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Author Topic: Rats in the Walls: second playtest  (Read 3143 times)
Lance D. Allen
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« on: October 16, 2005, 06:26:25 AM »

This weekend was an odd weekend for my gaming group. Due to some compositional changes, my normal games are falling by the wayside, and as it was my turn to run, I went with another playtest session of Rats in the Walls. This time was for 5 player characters, and by the end of the game, most were agreeing that my earlier assessment of 3-4 is about as high a group size as you want to go.

Cast:

Eric Boyd created Gerald Dupre, a young black man with profession inmate, Love for his 10yo son who he hadn't gotten to see grow up, and hatreds of Arrogant White Men, Pigs(as in the type who drink coffee and eat donuts) and.. crap, a particular man who he'd killed to end up in prison, because that man was going to foreclose on his mama's house.

Alex Cherry created Alexis Cavanaugh, a model with a Love for her meds (they keep her sane..), and hatreds for Marriage, Doctors and Alcohol.

Rhonda McIntyre created Mary Magdelene Myers, a guidance counselor with a Love for her daughter, and hatreds for her (abusive) Father, Organized Religion (daddy was a minister) and Men She Would Date.

Zach Slezak created Tim, a one-time orphan with profession: Liquid Propellant Distribution Agent (pump jockey), a Love for stage musicals, and hatreds for: the St. John's Orphanage, Money and Dr. Mary Swanson (the 'egg-doner' who'd given him up for adoption)

Zach Tipsword created John Rychers, a serial killer in the vein of Hannibal Lector, only without the eating of people. His Love is for good living, and his hatreds are stupid criminals, The Men that Put Me Away, and the System.

We were playing vers. 1.1, the rules editions are below:

1. Challenge Points: total Hate x 5, rather than the previous x 8.

2. Age Limitations: You're restricted to your age in how far back you can make changes, until someone makes a change outside your lifetime, at which time your influence expands.

3. Successes from Hate rolls can be used to either declare a particular action or change, or to declare how a specific thing turns out. This can include changing their Love or Profession. These dice are basically "staking your claim" on certain aspects of the rewritten future. The GM has to roll a minimum of 2x the character's Hate rating, which are used to determine how the future changes. They cannot directly counter-act the intention of the player in making a change, but they are free, in fact required, to make interesting (read: complicating) interpretations of how those changes could go. They may also change the character's profession for free, unless the player pins it down either with a Hate success or with a Change Point. Changing a character's Love requires a success on the GM's part.

4. The first time a character makes a change is treated something like V:tM's prelude; It's an intro, and it sets up the situation. They get to make 1 change, with no dice rolled on either side. Because they're setting up their current situation, neither their Love nor their Profession can change, but their situation otherwise can change quite a bit, and can have an effect on others who've not yet done their first changes.

I think that's all the 1.1 rules, but I may have forgotten one.

A few salient points of play:

I made it a point to place almost all of the characters back into a variant on their same situation after their first change. For instance, Tim was at work dealing with a holier-than-thou rich bitch who was trying to get him to donate to St. John's, and then tossed money in his face. His change involved burning down the orphanage.. And when he returns, he's still a pump jockey, and the same woman rolls up to get her car fueled up.

Alexis was at her doctor's office, who was somewhat drunk, a close talker, and a newlywed. She went back and dumped her infant self on the doorstep of the orphanage.. And after her 12yo self was adopted after getting help when the orphanage was set on fire, she was adopted by a doctor (Mary Swanson) who it turns out was somewhat of an alcoholic as well.

This set off Tim deciding to confront his "mom's new daughter" with his birth records.. My first PvP conflict! Tim only had 1 point in ability, whereas Alexis had seven; Neither was able to apply their Love or Profession pools. Zach rolled no successes, and Alexis rolled ALL successes, and beat his ass on her own doorstep.

Gerald's first contest was interesting enough, in that it was also a the first time we had to carry over into a second round, when we both rolled 5 successes. He was in his parole hearing, and the stakes were whether or not he could convince the public defender to actually try to convince the panel he was eligible for parole. He won the conflict, but the lawyer failed to convince the panel, which triggered his going back to make a change. He took out an insurance policy in his younger self's name on his mama's house, then burned it down while they were at church. My changes had his baby's mama dropping by the house at the same time, and being killed in the fire, and had the fire spread to damage part of John Rychers' house.

There were obviously other memorable points, but I think I've hit some of the best ones for now. It'll encourage my players to come in and add their impressions.

My general impressions is that the additions above made the game flow notably better, but with 5 players and the scene-by-scene nature of early play, there was in general way too much time passing between each player having a scene, which made it difficult to keep the motivation and interest level up. There were many times when I saw that the next series of editions would have enhanced the game, so I'm eager to play again with the vers. 1.2 rules.

That's all for now. Alex, Eric, post and give me your impressions! I'll try to get Rhonda and Zach S. to give some impressions as well.
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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: October 16, 2005, 07:07:42 AM »

Hi,

This is Mr. Slezak, one of five testors (testies?) for the RitW.  Per Lance, I am writing on his post to make some comments on the other night.  I have taken part in 2 sessions now, one with 3 people and last night with 5.  Even with 3 individuals, the game could become very slow.  Last night after 5-6  hours of play, I had 3 personnel chances to interact with the game.  Not a very good way to keep my interest.  I think however that using play by email would allow for a much more fufilling and interesting experience.  Not only could you have larger groups playing, but the PC could get more into detail about their changes.  While playing, I felt a sense of urgency in my actions, largely thanks to the speed in which the game was panning out.  After I was done, however, I spent a lot of time wishing I did a lot of different things.  So in summation about that point, either the live games need to be very small and intimate, or the way in which the game is played needs to be addressed.  Also I would like to point out that this game burns out your characters rather quickly.  My first series of dice rolls resulted in my losing 2/3 of one pool of dice.  Now I dont mind burnout, but it would like to see a little more dramatic results for my characters loss of self.  One of the other characters completely lost all ability points during 2 dice rolls.  While the results were determined by the successes, I felt something more was required for such a profound change.  (imagine one single event completely stripping you of all potential talent)  My suggestion was that his desire to see his son (love was his son) completely broke him down to the point that he would give up all his ability to see his son succeed.  So during the verbal exchange, the PC became increasingly more desperate to save his son and when denied parole, his hatred could come full circle (all that sacrifice for nothing).  Something to chew on is all.  Thats all I can crank out, for now...

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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 #2 on: October 16, 2005, 08:24:39 AM »

Hiya,

I think I'm seeing it ...

1. More stuff happening for more characters, faster.

2. Slower burn-down, less bang-you-lost-half consequences.

These are pure Currency issues, really, as well as (perhaps) some scene-framing.

For Currency, I will have to try this out myself and see.

For scene-framing, Lance, I was under the impression that you expected most of play to concern the characters interacting just as people, in their present-day communities, often directly encountering one another and dealing with everyday stuff in their lives. Did that happen much?

Best,
Ron
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2005, 11:36:58 AM »

Yeah, there was a good amount of that. There was the initial changes, as noted in revision 4, then a full round of normal contests before we started going back and people started changing stuff. The third 'round', as a matter of fact, began with the contest where Tim went to confront Alexis, which was a real contest that triggered off a Change that both ended up involved in.

As for currency loss, I'm still not entirely sure if I think there's a problem. As Zach commented, there was a good amount of players losing traits, but I lost about a full third of my own Challenge points (began with 75, ended with 52) Whereas I think the players as a group were more even in their wins and losses.

Hm. I think, next time I play, I'm going to track total wins and losses.. I should have been doing that from the beginning, but this last session, I was focusing more on the overall experience, the new rules, and trying to manage 5 PCs, and try to keep it interesting.

Another note that just occurred to me; It seemed very difficult to draw in connections with so few hatreds per person, and with so many people when doing my Change successes.

Also: I think the game needs a glossary, basically to set up a generic set of terms to refer to different versions of the PCs throughout time.. Trying to talk about memories, character impressions, and the differences between the character that lived the new life and the one who did the Changing.
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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 #4 on: October 17, 2005, 10:32:07 AM »

Having only 3 hates per person really made it interesting to try to create 2 connections each, one to another character's hatred.  It was more difficult than a larger # of hatreds per person, but I think also created a much tighter web.  I like the Hate web's way of fleshing out ideas.  For instance, Alexis hated doctors, and Tim hated his mother.  So I asked Tim's player "hey, can we say your mom's a doctor?"  And that worked, and we were able to draw a connection, and I think that wound up being really cool.

With 5 people, the game really did drag, though a part of that might have been sheer wordiness on the part of one of the players, who continually took a paragraph to say what could be said in a sentence (I think he spent quite some time setting up a complex situation in prison that got changed immediately after he went into the past for the first time, because he managed to not get caught and thus never managed to interact with any of the prison folk).

There is definitely a chance for a quick burnout (like the ability points that burned down), but there's also the strangely uplifting side - like my character suddenly earning two points of Love while beating Tim up.  I think, especially with Ability, is that it needs to be seen as an ephemeral thing - everyone was consistently bidding all of their points, and sometimes, that wound up in huge losses.  A few more cautionary words about the possibility of loss (especially since you are twice as likely to lose a point as gain it) might be all that's necessary.

I'll post more later, as I have to get to class, but overall, the game is evolving very nicely, and I'd definitely say that 5 is the 'hard cap' for number of players, with a 'soft cap' likely lower.  Although as the game goes on, there'll be more PvP stuff, which might make 5 easier to handle.  (Lance was tying our knots together very well before the game ended - three of us wound up being neighbors in the same HOA-driven neighborhood, for instance, with two of us knowing EXACTLY who we were in the previous incarnation).

Anyway.  Good game!
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2005, 11:46:35 AM »

Clarification: During the Alexis/Tim fight, you didn't gain Love, because neither character's Love or Profession applied. You gained 2 Love, I believe, during the following Change.

But yes, this game did see a definite upsurge in Love, rather than the massive hits it took in the first playtest game. People were bidding more, and coming up really lucky on their Love rolls. In the first playtest, it was either difficult to apply Love, or you guys seemed a bit afraid of bidding Love, because the chance to lose it and burn can be great. In this game, people were more prone to taking risks, and Love did increase their chances of winning their contests.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
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