and treachery, we had a great romance subplot. Kyron, thug-enforcer for the warlords (and secret rebel) was smitten with Helcat, a wild gang-runner in the wastes. The waste-gangs naturally raided Suicide Ridge – and just about anybody else – any chance they got, but we were trying to get some of the gangs on our side to help muscle out the warlords.

Their would-be romance reflected the tenuous but potentially game-changing alliance. Could the raiders be trusted? Was it true love, or was she just using him? When the quest was over, would they run off together to start a new life far, far away from here, or would she give him a shiv in the ribs?

Spoiler alert: it was a shiv in the ribs.

He forgot that true love has no soil to grow in the barren wastes. And that’s how you find heartbreak at Suicide Ridge.

Ben Robbins | November 6th, 2016 | follow

Murder of Crows, Pride of Lions

I’ve been playing it for years, so I’m glad Eden is now up on Kickstarter and approaching release! That story about bears getting framed for murder? Yeah that was the first time I played.

eden_cover

There’s a fun and very interesting thing that happens when you play Eden that I really haven’t seen in other games. In most role-playing games, each of us is playing our own character. We don’t play the same people, except in rare cases like Downfall, where we rotate characters, or sometimes in Microscope if we bring the same characters back in multiple scenes.

In Eden, we each have our own character, and each character has a particular species of animal that is their special friend. Those are the animals that you go to when you need advice, which means you’re often getting terrible relationship advice from a pack of squirrels, which is hi-larious.

The interesting thing is what happens when we role-play those “talking to animals” scenes. Usually one person is playing their character, and the rest of us are all playing animals of their favorite species: we’re all raccoons, or giraffes, or panthers. So that’s one person talking to three raccoons, and so on.

Normally when you role-play, each person at the table is playing someone different, so we’re all trying to be different, to highlight the nature of our character. It’s basically the job. But in Eden, when a bunch of us are playing raccoons, we start trying to play exactly the same. Someone talks a certain way, or shows a particular attitude, and the other players embrace and imitate it. We’re all trying to synchronize how raccoons act.

There’s nothing in the rules that says to do this, and there’s no discussion at the table. It just happens organically, which is fascinating.

I’ve seen it over and over again with a whole host of different animals. Species that everyone groks and that are easy to stereotype are the best. Bunnies or wolves are a cakewalk. Turtles? Sharks? Ants? Perfect. It’s harder when we play more exotic animals or those with fewer obvious stereotypes. We all know what armadillos are, but we might not be on the same page about how armadillo’s talk or what they think.

It’s amazing how rapidly and fluidly it happens. And it’s a unique zone of role-playing fun. We’re basically imitating each other, getting more and more in-sync until we are the perfect homogenous mob of bunnies, simply hopping with good advice…

That’s Eden: check it out.

Ben Robbins | October 31st, 2016 | kudos

Follow Kickstarter is Live!

The Follow Kickstarter is live! Our quest: get Follow into the hands of gamers everywhere. Spread the word!

Immense thanks to all the wonderful players who have already taken Follow for a spin, faced their quests, and then screamed in joyous agony when the stones came up red/red! You are the best.

Ben Robbins | October 18th, 2016 | follow | 3 comments

Awaken, Kanaguk!

I played two games of Follow last week and by tooooootal coincidence we picked the Rebellion both times. When I’m playtesting, I often sit back and see what quest the other players choose, because: playtesting. What quests people choose or reject can be very informative.

The same quest, twice in a row? Boring, right? Nope, because even starting with the same quest the results could not have been more different…

“You don’t join a cult to make friends…”

For the first game, our group had been playing quite a bit of the Eldritch Horror board game, so we thought, why not play a Follow game with the same concept? Save the world from the awakening, unspeakable horror, as you do?

But then we reconsidered: we keep losing at Eldritch Horror, so why not side with the winners for a change? Our fellowship was the cult awakening the elder god. Yep, our Rebellion was against humanity. All of it.

We set our game in the 1920s, because that’s always a classy era for some Call of Cthulhu action. Our cult called itself “the Lighted North” in reference to the idea that Kanaguk would descend upon the Earth from the aurora borealis at the North Pole. We were a young cult and our org chart was in beautiful disarray. Lots of vying for authority and disagreement about exactly what the theophany of Kanaguk would entail. Would all humanity perish? Would the Chosen be elevated to thrones of power beside Him? It? Whatever. We each had our own vision of that future and were utterly certain the others were wrong:

“You are not the Chosen One!”
“Fool! Kanaguk chooses no one. We are all dust before Him.”

A pivotal contribution was our second “what makes our quest difficult?”: we introduced the Order of Julian, a Templar-like secret society that has been around for centuries and was completely on to us. Our first challenge was to uncover their mole in our cult, which we failed. That set up the idea for the rest of the game that the Order still had a spy in our ranks and was always a step ahead of us. Basically screwing us at every turn.

Our other difficulty: The Time Was Not (yet) Right. Yep, the stars have not aligned. Are we journeying to the Arctic to do the ritual anyway? Even if we lack the critical component and even if the Order of Julian knows exactly what we’re planning? Oh yes we are, because you don’t join a cult to make friends, or to learn patience either.

Lose/Lose/Lose. The world is saved, from us. Yay!

Next up: cars and crowbars.

Ben Robbins | September 27th, 2016 | follow

Story Games 101: Angle the Chairs

This is a simple trick we’ve been using at Story Games Seattle for years. It may seem trivial but it’s not.

Your physical environment has a huge impact on your social interactions, and a role-playing game is just one big social interaction. In the kind of games we play — story games with no game master — the ideal seating arrangement is as close as possible to a circle.

Why a circle? Because it’s easier to communicate if you can see each other. If you aren’t facing each other it’s much harder to read all the unspoken social cues we use as human beings. A slight frown or raised eyebrows can reveal tons about how the other person is reacting to what’s happening. We do it constantly.

Unfortunately, the world is full of tables like this:

chairs1

Ah, the rectangular table! Our old enemy. It’s too long to put people at either end like you would with a square table, so the players sitting next to each other are in the social danger zone. They have to turn 90 degrees to face each other, so they will miss a lot of social cues. I will lay down cash money that they will have a harder time interacting or will simply interact less.

But there is an absurdly simple fix. When you sit down, just have everyone angle their chairs to face the person diagonal to them.

chairs2

Instant round table. The key thing is that the angle of your chair to the edge of the table (i.e. the way we normally orient ourselves) is completely unimportant. Your angle towards the other players is what matters.

For other numbers, just position everyone to face the center of the imaginary circle. If you have three players, you can put someone at the end of the table and angle the chairs that are facing each other. Same with five: put someone on the end and alter the angles. The two chairs near the seat on the end should scoot back slightly so the other two players have a clear sight line.

When in doubt, imagine there is no table. Just position your chairs to face the other players.

Ben Robbins | September 20th, 2016 | how to play | 2 comments