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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4284 Members Latest Member: - Nicholas Mizer Most online today: 135 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Shab-al-Hiri Roach] Poisoner's Day  (Read 3615 times)
Jason Morningstar
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« on: December 24, 2005, 07:03:00 AM »

I played the Roach again last night with three non-gamers.  My wife Autumn, who is familiar with the game (she's copy editing it), has played Breaking the Ice once and that's about it.  Our two friends Dan and Anmar are both actors, writers, and musicians with no recent gaming experience (Dan played D&D in high school).  I was worried that it would be difficult to explain and that scene framing would be a huge challenge.  It wasn't, and the game hummed along with a few noteworthy differences.

1.  It was much tamer than a "normal" Roach game.  Only two NPCs died, and Regina Sutton was not interfered with at all (OK, I slept with her, but just to feed my debauchery enthusiasm, without in-game effect, really).  Many of the conflicts were for fairly low stakes, although this evolved as the game progressed.  It ended in a satisfying but lower-key way - the winner (Autumn, as it turned out) poisoned her fiance and escaped to South America with Hattie, her housekeeper/lover.  Dan, Roach-mad, set himself on fire at the Christmas ball and died dramatically.  Anmar chose for her final conflict a showdown over the "most popular professor" trophy, and lost, retreating to her garden of deadly orchids for solace.

2.  Autumn and Anmar both said it was a challenge to follow the many loose narrative threads the game spawns.  Autumn compared it to an Agatha Christie novel.  I hadn't heard this before.

3.  Explaining the die mechanic and card handling was a piece of cake.  Everyone "got it" pretty quickly.

4.  Framing conflicts took a bit more work and seemed to feel unnatural to them, but once I set a good example and demonstrated setting stakes that were fun regardless of outcome, it made more sense I think.  Some weak stakes were still proposed at times, and one interesting result of this was the heavy introduction of NPCs.  Seriously, there were a LOT of people being narrated in - more than usual, and I rarely got any takers when I proposed calling bullshit per the rules.  So everybody was chucking big handfuls of dice and really wanting to win every conflict.  Not a problem, but quite a departure from previous games.

I think one take-away here is that narration-heavy games can be pretty accessible to non-gamers  (I'm sure lots of you already know that).  Autumn felt strongly that the Roach required too much thinking throughout with players required to stay on their toes constantly. She wanted more structure, but "not too much" more structure, having seen D&D. 

--Jason
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2005, 12:16:09 PM »

Real interesting stuff.  Lots to think about & process.

Something in particular jumped out at me.
Quote
Autumn felt strongly that the Roach required too much thinking throughout with players required to stay on their toes constantly.

My first reaction was;  Too much thinking for what?  But of course the answer is really simple.  Too much thinking for Autumn's taste.  And then something hit me kinda hard.  A little personal epiphany.  Or rather...  Have you ever had one of those epiphany-like things where you're suddenly reminded of something you already knew, but now it's so much more important and in a new light?  Yeah.  That's what I felt.

What I was reminded of is that I've always talked about RPGs as a hobby.  As "the hobby" amongst fellow gamers.  To people outside the hobby a game is a game.  It's casual.  And that's cool.  But what it lets me realize is that there's games that are best fit for the causual gamer and games that are best fit for the hobbyist.  And that's cool too.  Now I can consider just how casual I want my designs when I'm working out a game.

I'm sure my games will stay very hobbyist.  But that's because I'm a hobbyist and I'll be designing games that I like to play.

Thanks to Jason and Autumn for the semi-epiphany.

-Eric
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2005, 02:32:44 PM »

Cool, Eric, glad to help.  I think Autumn will *really* dig a game like, say, Trollbabe, when I get the chance to share it with her, because she does not have to always be "on".  There will be other players doing other things, and a GM, and a chance to take a mental and emotional breather.  It's the constant demand for attention, creativity, and enthusiasm that fuels a game like the Roach (or PTA, or...) that can be mentally exhausting.  That's what I think she meant, anyway.
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