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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 156 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [WGP] Hero game filler at DundraCon, CA  (Read 2575 times)
Paul Strack
Member

Posts: 46


« on: February 19, 2006, 11:36:50 AM »

I ran a quick game of "With Great Power..." at DrudraCon in California for a couple friends of mine. It was a great success. I'd prepped some rules sheets and character descriptions to speed setup. One of my players picked Nightwind (a shadow-powered martial artist) and the other picked Blue Static (a electricity-powered energy blaster with a dark past).

Nightwind picked "Wendy Tate" as his Strife aspect, his ex-partner in the police force who was unhappy with her friend's lack of ambition since he left the force (Wendy was friends with Nightwind's secret id). Blue Static picked her origin with the mysterious government project that had abused her but given her electrical powers.

I start with a brief explanation of the rules, and lead off with a "teaser fight" which was supposed to demonstrate the conflict rules, but turned out to be the start of the story. The heroes stumbled across a couple of thugs trying to kidnap a woman. I expected them to win the fight, but the bad guys actually succeeded and got away. The players also started to bring in their aspects right away for more cards, which meant this "throw away" fight had to be tied into the story somehow.

I moved on to a couple of enrichments scenes. With a bit of prompting, I was able to get the players to choose each other as well as myself to play NPCs in the scene. This was where WGP really started to shine. The players got into playing the NPCs as much as they got into the heroes themselves, and had a blast making trouble for each other.

Nightwind met with Wendy Tate to try to pump her about the kidnapped woman. Blue Static went home and had a flashback scene about her time in the project, including how a government agent named Adam betrayed her. Both scenes came almost entirely from the player's ideas, which was nice. At this point I hadn't really made up the villains plan yet, so I had an GM enrichment scene in which I pulled in Adam to meet with a "mysterious unnamed villain" to scheme about the project. The villains was interested in getting information on project-related superheroes from the local paranormal task force, run by none other than Wendy Tate.

The players went through an alternating series of conflict scenes and enrichment scenes to move the story forward. Wendy got kidnapped, the heroes brought in a PI named Jimmy Logan (Nightwind's friend who also happened to be Blue Static's brother looking for his long lost sister). They ended up on a climatic dockside fight to stop the villain's from putting Wendy in a submarine and escaping with her, Adam and the Project files.

The heroes won much faster than I expected. The player's didn't notice, though. One of my players was convinced through the whole game that the good guys had no chance. I trounced the players in the first few fights, but as the game went on, my hand got clogged up with bad cards. At the end I couldn't compete, even though I had many more cards than the heroes. I was expecting one more get-away and battle scene before the end of the game, but the heroes pushed hard and beat the villains on the dock.

I forgot lots of rules and made things up on the fly, but mostly that didn't seem to matter. My prep sheet included all the player-related rules, but I really need a summary sheet for the GM rules as well. I did make one big mistake by not spending more time working out the villain's plan at the beginning of the game. I figured that I would be able to improvise during play, but it meant that the ultimate bad guy never really got fleshed out, and his reveal at the end was not terribly exciting. The game did end with the players wanting more.

Mechanically I found that the game went very well. The card flow and story arc worked as designed, and the enrichment scenes got the players invested in the story very quickly (since they were making up half of it themselves). Neither of my players were hard-core improvisational players, so the game gave enough hooks for players that were new to this style of play.

I only had two major complaints about the rules. It was too hard for the GM to manipulate the player's aspects. I pushed as hard as I could, but I wasn't able to devastate any aspects of either player before the end of the game. This was with two players; I suspect it would be worse with more. Second, while the enrichments scenes were by far the best part of the game, the mechanics didn't allow for these scenes to push the story arc forward. I started throwing in some gratuitous fights just to move the story forward, when I would have rather spent more time on enrichment scenes (which were a blast).

Mostly, though, the experiment was positive, especially since both of my players were eager to play again. Since neither of them are particularly friendly towards "weird indie" games, I consider that a major victory.
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Michael S. Miller
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Posts: 846


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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2006, 07:19:59 AM »

Hi, Paul!

Thanks for running the game and posting this. I'm glad you and your friends enjoyed it! Couple of comments:

I start with a brief explanation of the rules, and lead off with a "teaser fight" which was supposed to demonstrate the conflict rules, but turned out to be the start of the story.

<throws head back and laughs maniacally> Muahahaha! Now you see the fiendish cleverness of my design!

Seriously, every scene, every card flip, is part of the story. When writing it, one of my design goals was: "No Fill-In Issues." You know the ones, right? When the regular writer has a month off, or the book is "between" creative teams, and they give you 24 pages worth of worthless Red Guy beats up Blue Guy stuff? A lot of superhero gaming has felt like nothing but fill-in issues, and I wanted to design a game that couldn't do them.

Quote
I moved on to a couple of enrichments scenes. With a bit of prompting, I was able to get the players to choose each other as well as myself to play NPCs in the scene. This was where WGP really started to shine. The players got into playing the NPCs as much as they got into the heroes themselves, and had a blast making trouble for each other.

Excellent! This is great! My philosophy is: If you're sitting at the table, you should be doing something. Just because your character isn't in a scene doesn't mean you have nothing to contribute. Handing out NPCs always surprises and delights me to no end.

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I did make one big mistake by not spending more time working out the villain's plan at the beginning of the game. I figured that I would be able to improvise during play, but it meant that the ultimate bad guy never really got fleshed out, and his reveal at the end was not terribly exciting.

Y'know, that's exactly how I was running the game a year ago: No plan, no focus, no fun. Eventually, I got the point that I dreaded each game and nearly set the whole project aside. Then, my wife & I hammered out all the stuff on the Villain's Plan and now the game soars! What I've taken to doing at my convention games is making the Plan out loud at the table. The players get to offer pencilling, I get a further glimpse of where their interests lie, and everyone is very invested in the Plan and its ultimate resolution.

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I only had two major complaints about the rules. It was too hard for the GM to manipulate the player's aspects. I pushed as hard as I could, but I wasn't able to devastate any aspects of either player before the end of the game. This was with two players; I suspect it would be worse with more.

How many aspects did each player have? I find four aspects to be ideal. Also, did you remember that the get one additional card for increasing the Suffering of their Strife? Also, the rules tweak you mentioned in the Incarnadine Press forum lessens the value of wild cards somewhat, which takes away a bit of the appeal of Devastating an aspect to gain wilds.

Quote
Second, while the enrichments scenes were by far the best part of the game, the mechanics didn't allow for these scenes to push the story arc forward. I started throwing in some gratuitous fights just to move the story forward, when I would have rather spent more time on enrichment scenes (which were a blast).

Not to beat a dead horse, but if you'd had a solid Plan, those fights wouldn't have been gratuitous--they would have been in service to the Plan.

Did you use a Synopsis sheet to record Stakes? I'd love to read what you folks came up with.
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Paul Strack
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2006, 10:55:27 AM »

Quote
I only had two major complaints about the rules. It was too hard for the GM to manipulate the player's aspects. I pushed as hard as I could, but I wasn't able to devastate any aspects of either player before the end of the game. This was with two players; I suspect it would be worse with more.

How many aspects did each player have? I find four aspects to be ideal. Also, did you remember that the get one additional card for increasing the Suffering of their Strife? Also, the rules tweak you mentioned in the Incarnadine Press forum lessens the value of wild cards somewhat, which takes away a bit of the appeal of Devastating an aspect to gain wilds.

The heroes each had 3 aspects (though by the end of the game I wish they had had 4). I forgot about the extra card for Strife aspects initially, but remembered halfway through the game. I also forgot about 1 less card for Plan aspects. This probably gave me 2 less cards, and the players 2 more. It is also possible that I had poor draws. I got very few 2s an almost no 3s, so I was short on wild cards.

I was still winning most conflicts though, and pushing up suffering levels with almost every fight, and always on the Strife aspects. One of my players twigged to the game mechanics immediately, and played defensively. At the end of the game, he had every aspect Threatened, but none Imperiled. My other player was less of a rules Nazi, and I managed to get her Strife aspect to Imperiled, but she got good draws in her last hand and I couldn't manage to beat her.

Also, you seem to be implying that a player would willingly Devastate an aspect in order to get more wild cards. Is this something that happens in your games? So far as I can see, Devastated aspects favor the GM much more than the player, and I can't see why a player would willing allow an aspect to be Devastated.

Did you use a Synopsis sheet to record Stakes? I'd love to read what you folks came up with.

I didn't, but I think I can recreate them:

Conflict 1: No official stake declarations. It worked out to beat up kidnappers and keep them from taking the girl vs. escape the heroes and kidnap the girl.

Enrichment 1 (Nightwind): Get Wendy Tate to tell Nightwind about the kidnapped girl vs. Get Nightwind (in his secret id) to admit he has problems and seek out professional help. Nightwind won.

Enrichment 2 (Blue Static): A flashback scene to the hero's origin. Blue Static wanted to escape the government and go on with her life and the government agent (Adam) wanted to trick her into the van so that they could keep her under wraps. The GM won.

Enrichment 3 (GM): The "unnamed villain" wanted to get Adam to tell him that Wendy Tate knew the most about local Project-related heroes and the players wanted Adam to say something else. The GM won.

Conflict 2: Vague stake declarations (I forgot about them). At the kidnapped girl's house, the heroes found some robot minions. The heroes wanted to the defeat the minions, and the minions wanted to beat the heroes and get away with their info. The villains beat both heroes.

Enrichment 4 (Nightwind/Blue Static): Nightwind went to meet one of his contacts, Jimmy Logan, who happens (secretly) to be Blue Static's brother. Nightwind wanted to moan about his failure to protect the innocent (he was increasing an aspect's suffering) and Jimmy Logan wanted to buck him up and get him to keep fighting. Blue Static wanted to keep her brother out of things, and Jimmy (not knowing Blue Static was his sister) wanted to help investigate. The GM won both of these.

Enrichment 5 (GM): The government agent Adam wanted to trick Wendy Tate into meeting him downtown. The players want her not to go. The GM won.

Conflict 3: The heroes go to save Wendy from the villains. Nightwind's stakes were about Wendy not being captured, and Blue Static's stakes were about capturing a robot minion so they could learn more about what was going on. Nightwind lost, Blue Static won.

Enrichment 6 (Nightwind/Blue Static): The heroes followed up the clues found on the robot that Blue Static beat. I can't remember Nightwind's stakes (they were uninteresting, and focused on aspect management). Blue Static had a conversation with her brother where he tried to pump her for information and she tried to get him to leave her alone. Blue Static won.

Conflict 4: The heroes burst into the warehouse as the (still unnamed) villain was leaving with Wendy, Adam and his robot minion's. Nightwind's stake was to save Wendy vs. Wendy being taken and badly hurt in the process. Blue Static's stake was to capture Adam, vs. him escaping with the Project-related files. Both heroes won. They were one step from the end of the story arc, but the villain's plan was pretty much decimated at this point, so I decided to end the game here (it was getting late).
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Michael S. Miller
Member

Posts: 846


WWW
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2006, 04:27:23 PM »

Also, you seem to be implying that a player would willingly Devastate an aspect in order to get more wild cards. Is this something that happens in your games? So far as I can see, Devastated aspects favor the GM much more than the player, and I can't see why a player would willing allow an aspect to be Devastated.

Well, when wilds can be used to escalate, they can be used to instantly play the ace of the active suit, forcing your opponent to Change Style (and burn an extra card) or Cancel. Thereafter, all your opponent's cards of that suit are worthless, unless they have the ace. So, wild cards are plenty tempting.

Thanks for listing those Stakes. Your Enrichment stakes are pretty good (and you've said that you enjoyed Enrichment scenes), but it looks like you often forgot Conflict Stakes, or set ones that were a bit weak (and you've said you didn't enjoy conflict as much). Here's a phrase I find myself using a lot when running the game: "How does your hero want the scene to end? <they answer> If I win not only does <hero's Stakes> not happen, but also I get <my own wicked Stakes>." That "not only ... but also" phrasing has helped a lot.

Also, looking at your conflict stakes, I see kidnapping, kidnapping, kidnapping. Now, I've got nothing against a good, nefarious kidnapping. It's a staple of the genre. But so is blowing up buildings, stealing gobs of money, silencing any small-time cops who've gotten wind of a top-secret goverment supersoldier project, and the like. Variety is the spice of life ... and melodrama!
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Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!
Paul Strack
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2006, 08:10:33 PM »

Also, you seem to be implying that a player would willingly Devastate an aspect in order to get more wild cards. Is this something that happens in your games? So far as I can see, Devastated aspects favor the GM much more than the player, and I can't see why a player would willing allow an aspect to be Devastated.

Well, when wilds can be used to escalate, they can be used to instantly play the ace of the active suit, forcing your opponent to Change Style (and burn an extra card) or Cancel. Thereafter, all your opponent's cards of that suit are worthless, unless they have the ace. So, wild cards are plenty tempting.

I'm not convinced, but that's OK. In light of my new understanding of the game, I no longer feel that Devastating hero aspects is vital. The threat of devastation is enough to keep the tension levels high, so I am a lot more comfortable with the game play as written.

Thanks for listing those Stakes. Your Enrichment stakes are pretty good (and you've said that you enjoyed Enrichment scenes), but it looks like you often forgot Conflict Stakes, or set ones that were a bit weak (and you've said you didn't enjoy conflict as much). Here's a phrase I find myself using a lot when running the game: "How does your hero want the scene to end? <they answer> If I win not only does <hero's Stakes> not happen, but also I get <my own wicked Stakes>." That "not only ... but also" phrasing has helped a lot.

Also, looking at your conflict stakes, I see kidnapping, kidnapping, kidnapping. Now, I've got nothing against a good, nefarious kidnapping. It's a staple of the genre. But so is blowing up buildings, stealing gobs of money, silencing any small-time cops who've gotten wind of a top-secret goverment supersoldier project, and the like. Variety is the spice of life ... and melodrama!

Yes, I pretty much dropped the ball on conflict stakes. I largely attribute it to lack of any real plan for the villains. If I had known what the villains wanted, it would have been much easier to come up with good conflict stakes. So ... next time, more Planning.
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