Tactics on the Soft Horizon

Sunday turned out to be a special bonus gaming day as over shepherd’s pie and the last of the Irish whisky, Brad and I put in a bit more playtesting.

My session wasn’t nearly the success I’d hoped for, mostly because Brad skipped quickly through a plane I suspected he’d linger in a bit longer. Looking back I see some mistakes I made, I actually seem to learn weekly how to be a better GM during these sessions. I suppose I had it coming. I surprised Brad last session, so he earned his revenge. The story progressed, and it paused at a good spot as I have 5 days to make up a good scene on a new plane.


Far more interesting things happened when Brad took over as GM and it was discovered time moves at different paces on varying planes. (Hothouse moves faster, a young, growing world).

Pyrol discovered his estate wherein he met three rakshasa, there should have been six but things have changed in the were-tiger society. The three, led by Shutar, request Pyrol chase down Jirac who happens to have absconded with the rest of the rakshasa to invade another plane.

What unfolded was a battle to decide if Pyrol would continue with Ishk-tai-bak to Muddos *or* go with the rakshasa after Jirac. The were-tigers to go Violence to try to ‘aggressively persuade’ Pyrol to go after Jirac. I want nothing to do with this battle as their apex skill is Violence. 6d versus 2d (go ivory handled walking cane of fate!). I’ll pass.

I burn some traits to shift things to Diplomacy. The rakshasa shift from human form (tiger headed humans) to full tiger mode and… they can’t be affected by Diplomacy.

Well fuck me with a sabretooth… uh… given the current conflict I might want to edit that.

Hmmm why is he being so undiplomatic?

From Diplomacy, I shift it to Warfare (I think), the Tigers manage to shift it back to Violence. They used Violence to ‘negotiate’ or Subterfuge to make it look like they were ‘considering’ my other offers.

I counter with Ritual and start weaving a spell. I score  consequence.
I bring in Ishi who fails at sorcery here.

From Ritual I end up at Domination. I summon up an image of Amak the Vizier and I nearly have them convinced and cowered. But I can’t quite get that last Consequence. The rakshasa manage to shift it back to Violence. I have burned all six traits (in one conflict) and used up the two Consequences I inflicted upon my opponents.
I have no choice but to concede defeat and agree to go with the rakshasa after their enthralled country-tigers.

I kept trying to shift the context of the conflict because Violence was their Best skill. I kept weaving things from area to area to get to a zone where I could find a weakness (a shorter stress track) and hopefully overcome the opposition. Not being able to use Diplomacy worked out really well because the story that emerged showed Pyrol discovering and attempting sorcery for the first time. From the Ritual of it, to the Subterfuge (I think) of fooling the rakshasa into believing Pyrol was in exact control, to trying to Dominate them by summoning a known, powerful figure.

The rakshasa’s resistance to Domination proved their weakest area of defence.

Looking back at the conflict, if not for the circuitous but fertile route I sent my character on, I could have tried to overwhelm them in the first round. Burn up all my traits and push for the overwhelming victory. That may or may not have been possible but it was the other tactic I had available at the outset.

Instead, the playtest proved more tactically engaging, as the rakshasa doggedly attempted to bring things back to Violence, while Pyrol kept shifting the playing field in order to leverage any possible advantage.

It didn’t work, but it told a great story.

What I’m learning from Soft Horizon seems to be that conflicts are tense and intense but so far not fatal, instead losing becomes a story-telling option. Brad picked where we go next, instead of me. And that’s really cool because failure doesn’t equate to loss, it denotes permission for one story teller to pick the next chapter in to tell.

Once there, I’ll get a chance to push the tale towards the destinations I want to go.

I see it a bit like picking where to go on a road trip. Brad picked the next destination city, but the route we take to get there is open to interpretation and negotiation.

Brad’s driving, but I’ve got control of the map and music… for now.


Edit: The image is a rakshasa general from the Legend of the Five Rings wiki.


One thought on “Tactics on the Soft Horizon

  1. Pingback: The Stakes of Soft Horizon « Byron and his backpacks

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