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Author Topic: [Left Coast] Ronnies feedback  (Read 4418 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: October 23, 2005, 11:21:43 AM »

Hello,

Well, as announced, this game has won a $25 Ronny for October. From my notes: Oh god, talk about the 70s!! I'm getting Synanon flashbacks.

The subject matter works very well for me, because I think you've hit upon the core issues that drew me to the topic, back in the day. Bluntly, I despise the subset of SF-fandom which adores the ravings of Philip K. Dick, for instance, as if they were gorgeous fantasies. I respond to his fiction because the stories and empathy for others seem to clamber forth, somehow successfully, through the fog of his personal misery and confusion, and I see the stuff the fans seem to like as the fog. Classic Philhead fans appall me with their babble about dimensional shifts and conspiracies; they seem to me to be like vultures or fetishists. It's not the Black Iron Prison or his Exegesis or Valis (as a topic, not the title) that interest me, but the stories about friendships, the betrayals, the groping for a meaning to it all, the misunderstandings, and the desperation - his artistic sensitivity to issues that really matter.

I'll start with some reasons why the game didn't get the $75 nod. Partly it's a terms thing: "fight" is weak; it reads like "strive" or "hang in there baby" at most. I also wouldn't be interested in playing without a bit more emphasis on actually playing the characters in situations leading up to rolls, with some question left open whether a given exchange will require a roll or not. In other words, let classification of scenes (and what to roll) develop a bit through play itself, with free and open interactions among characters in the imagined space. I think games like PTA and With Great Power are showing that there are limits to the extent to which pre-classifying scenes really works ... and this game's scene-classification needs to be, if you'll forgive the expression, a little more Californian than those two and similar games.

Steve, check out Trollbabe. It's been influential on many games which do a great job of using Scene and Conflict as specific rules terms without pre-scripting play. As I see it, Left Coast needs no modification of scene-types and how rolls happen, but it does need clarification of how they get into play, especially because I'd feel as if our group were literally adding rules if we were to set up scenes and conflicts as it seems to require - i.e., without simply saying "This is a [fill in blank] scene."

Oh - but make sure to keep that "Forgo" option. I really like that one.

All right, on to the stuff that I'm looking forward to seeing in play.

Basic dice rolling is excellent, a great modification of the Sorcerer system in which spending the victories in various ways will always make characters develop and provide more fun for future rolls.

I really, really like the opposition mechanic, in which the player and GM always roll dice pools totaling, collectively, to seven dice. The player slowly increases each score, reducing the opposing score. That produces a nice positive-exponential curve for the character rolling better and better as time goes by ... which in most games would be kind of boring, because things are all getting easier, right? However, in this game, it opens the key point, later in play: that high-firing Nuttiness, Family, Alien, and Money are not going to play well together in a single person's life.

Each score has a different resolution and narration system, so let's see how they'll create massive crisis for a character when they all get flying.

Nuttiness: very weird - It isn't clear to me what success and failure on the actual rolls mean, but I especially like what happens when you hit 7 ... you go out of the room while everyone else decides what the hell you did, then come back and play "twenty questions" (literally!), such that you and your character probably end up with a confused and vague understanding, including disturbing details and questions, regarding what the hell happened
Money: cool! - you become the GM for the rest of the group to produce a scene in your character's story, then roll to see whether your story sells.
Family: plain old brutal role-playing, Primetime Adventures flavor - you get hurled a Bang or two, you make painful decisions, and roll to see whether it turns out awful or tolerable, finish up the narration.
Alien: also cool, although a bit like Nuttiness, not very relevant until it maxes out. These scenes appear almost to be more about atmospheric effects and providing detail for the more substantive scenes than about moving anything along, which is OK.

OK, two things, right? (1) Since everyone else is always involved, you can bet that their input will often involve their own characters and their issues. For instance, if I were assigned the part of some woman in your character's novel, I'd sure transform her into my character's wife ... and look forward to getting the wive and your character into the same "real world" scene later during play! (2) As I mentioned before, hard as it would be to be a little nutty, a little domestically stressed, a little poor, and a little weird ... it'd be much, much harder (and full of fruitful story-climactic stuff) to be very nutty, very involved with family issues, hitting the big time with publishing, and mondo-weird, especially with all the details interweaving with other player-characters' situations.

Here's a big gripe about Nuttiness. I loathe contradictory game mechanics. "The Nuttiness rating only ever goes up." "After the psychotic episode, the Nuttiness rating drops to 1." What? As I see it, it heads upward to 7, then drops to 1, then heads upward to 7 again, and so on. But the instructions don't say this at all.

It's a little tricky keeping certain goals and consequences straight, partly because you seem very intent on talking about endgame-conditions before or during explaining how you use the scores and rolls before endgames, i.e., during most of play. For instance, the Goal score isn't the same thing as any of the other scores, and has its own consequences. Let's see if I have this right: by going to 7 in Family, Alien, or Money, my character's story is done (7 in Nuttiness simply means twenty-questions and drop to Nuttiness 1). However, 7 in Goal means the whole sessions ends. Everyone else adjusts their scores slightly, and we have to stop. I'm not sure I quite get that. By "session," you mean, "of play," right? Can we start again later? If so, why are we stopping? Or what?

Page 25 seems to have all this laid out, but you have the crucial information about a rating hitting 7 buried in scene-ending, for some reason, and it's harder to parse out than it looks.

Big ol' shared diagrams are evidently the latest thing in Forge-inspired games, and at this point, I'm liking them and look forward to using more of them in play. In Left Coast, the diagram makes me feel very evil, because I especially like the potentially poisonous ways player-characters' notions and experiences might interact. The text ought to support that explicitly.

Best,
Ron
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hix
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Steve Hickey


« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2005, 04:55:23 PM »

Thanks for the feedback, Ron. Iím loving your vision of play - 'loose yet evil' strikes me as a good tone to aim for.  Plus your comments seem to be seeing beyond this Alpha draft and into an idealised, finished version of Left Coast that I really want to play.  Cool.

Your notes have already given me a lot to think about.  Rather than try and address everything at once, I thought (for now) I'd just try and tidy up some of the smaller problems you've pointed out.

Quote from: Ron
Here's a big gripe about Nuttiness. <snip>  As I see it, it heads upward to 7, then drops to 1, then heads upward to 7 again, and so on. The instructions don't say this at all.

Thatís what I see happening as well. Must. Write. Better.

Quote from: Ron
However, 7 in Goal means the whole sessions ends. Everyone else adjusts their scores slightly, and we have to stop. I'm not sure I quite get that. By "session," you mean, "of play," right? Can we start again later? If so, why are we stopping? Or what?

Yep, session of play.  I introduced "The Goal" to give a focus to each session - in this case, a reasonably insignificant goal that each PC wanted to accomplish - and a way to bring each session to a definite conclusion.  Play is intended to resume later (the next session), with a new goal being selected. Hopefully that new goal has something to do with setting material introduced during the session that's just finished. (Also, depending on how fast this game plays out, you could probably play through multiple goals in a single session).

What this brings up is that I have no idea what long-term play of Left Coast looks like.  Maybe there shouldn't be a definite goal.  Maybe one person completing a Goal should penalise everybody else - and Goals should keep getting chosen and overlapping with each other. Maybe there should be an ongoing story. No idea yet.

Quote from: Ron
Nuttiness: very weird - It isn't clear to me what success and failure on the actual rolls mean,

Iím not sure yet, either. In the writing, the implications of the Money and Family Ratings came together reasonably easy.  Your take on the Alien Rating (below) is dead on.

Quote from: Ron
Alien: also cool, although a bit like Nuttiness, not very relevant until it maxes out. These scenes appear almost to be more about atmospheric effects and providing detail for the more substantive scenes than about moving anything along, which is OK.

Other thoughts:

Quite a bit of the first half of your feedback is about defining Scenes less rigorously, including, ďa bit more emphasis on actually playing the characters in situations leading up to rolls, with some question left open whether a given exchange will require a roll or not.Ē

Iím sure thisíll sound weird, but I don't have a clear sense of how to do this yet. I'll check out Trollbabe.

Iím also not sure if youíve interpreted how Ratings get adjusted the way I intended.  I was thinking that a player could opt to either increase or decrease a Rating after a roll. So their effectiveness wouldnít always be increasing (because the player would want to avoid sending the character into Endgame).

However, now Iím starting to consider that thereís a neat simplicity to having players only increase their stats while the GM only decreases it.

Finally,

Quote from: Ron
In Left Coast, the diagram makes me feel very evil, because I especially like the potentially poisonous ways player-characters' notions and experiences might interact.

I want to hear more about the evil. To me, it's those interactions that'll make this game fun to play.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
talysman
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« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2005, 11:36:47 PM »

this, as I mentioned, was one of the games I was rooting for. I have some comments I will make after I reread the game and refresh my memory on rules concerning the story creation phase. however, I wanted to mention right now that I think the final layout shoiuld be very close to the current pdf: definitely use a fixed width font like Courier, perhaps with a distressed typewriter font for headers (not for body text, though, that's overkill.)

there were some typos in the pdf, of course, some of which caused confusion, but some of them actually made good Color. I'm debating whether you should add proofreader's marks. I think for now I'd say I'm against deliberate typos, but editor comments in the margins might be a cool addition.
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John Laviolette
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Graham W
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« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2005, 10:52:06 AM »

I read Left Coast ages ago. It has a fantastic setting. It looks to me as though it's set in a sort of dreamy middle ground, somewhere between comedy and horror. You can't quite make up your mind what's real and what isn't. Superb.

I think the game text could do with an edit. I found it quite hard to understand. For example, you get a section on Family, which mentions Money Scenes and Family Scenes. I didn't really know what these were, so I thought I'd missed something. But then the next section is Group Design, which is character creation. So we're still on character creation? OK. And then a section on Mechanics, which is fine, but I'm still confused about when I actually roll dice. And then, finally, the Structure of Play section, which tells me what a Family Scene is, and then I'm sent scuttling back to the Family and Mechanics sections to re-read it so I understand them.

But, you know, it was written in 24 hours, so fair enough.

I'm not sure about the Ensemble scenes. I think they're a good way to start the game but, later on in the game, I feel they wouldn't really have a function. If someone called for an Ensemble scene halfway through the game, I think the scene would just feel like marking time before we got back to the plot.

20 Questions is fantastic. One quick thought: I'd like there to be an option for the questions to be answered without the other players first deciding what happened. That way, the "Yes/No" answers would still build up a story about what happened, but it would likely be very hazy and contradictory. And the story would be built up as the answers were given, which would be rather cool.

I'm not quite sure about the adversarial GM role, with the instructions to drive their scores down to zero. It seems a little wrong. (Since it's a Californian game, perhaps the GM should nurture and empathise with the players more.)

Oh, and that page of colour text, which gives the structure of the author's day, is just perfect and really helps.

Good luck. It's a great game.

Graham

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