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Author Topic: Rats in the Walls: First playtest notes  (Read 4177 times)
Lance D. Allen
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Posts: 1962


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« on: September 17, 2005, 10:38:19 PM »

Game Available here: http://wolvesdenproductions.com/RitW.pdf
Description Available here: http://www.wolvesdenproductions.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=9&sid=e0c645d938aac6d0d69626b66c877de8

So! My first playtest session for Rats in the Walls went off tonight. I think there was a lot of socializing that needed doing, because there was a lot of tangenting, joking et al, and we didn't get a whole lot done. My playtesters were Alexander Cherry, and my girlfriend Rhonda. They're characters were Vincent Gibbons and Jane Goodman.

We finally got into character creation, beginning with choosing the hatreds. I used the "default" values of 5 minimum and 10 maximum. Alex and Rhonda both seemed to find it difficult to get even 5 really good hatreds, though it didn't seem to stop Lx from getting 10 by the end of the time, and Rhonda from getting 6. Lx did most of the web of hatred, with me overlooking, and Rhonda and I both making suggestions about connections as the web got more full. A few hatreds to note:

My Family (Vincent)
Step-father (Jane)
Hangman's Curve (Jane)

All three of them had 4 connections, where as most had the minimum 2 or 3 connections. I think it's going to be an important note to mark out the ones with more than the average number of connections, as they're things that will drive play well.

Vincent Gibbons
Hate: 10
Love: (sex) 15
Profession: (pharmacist) 9
Ability: 8
Hatreds:
-Ignorance
-Gays
-Women
-My Family
-The Holidays
-Violence
-Working
-Myself
-Jericho, CA
-Children

Jane Goodman
Hate: 6
Love: (mom) 9
Profession: (law student) 5
Ability: 5
Hatreds:
-Tommy Smith
-Hangman's Curve
-Beauty Pageants
-Step-father
-Rape
-The Justice System

I had 128 (16*8) Challenge Points to use. I think this might be a massively overlarge number, but we'll see.

I decided that I'd start out each character prior to their first changing of the past, and run each through the scene which triggered it, and the resultant changes. This might be a little too much power too soon. Something to keep note of.

Jane's scene involved waking up from the dream where she relived the accident where a drunk driver named Vincent Gibbons killed her sister on Hangman's Curve. She then went in and ran into Tommy Smith in the Law library, who raped her when she was 13, and some popular chick dropped a flyer for a beauty pageant in front of her (I was laying it on thick..) This triggered her first change. She made her Hate roll.. She lost a whopping 4 Love, gained 0 Change Points, and had 4 successes, which meant 4 things she changed. This is where the brutal side of my girlfriend came out.. She chose to go back to the moment the guy had raped her. She scared him so her younger self could escape, told him everyone knew he was gay (he was denying it, even to himself, which is why he raped her) then castrated him and shoved his severed member where the sun doesn't shine.

The future changed because the confidence she lost due to the rape never happened, and when the guy who killed her sister got off, she decided that changing minds was better than taking the legal route she might have otherwise taken. She became a marketing/communications major, active in MADD and other such organizations. Because she'd never been raped, the bond she'd formed with her mother wasn't as strong, hence explaining the 4 lost Love.

Vincent's (yes, the very same) scene involved dealing with an annoying old woman, pregnant again at 60, picking up her prescription and playing stupid and trying to get him to look at pictures of her grandkids. Oh, and handing him a birthday card from his mother. (Yes, once again laying it on thick) Vincent flipped, and thus went back into the past to change things for his first time. He rolled his 10 Hate dice and got 7(!) successes, lost 2 Love, and gained 2 Change Points. His changes involved going back to when he was 21 years old, and buying himself a winning lottery ticket, burning down the store where his future self would have worked, wrecking the car he'd been driving when he killed Jane's sister, slipping a condom into his younger self's pocket (Love: sex, remember) told his friend not to come out in front of Vincent's family, and also not to try to kiss Vincent.

Alex said it was really difficult to find 7 different changes to make, as might be a little obvious by his choices above. I may need to put forth a way to deal with large numbers of Success dice on the Hate roll. He spent his two Change Points to regain his lost Love points.

Anyhow, his results? He won the lottery, got lucky that night, got a girlfriend, married, then she died in childbirth (still happened in his previous past) became CEO of his own company, and his dad, who'd owned the store he burned down, became one of his VPs. He still killed Jane's sister, but in a more expensive car, and bought the case off (part of the reason why Jane lost faith in the judicial system).

I ran one final contest using the non-past-changing rules before we quit for the night. Vincent had hired his father as a way of hopefully getting him in his debt, but instead, his father helped him into his huge success, and though he's just a VP, he still runs his son's life in many ways. So Vince decided to fire his dad. He called him into his office, and dice were rolled. Lx rolled all nine of his profession dice, and I rolled an equal number of Challenge Dice in response. Lx got 5 successes, and a net gain of 2 profession (lost 2, gained 4) I rolled 7 successes and a net loss of 1 Challenge Point (lost 2, gained 1). We went back and forth with the narration, but in the end, Lx lost to my superior success number, and Vince ended up bending under his father's thumb again.

My impression of the player experience:

Lx seemed to really like the situations set up by the game. My choices on how to change the past reflected a "the more thing change, the more they stay the same" ideology (hence the CEO position despite the fact that he hates working, and his family's influence) which he found very appropriate.

Rhonda was a bit out of it in general, but she seemed to relish the viciousness she was able to inflict with relative impunity (she thinks, anyhow.. heh!) on those she hated. I think the game will help her to explore her darker side in ways she hasn't before.

Lx and Rhonda will hopefully respond with their expanded impressions soon. Any questions, input or insightful commentary would be appreciated.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Lance D. Allen
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Posts: 1962


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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2005, 08:52:34 AM »

Note: This is Rhonda, Lance's Girlfriend.  I am not as of yet regestered with the Forge so Lance told me I should just post through his name if I felt like it. So here I am.

    I really enjoyed Rats in the Walls last night.  I thought for a game put together in 24 hours it played very well.  I am really looking forward to playing more and hoping the boys will take my suggestion on maybe getting together mid week to get some more play done.  I felt I was really able to immerse my self during my scenes. ( Even though Lance thought I wasn't all there.) LoL.  The scene where he went over my sisters death in a dream was really heart renching for me as my character. 
And the violent act that followed though very nasty as it was, was a good relief for my anger that the story made me felt.  It was freakin awesome!  I also really immersed into Alex's scene between him and his father when he was trying to fire him.  Though the game needs some improvements on the numbers of "changes" and the fact that you could end your character with in two rounds  by loosing love so quickly, I really feel this game is headed in the right path for really fun game play.  The story really comes to life and I love how the web works.  So evil yet so fun.  I can't wait for Jane and Vincent to finaly be thrown intogether for what I hope will be a devious, evil, yet completely awesome gaming experiance.

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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Lxndr
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2005, 11:40:21 AM »

Writing quickly right now:

* "Too much power too soon."  I think you're right on the money here, Lance.  I have a suggestion about just the first time that I think could solve that problem, and also introduce new players to the game slower, just like the characters are introduced.  Basically, the very first time would NOT have a Hate roll.  You'd go back in time, and you'd get to change exactly one thing.  Future trips would result in the ability to get multiple successes, etc.  This way the game would start out like this:
  • Prelude scene, ending in trip back in time
  • One change
  • Scene dealing with resultant change, including first contest roll
  • Second trip, including Hate roll
  • wash, rinse, repeat
This also has the added benefit of giving the players a bit more of a hold on (a) what changes could potentially do, and (b) what changes they'd like to do.  And makes sure your character will last at least two rounds of time travel, even if they decide to only take a Love of 1 for some reason.

* Other uses for successes.  Yes, even with my earlier idea, sometimes you could wind up with a rockin' # of successes, and no idea what to do with them.  Although changing successes into Change Points is attractive, how's this for an altnerative:  have some combination of successes allow for the PLAYER to dictate something about the future.

Instead of assigning Change points to Profession/Love to dictate whether or not it stays the same or changes, perhaps successes can be used by the player to say "hey, this becomes X" or "hey, this becomes Y".  Right now, the GM is the only one who can say what the result of the changes are.  This way, the player has another way to do this.  I also can imagine the player saying something like, "I tell him everyone knows he's gay (1 success) and this lets him admit it to himself (1 success)" vs "I tell him everyone knows he's gay (1 success) but he still doesn't believe it (1 success) and lashes out even more violently."  See what I mean?  Let successes also be used to define consequences, in limited fashion.

* I've read and re-read, and you have these wonderful rules on what happens when you lose all your hatreds, but you have absolutely no rules whatsoever on how hatreds can be lost.  What am I missing?  Or maybe, where am I missing it?
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2005, 12:11:55 PM »

I like that idea, Lx. I think the game definitely needs to ease into it, if it begins from the point prior to the character's first change, which is an idea I'd like to keep. A single change, no roll, is a good idea. I'm also thinking that perhaps that the first change shouldn't have any initial mechanical effects; The profession and Love stay the same, no lines are erased or redrawn on the web of hatred, etc. Basically, the idea of the first change is to set up a few things, give an idea of how changes work, but not necessarily to redefine the whole lay of the land.

I was waffling on something during play, and I'd like your ideas on how it might be done best; My original idea for changes is basically just to list the changes; ie, no roleplaying out what you do, just list it out. You basically did it this way, whereas Rhonda seemed to think that immediate contiguity of the changes was necessary, and she all but roleplayed out her character's actions. I'm not certain which way was better; Hers was notably more immediate and intense, but yours had a greater effect overall, which I think was less about the number of successes than one might think. Should I specify that it should be roleplayed out? Just listed out? Neither, let the group decide?

Your idea about spending successes has merit, but one of the particular ideas I had about an exchange rate for Successes to Change Points is to offset situations like Rhonda's a little bit; Four successes was possibly a little excessive for her situation, and losing four of her nine total Love was a serious blow; If she'd been able to turn in two or three of her Successes to get a Change Point, she could have offset that blow a little. The idea is a slow downward spiral, not a precipitous plummet.

I *do* like the idea of Successes allowing you to determine some of the consequences; I think I may introduce an exchange rate for that though; If the consequence is complicated or inconvenient, then it'd be 1:1. If it was to make sure things happened the way the character intended, they may have to spend more points; Perhaps not though, as I could just suggest the "Wish Spell" mentality for the GM; Pay attention to what the player specifies, and what they do not specify, then make the future as complicated and inconvenient as you can reasonably do within those limitations.

As for eliminating hatreds, it was addressed a few times in brief; Basically, specific changes might eliminate certain hatreds; If Jane had killed Tommy outright, then her hatred of him would no longer be valid; He's gone, and no longer a concern. If a later change brings him back, that doesn't matter, as the hatred has been eliminated. Because you didn't go back and somehow give your character a better work ethic or idea of work, he'd still hate working, even if I'd rewritten his Profession to "playboy" rather than "CEO". D'you see?
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Lxndr
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 1113

Master of the Inkstained Robes


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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2005, 12:00:40 PM »

quote author=Wolfen link=topic=16876.msg179330#msg179330 date=1127160715]
I was waffling on something during play, and I'd like your ideas on how it might be done best; My original idea for changes is basically just to list the changes; ie, no roleplaying out what you do, just list it out. You basically did it this way, whereas Rhonda seemed to think that immediate contiguity of the changes was necessary, and she all but roleplayed out her character's actions. I'm not certain which way was better; Hers was notably more immediate and intense, but yours had a greater effect overall, which I think was less about the number of successes than one might think. Should I specify that it should be roleplayed out? Just listed out? Neither, let the group decide?Quote
Your idea about spending successes has merit, but one of the particular ideas I had about an exchange rate for Successes to Change Points is to offset situations like Rhonda's a little bit; Four successes was possibly a little excessive for her situation, and losing four of her nine total Love was a serious blow; If she'd been able to turn in two or three of her Successes to get a Change Point, she could have offset that blow a little. The idea is a slow downward spiral, not a precipitous plummet. a Hatred, but the GM chooses which one will actually be abandoned (As is, the GM is the one to decide, arbitrarily, when and where hatreds are lost.  This just puts a bit more on it, I think.  But I'm not sure if it actually works, but even if it doesn't, perhaps you can steal from it to make one that works)

I was waffling on something during play, and I'd like your ideas on how it might be done best; My original idea for changes is basically just to list the changes; ie, no roleplaying out what you do, just list it out. You basically did it this way, whereas Rhonda seemed to think that immediate contiguity of the changes was necessary, and she all but roleplayed out her character's actions. I'm not certain which way was better; Hers was notably more immediate and intense, but yours had a greater effect overall, which I think was less about the number of successes than one might think. Should I specify that it should be roleplayed out? Just listed out? Neither, let the group decid
Quote
Your idea about spending successes has merit, but one of the particular ideas I had about an exchange rate for Successes to Change Points is to offset situations like Rhonda's a little bit; Four successes was possibly a little excessive for her situation, and losing four of her nine total Love was a serious blow; If she'd been able to turn in two or three of her Successes to get a Change Point, she could have offset that blow a little. The idea is a slow downward spiral, not a precipitous plummet. a Hatred, but the GM chooses which one will actually be abandoned (As is, the GM is the one to decide, arbitrarily, when and where hatreds are lost.  This just puts a bit more on it, I think.  But I'm not sure if it actually works, but even if it doesn't, perhaps you can steal from it to make one that works).
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2005, 12:32:36 PM »

Quote
A character's Love probably wouldn't change, but I think that, in the right circumstances, the profession might.  Then again, maybe not - even if I bought my character a winning lottery ticket, maybe he would have squandered it all, and wound up going to school to be a pharmacist anyway, and restricting the first thing this way could be a good way to challenge the GM as well as the players.

Yes, my thoughts exactly. I think the first change should set up the initial situation rather than actually change it, somewhat in the way the Dogs initiatory conflict sets up the situation, only without the mechanical gain one way or t'other. Additional challenge has a good potential to come up with interesting twists and loops.

Quote
This (how to narrate changes) is actually pretty tough.  I want to try out both methods in play more before I make a final decision.

So do I. I just wanted initial opinions.

Re: Change Successes -vs- Change Points

I think I'd like to play one more session as written to see how it works out, but I like this idea too, and will definitely keep it in mind.

Re: eliminating hatreds

I don't know if I like your suggestion specifically (though it has definite merit), but I do think there needs to be more discussion on how hatreds are eliminated at a minimum, and I think I'm going to consider mechanical terms under which hatreds are eliminated, rather than purely through narration. The reason why is that right now, it's possible to narrate changes that don't eliminate hatreds pretty much indefinitely, and that makes it hard to really have any struggle between acting against what you hate and keeping them, which I mentioned as an intentional theme of the game.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2005, 08:29:09 AM »

Hi there,

I'm excited about this thread! I've held off from posting so far because it's been hard to figure out how to post without pre-presenting some of my judging for the award.

But I'd like to express the conclusion I arrived at this morning, that the playtesting and the existence of the thread may be, as I see it, part of the submission. So good on you, Lance & group. I'm definitely following carefully.

Best,
Ron
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