For the first time in the dozen years since the founding of our games group, The Tuesday Knights, I missed a session due to ill health.
Sure, there have been times over the years - and there was a whole summer during The Chronicles of Cidri - where games have been cancelled because of my fluctuating health.
But with the current state of the world, the fact that we now play via Zoom means that the group is no longer physically using our dining room for gaming and so my presence isn't actually required.
However, I'm particularly gutted about missing last night's session, as it was a new game I really wanted to try out, something a bit out of the ordinary.
Our usual dungeon master, Simon, has been swamped with work (including putting together a Dragon Warriors fanzine) and confessed he hadn't had time to prep for the next part of our long-running 5e Dungeons & Dragons campaign in Ravenloft.
When we last left our adventurers they were about to head underground, and the Tuesday Knights still did... just not the one advertised!
Because Simon couldn't DM Curse Of Strahd, Clare, once again, came to the group's rescue, offering a one-shot of the intriguing Alice In Wonderland-inspired indie game, Girl Underground, which we both supported on Kickstarter last year.
On her Three Beautiful Things blog today, Clare had this to say of last night's game, which she ran for Peter, Kevin, Simon, and Simon's wife, Gemma:
"We play[ed] a new improv game, Girl Underground, and end up on a surreal adventure with a talkative toy tiger, an acquisitive adventure chicken, a shadow full of holes and a pit of green slime."From chatter on Facebook, it sounds like that they had a great time and hope to play again sometime (when both Erica and I are able to join in).
Below, you will find Clare's full-blown write-up and review of their amazing-sounding Powered By The Apocalypse game:
It can be played as a one-shot adventure with minimal preparation.
From time to time we need a filler to take the pressure off the regular GM (Simon has a Dragon Warriors fanzine coming out this week, so he had a good excuse).
I did slightly more preparation than was needed – but I wanted to familiarise myself with the rules, and have a stash of ideas for using the settings. Also, Tuesday Knights sessions are currently over Zoom, and it makes sense to keep the sessions on the short side.
So I got the players to pick characters and ‘manners’ ahead of time through the Facebook event page.
The manners are limitations commonly applied to young girls, for example, ‘Young Ladies must respect the opinions of others’. During play, these manners are inverted to beliefs, such as ‘I’ll make my own mind up.’ These beliefs strengthen The Girl’s ‘Stand Strong In Your Convictions’ move by increasing her dice pool, allowing her to overcome a final challenge to return home.
The players take the role of a companion and also play The Girl.
The Girl and the companions all have different moves (for example the Beastie can ‘Impart Wisdom’) which have varying results according to a 2D6 roll (the shared wisdom may be complete, incomplete or lead to trouble).
Our girl, Patience, started her adventure in an old fashioned department store and, after disobeying instructions to ‘wait here’, she was soon tumbling down a shaft.
They hurry down a corridor to escape pursuing footsteps and find themselves observing a small person trying to push a large blue monster through the door of a Greek temple with chicken legs.
|Pete is a massive Calvin & Hobbes fan, so I suspect |
Tiger Tim had a Hobbes influence
A disastrous application of horse grease to the Ogre’s legs resulted in Simon’s Construct (a grandfather clock on rollerskates) getting smashed.
He was soon fixed by Patience – and while she was at it she repaired a rip in Tiger Tim’s armpit.
This repair led to the discovery among the chatty Tiger’s stuffing of an invitation from the Fairy Queen addressed to Patience.
After making a librarian cry and resolving an altercation with a giant chicken, the gang found themselves on a flying ship that was more hole than wood. We learned that the Runaway’s shadow was full of holes, which she sold to the ship’s captain to make repairs.
The ship dropped them – literally, and the Construct broke his face on landing, requiring a spider tear for repair – at the gateway to the Fairy Ring.
Tiger Tim’s knowledge got the party through, but an unlucky roll landed them in a pit of what turned out to be Swarfega, which solved the Ogre’s horse grease problem, but put them in the hands of two spiteful fairies with a grudge against Tiger Tim.
They stole a part from the Construct, so Patience and the Ogre cheated at a game of whack-a-mole to get it back.
A victory in the final confrontation with the Fairy Queen – riding on a giant spider – resulted in the party being pushed through a portal back to the department store.
Girl Underground encourages whimsy and high strangeness with surreal settings and plenty of opportunity for puns and daftness.
It’s light-hearted with low levels of horror and gore, and part of the set-up allows players to specify themes they wish to avoid.
I was slightly wary about bringing it to the table because I wondered if its didactic nature and feminist themes would turn off the other players.
In common with other improv games the rules are flexible, and may need to be interpreted on the fly. But the group rose to the challenge of supplying some excellent details, and there was some amazing roleplaying.
I found some of the mechanics harder to handle on a video call than they would be at a table – for example, the merry-go-round mechanic which sees The Girl role passed from player to player.
It would have been easier if we’d had a physical object – like a character sheet – to pass from hand to hand.
This mechanic keeps players with characters who might otherwise be absent or inactive in the game, and it gives everyone a bit of ownership.
And it would have been easier to have the manners on index cards in the middle of the table so we could physically flip them as they changed to helpful beliefs.
Instead we relied on individual lists that each player updated, but this made the process more complicated than it had to be.
We had a good couple of hours, and agreed we’d like to play again: two of the usual suspects (Tim and Erica) were missing that night, and we reckoned they’d enjoy Girl Underground.
So that’s a convincing thumbs-up from the Tuesday Knights.