Hacking a New Phase, pt. 2

The Lonesome Phase had it’s second playtest a few weeks back. Looking over my notes and letting things tumble over and over in my brain gave me some more insight into what’s going on and what I want to be going on.

The Lonesome Phase had a much more definite form this time. The Marshal began by describing the grandeur of the scene, in this case the lurching path of the Hunting Tornado as it careened toward Fort Laramie. The active Outlaw dealt one card to each of the other players. Using the suit as inspiration*, the players asked the active Outlaw a question about how the scene affected their character. The player who drew hearts asked how the Outlaw read the ill omen of the coming storm in the habits of the birds above him. The player who drew spades asked how the Outlaw’s father’s enchanted relic was acting as a magnet for the storm.

In this case the Lonesome Phase served as an act break and an escalation. We knew the Hunting Tornado was out there, but the focus on scene rather than character brought it into the foreground and ratcheted up the tension and danger. It’s hard for me to tell if this was a function of the Lonesome Phase as a category of thing, or simply how we played out this particular instance of Lonesome Phase.

Some things worked for this and some didn’t. The Phase was grander than it was before in that the setting was paramount, but the questions were still directed to one player in particular. I am really warming to the idea that there is no central character in the Phase so that when “someone” does a lonesome phase, everyone does a lonesome phase. This prevents the problem of some people getting to do a Lonesome Phase while others do not. It also ensures that the spotlight stays on scene and setting. Those elements should be elevated to the level of character via Lonesome Phase.

I am considering changing the reasoning to:

  • Choose the Lonesome Phase when you wish to look beyond the Outlaws and show scale (grandeur).

Previously the rationale for choosing the phase had been “Choose the Lonesome Phase when you wish to take a breath and show scale (grandeur).” Taking a breath is not what happens in the Lonesome Phase. Also the second half of that equation might change to “elevate setting elements to character-hood.” It’s not an elegant phrase, but it could be a useful one.

Potential answers to previous asked questions:

What kinds of things should and should not be said and who should be saying them?

-> The person playing their card gets to ask a question of a player about how the landscape affects their character. They get to answer, keeping in mind their character is a background for the landscape to work.

How much narrative authority does each participant have?

-> If they’re playing a card, they have full authority over the landscape; if they are responding to the card, they likewise have full authority over the landscape, but also over their Outlaw.

How do we know when the Phase is finished?

-> All cards that have been dealt are played.

How long should it run? Does everyone get one?

-> Everyone asks, answers or both during a Lonesome Phase.

What if everyone wants one and can’t have one?

-> Not an issue in this iteration.

Hoping to get the third playtest in this Wednesday.

*Diamonds being weather and landscape, hearts being flora and fauna, clubs being the things of humanity and spades being the other.

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