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Author Topic: [Best Friends] Gen Con 06  (Read 8785 times)
Gregor Hutton
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« on: August 23, 2006, 03:51:25 AM »

I got to run short demo games of Best Friends on the booth at Gen Con 06.

The knock on demos, in general, is that they aren't real games. In some cases, they are not even the game that you are supposed to be seeing (since the "demo rules" can be different from the "actual rules", though I'm not sure what purpose this serves).

In any case, this doesn't apply to Best Friends. The short games that I ran on the booth had the following set-up.

(1) Create a situation, or in some cases I just dictated one from a list of three I had prepared beforehand (modern school girls, Charlie's Angels, Xena).

(2) Create characters, just like in the book. (Only that we limited the Stuff and Nonsense to just one piece of each.)

(3) Find a conflict and have some chips pushed back and forth to show game play. (I suggest a "safe" option of 3 chips each in the book but Tim Kleinert wisely suggested using 2 for a sharper game, and I ended up going with that for the rest of the con.)

(4) End, hopefully, at a sharp moment.

Now, being honest, not all my demos were great. I think I was finding what worked well for me and the other players as I went along in some ways. Sometimes my conflicts were shabby. And at least one game was truncated by the day end, which was a shame as I thought that game was going to be pretty sharp.

Some people got "it" from the demo but the game wasn't for them. Others didn't get "it" but maybe they would actually like the game if they had a chance at a longer game. For the most part, though, the demos went at least OK and I had a lot of fun and most folks seemed to get "it" during the demo. Some of the games were, in fact, very good for me and provide a wide range of possible gaming styles.

And furthermore I had a good talk to Ron about prolonged play with the game before the booth opened one day. I feel it is too easy to write Best Friends off as a one-shot -- I think it's just seeing the bright, shiny thing on the surface. Sure, it does one-shots well, and the prep time is minimal, but I think ongoing play would be rewarding too, and possible. As Ron suggested to me, it would be better to begin slowly and establishing the characters and their relationships then moving on to the bigger conflicts between the characters.

And a key point: you are all Best Friends.

Sure, you might find it amusing that the pretty or the cool girl, or whatever, gets her share of woe, but at the end of the day you're still Best Friends.

As an aside, Ron and I talked a little about the strength and depth of relationships between women. And how very powerful and long-lasting these relationships can be. That would be an interesting focus of play in my opinion. And one that has been part of my thinking of the game from the get-go.

But, anyway, back to the demos. Here are some of the games I got to play in at Gen Con. We also did a longer game of "Frat Boys" (think Animal House) one night at the Embassy Suites, which was a blast. But what happens at Gen Con, stays at Gen Con...

I'll post up a bunch of the ones I can remember, and if I can find the character sheets at home I'll throw those up too, if that's useful.

Anime/Furry Cops (fun and light)

We had a mixed bag of players from what I can recall and the conflicts and situation were a bit flabbily defined, my fault really. However, I feel we had fun and we got how character creation worked and mechanically how pushing works. The party were anime style furries working for the New Tokyo police to track down a mysterious (robotic?) dog strangler. The group split up to investigate the crime and so we all took on roles of NPCs in the two short scenes where our PCs weren't present. Someone played the giant Robot, someone else the barman, etc.

On reflection, the conflicts I was finding were trivial. They were between the "game world" and a PC. Really I should have been taking my own advice from the book... what are the characters conflicting over? Why? What is underneath that conflict? Yes, your piece of Stuff (the giant robot) is strangling dogs in the park. No, I'm not happy about it. Oh, will you stop crying, it's only a robot we need to hand him in. Hey, stop picking on her, we can't let our Best Friend go to jail, etc.


The Wedding (Ron Edwards, Malcolm Craig, John Kim? -- very pointed)

This was interesting as the situation was women at the wedding of a common friend (but not a Best Friend). So we found a conflict. Ron had done the nails of the bridesmaids and for sure wanted the wedding to go ahead. Both Malc's repressed and my somewhat punky character had both slept with the groom the night before (that's Nonsense for sure). Ouch!

Malc didn't want the wedding to go ahead -- his character thought it was going to be a train wreck and wanted to tell the bride to call it off -- after all she was a friend and was going to be hurt. There was also maybe the implication that Malc's character was somewhat smitten with the groom.

I wanted it to go ahead as it removed the awkward question of me being the one who put the bullet in the relationship. I went through guys like this all the time and I didn't want one hanging off my coat tails.

John (I think that's who the third player was) wanted it to go ahead for good, smart, sensible reasons. It's been planned so long, our friend so wants to be married, etc.

Anyway, we all meet at the house of our bride on the morning of the wedding and we're disagreeing about what we should do. John and Malc are in conflict and Malc is smarter than John, so Malc is going to get his way -- they decided that it was an argument of reason, governed by Smart.

So, John pushes his Smart and now is winning the argument. Malc decides that he won't accept that and decides to push over. Now John is in the place of having to go with Malc's narration and they've both pushed once (the limit of how often you can push in a conflict).

Ron, who's in the conflict but so far hasn't stepped in then pushes over to support John. I decline to disagree. Ron's Smart 0 character says something so plain, it's true: "Jeez, you sound like you're in love with the guy." Right in front of the bride, her mother and all the Best Friends.

Very sharp. I liked it a lot.

I hope that the players found it interesting and rewarding. Any comments welcomed.

More situations to follow.
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Malcolm Craig
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2006, 07:47:32 AM »

I found the demo really interesting. The 'one push in a conflict' mechanic really does set up some great situations. The smug intellectual superiority of my character over Johns, confident in her own abilities and having won the argument...

...watch as that pompous balloon is burst with a simple, truthful observation from a character with a box of rocks for a brain! And, as a Best Friend, of course she would say this.

I would have liked to play this scene out a bit further (obviously the 15 minute demo limit doesn't allow this, but it's nice to speculate), just to see how things would have developed just after the "Jeez, you sound like you're in love with the guy!" line. And what if the groom, stricken by nerves, had suddenly appeared on the scene...?

Cheers
Malcolm
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Malcolm Craig
Contested Ground Studios
www.contestedground.co.uk

Part of the Indie Press Revolution
Yokiboy
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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2006, 11:08:28 AM »

Hello Gregor,

Thanks for sharing your demo experiences. I am psyched to receive your game (should be here any day now). What I loved about the contest version was that the game prep is built into the game, done during the beginning of the first session, and seems to create an awesome, conflict-prone situation with very little work.

Looks like a game that would work well with non-gamers as well, as an introduction to our crazy hobby.

TTFN,

Yoki
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2006, 12:44:11 PM »

Yes, Yoki.

I found that creating the characters together (you have to!) was a great way of finding what we were interested in and getting to know the group of characters as a whole really well. And it primed us for conflicts.

By the way character creation is real quick and everyone seemed to get into it. I did screw up the one on the Sons of Kryos podcast though ... damn. I accidentally gave one extra hatred the wrong way (d'oh), but going round to work out the hatreds flags an error like this up straight away as everyone's hatreds should all add up to 5. It's then very easy to fix -- you just switch the extra hatred to the correct target. Anyway, whenever they get that online you should be able to hear a (somewhat rushed) character creation session.

And as a bonus I found the character sheets for The Wedding...

I am... Iberia (Malc) ... And I... study science
I hate... Nicole (Pretty), Susan (Cool), Susan (Smart), Joanne (Tough), Joanne (Rich)
Pretty 1. Cool 1. Smart 2. Tough 0. Rich 1.
Stuff: Waffle Iron.
Nonsense: Slept with the groom.

I am... Nicole (Ron) ... And I... do nails
I hate... Joanne (Pretty), Susan (Cool), Iberia (Smart), Susan (Tough), Iberia (Rich)
Pretty 1. Cool 1. Smart 0. Tough 1. Rich 2.
Stuff: Great nails.
Nonsense:

I am... Susan (Gregor) ... And I... am a punk rocker
I hate... Iberia (Pretty), Nicole (Cool), Joanne (Smart), Joanne (Tough), Nicole (Rich)
Pretty 1. Cool 2. Smart 1. Tough 1. Rich 0.
Stuff: Once great nails now chewed.
Nonsense: Slept with the groom too.

I am... Joanne (John) ... And I... raise kids
I hate... Susan (Pretty), Iberia (Cool), Iberia (Smart), Nicole (Tough), Nicole (Rich)
Pretty 1. Cool 0. Smart 1. Tough 2. Rich 1.
Stuff: OK nails.
Nonsense: I know who slept with the groom.

Everyone started with 2 friend-chips.

As you can see when we compared Joanne's Smart of 1 with Iberia's Smart of 2, she was going to lose. So John pushed and sent a chip to Malc (since she hates Iberia for being smarter than her). Malc could have kept the chip and let John win, instead he used it to push over and the chip went to me (as Iberia hated me for being smarter). Ron then pushed to support John and sent another chip Malc's way. However, Malc couldn't use this chip in this conflict though as he had already pushed once.

At the end of the conflict Ron and John had 1 friend-chip each. Malc and I ended up with 3 friend-chips each.

Up next, a sharp Desperate Housewives game...
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2006, 01:27:37 PM »

I promise I will get around to some of the lighter games I enjoyed, but boy was this short demo pointed...

Playing the game it was me, Matt Machell, Derek Stoelting and one of Eric Boyd's friends whose name I cannot recall.

OK, first up: what didn't go well with the demo? What didn't go so well was that the conflict ended up being me and Eric's friend. Being a short demo we just had time for this one conflict which left Matt and Derek observing for the most part. Which was a shame, but I think they could see how the game worked and where their characters would fit into an ongoing story. Also it was superhot so there were plenty of oohs and ahhs from all the players.

We wanted a Desperate Housewives situation. Women In Crisis. Friends With Problems. OK, so we got it...

The characters...

I am... Stacy (Derek) ... And I... drink too much
I hate... Marge (Pretty), Dawn (Cool), Nancy (Smart), Dawn (Tough), Marge (Rich)
Pretty 0. Cool 1. Smart 1. Tough 1. Rich 2.
Stuff: Driver.
Nonsense: Slept with Dawn's oldest son.

I am... Dawn (Matt) ... And I... eat a lot
I hate... Marge (Pretty), Nancy (Cool), Stacy (Smart), Nancy (Tough), Stacy (Rich)
Pretty 1. Cool 1. Smart 1. Tough 2. Rich 0.
Stuff: Plain dress.
Nonsense: Filing for bankruptcy.

I am... Nancy (Gregor) ... And I... am divorced
I hate... Dawn (Pretty), Marge (Cool), Marge (Smart), Stacy (Tough), Stacy (Rich)
Pretty 1. Cool 1. Smart 1. Tough 1. Rich 1.
Stuff: Suburban house.
Nonsense: Ex-husband wants to evict me.

I am... Marge (?) ... And I... wear the best clothes
I hate... Nancy (Pretty), Stacy (Cool), Dawn (Smart), Dawn (Tough), Nancy (Rich)
Pretty 2. Cool 1. Smart 1. Tough 0. Rich 1.
Stuff: The best wardrobe in the 'burbs.
Nonsense: My husband is a jerk.

Straight off I could see a load of conflicts. Dawn is filing for bankruptcy and she probably owes us money, she might want to move in with Nancy who is getting evicted. Stacy slept with Dawn's son, and all the drinking and eating too much. Wow.

But Marge's player hit the ground running and framed a scene:
My husband hasn't come home. I know he's sleeping with Nancy right now. I'm pretty ... but he wants plain. [Gasps from the players] So I (Marge) phone Dawn and Stacy and say: this is serious, meet me at Nancy's.

Sharp cut to... Marge at Nancy's door. Nancy has run down the stairs to the door and is trying to act cool and not let Marge in. Marge, of course, doesn't say what it's about right away. She wants to come in and talk about something. Pretty tense. The girls are coming here too. I know it's late, yadda, yadda.

Conflict. We both have Cool 1 and we're tied. Marge wants in and to confront me and Nancy wants to fob her off and have it out some other time. So Marge pushes a chip (to Stacy) and is now winning. Nancy decides to push back to a tie again, and send a chip to Marge (damn! I hate her for being cool). At this point a drunk Stacy and Dawn have turned up. Stacy uses a chip to push over and force me to back down. So they narrate me letting them in.

Inside... I head  to the kitchen to get everyone drinks, Nancy is flustered and thinking on her feet. Damn, Bill, Marge's jerk of a husband is upstairs.

Then Marge says... hey, we all see Bill's jacket on the back of a chair. Everyone has Smart 1 so we all agree that everyone sees it. Damn.

"Nancy, is that Bill's jacket?" A test of cool.

We're again locked in at 1 apiece and tied. I fob her off with a "Oh, yeah, Bill was here earlier fixing some things. He must have left it. Can you take it home with you?"

Marge then says "Hey, his underwear is here too. What in hell was he fixing?". She pushes. The chip goes to Stacy again.

I decide not to push back. Nancy appears in the kitchen doorway.

"I done something real bad..."

....and we ended it sharply there.

We could have played a long, long session with these characters. I dare say, even an ongoing game. These characters came to life so sharply and quickly and we were teaming with moral questions and conflicts amongst the characters.

I really, really liked this short game. Thanks to the guy playing Marge, he was great.
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John Kim
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2006, 01:47:35 PM »

Hi, Gregor.  Yes, that was me.  I reported briefly on this game (The Wedding) in my long GenCon Indy 2006 Report, but I'd forgotten the details.  It was fun but very brief. 

It's interesting -- reading the rules now, it isn't clear to me how Ron pushed to help me in my conflict.  At least, there's no specific mention of helping in the conflicts section. 
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- John
Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2006, 02:31:44 PM »

Hi John
Sorry, that was something that was unclear from my text.  The two little sidebars that I should have added on the conflicts page were:

In ties I view the person who is pushing as the winner if this distinction is needed. After all, they’re pushing their hatred.

and

In a conflict where two players have already pushed, another player can then push to make one side the winner (unless someone else then pushes back to tie).

I hope that clarifies. Really, both you and Ron were jointly conflicting with Malc, and rather than break that down into two separate conflicts (Malc v Ron and Malc v you) I think it is more elegant to allow friend-chips to push over. I had written "pushing once in a conflict" with this in mind.

Glad you enjoyed the demo. I was trying to stick to my 15 minutes after a somewhat meandering initial session of day one. On the plus side it allowed you to take in more demos.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2006, 03:47:05 AM »

Hello,

I enjoyed the Best Friends demo immensely. The potential for a dumb character either to cause basic conflict or to provide a crucial insight (for others, if not her, in this case), is huge.

That Desperate Housewives game certainly matched my perceptions and interests upon reading the original Ronnies version, but looking at this example, the one thing that jumps out at me is how much of a snapshot it is. Which is fine for a demo, but now, upon reading the rulebook again (like John, this thread led me to do that), I'd like to play Best Friends at a more relaxed pace, with only potential for conflicts at the beginning, to let them emerge through play and interaction, and to have them reach resolution over a series of sessions.

To achieve that, and especially with my recent Bacchanal experiences (yes! more! lots more, I haven't posted about them yet), as well as what I'm seeing in Contenders, I think the key will lie in making and using NPCs. After all, in the game you just described, what if the husband is actually a pretty decent guy?

I also think that Best Friends will promote dialogue about exasperation with women (from both women and men) that doesn't have to become contempt, and how parody can be a source of insight rather than silliness.

Best, Ron
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