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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 174 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Roach Demo at NordCon - some not so great, and a lot of great moments.  (Read 5675 times)
oliof
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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« on: May 22, 2006, 02:54:19 PM »

OK,
on saturday night, I was offering a game of 'Shab Al-Hiri Roach' at NordCon, the biggest rpg convention in northern germany for ten years.

We were six players - Christian, Dayana, Verena, Andreas, Martin and me. I know Andreas and Martin (Martin and I play together regularly), and Verena was in a failed Cartoon Action Hour demo the afternoon before that ran parallel to my Dogs game (which ran as I expected it, nothing new there - people liked it for the things people like Dogs for). Christian and Dayana are a couple, and everyone seemed to be excited to try out the game. I knew that Andreas, Martin, Verena and I were quite open for indie games, but didn't know about Christian and Dayana. When I asked them, they told what they had played before, and I thought there were some obscure enough games that they'd be great material for an indie game.

After explaining the premise and the rules, we made up characters, which went pretty smooth. We had Assistant Professor Wilbur Wately (Ancient and Foreign Languages) [Martin], a fresh-water backwood genius, Professor Violane (Ancient and Foreign Languages) [Verena], George-Jaques de Rodin (Literature) [yours truly], ]a French star author, Assistant Professor Quayle Higgins III (Astronomy) [Andreas], a Great War Veteran wannabe, Professor Talley-Speer [Poetry and Drama], and Professor Finn McDermott (Engineering) [Christian], of which I forgot the background. Enthusiams spanned the whole range as we had each one at most twice as by the rules.

the game started out with de Rodin and Scott being roach bound. The first round of cards really got me going. Martin got enslaved by the Roach, and Mrs. Talley-Speer got 'Public Scandal', which I wanted to exploit for my own reputation. Unfortunately, this was where I probably pushed too hard. The following happened:

Me "Dayana, your character being in a public scandal is a great start! I stake three points of reputation to just put yours into a bad place due to claims of plagiarism!"
Dayana "But that is pointless! Why would you do that!?"
Me "Who cares if it is pointless! My goal is to get more reputation!"
Everyone else "exactly! That's it!" (this includes her partner Christian)

This led to Dayana being turned off by the game completely. She basically refused to engage, and I didn't want to force her into it or challenge the good time *everyone else* had. In a normal game, I would have stopped and tried to resolve her problem. I probably won't know what got her, but I should probably have started shafting the people I already knew...

We continued anyway, and everyone had a blast. The game was different to a lot of the AP posts I read - it was much less murderous (the only fatality was Regina Sutton in event three by off screen suicide), and  revolved alot about academic intrigue. We had the intuition that people weren't aware of the roach so much, but were using it's power while being manipulated by it. The pembertonians were more color than viable victims.

We played through the first five events, each event taking between one or thre scenes. There wasn't a lot of competition regarding the gaining of reputation, although Martin managed to build up quite a lot of it by buying into a lot of conflicts. I forgot the rule that the challenged player could invite other characters and pembertonians as well, so the number of people involved was kept low (which was OK for a late night session, but might have been another factor in the focus on campus intrigue).

Verena managed to shed the Roach in the fifth event, sacrificing her Manipulation enthusiasm (keeping the gossip), but got the roach back on the sixth wih the command to Forget, which we all thought hilarious. At the same time, Martin was able to shed the roach on the sixth event, sacrificing Debauchery, and with a huge load of Reputation (11 or something), was unstoppable. We didn't play out much of the sixth event (it was 2 in the morning) and declared Martin the winner.

All in all, the game was a success. As I said before, losing Dayana early in the game was probably my fault. There was a lot of intrigue and gossip going on university style and some of it was never resolved, because it didn't matter in the end if it was true that Wateley forced the pregnant Regina Sutton to get rid of the child, and if it really were Higgins III.'s homosexual tendencies that let him ignore Regina Sutton when she turned to him for help ('Puppet' card).

The real highlight was the academic fight between Wately and Scott, where Martin ingeniously managed to deceive everybody to act on his whim without lying to anybody! This was one of the greatest events of the game. In fact, Martin had a lucid dream about the game with the players being in 1920s garb playing the game and being roach bound academentians at the same time (I mention this especially because I think it shows what indie games are capable of even with highly experienced gamers like Martin).

In other words: The Roach Will Rise Again! Thanks for an awesome game!

Regards,
    Harald

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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2006, 04:13:14 AM »

Thanks for the report, Harald - I'm glad it went well.  Your move with the plagiarism card was perfectly acceptable, and it is too bad that Dayana shut down - it sounds like there were bigger issues for her.  I'd be interested in finding out what her impression was after playing.  As a point of reference, I first viciously attack people I know and trust in real life, or experienced Roach players, as a matter of course in the first scene.

Allowing players to invite other NPCs is a big part of the game, and I think it contributes to the over-the-top feel of most sessions.  Limiting this would naturally lead to a more low-key game - you may have stumbled onto a fun variant! 

You mention taking between one and three scenes per event - were people choosing not to take a spotlight scene for their character?  If so, do you know why?

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oliof
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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2006, 06:33:51 AM »

Thanks for the report, Harald - I'm glad it went well.  Your move with the plagiarism card was perfectly acceptable, and it is too bad that Dayana shut down - it sounds like there were bigger issues for her.

I guess so, too - but I didn't want to get into a meta discussion and hoped she'd recover after realizing that intercharacter attacks are common. When she didn't involve herself after the second event, I didn't want to break the group's mood.

Quote
  I'd be interested in finding out what her impression was after playing.

I'm afraid she only sat through it to wait for her boyfriend. We ended at 2am something, and everybody was spent from the day. Post-game rebriefing was very short, but very positive as well.

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  As a point of reference, I first viciously attack people I know and trust in real life, or experienced Roach players, as a matter of course in the first scene.

That would have been a wiser move. I will consider this the next game I attend.

Quote
Allowing players to invite other NPCs is a big part of the game, and I think it contributes to the over-the-top feel of most sessions.  Limiting this would naturally lead to a more low-key game - you may have stumbled onto a fun variant! 

It kept the focus on the main characters, with the chance for a deeper level of intrigue and backstabbing by the faculty staff.

Quote
You mention taking between one and three scenes per event - were people choosing not to take a spotlight scene for their character?  If so, do you know why?

Hard to tell for me, since I think I only passed the opportunity once. I also confronted powerful opponents just for the sake of  the story. Maybe it's a side effect of the low number of Pembertonians - people had lots of opportunities to be 'in' the game with their characters. It had a definite effect on reputation scores as a marginal higher number of spotlight scenes had the potential to increase your reputation significantly.

Stakes for reputation were generally 3 or higher when possible, and most of the time the spot light player won the conflict. This, of course, also might be a direct result of the low number of Pembertonians, which give the opposing player more punch to defend against the attack. To offset this effect in the low-key variant, I'd limit the reputation at stake to a maximum of 3.
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oliof
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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2006, 12:16:15 PM »

Two more notes:
Martin said he didn't frame a spotlight scene just for the sake of it if the event itself seemed to have outlived it's artistic utility.

We had a scene of nudity when my character was commanded to clean up his filth, which he promptly did. My game mates asked me not to leave out this detail. It combined funnily with Wateley's order to follow me and my orders, and led to a quite hilarious scene when Professors Scott, Wateley and de Rodin met on the campus with de Rodin having all of his underwear in a laundry basket except for a last piece which he had to put into the  basket while speaking to the others. Wateley happily helped hold the laundry basket for de Rodin while all this was witnessed by a more and more confused Prof. Scott.
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oliof
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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2006, 12:34:51 AM »

And, to follow up my own post: When Martin, Andreas and I discussed the game last night, I realized that one of the things that's compelling is the way off-hand remarks can grow into something that is shaping a lot of  the story, like the hypothesis of ancient east-sumerian steam engines, phallic stela that are inscribed with oddly familiar glyphs and the boy's dormitories (the girl's dormitories didn't get a foothold in the ongoing narration, strangely enough). My guess is that this is a direct effect of shared scene framing, where one of the techniques of getting verisimilitudious narration results without losing your own directorial power is to take what others think of leftovers and build heavily on that.

We also discussed my inadvertent rules variant and concluded that the game would have become much more chaotic had we played by the book - which is fine in and by itself, but not necessarily late at night.

And now, I need to remember that I am not a member of the faculty and step down from the podium, careful as not to step on one of the squishy Things on the floor.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2006, 04:05:52 AM »

Oliof, that's a very interesting observation.  It corresponds to what I'm learning in my improvisation training - particularly the idea of "heightening", where you accept what others have contributed and then add detail, or emotion, or motivation to the scene. 
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