Rivers and Lakes: Draft & First Playtest

May 20, 2009

This afternoon I wrote a 4-page tweak of Dogs in the Vineyard about Chinatown gangsters. I just finished running it for SGBoston and it worked pretty well, though I was too tired to take my own GM advice, which made it a bit slower and less punchy than I would have liked. Still I really dig it and the players want to play again.

Interestingly, the initial traits players proposed were stereotypical things like “Studied Confucian philosophy” and “Knows Taichi” (no offense, Chuck), but once play started I think I really set the tone as gritty urban drama and everything fell right in. Maybe that kind of thing needs to be addressed more in the guidelines and play prep. We set the game in Boston’s Chinatown in the late 1970s, right after the end of the Vietnam War. Boston’s C-Town coexists with the theatre district, home to a bunch of old opera houses, and used to sit right next to the red light district known as the “Combat Zone” (now totally gone) so it was pretty flavorful, location-wise.

The PCs had some killer initiation scenes (premise: What do you want to have accomplished while Noah Yuen was in prison for 10 years?), beat the shit out of a wannabe gangster kid for ratting them out, checked on their kid sister, survived an attack by a Vietnamese gang hired to kill them, and made some allies among the older, dissatisfied members of the Joy Garden Association. Before we quit for the night, they started planning to steal a shipment of pirated / stolen BMWs that was being smuggled into the US by their main opponent, Thomas Choi, the son of their late Uncle “Black Dog” Choi. Chuck remarked that the whole thing “felt like the Sopranos,” which I take as a compliment even though I’ve never seen the show.

Feels nice to have accomplished all that in one day. And it was good to be able to test out some components of my Macau game in a “safe” format, within a game that I’ve played and like a lot.

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