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Author Topic: [breaking the ice] latest playtest  (Read 26154 times)
Emily Care
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« on: April 15, 2005, 08:48:40 AM »

What a great weekend for playtesting! Breaking the Ice and Shooting the Moon with Ben, and Polaris with him, Meg & Vincent.  Completely affirmed again for me the necessity of actual play for functional design.  

Game description & character gen
So Breaking the Ice is a two player game where you play out the first 3 dates of your two characters.  Each player makes a character that's like the other player in some way--some general trait, like gender, age or social group, not specifics about the player like "tomboy who grew up in rural CT".  Each date is made up of several scenes, in which each player narrates their character trying to make the other character become more attracted to them.  The other player awards you dice towards this goal for things you narrate that relate to your character's traits and conflict, or for creating setting elements, taking suggestions from them and so on.  There are several successive pools of dice that get rolled: dice equal to the Attraction score, Bonus Dice awarded for narration of good stuff, Rerolls awarded for narration of bad stuff, and the Conflict dice.

Switching genders is de rigeur, so Ben played a female character: Linda, an independent & outdoorsy therapist and amateur pilot. I played Dan, a chivalrous & honest environmental consultant with a failing business.  You brainstorm the characters  based on a round of free-association the players do together from the characters' "favorite color". Linda's was blue, Dan's was green. Linda's energetic trait came from a long chain of association from water (blue-water-flow-willow-wind-energy) and Dan's failing business came from a short chain starting with money (green-money-gain-loss).  This gives you a starting point & other traits can be added in play.

Conflicts
Each character has a Conflict, something that makes it problematic for them to go on the date.  Linda's Conflict was that she had recently broken her leg in a plane crash.  Dan's was that he was recently divorced.  You can pull the conflicts into your narration for a big bonus in a scene.  The broken leg trope worked particularly well. It was easy to bring up in every scene and was the source of a lot of humor.  

Date 1: Enter the Restaurant
On their first date, Dan & Linda made plans to go out to dinner.  They had a phone conversation in which we discovered they knew eachother from their joint membership in a canoe club, and Dan found out that Linda had a broken leg. Despite the handicap, they decide to go out and to meet at the restaurant. A fateful decision.  

Next scene began at the parking lot, this is Ben's scene, so it begins with Linda trying to get out of her car.  Ben calls up on his conflict right away, so her leg gets stuck between the seat and the floor of the car.  Linda is all "Hi, how're ya doing? No, I can get it." and waves off Dan's help. (Dice for Independent, Energetic).  Dan finally gets in there to help her out, and the whole "pressed up against you" thing is definitely in her favor.  Linda's looking fine.  So dice get rolled, not enough successes. (Need at least three 5's or 6's). Yes!  Now we get to do the fun stuff.  Dan gets her foot unstuck and they go flying, a car was just about to park there and they get  honked at, and now Linda's well-groomed appearance goes out the window: hair everywhere, clothes akimbo.  Roll: no dice. It's not turning Dan on.  

Oh well, my turn now.  I frame the scene to pick up right after the tumble.  No reason to move on from here--plenty of possiblity for bonding or action.  I call upon his chivalrous nature by having him throw himself between her and the near-parking car, but he lets her get herself off the ground (playing in to her independence).  I roll this set of dice and its a no go.  Excellent! I get to bring in my conflict: Dan's ex-wife is driving the car.  She yells at Linda & Dan has to step in between them and shows his naive side by saying "Oh, Monica--I'm so glad it was you, let me introduce you to my friend Linda"  (glares exchanged between the women).  She stomps away, leaving Dan to explain to Linda that this was his ex (which he does, since he's honest too), and as she drives away, Monica splashes them both by driving through a puddle.  

I roll and make it. From the midst of this horror of the first 5 minutes of their first date, comes a burgeoning of new attraction.  Linda is a divorcee too. They bond.

They decide to nix the restaraunt and Dan offers to cook Linda dinner at his place.  Again the broken leg is an ideal cue for narration: there is a huge staircase that leads up to Dan's apartment.  She appreciates his garden on the long walk up to the door, and he humors her independence by convivially chatting with her as she makes her slow way up. They gain more connections over cooking and a shared love of travel, and the date ends.  

Date 2: The Hospital Ordeal
Okay, I guess these characters are both just stubborn, cause they try to make it in to the same restaurant on their next  date.  The successfully make it out of their cars, across the parking lot, and up to the door. Dan is chivalrous again, yet doesn't undermine Linda's independence, all is going well.  But all the dice we get for these positive things don't give us enough successes.  As Linda goes to open the door, we find that it is locked. A sign says "Closed Due to Repairs". It's raining and the roof is leaking in the restaurant.  As they stand there befuddled, a car races past and splashes them.  

As they start to leave, a crutch falls out from under Linda, and she hurts her broken leg.  Aieee!  Dan takes her to the hospital, and they spend their second date in an interminable wait in the emergency room, being tortured by bad tv and getting cozier.  She falls asleep on his shoulder.  He ventures out for bad food, the only thing open is White Castle.  The Ordeal becomes part of their shared history.  After they work out some awkwardness about Linda being loopy with pain killers, and Dan having to carry her up the steps to his house since he doesn't know where she lives, they end the date with increased trust and affection between them.

Date 3: Unstoppable Juggernaut of Attraction
So by this time, the attraction level between the two characters was wicked high.  In this revision, since both players are increasing the same Attraction score, it goes up quickly.  The trick is to make sure that people need to dip into their Re-rolls or conflict to introduce setbacks & adversity into the narration.  So, the Attraction levels were not permanent. After each date a d6 was rolled for each level of attraction that got scored during it and all that came up 5 or 6 were kept, the rest were erased. Rerolls were allowed for negative things narrated to happen between the dates. This made the second date have enough opposition, but by the third date, it was hard not to succeed with a base roll of 5 or 6 dice after a scene or two in.  

In this revision, each level of Attraction was associated with a joint trait, a compatibility, so we got to make many, many during the last date.  It also allowed us transcend the Conflicts, letting the characters finally make it to that restaurant and enjoy the elegant ambience and live music in peace. Although, amusingly enough we needed a Re-roll around when the food arrived, so the place ended up having sucky nouveau-cuisine, and the two contemplated sneaking out with out paying, but nixed this on better though of how impossible it would have been to be subtle given Linda's cast. : )

Ben made a suggestion to separate out the Attraction & Compatibilities again, and to make players choose whether to create one or the other.  This would make the game much like the earlier version--except for the shared Attraction scale--and I think it would fix the problem of overwhelming success found at the end of the game.  I will playtest it again using these rules, and probably try changing the number of successes needed to create a Compatibility back to (the ridiculous) amount of 5 or 6.  

Other than the excessive success problem, the game really flowed.  The Conflicts & traits do their jobs. Gaining dice for taking suggestions from the other player helped grease the wheels of contribution & collaboration, and overall it was just fun to come up with the wacky disadvantageous stuff that happened.  


L'envoi
We did a follow up to the game that I'd thought of for a closure stage: each of us answering the questions: 1) Do they stay together? 2) When did they fall in love (if they did)? 3) What are their chances together? We figured they do stay together. I think Dan fell in love with Linda when she fell asleep on him in the emergency room.  I think it was when Dan tucked her in on the couch after the ordeal that did it for Linda. And they probably do stay together, though they'd have to find some kind of balance between Linda's need for independence & Dan's desire to take care of her.  

We left the characters on a flash-forward to a scene showing them stepping out of a restauraunt on the continent.  A disadvantageous inter-date issue (that Linda had to leave for Europe soon), Dan's trait of owning a failing business, and a Compatibility of a shared love of travel, resolved themselves into him following her to Europe.  As they walk happily arm in arm away, a car drives by and splashes them with a puddle.  They laugh...


My thanks to Ben for your help & advice!  

best,
Emily Care
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Black & Green Games
Andrew Morris
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« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2005, 10:35:38 AM »

Emily-

This was a great read. I hadn't been that interested in this game before, but after seeing how it works out in play, I'm intrigued. I don't know if that comment is valuable to you or not, but it struck me as odd that discussion of the game wasn't engaging to me, yet a sample of play was.
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Ben Lehman
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Blissed


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« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2005, 10:38:22 AM »

Hey, that's me!

My experience playing the game was very interesting.  It is a game that plays a lot different than it reads.  I thought it would be all about exploring the other gender roles but, as it turned out, it was a lot more like playing out a romantic comedy / date movie sort of storyline.  Lots of funny hijinks with a touching ending.

Emily's endgame mechanic is genius.  I think Linda fell for him when he made her dinner.

yrs--
--Ben
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Emily Care
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« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2005, 10:55:27 AM »

Thanks, Andrew. Yes, that's very useful to know.  Was it that the premise didn't sound fun, or did you have a different impression of it, as Ben did before playing it?

I think my idea for the game was for it to be more focused on exploring the differences, but I've found it makes more sense for it to be able to live up to its name. For some folks, just playing cross gender or what have you may seem challenging enough.  I believe it would be possible to delve into deeper territory with these rules, but it makes more sense not to require it.  

Fun is going to be more compelling in the long run.

And thanks again, Ben!

best,
Emily
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2005, 11:18:01 AM »

Quote from: Emily Care
Was it that the premise didn't sound fun, or did you have a different impression of it, as Ben did before playing it?

I'll try to articulate my impression, but it's going to be a bit difficult, since I'm not exactly sure myself. Yes, the premise didn't sound fun to me or engage me in any way. No, I didn't have a different impression of it. It was exactly what I thought it would be, but for some reason it appealed to me only when presented as a sample of play.

So, as far as I can tell, this means one of two things:

1) Something about the presentation/explanation of the game turned me off, or, at least, nothing about it caught my interest.
2) I did not examine the presentation/explanation of the game enough to find the element about it that caught my interest in the actual play post.

Before you ask, no, I can't identify exactly what specific detail about the actual play I found engaging. I'm struggling to figure that out, but haven't done so yet.
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Andrew Norris
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« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2005, 04:06:32 PM »

Hi, the other Andrew *orris here.

I just wanted to say thanks for posting an Actual Play on this -- I've been following Breaking the Ice since it was mentioned in some thread months ago, so it's exciting to read more about it.

I think it has potential to reach an audience outside of the typical gamer. Emily, was this your intent during the design at all? I thought of that because of  Andrew M.'s response that he wasn't interested in the concept, but how it played out as a game drew him in.
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Frank T
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« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2005, 05:13:30 AM »

Hi Emily,

thanks for this, it sounds really cute, the "Sleepless in Seattle" way. Say, does the rules version linked in your above post already include all the adaptions you made recently? If not, which are missing?

I must definitely ask my girlfriend again to try this.

- Frank
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Emily Care
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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2005, 04:51:44 AM »

Hi other Andrew & Frank,

Thank you both!

Quote from: Andrew Norris
I think it has potential to reach an audience outside of the typical gamer. Emily, was this your intent during the design at all?

Sure. I kind of thought it would be the kind of game that a gamer could pitch to a non-gamer.  Yes, gender issues apply.  It's definitely not in the  usual gaming field of topics. But that may be changing. : ) I think my intent was more about the kinds of things that gamers don't do (ie play cross gender, talk about social/personal issues in gaming), but I think my best audience is other.

Quote from: Frank T
Say, does the rules version linked in your above post already include all the adaptions you made recently? If not, which are missing?

Let's see.  The changes are:
    [*]The two characters share a joint Attraction rating that each player tries to increase in each scene.   Compatibilities are shared as well.
    [*]When you gain an Attraction level, check it in pencil. Between each date, you have to roll to make the Attraction you've gained permanent: roll 1d6 for each attraction level you've created that date. For each die that comes up as a 5 or 6, color in the box, indicating that it's a permanent level.  Erase all the rest.  You may get re-rolls for these by describing something bad that happens between the dates (eg in game above, Linda got an assignment that was going to take her to Europe in a couple months).  Write it down as a trait on the character it applies to and bring it into play as a trait.  
    [*]With a successful scene resolution (ie having rolled three 5s or 6s) either increase Attraction level by 1, or create a new Compatibility.  Alternatively, Create compatibilities only when you roll five or more 5s or 6s (but still choose between Attr or Comp increase).  
    [*]Traits can be simple (ie one word like naive, independent, etc).
    [*]Roll up to three bonus dice, not four per scene.
    [*]Bonus dice & rerolls can be awarded for having your character play into the other characters traits (eg Linda complimenting Dan on his garden as they made the long trek up the stairs)
    [*]Maximum number of scenes per date should be 6, less is fine. End it when it makes sense.
    [*]After the third date the players should answer & chat about three questions:
      [*]Do the characters stay together?
      [*]Did they fall in love? If so, when?
      [*]What are their chances for the long haul?[/list:u][*]The version online right now includes "victory conditions" based on the number of compatibilities, but those should be looked at as suggestions.  I'm thinking that 5-6 compatibilities would be the number you are shooting for, but I'd love to get feedback about how that works if you do play.[/list:u]
      Well, that's some good impetus to get working on a revised version.  

      Best,
      Em
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      Victor Gijsbers
      Acts of Evil Playtesters
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      « Reply #8 on: April 19, 2005, 02:32:36 PM »

      This sounds really interesting. It is a game that could really make people address important real-life issues that they'd never talk about in a normal setting. Just imagining playing it with different people I know is exciting. I'll be watching this. (Are you planning to release it as a free game, a non-free PDF, or a printed booklet?)
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      Emily Care
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      « Reply #9 on: April 19, 2005, 02:46:07 PM »

      Quote from: Victor Gijsbers
      (Are you planning to release it as a free game, a non-free PDF, or a printed booklet?)

      My plan is to publish it as a printed booklet and (possibly) a pdf for pay by this summer. It will be available in free form as a playtest version until then.  I'll be certain to post when I have a revised version to share.  Soon.
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      xenopulse
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      « Reply #10 on: April 19, 2005, 02:46:53 PM »

      I agree, this game sounds great, and well geared towards people who wouldn't usually be into traditional RPGs.

      Keep us posted :)
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      Christopher Weeks
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      « Reply #11 on: April 19, 2005, 04:34:27 PM »

      Quote from: Emily Care
      My plan is to publish it as a printed booklet...for pay by this summer.

      It's already for sale at my local game shop!  I assume they got it at the Forge booth at GenCon while making the rounds.  (Was that run distributed elsewhere?)  I think they're charging $3.50 more than I paid for my copy. :-)
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      Emily Care
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      « Reply #12 on: April 20, 2005, 05:54:53 AM »

      Quote from: Christopher Weeks
      It's already for sale at my local game shop!  I assume they got it at the Forge booth at GenCon while making the rounds.  (Was that run distributed elsewhere?)  I think they're charging $3.50 more than I paid for my copy. :-)

      : ) You are kidding, right?
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      Larry L.
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      aka Miskatonic


      « Reply #13 on: April 20, 2005, 09:20:40 AM »

      No, he's not. I can vouch for this. It's over in the little non-d20 pile which makes up the "Indie" section, along with a print copy of Lacuna and a couple copies of Vs Monsters.
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      Emily Care
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      « Reply #14 on: April 20, 2005, 09:28:20 AM »

      *chuckle*

      Very cool. I guess if other folks are charging for it, I should sure start.  I should see if they want a couple real copies when time comes.
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