Actual Play - [A Taste for Murder] Inspecteur Kapel Investigates...

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Sep 7th 2010 edited

_It was a tale of the love that dare not speak its name, money, cricket, and Dutch mispronunciations!

At a stately home in the rain-lashed, misty, hail-prone Lincolnshire Countryside, a family and it's guests descend into petty feuding, wanton destruction, bowling googlies, and murder!_

It might be obvious that we were playing A Taste for Murder, by Graham Walmsley. Our usual Monday night group of myself, Gregor, and Joe was minus Matt and Russ, but I'm delighted to say we were joined by Shane Maclean for the evening, home for a short while from his posting on the far side of the world.

One of the first things to note is that it would be really, really handy to the various sheets required for play available to download somewhere. That would be very useful for last-minute games. But, we used the old standby of cards and blank paper!

Character creation flowed quite well, leading to the following disparate personalities:

Lord St John Burns, aristocratic uncle, married into money
He treats John Gardner the handyman like a son
He and Prof. Greene are in the cricket club together
He thinks Livingston Foxley-Derwent is a grubby 'shagger'

Professor Greene, scholar of religion and theology, tutor to mi'lords daughter
He suspects John Gardner is a Jew!
He sent Livingston Foxley-Derwent down from Oxford
He and Lord St John are in the cricket club together

John Gardner, the handyman and driver who is in love with his masters daughter!
Lord St John treats him like a son
Prof. Greene suspects he is a Jew!
He is blackmailing Livingston Foxley-Derwent
Livingston Foxley-Derwent**, a louche lothario with designs on mi'lords daughter.
Lord St John thinks he is a grubby 'shagger'
Prof. Greene sent him down from Oxford
He is being blackmailed by John Gardner

The first day dawned dull and grey (much fun with the weather table, I must say) as the residents of the manor assembled for a bridge afternoon. Side scenes were soon flowing, with Prof. Greene revealing himself to be a raging anti-semite, mi'lord attempting to engaging in dodgy shenanigans regarding the captaincy of the cricket club, Foxley-Derwent trying to wheedle money from mi'lord to bail out his failing investments in Anglo-Persian oil stocks, and Gardner engaging in the kind of things that the lower orders engage in, but are best left ignored by decent society. What what!

Who knew that mi'lord had an Automated Ottoman (manufactured by Krupps of Essen, "The Germans seem to be turning such things out at a prodigious rate! Heaven knows what for!") for bowling cricket balls in a converted boatshed? Who could have supposed that the manor house had an infirmary, left over from treating shell-shocked officers in the Great War?

It also turned out that the Professor and Foxley-Derwent had been having a homosexual affair at Oxford. Who would have thought such a thing could ever occur?

There were also some great moments of people attempting to get the black or white die. Joe (as the Professor) erupting into manic hysteria and Shane (as Gardner) hitting himself with a pot and throwing things around the kitchen in a fit of wanton destruction were two instances that stuck in my mind. The black and white dice certainly added a degree of impetus to scenes, although not in all cases.

Then, there was murder!

Unsurprisingly, it was the money-grubbing, leering, smug, superior Livingston Foxley-Derwent who was beaten to death by a blunt instrument in the billiard room! Actually, I even wrote the name of my own character on a slip of paper, because he seemed like the one people would most like to murder. Can you do this?

Then there appeared the great Dutch detective, Inspecteur Kapel, formerly of the Amsterdam police, now plying his trade as one of the greatest private detectives in England after an unfortunate misunderstanding a couple of years ago in Utrecht.

Play wise, we had to wrap up a bit quick. So, as soon as two characters had two sections of their suspect sheet filled in, we fast forwarded, came up with a third reason each, gave Kapel an additional die, and went straight to the denoument.

The game seemed to go very well. I normally loathe games that involve silly accents and stuff like that, but in this case I found myself rather enjoying playing Kapel. Admittedly, it was the worst Dutch accent since Goldmember, but fun nonetheless (I'm sure someone will mention Kapel's interest in the "shites" that the Professor had visited).

Something we all commented on was the obvious influence of (or bit that were similar to) My Life With Master. Was this a particular influence on the development of the game, as it wasn't mentioned in the list of 'other games you might enjoy'?

I'll leave other to add their observations and hopefully some of the more colourful and engaging scenes. I know that Gregor certainly has a few he'd like to talk about!


Posted by: Andrew Kenrick On: Sep 7th 2010

Great write up Malc! How did the Dutch element come about, if you loathe silly accents? Were you merely channeling the spirit of Poirot?

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Sep 7th 2010

Andrew Kenrick:Great write up Malc! How did the Dutch element come about, if you loathe silly accents? Were you merely channeling the spirit of Poirot?

I have no idea really. Weirdly, I don't know any Dutch but knew that Kapel was Dutch for Chapel. Why I remember that I have no idea. But, yes, very Poirot-esque, which led to mi'lord confusing exactly where Kapel came from (Belgium, Luxembourg, etc).

The accent was meant ot be just for the introduction to provoke a laugh, but ended up being used throughout the game, with many 'hilarious' consequences.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Sep 7th 2010

It was a lot of fun. I've got some things to talk about later, but I just wanted to say: No incest! Which for a game of A Taste For Murder is a novelty.

Now I need to go inspect a waterfall... **wails, thrashing about, threatening to throw himself over the edge**.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Sep 9th 2010 edited

Before our server issue that lost us the last days posts (chapeau to Matt for sorting out the problem), I recall Gregor asking me to post a list of the locations that came up in play. So here there are, with a little bit of description for a few of them:

The potting shed
The gatehouse
The dining room
The library
The morning room (where Greene had a moment of hysteria with Foxley-Derwent)
The cricket shed (complete with automated Ottoman)
The moors
The stone circle ("A fashinating hishtorical shite, Profeshor!" quoth Kapel)
The waterfall (scene of the near-suicide of mi'lord, caked in goose fat)
The hallway
The infirmary (left over from the treatment of shell-shocked officers during the Great War)
The study (where the glass cabinet containing a watch given to mi'lords grandfather by Isambard Kingdom Brunel was smashed assunder)
The billiard room (where Foxley-Derwent was murdered with a blunt instrument)
The cricket oval
The kitchen (now missing a few pots and somewhat scorched from the fire)

Oh, and there were some named (but never speaking) minor characters scattered around:

Bosley, who was involved in the cricket club in some capacity
Camomille, wife of St John Burns
Louisa, daughter of St John Burns
The strapping gardners assistant who was the fast bowler of the servants cricket team
The four nameless servants who bore Professor Greene to the moor on a sedan chair

And, as Graham pointed out in his now disappeared comment (another result of the server outage), My Life With Master is mentioned in the 'thanks' section of the book, but not in the 'recommended games' section at the back. I think that people who enjoyed MLWM stand a good chance of enjoying ATfM, and vice versa. Although quite vastly different in tone, the two games certainly complement each other.


Posted by: Joe Prince On: Sep 9th 2010

We joked at the start of the game that it would be Prof Greene in the Billiards room with the lead piping – and it was!

Why couldn't the dice just be good to Greene? Instead the Professor became a monster.

Well, I had significantly less fun than G&M, perhaps there just wasn't enough to go around.

On reflection, I think a problem was that the other players had much stronger characters (and voices) whereas I floundered a bit with my PC and ended up feeling deprotagonised.

Not a big fan of the double edged death/win spiral – meant I got more and more screwed for dice, despite grabbing the black & white ones at every opportunity. So consequently I didn't really get to affect the game much. Inevitably, losing every roll meant the Prof was destined to be the murderer.

In parts, the session had the uncomfortable feel of trad games of yesteryear – there's a promise of fun round the corner…

I was disappointed to have my motive shot down, Greene was a scholar of theology – he'd been ranting about Kabbalah & druidic circles. I thought it made sense in his twisted mind to see Livingston FD as the antichrist (Sodom and Gomorra and all that). The one chance I do get to put something into the fiction and I'm vetoed into a Mother May I? style of gaming - suxxor.

Anyways AtfM is, as Kapel would say, a furry toight gayme. It does what it's supposed to. Not everyone's cup of tea – I prefer a bit more biscuity crunch.

It's good though as it's made me realise I need to be more selective in what I play and make sure it's going to hit my buttons. Play opportunities and free evenings are pretty rare for me which adds another layer of expectation – this should be fun. And it’s doubly annoying when everyone else is having a good time. But I digress…

It was great to meet Shane though - he really hit the nail on the head when he said that I seem to spend a lot of time playing games not having fun. This will change!


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Sep 10th 2010

I'll try and resurrect the post from my memory soon.

I think the main points were...

The bullets for breaking ties could have been better, i.e. the text before the bullets should probably have a bullet! Everyone skips over the text and goes straight to the bullets to break ties. This is not the correct way to do it. A minor presentational issue.

I liked Hysteria and Wanton Destruction best of the white/black dice options. And I note that Joe never grabbed those dice at all. He role-played a very entertaining character, showing those behaviours in fine form, and the other players gave him the dice when we broke to the roll.

I contrast that with the times I tried to play for Duplicity, but as hard as I imagined it in my head (and I was being duplicitous, believe me), it never came out in my role-playing as strong enough to get those dice from the other players. I wondered what I could do to get the white or black die! I got one, once. F'k me!

Joe Prince:I was disappointed to have my motive shot down, Greene was a scholar of theology – he'd been ranting about Kabbalah & druidic circles. I thought it made sense in his twisted mind to see Livingston FD as the antichrist (Sodom and Gomorra and all that). The one chance I do get to put something into the fiction and I'm vetoed into a Mother May I? style of gaming - suxxor.

This is a good point I want to come back to. I had mentioned in my (now server-eaten post) about the rest of us being "joy-goblins" in insisting on amendment of your Full Horror (from "and Foxley-Derwent was the Antichrist" to "Livingston was the only person I ever loved and the Antichrist"). To me, it's not so much "mother-may-I?" as being about what is enjoyable/what "fits" for the group. It also touches on the authority that players have to define aspects of another's character (in many ways) and is that all at Social Contract level?

I mean, sure, three of the four players were saying to Joe "that doesn't really bite quite right for us" and constraining Joe's authority/vetoing the idea. But equally Joe's Full Horror was also going to define another's character (Malc's) as objectively being the re-incarnation of Satan, which wouldn't sit well with him on a couple of fronts.

Or it might be a miscommunication: did Joe think that the Full Horror was "Greene believed Foxley-Derwent to be the Antichrist", which is quite different from "and Foxley-Derwent was the Antichrist".

(And mixed up in that too are the aesthetics where Joe likes gonzo wackiness and Malc hates it.)

Posted by: Graham W On: Sep 10th 2010

Thanks, that's really useful. (I feel I should have brilliant insights, but don't).

Posted by: Graham W On: Sep 19th 2010

I played A Taste For Murder at GnoccoCon, so I've been thinking about it.

Joe, thanks for the feedback. It's useful and worrying.

On the death spiral: my feeling is that it's something of an illusion. Technically, there is a death spiral: if you've got fewer dice, you're more likely to lose, and likely to lose more dice. Practically, however, it works like this: no matter how many dice you've got, someone else at the table is more likely to decide your fate than you.

There's another practical aspect, which is: even if you lose every Investigation, you're still only one suspect for the murder. In a four-player game, there are only three candidates for the murderer anyway. You're 66% likely to be in that final line-up. Arguably, it's more about your final speech than the number of dice you have. Arguably.

None of that, of course, excuses your frustration.

I'm interested to know what you meant by "fun around the corner", by the way.

On deprotagonisation: to a great extent, A Taste For Murder is about mechanically-mandated deprotagonisation. Influencing make you do things you don't want to do; Investigating lets the group establish something bad about your character. The victim, in particular, gets shat on from a great height in the Second Act. It's a game about messing with each other's characters.

In my disappeared post, I mentioned a Serious-Cartoon dial, and said that my preference was for playing about halfway. That is, play funny characters, but keep them human, not caricatures. From playing in Italy, I think the game has some interesting bittersweet properties when played that way.

Anyway, thanks again for playing, and I'm sorry Joe didn't have a good time.

Posted by: Joe Prince On: Sep 22nd 2010

No need for apologies old chap.
It's a ruddy good game.

By 'fun round the corner' I mean when you're thinking "Ok, I'm not having a great time now - but there might be a big payoff building up".

One thing I would like to see is mechanically enforced status changes - maybe using what you roll on the bonus dice?

And can you nominate your own character to be murdered? Cos Malc did this and I probably would have nominated myself if I'd realised.

Posted by: Graham W On: Sep 23rd 2010

There's something very close to mechanically enforced status changes. The Black Die represents high status, the White Die low status. Those two dice tempt you towards high and low status.

And yes you can. There are a couple of interesting things like that. If you win the appropriate roll, you can also decide that Influence succeeds against you or that you're the murderer.

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