It has already been a week? Time indeed flies.
Anyhow, I got to play a demo of Bliaron at the Ropecon last weekend, plus one game called Noitahovi. While both were poor on new gameplay insights, they managed to remind me of the importance of setting and fluff. Having strongly defined game worlds do wonders towards a better roleplaying experience.
About Bliaron. The game I played did not emphasize the gameplay much and I did not get a chance to try out the magic system. It was sad, since I did not completely understand how it worked from one reading of the rules. Regardless, the flavour of magic in Bliaron was a more focal point. Everything is comprised of different spirits, and magic is pretty much communicating one’s desires to nearby spirits. This made magic interesting to roleplay: Describing my spells as tossing spirits around, trying to sense the spirits of a magic item and conversing with them. In D&D and many other games, using magic is like using a hammer: The end result is the most interesting and essential part of it. In Bliaron, most of my descriptions concerned magic use. The world was not as interesting as magic; Most of it was loosely defined so that the GM can use it as they wish and the sahen power triangle was somewhat bland. Although it was not very extensively explored due to time constraints in the demo.
Noitahovi, witch court in english, had a rather more interesting world: It was situated in a mythical ancient finland. The southern finland has been taken by local variant of mongols and most of the middle-finland belongs to different witches. These witches and their clans are the default player factions, as I understood it. The witch society is strongly matriarchal and paganistic. They make sacrifices to enchance their magics and have strange orgies. I played an old male scout and was ostracized for both my gender and my origin (local Sami people). The experience was nice and refreshing, as every player had a certain objective to achieve, most of which were conflicting with other players’. It reminded me a bit of larping.
Noitahovi’s mechanics were quite interesting. There are four attributes: Perception, Mind, Body and Persistence. Conflicts are highly structured: Every one starts with both parties defining their objectives. Then comes the Perception-phase: Both parties roll d6’s equal to their Perception. The one who scores more 4+ results wins. The loser can spend ”Sisu” points equal to the difference to keep the conflict going. Then the conflict goes into Mind/Body-phase, when the ”leading” party chooses to use either Mind or Body as the next dice pool determining attribute. The results of this phase are checked similarly to the Perception phase, and Sisu points can be used to move to the last phase: Persistence. The appropriate attribute is used. If this also results in a draw, the conflict is a draw. If at the end of any phase the losing party does not use Sisu, he or she loses and the winner accomplishes his or her objective. The loser might end up with a Wound, which might be an actual injury or, for example, a social problem. Accomplishing character objectives gives more attribute points or heals Wounds.
I liked Noitahovi. It functioned as a mini-sized larp, focusing on character relationships and selfish objectives. The setting was interesting in a stolid, finnish way. The mechanics were interesting and gave me some inspiration for my own. The game was certainly a refreshing change from all the high adventure. It also made me think about roleplaying immersion and levels of description I use in roleplaying games.