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Author Topic: [UtB] A Girl named Jo  (Read 3362 times)
Tim Alexander
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Posts: 304


« on: November 18, 2005, 07:01:00 AM »

Hey Folks,

So on Tuesday we finished up and Under the Bed game that started the week before. The group I do most of my gaming with these days ends up gathering after work during the week due to kids and other scheduling constraints that make it hard to fit in the time otherwise. This means in practice we only get from two to three hours of actual play in a given session. It's not a bad chunk of time, but it did mean that when we started the game last week we weren't quite able to finish things up and had to push it on until the next week. It's me, a married couple, and a fourth friend. Both the husband and the friend have D&D in their distant past, the wife's only experience has been Sorcerer which she took to swimmingly.

At the start of play I was the only one to have read the rules. In spite of being a pretty straightforward and concise set of rules, this was dumb. In fact, since it's so small there's basically no reason to have done it this way and I think getting the book in people's hands does good things in setting expectations. In any event, I went over the rules, and we started talking about where and when and who the kid was. There was some initial back and forth about a romanticized fifties timeframe, and the 80s. We settled on the 80s, which I think contributed to some stuff later since we're all folks who did a lot of growing up in the 80s. In play we end up having most of our actions be the child's actions and not our toys, and I think that's related heavily to how concretely we were attached to the setting. Josephine (Jo) is a nine year old tomboy in upscale Connecticut. Her Dad's a stockbroker, her Mom is Madison Avenue advertising. What ends up being at stake is whether mom and dad notice Jo. Which, I think may have been the stakes of Vincent's 'saddest game ever' as well, but I can't remember whether I pushed things in that direction without thinking about it or if it was suggested by one of the others. In practice the game felt a lot like a John Hughes movie, with the occasional antics of magic toys. More of that in a minute.

We talk toys, and there were a couple of trades. Come to think of it I think I was involved in both of them. Once for my own concept that ended up being different in practice anyway and once again to help someone else fill theirs. So we end up with:

(clumsy, slow, sad) Harold, the cabbage patch kid.
(fiesty, perceptive, impressionable) Duke, G.I. Joe. New school small rubber band belly, not the originals.
(peaceful, thick, disobedient) An unflappable old stuffed alligator, a carryover from Joe’s really young years.
(frail, fast, agil) The Millennium Falcon.

Man, when Erik said, “I think I’m the Millennium Falcon” we all went nuts. Everybody was a little jealous of not getting to be the Millenium Falcon. It didn’t see a whole lot of direct play since we narrated Joe a lot, but there were lots of asides during the game with the engines not quite working and it made the few times it came to life much cooler.

During the course of play Joe did a bunch of things not limited to but including:

-Trumped the headmistress, letting her get away with improper school dress
-Mouthed off to the Gym teacher, later to be thrown out of Baseball tryouts for fighting
-Sneaks out of the house to go play
-Snags the lead in the school play
-Gets mom and dad to come to said play
-Finally gets mom and dad to notice her after the car breaks down

During the game I’d say a good 70-80% of the narration was all things Joe was doing. Even when the toys acted they did so without anyone else really noticing. It wasn’t even clear by the end whether or not Joe actually understood them to be working on her behalf; very Toy Story. I also found that we were pretty tough on each other’s narration of traits, though more often then not offered suggestions on how to make a given trait work for us.

Overall, I had a pretty good time, though I think some of the rest of the group was a bit lukewarm on it. A couple of comments were that it felt “more like a boardgame” and at least one player acknowledged having some trouble in getting their head around how best to narrate and set scenes. There were definitely times where I felt a little stumped, and I want to chalk it up to how concrete we made our setting. We really limited the amount of fantasy we could inject, and I think that makes getting the toys involved more difficult. Most of the time we addressed that by using Joe instead, but sometimes that doesn’t cut it.

As I mentioned early on, we completed this over two separate instances of play, and it’s not a game designed for that really. It works just fine though, and we didn’t have much trouble getting back into the story, or finding our way. In some ways I think it helped some of us digest the game a little and come back in with some fresh ideas. The only downside is saving state is less than elegant, but it’s not overly onerous either. I’d like to play it again, though maybe with another group, or at least not until everyone is a little more comfortable with being in the director’s seat. I think I’ll put it away for a bit and come back to it. We’re playing Dogs next, and then we’ll see, though I’d like to get them to try Shock.

Thanks for a cool game Josh,

-Tim
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2005, 08:33:03 PM »

We settled on the 80s, which I think contributed to some stuff later since we're all folks who did a lot of growing up in the 80s.

Twitch.

See, that could make for a really good, really sad game.  I've been amazed watching people bring their own pain from their childhood out when they propose ... urgh... forgetting phrasing.  Anyway, when they propose the terrible, painful things that happen to the kid, which the toys need to try to protect him/her from.  And I read your "We picked an era and setting that meshes tightly with our own childhoods" and I think Oh God, they know every painful, brutal thing that can happen to that child.

And then, you tease!, you only mention what Jo did to solve her problems, not what the problems were in the first place.  I demand more.  Demand!
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2005, 07:05:50 AM »

At the start of play I was the only one to have read the rules. In spite of being a pretty straightforward and concise set of rules, this was dumb. In fact, since it's so small there's basically no reason to have done it this way and I think getting the book in people's hands does good things in setting expectations.

It's probably a good idea. To facilitate that, I'll make a one-page synopsis of the rules that people can refer to as they play that you'll be able to download. Don't hold your breath, but it's now in the queue.

Quote
In any event, I went over the rules, and we started talking about where and when and who the kid was. There was some initial back and forth about a romanticized fifties timeframe, and the 80s. We settled on the 80s, which I think contributed to some stuff later since we're all folks who did a lot of growing up in the 80s.

Tony's comment notwithstanding, this is what most folks do. It gives you honest, challenging material, but:

Quote
In play we end up having most of our actions be the child's actions and not our toys, and I think that's related heavily to how concretely we were attached to the setting.

... this means that you're removing metaphor. I'm fine with people doing it that way, but it means that you will have a hard time talking about the really difficult stuff because you don't want to subject the Child to it.

Quote
We talk toys, and there were a couple of trades. Come to think of it I think I was involved in both of them. Once for my own concept that ended up being different in practice anyway and once again to help someone else fill theirs. So we end up with:

(clumsy, slow, sad) Harold, the cabbage patch kid.
(fiesty, perceptive, impressionable) Duke, G.I. Joe. New school small rubber band belly, not the originals.
(peaceful, thick, disobedient) An unflappable old stuffed alligator, a carryover from Joe’s really young years.
(frail, fast, agil) The Millennium Falcon.

Aweome. On ever level, awesome.

Quote
Man, when Erik said, “I think I’m the Millennium Falcon” we all went nuts. Everybody was a little jealous of not getting to be the Millenium Falcon. It didn’t see a whole lot of direct play since we narrated Joe a lot, but there were lots of asides during the game with the engines not quite working and it made the few times it came to life much cooler.

Hm. When I hear things like this: "There were a lot of asides," that means that someone's vision was not being satisfied. You're making fiction. Make the fiction talk about what you want to talk about. Narrate Jo's remembering the car-won't-start sound of the Falcon, at the very least. If she's not going to get in and fly the thing.

Quote
During the course of play Joe did a bunch of things not limited to but including:

-Trumped the headmistress, letting her get away with improper school dress
-Mouthed off to the Gym teacher, later to be thrown out of Baseball tryouts for fighting
-Sneaks out of the house to go play
-Snags the lead in the school play
-Gets mom and dad to come to said play
-Finally gets mom and dad to notice her after the car breaks down

Who did what? How?

I'm particularly interested in the final one there. What were the Charactersitics of the toy that won the Story Stakes? Because that's Jo now.

Quote
During the game I’d say a good 70-80% of the narration was all things Joe was doing. Even when the toys acted they did so without anyone else really noticing. It wasn’t even clear by the end whether or not Joe actually understood them to be working on her behalf; very Toy Story. I also found that we were pretty tough on each other’s narration of traits, though more often then not offered suggestions on how to make a given trait work for us.

Being hard on each others' narration might have contributed to the "boardgame" feeling, if by that you mean that it didn't feel like the players had much of a chance to narrate their Toys successfully.

It's really not necessary to be that hard on each other. The bullshit test is important only to keep people from assuming that they'll roll every die they've got every time. Not to ensure that they can roll as few as they can rationalize.

Quote
Overall, I had a pretty good time, though I think some of the rest of the group was a bit lukewarm on it. A couple of comments were that it felt “more like a boardgame” and at least one player acknowledged having some trouble in getting their head around how best to narrate and set scenes.

I empathize. It's hard. The game works best when everyone at the table is really comfortable with narrative control.

Quote
There were definitely times where I felt a little stumped, and I want to chalk it up to how concrete we made our setting. We really limited the amount of fantasy we could inject, and I think that makes getting the toys involved more difficult. Most of the time we addressed that by using Joe instead, but sometimes that doesn’t cut it.

Yep. That's a challenge.

Quote
As I mentioned early on, we completed this over two separate instances of play, and it’s not a game designed for that really. It works just fine though, and we didn’t have much trouble getting back into the story, or finding our way. In some ways I think it helped some of us digest the game a little and come back in with some fresh ideas.

Very interesting. Did people come to the table refreshed, or feeling stymied that their week's ideas weren't being used?

Quote
The only downside is saving state is less than elegant, but it’s not overly onerous either. I’d like to play it again, though maybe with another group, or at least not until everyone is a little more comfortable with being in the director’s seat. I think I’ll put it away for a bit and come back to it. We’re playing Dogs next, and then we’ll see, though I’d like to get them to try Shock.

Dogs, of course, is a better game. And Shock:, well, why wouldn't I want you to try that?

Quote
Thanks for a cool game Josh,

My pleasure.

I'm also curious about that "boardgame" feeling, because in some ways, I was deliberately trying to make it "boardgame accessible", but it might not be in other ways.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Tim Alexander
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2005, 09:06:55 AM »

Hey Folks,

I'm going to talk about that last scene since it really speaks to a lot of what went on between us as players during the game and also addresses most of what you're both asking about. We've just resolved a conflict that puts Jo and her parents heading to a gas station in order to refuel the car which has run out of gas on the side of the road. We're in the middle of upscale conneticut, so in our heads it's wide stretches of road with big houses set back from the street. The conflict was a success in the toy's favor, and the player elected to take the final attribute remaining on the table, so the next pick is going to be the whole shebang. There was some talk about strategy that lead up to this point. People were ready for an ending, but the player who was taking the attribute wasn't going to actually have a shot at being the 'winning' toy since none of their tokens were in the bag at this point. However, the two players that were left both had bigger attribute pools, and the player picking didn't have much in the way of favorite tokens. So, it setup a situation where if they took the final attribute then Jo would have a pretty good shot at winning the overall stakes. We were all pretty attached to Jo at this point and didn't really want to see her end up without being noticed by mom and dad, so everyone was pretty happy about the decision to begin end game on those terms.

So the player starts to setup the final scene, and the opposition is a trucker and the scene involves him trying to pickup Jo and will the parents allow it. Nobody at the table is really buying it, and I especially was worried the player wasn't at all sure on connecting the oppostion to the stakes. So there was some hemming and hawing and some various suggestions, and I think at some point I said something like, "I'm willing to believe you've got an angle on this that makes sense, but I'm having trouble seeing it." Further talks indicated that the player really just wanted big drama from this final conflict, and the table talked about how the stakes ensured the scene had drama because they were the whole kit and kaboodle. Focusing on the stakes guaranteed heady stuff. This all took maybe five minutes, maybe a little longer. Eventually it came around to the opposition just being Jo's parents, and as they descended into another adult argument while they walked along the side fo the road we would find out whether Jo ever got their attention in a meaningful way.

So, the player picks the token, and Duke is going to be the toy that gets his shot. You'll remember he's fiesty, perceptive, and impressionable. So the parents are self centered and start a rambling discussion of big adult business topics, but only roll a four. Jo's perceptive enough to have picked up bits and pieces of previous conversations, enough to have a general gist of what they're talking about. Since she's fiesty she butts right into the discussion and makes a few salient points. I believe there was an attempt at impressionable here as well, but push back from the group squashed it. Josh's point is well taken, I think we were a little too hard on each other with regard to trait use. While I think we tried to make it somewhat constructive in that we were often not entirely blocking but instead offering a suggestion to move an idea towards a better fit in someone's mind, I think it may have hurt creativity somewhat and made the game less of a safe space. In any event the player rolls well enough to carry a +1 into the final roll. So her parents are dismissive or maybe condescending, but in any event give her an ingratiating smile and a pat on the head while they continue to talk about adult stuff. I forget the roll, but it was high, probably a seven. So we're all a little worried now, even with the +1 it's by no means a slam dunk roll. There's some talk about how there's some amount of pressure on the player to make good on this last bit of narration, but it was pretty obvious that everyone wanted to see Jo succeed so I think we finally had a mindset that we probably should have had earlier on, which was anything that wasn't seriously hinky was going to fly. So Jo, being impressionable is really hurt by the dismissal, and being perceptive spies a school rival in the window of a house they're passing. Being pissed, and fiesty she picks up a rock from the side of the road as her parents walk on, and whips it into the glass shattering it. Nice. The player rolls, gets an eight, and handily wins. So Jo's parents whip around and start to scold her, and at the table everyone knows that from now on Jo's going to be leaning heavily on Fiesty, Impressionable, and Perceptive, and that in spite of all the positive stuff she'd managed to do during the game it took a rebellious outburst to actually get her parents attention. Cool stuff.

-Tim
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2005, 09:24:01 AM »

Oh, man, that's awesome.

Thanks, Tim!

"Impressionable" is one of the harder cards to play, I've found, so kudos for working with it so well.

How many coins were left in the hat after this round? I ask because the strategy here was probably right, but I'd like to know all the inputs before I comment on it.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Tim Alexander
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2005, 09:43:18 AM »

Hey Josh,

Yeah, impressionable gave us trouble several times. It seemed to me that a lot of the trouble came in how varied the interpetation of what constitutes impressionable can be, as well as how personal. So stuff that's blindingly obvious to one player's idea is a complete cop out to another. Most of the other traits find a common ground more easily I think. Here's the state of things leading into that final conflict:

Cabbage Patch's player holds the bag which contains: 2 coins, one for the Alligator, one for G.I. Joe
On the table: one trait

The state of the toys:

Alligator: 4 traits, 2 favoritism
G.I. Joe: 3 traits, 4 favoritism
Millenium Falcon: 3 traits, 1 favoritism
Cabbage Patch Kid: 3 traits, 2 favoritism

So as it stands if Harold's player takes the trait the next conflict is guaranteed 3:2, and at least 50/50 on being 4:2. There are better possibilities available, but not readily so, and there were at least a couple of players ready for a resolution.

-Tim
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2005, 09:55:18 AM »

Yeah, so taking the coin was the best option, it's true. Cool!

I'd be intereted to hear a less debatable synonym for "Impressionable".

... and be glad "Boring" didn't make it to the final draft.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Tim Alexander
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2005, 09:38:18 AM »

Yeah, so taking the coin was the best option, it's true. Cool!

Wait, you mean taking the trait right?

Quote
I'd be intereted to hear a less debatable synonym for "Impressionable".

I'm thinking on this, and I'll bring it up to the folks I played with when we get together again next week.

Quote
... and be glad "Boring" didn't make it to the final draft.

Yeah, that could be tough. I can think of a few uses, but yeah.

-Tim
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2005, 10:14:06 AM »

Yeah, so taking the coin was the best option, it's true. Cool!

Wait, you mean taking the trait right?

Er, no, I was agreeing with something in my own head that I didn't say out loud. Or type, even.

I'd have taken the Characteristic only if I wanted another Toy to win. Like, if I was playing "Stupid, Frail, Impressionable, Clumsy" then I might not want to inflict that story on the Child. That is, in taking the Trait, I have almost no chance of winning because there will be two coins left in the hat — two turns will pass before I do anything at all. So I'd take a coin because one of the upcoming players will probably take the Characteristic, leaving only one turn before my coins go back in the bag.

It's not a hopeful situation if you want your Toy to win, I admit. But, really, them's the breaks.

Incidentally, I totally support throwing the game on a metagame level to help someone else's toy win. But as soon as the fiction stats, you should play your Toy just as hard as you can. It makes a much better story.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Tim Alexander
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2005, 10:39:28 AM »

Er, no, I was agreeing with something in my own head that I didn't say out loud. Or type, even.

I'd have taken the Characteristic only if I wanted another Toy to win. Like, if I was playing "Stupid, Frail, Impressionable, Clumsy" then I might not want to inflict that story on the Child. That is, in taking the Trait, I have almost no chance of winning because there will be two coins left in the hat — two turns will pass before I do anything at all. So I'd take a coin because one of the upcoming players will probably take the Characteristic, leaving only one turn before my coins go back in the bag.

It's not a hopeful situation if you want your Toy to win, I admit. But, really, them's the breaks.

Right, I'm with you. In this particular case it appeared that the player was taking the trait anyway, and the strategy discussion came about as making sure they understood all the ramifications. The rationalization about Jo having a better shot at coming out successful ended up being fuel for a fire already burning so to speak.

Quote
Incidentally, I totally support throwing the game on a metagame level to help someone else's toy win. But as soon as the fiction stats, you should play your Toy just as hard as you can. It makes a much better story.

I think everyone had this in mind for most of the game, so it's all good.

-Tim
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2005, 11:08:25 AM »

Excellent.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
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