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[Outside] Alpha chargen test

Started by Clyde L. Rhoer, September 06, 2005, 08:50:51 PM

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Clyde L. Rhoer

Hello everyone,

Background: 2 to 4 times a years some of my friends here in Wisconsin and some friends from another state get together and play boardgames all weekend. This happened last weekend and I got them to make characters for the game I've been working on that I have dubbed, "Outside". This happened at the end of a long day of  board games. We didn't actually get to play but character creation was still interesting.

Quick rundown of those involved:
C - That's me. I'm writing the game and took the position of G.M. I am incredibly happy with Sim, but have fun with Nar.
N - A good friend, she became one of my two major narrators when I ran a large VtM Larp. She tends towards Sim.
M - One of my best friends, we've lived together and done a lot of gaming. He tends towards Sim/Game
B - Same story as M. Has played lots of Sim but I think he may find it frustrating at times and may prefer Nar.

Quick rundown of the game before someone asks the three questions.

What is your game about?
It's a game of childhood horror, where imagination is real.

What do the characters do?
Characters try not to grow up.

What do players do?
Players play children, who try to survive in a world where the forces of reality and creativity are both out to get them.

The system uses no dice, everything is done by exchanging tokens. There is narration posing as a magic system, and players can design their characters own magic.

The meat:

Altogether character creation took about an hour and a half. One hour on Saturday and about half and hour on Sunday. None of them had seen the game except for a very early badly organized, incomplete  version of it, so they had a lot of questions about how things worked.

During some of the discussion about theme and such N, excused herself and went to bed. On Sunday she didn't excuse herself but voted with her feet again. This was very interesting to me but I won't see her till Thanksgiving so I can't explore it much now.

M. seemed to be making a more "solid" character and immediately focused in on mechanics. He seemed to be very concerned about making a good character in gamist terms. I know he also really enjoys sim and will even put gamism aside for it, but he will also admit to being competitive. I asked him "If he was worried about making sure he had a good character in game terms?" he said, "Yes."

M. made two tricks. (tricks are essentially player designed Kewl Powers I guess) I find the tricks interesting as I see them as a way to glean what a player wants from the game as they are player designed not chosen from a list. His tricks involved gaining more of Red tokens when he escaped in combat. Red represents anger. His other trick was that he would get bigger and go on a rampage when he gained a certain number of Red tokens. This seemed to me to mean he wanted to be challenged with combat but to avoid combat until it was forced on him. Both Tricks were well written and addressed game terms.

One of the reasons we are good friends is he is frighteningly honest, which is something I value. He told me, "This isn't a game that would interest me enough to buy it, but I'll help you playtest it." I loved that.

B. seemed to have more problems. He made a not very "solid" character and choose to make no investment in the combat tokens, which means he would be helpless in a combat. He also designed his character to be on the edge of becoming a grown up. Essentially by the present rules he was on the cusp of becoming unplayable. (I'm getting ideas now to make grown ups playable if that's what a player wants.) He seemed very dissatisfied with the character creation, but we were not communicating well I think. I'm still unsure whether he liked the growing up rules and so was putting himself on the edge of them to have fun with the tension, or disliked them and wanted to prove a point. What point I'm not sure, but it might have been there. Ideas?

B also seemed to be dissatisfied with the ruleset. I was surprised as I thought this was developing to be a narrativist game, so I expected him to like it the most. After a long discussion on the way home where I was trying to poke at why he seemed dissatisfied I finally understood part of what he didn't like was that my conflict resolution system only included combat, which meant that other areas of conflict would be gamemaster fiat which he felt didn't let him address the story at all. This was definitely a flash of insight moment as I was wearing big blinders there as I have embraced gamemaster fiat as a preferred style in the past. I'm currently working social challenges in and am considering how / whether to do mental.

As B was developing his character, I found myself wanting to use force to tell him the "right" way even though this was meant as an alpha test, and there were no rules stating he couldn't develop his character that way. The whole thing was to see how it worked. Fortunately I was able to see my wanting to use force and stopped. I've never used a lot of force so I wonder if the problem is he wasn't doing it "right?" Do other Sims find this is a problem, to want to force people to make their characters "right?"

B also had more trouble developing a trick, and when he did, it addressed no game terms. Which is fine it would have opened a lot of places to generate story in a game. To bad he won't see a game as B. told me he wouldn't want to play this character. When I asked him why, he replied, "Because I don't want to explore where this character goes, he's too dark."

Which makes me think that I might be heading in the right direction.
Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.