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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: [With Great Power...] Endgame MiniCon, April 1  (Read 6542 times)
Paul Strack
Member

Posts: 46


« on: April 02, 2006, 03:14:02 PM »

I ran my third game of WGP at EndGame's in-store Mini-Con in Oakland CA. It was the first time I ran the game where I actually finished the story. I think I finally grok the rules as written, know how to teach them to other people and have house rules tweak the game the way I want it to go.

The only major "mistakes" I made this time were forgetting the rules themselves. There are a lot of rules to WGP and I would often slip up. Fortunately, I gave the players a handout with a summary of the major rules. After an hour into the game, they were catching my mistakes and keeping me (and themselves) honest. The players have fewer things to keep track off, so players as rules-wardens worked surprisingly well.

I had to fit the game into a 4-hour time slot. I also had 5 players, all of them new (both to WGP and to me as a GM). All of the players were experienced role-players, but only one had prior experience with "indie", narrativist games. Rather than going into a blow-by-blow of the story, I am going to focus on how I paced the game and the order in which I taught the rules. I will highlight a few in-game elements I found interesting.

First half-hour: The first half hour was selecting characters (I had pre-gens), explaining the basic rules and coming up with the villains' plan.

The pre-gens I handed out had a full page of background and 9 potential aspects, 3 per category (Asset, Motivation, Relationship). The pre-gens also came with the city background (a brief description of the other heroes, their home city and some known villains), a rules summary and issue synopsis sheets, all stapled together. I handed out blank character sheets and battle mats separately.

My initial rules explanation focused on the basic elements of the game:

  • Heroes controlled by the PCs, villains controlled by the GM, supporting cast played by anyone convenient.
  • The hero's powers are only for color: the real important game elements are those aspects of the hero's personal life that will appear in the story.
  • Aspect basics and how they suffer: the heroic choice between protecting your personal life and getting the resources you need to beat the villains.
  • Card basics: decks, wild cards, the GM's initial advantage and how it tips to the heroes as the story advances.

After going over the basic rules, I asked the heroes to pick four aspects from the character backgrounds and write them down on their character sheets. I also told them that they had to pick the most important of the four to be their strife aspect, emphasizing that this aspect in particular would really suffer. I got them to tell me their Strife aspects as they wrote them down to get a jumpstart on villain planning. Once they finished selecting their aspects, I broke for 10 minutes to let me finish the villains' plans.

Second half-hour: After the break, I started with a "teaser fight". I focused on the card mechanics of conflict: escalation, changing styles and cancellation. I also explained the battle mats. I left off some of the more complex rules: the story-arc and the consequences of winning/losing. Then I painted a scene with plenty going on (zombies galore!), to give each hero something specific to do.

To get the heroes into the scene I asked each player to (a) describe the hero's entrance and (b) decide on his "goal" (stakes) for the combat. I reminded the players that there were 5 heroes in the scene, so that their stakes should not overlap. Despite this, I had one player go after the same "goal" as another player (stopping zombies from pushing over a bus). I took a minute to tease apart their stakes, so that each had stakes with different ramifications. One hero was fighting the zombies to keep them from pushing the bus over and the other was working to get people off the bus. It worked.

I gave each player 5 cards, and started the fight with 5 cards + 2 per player. Since this was a practice fight, they would get to replenish their cards at the end of the fight. Most of them won easily (that was my intent), but one of them actually lost because of a bad initial hand. As a result, a cop got her arm mauled by a zombie. I spun that into the first enrichment scene.

Second hour: I ran through enrichment scenes in the second hour, about 10 minutes per player. I took a couple minutes to explain the enrichment rules (pretty simple). Then I made a point of picking a player whose enrichment scene was bound to involve the supporting cast. I recruited a few other players to control these supporting characters. From this example, the group saw how enrichment scenes were supposed to go and they ran with it. I stuck in a short GM-enrichment scene in the middle to tantalize them with the villains' plan.

Unfortunately, I forgot to mention the benefits of losing during enrichment. As a result, a number of players chose to "win", giving up good cards. When it came to the first real conflict, they were down good cards and did not have much suffering, so they had few draws. As a result, I really trounced them during the first fight. It worked out OK in the end, because the fight made them suffer which balanced things out.

Third hour: More conflict. At this point I explained the remaining conflict rules. In particular, I discussed the consequences of losing in conflict, the story-arc and how the villains could ultimately be beaten. I warned them to expect to be beaten badly at first. I picked one fight with two of the heroes, expecting the others to pile on as well, but only one more decided to join in. I ended up running a second short conflict with the two remaining heroes afterwards.

I completely pasted the heroes. I set ugly stakes and pushed them hard. I made a point of using my wild 3s early, expecting to lose them as soon as the first player yielded. With that and the large number of cards I had, I got plenty of cancellations and depleted their cards. They all fought to the bitter end (lots of suffering) and mostly lost anyway. Only one managed to pull out a minor victory at the end of the second conflict.

Since I was using double-advancement, these two fights depleted the story-arc. I also managed to devastate and capture two hero aspects. I would have captured three, but I had one player choose to discard some cards to reduce his aspect suffering and avoid devastation. In effect, he threw the fight to save his aspect. This is the first time I've seen a player reduce suffering, mostly because I've never mentioned that rule. This player actually read the rules brief though, saw this as an option and went for it.

Fourth hour: I really wanted to run more enrichment scenes, but I was running out of time and needed to finish the game. I went straight into the final conflict, explaining the last remaining rule: transformation vs. redemption. I told the players with captured aspects that if things went badly, the villains could push their devastated aspects too transformed, but that if they beat the villains first, they could redeem the aspects instead.

The players broke down into two groups. The players with devastated aspects focused on redeeming them. The other players focused on devastating the villains' plans (teamwork!). Oddly enough, the same player who protected his aspect earlier choose now to voluntarily devastate it for more cards, then turned around and almost immediately redeemed it. Weird play, but he got a nice story spin out of it.

This time, the shoe was on the other foot, card-wise. I only had 1 deck left, and my draws were very limited. I still fought tooth and nail, giving the heroes a good and satisfying fight, but I couldn't win. When the end came, it came quickly. The first time I had to yield, I lost cards, which forced me to keep yielding. The last round of combat came with a series of heroic victories, villain devastation and aspect redemptions, all of which wrapped up the story nicely.

Aftermath: All the players really enjoyed the game, and most were talking about picking up a copy for themselves. I now have enough experience and comfort with the game that I think I can run it under most convention-conditions: various time lengths and different numbers of players (2 to 6). I am still not sure about campaign games and I haven't ran the game with players building their own heroes, but I don't think those would be much more difficult.
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Paul Strack
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2006, 03:16:13 PM »

There were a few new things I did this time that worked really well.

Teaser Fight: The teaser fight was the best innovation. First, it got the players into the story early. Because combat is a straightforward exercise, the players were not overwhelmed with a lot of narrativist game elements right away. Also, it let me split the explanation of the conflict mechanics. The teaser fight taught the basic card mechanics, and I covered the rest of the conflict rules at the beginning the second fight.

For the teaser fight, I used these custom rules:

  • 5 cards per player, 5 + 2 cards per player for the GM.
  • No consequences for winning/losing: no card draws, no suffering, no advancement on the story arc.
  • After the fight, everyone got to replenish their hand to its starting value, either by drawing up to their starting hand size, or by discarding all cards and drawing a new hand. Then we started the game "for real".

Even with 5 players, the teaser fight only took 30 minutes, kicked off the story and taught the players the basic flow of conflict without overwhelming them with rules. I wouldn't use it with experienced WGP players, but it was great for newbies.

Player-Filled Synopses: This time I decided to make the players fill out the synopsis sheets instead of the GM. It worked brilliantly. The players have more free time, so the sheets actually got filled out instead of ignored. The players also found that it made a nice summary of their characters' stories and were keen on keeping the synopses afterwards.

That last part didn't work out so well; I wanted copies as well. The next time, I will try to play near a photocopier. This time, I let them keep the sheets and relied on my short-term memory. Of course, this wouldn't be a problem with a regular gaming group instead of a con-game.

New Battlemats: I redesigned the battle mats. I made mats with separate "slots" for each suit of cards (one per side). This made it easier to explain and visualize the affect of changing suits in conflict. It was always immediately obvious which side "controlled" a given suit. It did make it a bit more difficult to know which card had been played last, but in practice that wasn't a major problem.

The Plan Worksheet: This is something I kept over from the second time I played, but it was sufficiently useful that I want to mention it again. Having a sheet with slots for all the details I needed for the villain's plan was very helpful for setting up a compelling nefarious plan for the villains at the beginning of the game.
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Michael S. Miller
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Posts: 846


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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2006, 06:10:55 AM »

Hi, Paul.

I'm so glad to hear that the game went well for you. After reading about your use of the Teaser Fight, it seems an obvious and very effective teaching mechanism ... and one I never would have hit upon on my own. Well done! I may very well grab that for my convention bag-o-tricks.

Speaking of grabbing stuff, if you'd like to share your new page of conflict mat, or the villain plan form, e-mail them to me and I'd be happy to put them on the website attributed to you.
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Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!
John Kim
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Posts: 1805


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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2006, 09:25:58 AM »

Since I was using double-advancement, these two fights depleted the story-arc. I also managed to devastate and capture two hero aspects. I would have captured three, but I had one player choose to discard some cards to reduce his aspect suffering and avoid devastation. In effect, he threw the fight to save his aspect. This is the first time I've seen a player reduce suffering, mostly because I've never mentioned that rule. This player actually read the rules brief though, saw this as an option and went for it.

The players broke down into two groups. The players with devastated aspects focused on redeeming them. The other players focused on devastating the villains' plans (teamwork!). Oddly enough, the same player who protected his aspect earlier choose now to voluntarily devastate it for more cards, then turned around and almost immediately redeemed it. Weird play, but he got a nice story spin out of it.

Hey.  So this player was me -- I was playing Arcana, a magician hero who had a demon inside of her.  Actually, I don't think I intentionally threw the first fight.  I don't think I would have been able to win it even with the cards that I had discarded, though I can't be sure since I don't know what Paul's hand was.  They were pretty lousy cards. 

So in that first conflict I was marked by a demon sent by the Zombie Lord.  By discarding, though, I kept my prime aspect from being devastated, and thus prevented the demon inside me from escaping earlier.  I then went into the climactic scene with a plan.  I took on the Zombie Lord single-handedly, knowing that I'd devastate that myself -- thus letting the demon go, but knowing that by doing so I would win and redeem it. 

The problem that I encountered was that I had a tough choice upon winning.  I had said going in that my goal was to strip the Zombie Lord of his powers.  I think that was a redundant goal, because I could devastate his Powers track without that as my goal. 

Within the story, Arcana had earlier agreed that she would talk to the Zombie Lord first before fighting him.  She did so in the climactic scene, and when he tried to call on the demon, I had her scream and collapse, the demon coming out of her -- but then while on the floor, her eyes opened and flashed with fire knowingly.  She then stood up and called out her full arcane powers to defeat the both of them. 

However, here's where I was tripped up.  Since I had set my goal as stripping the Zombie Lord of his powers, I now had to choose between redeeming my demon aspect and devastating the Zombie Lord's Power track.  In retrospect, I should have set my conflict goal as something non-mechanical, like knocking the Zombie Lord out or sending him to prison.  But as it was I had to decide between getting my goal and redeeming my aspect, which felt wrong to me. 
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- John
Thor Olavsrud
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Posts: 349


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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2006, 09:52:17 AM »

However, here's where I was tripped up.  Since I had set my goal as stripping the Zombie Lord of his powers, I now had to choose between redeeming my demon aspect and devastating the Zombie Lord's Power track.  In retrospect, I should have set my conflict goal as something non-mechanical, like knocking the Zombie Lord out or sending him to prison.  But as it was I had to decide between getting my goal and redeeming my aspect, which felt wrong to me.

Hey John,

Sounds like an interesting conflict.

Here's the deal though: Don't consider "Stripping the Zombie Lord of his Powers" a 'mechanical effect.'

Yes, you could take his powers away during the story by devastating his Power Aspect. But let's say you beat him in that conflict without finishing the story arc, and his Zombie Lord Powers were not yet devastated. He'd lose his Zombie Lord Powers, but could reclaim them during the story at any time. In effect, it creates a narrative wrinkle that the GM must incorporate.

Going back to the actual example, if you choose to devastate the Zombie Lord Powers but not redeem your own powers, I think that's a great statement. You allow the GM to determine how your Power has been transformed by the experience, creating more drama for your character. Meanwhile, the Zombie Lord's powers must also be transformed.

Or, you choose not to devastate the Zombie Lord, leaving an enemy you'd have to deal with again in the future, but you get to decide how your power has been changed by your experience rather than the GM.
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Michael S. Miller
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Posts: 846


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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2006, 11:15:52 AM »

Hi, John. Thanks for playing. As for the mechanical answer, Thor, as usual, is right on the money. If you win your Stakes for a conflict, but choose to mechanically target a different Aspect, then the change of state can only last one scene.
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Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


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« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2006, 02:43:50 PM »

Hi, John. Thanks for playing. As for the mechanical answer, Thor, as usual, is right on the money. If you win your Stakes for a conflict, but choose to mechanically target a different Aspect, then the change of state can only last one scene.

Cool.   That's roughly how I felt like it should be, but somehow it felt like I had to choose between getting my original goal (strip the Zombie Lord of his powers) and redeeming my aspect (binding the demon that was inside me).  It was my first time playing.  I'd read about it on the net, but didn't have a copy and hadn't played it before. 

Oh, and I did pick up a copy of WGP in the game store as Paul hinted.  One thing that I sometimes feel funny about -- if the store only has one copy of some little indie game, is it better to buy it (thus sending the signal to the game store that it sells) or leave it for other people to browse (on the principle that the store might not get a new copy anyway for a while)? 
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- John
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