Yesterday I got back from SävCon X, where I among other things played two games of Montsegur 1244 by Frederik J. Jensen.
Together with our test run before the convention that makes for three full games. Enough for me to write a short post about the game discussing ideas, experiences and advice. My focus is my own, i.e. that of someone who intends to play the game at a convention, where all or at least part of the group will be strangers.
Before the con
In the test run we used the English handouts provided by Frederik on the website in conjunction with the game book and translated the cards on the fly as we were playing, and read the longer texts in their original English. At SävCon we used our own fully translated version.
I am by no means a good translator, but even my poor translation was way better for us than playing in a mishmash of Swedish and English. My advice: If you are not native speakers, spend some time before playing and translate everything to your native language, cards, act intros and background information. Even if you are good at reading English, your players might not be.
Go on Wikipedia and www.cathar.info and read more about the Cathars and the crusade against them. There is information in the game, but it will come even more to life if you have more knowledge. Also, it is very interesting.
18+ age restriction
I did suspect earlier, but after our first session I was certain, this is not a game suitable for minors. I usually don’t flinch at young teens that watch movies intended for an older audience. But I wouldn’t want anyone to be subjected to this without them understanding what they were getting into.
The game includes themes of children in danger, sexual abuse, and people coming to harm, and they are not the nameless goons of a D&D game, they will be characters that the players care about. There are also strong religious themes in the game, we didn’t find any issues on that front ourselves, but I imagine that people with a strong faith (of any kind) could feel uneasy about that.
I do not say that these things are bad and I wouldn’t want to remove those strong themes from the game. But everyone that are coming to the table should know in advance what they are getting themselves into.
This is an awesome game, and I love it. But when pitching it (to mature players) I made sure that I explained that we put that ’18+’ on it for a very good reason. Many groups turned the game down, I am certain it was for the best.
It really doesn’t matter who reads the act intros and background bits. Check before play starts if anyone is uncomfortable with reading aloud and offer to read in their place. Montsegur 1244 may be a very uncomfortable game, but it should not be for this reason at least.
Faye and Amiel, the children PCs, live their own lives. Remove them during the character selection phase, and give both to the Arsende player. She gets to play them when, and can temporarily hand them out to other players if she wants to interact with them in character.
Guilhelm, the old man PC from the expansion. Make him an old friend of Raymond’s father. That ties him tighter into the narrative.
Give the players with Perfect characters time to read through all the background material before play starts. It really helps them.
The game instructs the players to take turns setting scenes. I wouldn’t worry about setting scenes in order around the table (the book says nothing about turn order), just do it in any order. Let the player that has an idea for a scene set it. Don’t worry if the players don’t set the same number of scenes. Just make sure that everyone at least gets a chance to set one scene per act.
Don’t distract the player that is setting the scene by introducing the next scene card at the same time. Wait until the scene is finished, then turn over a new card and read all three aloud.
The consolamentum is an really interesting part of the game. Bring a Bible or at least a printout of the relevant sections, in case any of the players want to act it out in some detail, or even LARP it.
Don’t kill off the entire cast of non-main characters in the middle of the story, the end-game will suffer.
If a player can’t stay until the end of the session don’t kill his or her characters outright, just distribute them among the other players.