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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 172 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Shab-al-Hiri Roach] The Horror in the Museum  (Read 8007 times)
Jason Morningstar
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« on: September 15, 2005, 07:21:31 AM »

We playtested the Shab-al-Hiri Roach last night and it went very well.  The principals were:

Joseph Conolly (Tom), Assistant Professor of Geography.  His Enthusiasms were Deception and Manipulation, which Tom narrated into almost every conflict.

Edward P. Elmont (Steve), Professor of Art and Art History.  His Enthusiasms were Pleasure and Status.  He was a doddering 68 year old lecher.

Alfred Lloyd Mayfield (Val), Assistant Professor of Psychology.  His Enthusiasms were Debauchery and Research.

Dalworthington Upham (Jason, who is also me), Assistant Professor of History.  His Enthusiasms were Cruelty and Wit.

The Convocation Event:  People got their bearings and tried to wrap their heads around narration and the cards.  There was some confusion about the dichotomy between Opportunities and Commands, probably because I was using slips of paper rather than actual cards.  There were four Scenes, three of which were about power and status.  Jason immediately went for swallowing the Roach to stay competitive. 

The Wine and Cheese Social:  Val commented “All this sucking up to people is stressful!”.  Her character drew a Roach card and became Roach-bound, to her chagrin.  Everybody realized how powerful the D12 could be, but it was not helping me (bad rolls).  I drew “GIGŠE NIDINIR NAR - You must put the fear of the Gods into this person, in fury and anger.”  I framed a scene where I threatened old Elmont with a tire iron, and bashed his head in while he was putting the moves on pretty young Regina Sutton.  It was well-received…There were several more physical conflicts, including Mayfield seducing Regina Sutton over our strenuous objections.  Tom became Roach-bound at some point.

Pemberton Follies of 1919:  Tom and I both drew Commands that, by chance, made us utterly subservient to Professor Elmont.  We had a lovely conflict with these stakes:  Who can fetch Elmont a glass of water more efficiently?  Lots of fun.  Everyone was getting the hang of narrating NPCs into the scenes for tactical advantage.  At this point, NPCs were also developing a history, as Connolly tried to persuade Reverend Talley that Wakefield’s relationship with Regina Sutton was sinful (he failed!).  We meet Virginia, Regina’s rival for the affections of quarterback Bantam Whaley, and Mayfield humiliates her during the vaudeville show.

The Homecoming game:  Dalworthington Upham gets free of the Roach, erasing his Enthusiasm for Wit.  Val, playing Mayfield and Roach-bound, frames an excellent conflict where the stakes are life and death – Mayfield is at a party trying to kill himself with alcohol and cocaine.  We all seriously oppose her, bringing down every student we can narrate into the party, the dean of students showing up, and other random idiocy.  She’s out-diced, but wins on a tie thanks to the “re-roll using the lowest die in the case of a tie” rule.  Mayfield dies and his Reputation is boosted.  At this point, only Val and Steve have a chance of winning – neither Tom or I have been able to win many conflicts.  There’s another great conflict as Elmont wagers on the football game with his Art History rival at Harvard, a conflict we all throw in on to ruin Elmont. 

Faculty Senate Meeting:  By this time everybody has the hang of the sequence of play and is really getting into it.  The end-game is in sight and the odds are clear.  Tom draws “MURUB - Feel sexual attraction toward this person.  Attempt to copulate with it.”  He had designated Dalworthington Upham (me), and framed an icky scene where he tried to seduce me.  Everybody loved it and piled on to help him in various ways, and in desperation I swallow the Roach again.  I win the conflict and rebuff his advances.  There is a big conflict at the senate meeting where a board of inquiry must decide whether or not to censure Upham for braining old Professor Elmont, which I end up winning.  Now Steve and Val have lots of Reputation, and Tom and I are scraping along.

Christmas Ball:  Regina Sutton, who is terrified of me after my head-bashing incident, agrees to allow me to eulogize my old pal Mayfield at the ball.  There is a crazy scene at the Ball, held in the art museum, where Connolly, L. Scott Collins, and the offensive line of the Pemberton Panthercats run riot with working class agitation.  Finally Connolly, Roached out and insane, makes a swan dive from a balcony onto a sun dial as the Panthercats chant "jump, jump, jump!"  Tom made a canny bid to win the game by betting the farm on this conflict and ridding himself of the Roach at the last possible moment.  It almost worked.

Final Reputation tally:  Val 14, Tom 9, Jason 6, and Steve (who was in the lead early in the game) 4. 

Interesting things I observed:

1.  The recurring characters work well to build a shared back story.  In this game we all latched onto Regina Sutton hard, and she became central to many conflicts, poor girl.

2.  More play will be needed to tell if the Reputation mechanic needs tweaking.  Both Tom and I never really had a chance, or so it seemed.  We had nothing to wager, while Steve and Val piled on the points - sometimes winning, sometimes not - but always competitive for the lead.

3.  It seemed to accommodate different play styles well.  Tom went for the throat, picking a killer combination of Enthusiasms and working them into every scene.

4.  Expertise only got brought in, I think, once.  Maybe twice.

5.  Everyone asked for a "cheat sheet" of name and place ideas they could pull from to fashion conflicts.  I'll do this, and groups can use it if they like.  I'll also put the sequence of Events on every character sheet. 

6.  Tom's sneaky last-minute death might be a viable tactic that could throw the game out of whack.  I'll have to think about that a bit...

7.  People very quickly began to frame scenes advantageous to their side of the conflict, which was excellent.  There's a pretty hard-core opportunity to game the system.  Nobody "went too far" with narration. 

8.  I played some Enrico Caruso during the wine and cheese party and some popular '78's during the Follies, and that helped set the mood nicely. 

Overall, a positive playtest. 

ŠAĐULLA ŠADINIREENE DIRIG!!!
 
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2005, 07:43:06 AM »

Yay!  I can't wait to give this a whirl Jason.

Really the only productive thing I have for you today is to second (or third?) the idea of the cheat-sheet of places & names.  Do you think you'd include such a thing in the final product?  I just happen to really like things like that.  Quick inspiration and all.

-Eric
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2005, 07:53:28 AM »

Thanks, Eric.  I think something like that might make a nice Website freebie, or I may go ahead and include it.  I don't want to overly-define the setting for people who don't want the extra creative push.  It's all color, but I don't see how it could hurt to offer a list of tweedy names, organizations, and locations without any description. 

--Jason
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2005, 10:00:10 AM »

Steve from the playtest writes:

"I would say the expertise got used more than you thought- I think I used it three times (arguing art for the common man, making a wager for art over football, and throwing the museum opening).

I'm not sure about the whole death thing, really- it seems to me that death is an easy way out of danger (in game terms). When you die, you're roach free, and therefore able to play conservatively). It's a strong bid for the win if you do it when you have a pile of reputation (as Val did). I have to think that the inclination will be for experienced players to try offing themselves as soon as they get the chance..."

Any thoughts on the tactical use of suicide? 
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2005, 11:43:54 AM »

On the same topic, Tom writes (not sure why these folks won't weigh in here at the Forge...)

"The death thing is tough, because it seemed like it was impossible to strip the dead people of reputation if they had a fair amount once they were dead - it gets a little tedious narrating in a dead woman/man into every scene. By the 4th act, your and my only hopes were to bring Steve and Val down rather than bring ourselves up in reputation."

--Jason
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2005, 05:15:08 PM »

Hiya,

Jason, I've been thinking.

This whole death thing? I am really looking backwards, with death for player-characters disallowed. We didn't have any attempts on one another's lives during both games I've played, and had a wonderful time.

No PC death = fun fun fun

PC death even with tweaks = confusion and some currency-breaking

So, well, as long as you're just soaking up feedback, count me in as going back to the old rule (although stating it flatly and clearly) - no player-character death, period.

Or maybe just in the last Event, perhaps.

Best,
Ron
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2005, 03:59:51 AM »

Thanks, Ron.  During the playtest I kept thinking, "you know, I wrote it that way for a reason...".  But it seems really cool to allow player death.  The idea of your Reputation slugging it out after your passing just seems perfectly appropriate. 

On the other hand, one player did raise a good point - why would a Roach allow its host to off himself? 

I'll have to consider.
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IMAGinES
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AKA Rob Farquhar


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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2005, 03:25:19 PM »

If it's a worthwhile point, I've always observed that Lovecraft's protagonists always off themselves/meet their sticky end at the end of the story.
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Always Plenty of Time!
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2005, 05:17:46 PM »

Yeah, I'm really torn, because the dramatic suicide is so very awesome and appropriate.  I *really* like the idea that players will consider that not just an option, but an *attractive* option. 

But it buggers actual play as written, and I'd rather it be outright forbidden than chained down with extraneous and unique rules.  It's a problem.
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2005, 05:37:59 PM »

Quote
I'd rather it be outright forbidden than chained down with extraneous and unique rules.

Looks like you've got the answer right there, doncha?

How much would you really loose by banning PC suicide?  Is it one small player option amongst a thousand other good options?  Or is it really something so utterly fantastic and interesting that the game will be noticbly less for it's loss?

-Eric
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IMAGinES
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AKA Rob Farquhar


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« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2005, 09:15:52 PM »

Well, if it's absolutely killin' ya, you could do up the main body of rules without the option of suicide and/or murdering your fellow PCs, and maybe put what you're comfortable with in terms of suicide and/or murder rules as an appendix, with "WARNING: Use of these rules may change your play experience" or somesuch? That way, players can salt their games to taste, and you'll still have what you want in the game without feeling like you had to compromise one way or the other.
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Always Plenty of Time!
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