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Author Topic: [Perfect] Neighbors gone wild!  (Read 19725 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: August 29, 2006, 10:15:18 PM »

Hello,

Remember Brian and Eliza, from the [Contenders] The folks next door thread? Well, Eliza's out of town this week, and Brian's long-time pal James, whom I've met, is in town. They're having kind of a boys' week o'fun, lots of beer, lots of computer games, lots of hot dogs and popcorn for dinner. So Monday night, my wife comes in the door and says, "Brian says you have to come over and bring 'those' games."

(Side point: I discovered as well that Brian and Eliza are totally jazzed about continuing with Contenders, and apparently I'm drafted for that purpose as well, as soon as she returns.)

Well, it just so happened that the previous night, I had one of my rare bouts of insomnia and had racked maybe two hours of sleep, total. I was absolutely exhausted and had been looking forward to crashing at 9:15 or so. But here it was, 9 o'clock, and two boisterous guys wanted me to teach and host a role-playing game. My wife knows my thoughts about RPGs, non-gamers, the current crop of games' potential to set up a new hobby-activity, and all that stuff. "You have to go," she said, and I sucked it up.

Quick game-check. I needed something with a lot of fast buy-in, very strong Color, and no damn prep outside of my skill-zone. I'm really good at insta-prepping certain things, My Life with Master for instance. I decided as well to stick with recent games, and only had a couple of minutes to choose. Ultimately, and probably not ideally looking back at it today, I selected The Shab al-Hiri Roach, Perfect, and Best Friends. I would have brought Hero's Banner except that I can't find the copy I bought at GenCon.

The next step was a little bit of social transition. It didn't look promising to me at first, at least not in comparison to crazed gamers showing up at GenCon in a state which permitted Jasper to rope them into demos with me. Instead, they were in full guy-hangout mode, which I enjoy when I'm not beat. Even the beer wasn't appealing in my current state, which if you know me, is really saying something. James wanted to tell me all about his soccer-sim computer game and after listening politely for a bit, I was a bit curt in eventually telling him that he couldn't have the screen up while we got going with the game. "I just want to kill a person," he said, of the upcoming game. Looking at the games I had selected, I couldn't help but smile a little, and say, "You can," but on another level, I wasn't thrilled with the attitude I was perceiving.

All of which turned out to be wrong and unfair of me, though. These guys were indeed primed. Fairly quickly, they chose Perfect, which I described as a combination of V for Vendetta and A Clockwork Orange. "That's fucked up!" said Brian, which in guy-hangout mode, you understand, is a ringing endorsement. They mused about the other two, and Best Friends garnered a couple of interesting comments. One was that the game was obviously totally for guys, with no women around, and another was basically a very positive response to the idea of making a sitcom episode with it.

Now, Perfect presents a certain difficulty in this context. Character creation includes a few too many choices for this audience, in my view, and play as a whole is only composed of repetitive cycles, with no endgame or what I like to call "screwdown," which is a more general phenomenon. I actually have been wondering since my demo at GenCon and my reading of the game, whether it contains a "fruitful void" that is only expressed through play, and the only one I could anticipate, without playing, was the possibility of a vigilante group forming via making Trusts. Anyway, in comparison to the other two games, Perfect lacks that extremely clear large-scale, session-defining reward structure that is so important to people who are not gamers.

On the other hand, it also solved problems I'd inadvertently brought into the room with my game selection. Three people, total, is possible with the Roach, but in my view, perhaps a little too tight. Plus I couldn't face the possibility of playing through all those events; nowadays, I like to spread my roachiness across several sessions if possible. Upon reviewing Best Friends again, I also realized that two player-characters isn't really enough either - they'd end up Hating each other for everything to the tune of 1 apiece, which is very bland given the game's great potential. So in retrospect, they made the best choice.

I dreaded character creation a little and if I'd had even a half-hour to prep, might have generated them myself. It was also a little hard because a lot of it involves picking from lists, and we only had one book. As it turned out, though, the resulting characters were awesome!

Neville, Brian's character
Status = high (gold); Freedoms of Passage, Creativity, Practice, and Privacy
Archetypes: Hedonist + Vandal
Intolerance: lawyers (I guess "barristers")
Belongs to the Order of Abigail and the Art Traders Guild

Starting Aspects
Chiseled handsomeness ("like Tom Cruise," Brian said): set at Gain 2
Alcoholic: set at Gain 2
Barbed wire secretly wrapped around calf: set at Gain 3
2 Build points

(I'm not listing out the various Gains and Fallouts of the Aspects; they were all merely taken from the lists anyway. Also, I built all these mechanics for the players after they defined their Aspects. All those options were way too much for me to walk them through, especially since they had no idea how the system worked.)

Mordecai, James' character
Status = crude (brown); no Freedoms
Archetypes: Anarchist + Idealist + Sadist
Intolerance: bankers
Belongs to the Craftmason's Guild and has a Drinking Hall Membership

Starting Aspects
Dagger: set at Gain 2
Black boots: set at Gain 1
Daughter's teddy bear: set at Gain 3
2 Build points

One reason I'd picked these games is that they play a lot like Trollbabe - no between-scene time, and everything is framed (scenes relative to session, conflicts relative to scenes), so there's no waffling or wondering. It started with me saying "what crime do you wanna do?", which at first encountered the predictable response "any crime I want?!", and my "yes" answer. Actually, my only suggestion was that they start small, keeping my recent experiences with Bacchanal in mind.

Now, due to my mental state, this game session featured the most pitiful SIS that I can remember that still ended up being functional. There were no NPCs to speak of, and play consisted of almost nothing but pure resolution: I stated what we had to do next and the options, we utilized the chosen options and their attendant dice-rolling and currency, and the consequences were applied. Oh, we knew what was happening, it's not like someone said "I do a crime" in any abstract way, but there was no description of anything beyond the barest minimum, at least not by me. This was especially marked in terms of narrating Aspects during conflicts, which usually meant just saying it, "I'm using my barbed wire," with no particular other statement.

On the other hand, I now recall that both Brian and James narrated many visual elements of outcomes without my help or prompting, so it wasn't so bad as all that. I'll do more next time, especially regarding NPCs; they're more important to what I'm talking about as a deficiency than any rhapsodizing about the setting during play.

As for the system, they fucking loved it. Both of them totally got into the crimes, pushed the envelope, and repeatedly stated how much they were enjoying their characters. "I'm wearing my black boots!" James would announce proudly, when invoking his Aspecct. A little later than I should, more-or-less after the first crime-bits, I realized who I was playing with, and stated, very strongly: "it's all about the Payout." They tuned into that like sharks.

More to post later! I'll tell you about the crimes and consequences, because they did a whole lot of crime, and they got a whole lot of consequences. We're also schedule to resume tomorrow evening, and I'll try to finish up writing about the first one before then.

Best, Ron
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GB Steve
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Posts: 429


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« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2006, 04:50:14 AM »

... play as a whole is only composed of repetitive cycles, with no endgame or what I like to call "screwdown," which is a more general phenomenon. I actually have been wondering since my demo at GenCon and my reading of the game, whether it contains a "fruitful void" that is only expressed through play, and the only one I could anticipate, without playing, was the possibility of a vigilante group forming via making Trusts. Anyway, in comparison to the other two games, Perfect lacks that extremely clear large-scale, session-defining reward structure that is so important to people who are not gamers.
I'm interested to see whether there is any sustainability or whether the game just runs out of steam after a while. That was my big worry about the game and something that the demo at Gen Con did nothing to dispel. It just wasn't clear to me whether the structure was going to be imposed by the game such as with Dogs ("We've finished this town, where's next?") or D&D (I need 2,501 xps to level up) or if the players were expected to drive it themselves through the goals defined by character generation.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2006, 07:38:03 AM »

All right, so what about the play experience?

I framed the scenes myself using a lot of consensus and suggestions, which bent the rules about trading-off scene framing a little (which the text calls "narration" for some reason), but not much considering that I think they'd have floundered a bit, and that I called for so much consensus before officially starting a scene. Admittedly, this wasn't a clear decision, because I merely forgot the rule.

I did do something else which isn't in the book. It breaks no rules, and without it, I don't think play would have worked well at all. I ran two Crime Cycles simutaneously, one for each character, alternating attention back and forth between each one, and rolling a die apiece for each character at the same time.

Don't get me wrong. These were not collaborative crimes and each was handled exactly the same, mechanically, as if I'd run each one from stem to stern in sequence. Doing it this way simply meant the camera was rolling on each one at the same time. It's much, much easier than it sounds, and I recommend it in general for practically any game, when dealing with utterly-disconnected scenes.

Crime Cycle #1: Neville nipped a drink in an alley; Mordecai shirked work due to a hangover and showed up late. They both failed their Calm Tests and got Interrogated, and they both got Discovered and Conditioned. Mordecai resisted Conditioning; that was the only success. They both seized upon Payout and glared at me. On the other hand, they were both pretty pumped that the characters had succeeded at the crimes, based on simple agreement. They'd chosen a lot of Tension points, so as it turned out, Brian was empowered to throw off the Conditioning immediately.

Crime Cycle #2: Nevillle climbed up a big tower and dumped the Eye of London into the Thames (Brian was pretty pissed off at being Conditioned!) (note as well that I didn't make a big deal about using London landmarks; whatever); Mordecai poisoned the caviar at his factory, killing (as Brian said) thirty-seven people. It was sort of interesting that at first Brian and I kind of blinked at him, what, you're poisoning people?, and then when he smiled and said, through the caviar, we nodded. This time, I think Neville got away scot-free, and Mordecai got Interrogated but not Discovered.

Crime Cycle #3 (collaborative): Now, we used the collaborative rules. It was easy to point out that Neville needed a new source of booze, and that he also might have tracked down Mordecai via the poisoning incident, as a peer of the people who'd been hit by it. So! This crime is best described as "bootlegging absinthe together." And the bastards got away with it!! Both players had the system down pretty well at this point, and I found that what looked like a clear GM advantage in Opposition Points initially, in the first Cycle, didn't stand up so well once they could hammer my rolls with multiple Aspects. I even used 7 Opposition Points I'd banked, to no avail.

(Granted, I think they got to double-dip on Aspects once or twice because I was too tired to monitor it. We'll be more careful about that next time; this time, we were simply getting the Cycles down.)

In case you're thinking all these crimes were pretty much random fratboy pranks with a touch of psychopathy, think again. Every crime slotted directly into the respective character's Archetypes, and each one built upon elements and events of the previous Cycles. Both Brian and James are dead-set on creating a criminal underground in Gaillist society, and if I'm not mistaken, we are seeing an awesome buddy story just unfolding.

They built fantastic new Trusts: Neville now has a split personality (getting Conditioned and breaking it, not to mention all that absinthe), and Mordecai's daughter is now his Trust as "druggie daughter." I think the latter was a bit of a leap for James as he realized that the game awarded such power of creation to the other people; he had invested a bit of emotion in the mystery of Mordecai's daughter. But he decided it was OK and went for it.

Brian provided a classic example of a Line in play, too, when he alluded to something he could think of defining Mordecai's daughter as, but wouldn't say and didn't want it in the game. I asked at first, "What, he keeps her in the basement?" and Brian just shook his head firmly. "I don't want it in there," he said. This was very important, because it doesn't really matter what it was - the point is that Brian was making clear that our game would indeed have Lines, and that's pretty key in a game like this, in which crimes may automatically succeed.

Clearly, making the new Trusts is the real reward mechanic of the game, and since I first read about it, I wondered whether the fruitful-void of play, if present, might concern the formation of a "group" - a sort of V for Vendetta Justice League, neuroses and conditionings and all. More about that in a minute.

I didn't use Intolerance scenes, mainly because I forgot about them, but as far as I can tell, they gravitate toward acting against their intolerances anyway, especially the second Crime Cycle. I'll get them in there better next time, because I know they'll slaver after the new Aspects, and that way I can get some cool NPCs going.

They both insisted we play again, to continue the story. Well, for this to be fun, I probably need to work up some NPCs, and to look for screwdown mechanisms or SIS-elements as strongly as I can. The rules offer no "finishing state," though, neither for characters nor overall, no climactic crime or anything like that ... seems to go on and on, unless some totally-SIS thing leads people to say, "well, that's it." Or at least not obviously, which may be all right ... if the fruitful-void exists. I'm actually a big fan of not holding readers' hands about that, so if it's there, I am absolutely not saying it should be explicit in the rules.

Steve, as you can see, our concerns are more-or-less the same here, except that I recognize that a con demo cannot provide such information, and don't expect it to.

Brian saw the same thing, and after the session, he rightly said Contenders has "more to it" based on what he's seen so far. But is there somewhere to go, something to develop, that may be discovered? Interested readers may want to venture into past threads and see what happened with our long-ago le mon mouri game, for instance. I'm not going to claim such a thing isn't there in Perfect.

So here are some things I do need to understand better.

1. How about resolving inter-character conflict? I kind of like the idea that "I kill him" can be simply done, because it may well be functional given the consensus-based advice in the rules.

2. What content is added by Certifications and Freedoms, in practice? I can see some ways to do it, but I'd really like to know what you actually do in play, Joe.

3. May a character upgrade an Aspect, replacing it with a better version of itself, through the existing "replace an Aspect" rules?

Next run: I'll work up a list of NPCs, make explicit uses of Intolerances, and be more clear about the by-the-rules scene creation. I also plan to explain what I'm doing with the Tension Points, so they can see it's a good idea to run me out of points in Calm and Discovery Tests, and that way even if they lose, they can thumb their noses at the Inspectors in the Interrogation and Conditioning Tests, with full-up Aspects. Given the very strong interest in the daughter throughout the group, I'll work with that too, from their suggestions, including the possibility that she's an Inspector or that her mother is an Inspector.

My final point concerns one overwhelmingly confusing element in the rules which will be sure to trip anyone up. Joe let me know that it was due to a late rules-change, which I'm not really sure I think was a good rules-change anyway.

The original rule was that every single Crime Cycle requires both a Calm and a Discovery Test, with failure in either leading to a subsequent Interrogation or Conditioning Test, respectively. Apparently, late in development, playtesting led Joe to permit cutting off a Crime Cycle in the middle, if you failed either the Calm or Discovery Test (whichever came first), because someone didn't like getting hammered by both Interrogation and Conditioning.

I like the original way. Yes, it sucks hard to get both Interrogated and Conditioned. Yes, Brian pouted when it happened to him, first thing. But the immediate effect was to throw himself into committing real crimes with full resentful fervor, because now it had become personal.

It's really easy to change things that shouldn't be changed, in playtesting, just because your friend pouts when his character gets kicked in the nuts. Old experience: avoid deprotagonization, listen to your friend. But new principle: adversity is your friend if it fuels the reward system. (This also leads me to state that I think the "losing Payout" options for Fallouts are not well-considered, and should not be present. Payout should be a given. Yes, I know you don't suffer Fallout if you lose, but still.)

Best, Ron
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2006, 11:28:54 AM »

Quote
These guys were indeed primed. Fairly quickly, they chose Perfect, which I described as a combination of V for Vendetta and A Clockwork Orange. "That's fucked up!" said Brian, which in guy-hangout mode, you understand, is a ringing endorsement.

When I hear someone say, "That's fucked up!" I know that I've roped them in.

Quote
Now, due to my mental state, this game session featured the most pitiful SIS that I can remember that still ended up being functional. There were no NPCs to speak of, and play consisted of almost nothing but pure resolution

NPCs are sometimes a really awesome way to help the players along. But... don't feel like they are the only way.
I'm not sure if you read the GM section or not, but I'm going to quote from it a little bit here:

Quote
Try asking questions like "Why would he do that?" or "How does he pull that off?" Do not contest what the players are saying, but instead help them explain it in a more complete way. Use questions that get to the heart of the matter, finding out motives and mindset. (p62)

I ESPECIALLY suggest this if you are feeling tired, and want to move narration forward in cool directions without a lot of work. Instead of narrating in Ezekiel the stable hand to help highlight why Neville cares about something... just flat out ask him. "Why does this matter enough to you, to break the law?"
"How?"
"Why?"
"What's going through his head at this point?"

Don't get me wrong - NPCs rock, and I totally hope you work some goods ones in. But... the single best tool in Perfect, as the GM, is asking questions.

Quote
Neville, Brian's character
Status = high (gold); Freedoms of Passage, Creativity, Practice, and Privacy
Archetypes: Hedonist + Vandal
Intolerance: lawyers (I guess "barristers")
Belongs to the Order of Abigail and the Art Traders Guild

Starting Aspects
Chiseled handsomeness ("like Tom Cruise," Brian said): set at Gain 2
Alcoholic: set at Gain 2
Barbed wire secretly wrapped around calf: set at Gain 3
2 Build points

(I'm not listing out the various Gains and Fallouts of the Aspects; they were all merely taken from the lists anyway. Also, I built all these mechanics for the players after they defined their Aspects. All those options were way too much for me to walk them through, especially since they had no idea how the system worked.)

Mordecai, James' character
Status = crude (brown); no Freedoms
Archetypes: Anarchist + Idealist + Sadist
Intolerance: bankers
Belongs to the Craftmason's Guild and has a Drinking Hall Membership

Starting Aspects
Dagger: set at Gain 2
Black boots: set at Gain 1
Daughter's teddy bear: set at Gain 3
2 Build points

Really cool characters.
Its really interesting how James created three Aspects that were physical objects.
I've never had a player with more than one physical object-type Aspect. That could either lead to really rich or really contrived narration. I'm excited to learn where he goes with it.

Also interesting that they both picked a class of people as their Intolerance.

Quote
As for the system, they fucking loved it. Both of them totally got into the crimes, pushed the envelope, and repeatedly stated how much they were enjoying their characters. "I'm wearing my black boots!" James would announce proudly, when invoking his Aspecct. A little later than I should, more-or-less after the first crime-bits, I realized who I was playing with, and stated, very strongly: "it's all about the Payout." They tuned into that like sharks.

Cool. This paragraph really makes me happy.
It's interesting how people get excited about their Aspects in different ways.

<tangent>
One time, when playtesting, my friend Jen had "I was molested as a little girl" as an Aspect. She got very silent every time she narrated it in. She narrated sneaking behind a painting in the Art Guild Hall to avoid getting caught.
Then she paused for a long time.
"I hold my breath."
long pause.
"I count to ten."
long pause.
"I slowly wipe tears from my eyes. There is a big, dangerous man out there, and he's looking for me."
long, silent pause. You can hear crickets right now.
"I break down into tears. I don't want it to happen again."

Every time she narrated it in, people were like... WOW.

I've also had people fill with frenetic energy every time they narrate a certain aspect. "Dark Cloak" got Steve-O riled up when he used it. He'd get excited, telling us how he donned it and hid in the shadows, or twirled it distractingly, or... whatever.
</tangent>

Quote
framed the scenes myself using a lot of consensus and suggestions, which bent the rules about trading-off scene framing a little (which the text calls "narration" for some reason), but not much considering that I think they'd have floundered a bit, and that I called for so much consensus before officially starting a scene. Admittedly, this wasn't a clear decision, because I merely forgot the rule.

That's totally cool. The GM's job is basically stop there from being any dead moments, right?
So long as you get consensus, kick-starting scenes for people is totally cool.

Quote
Crime Cycle #3 (collaborative): Now, we used the collaborative rules. It was easy to point out that Neville needed a new source of booze, and that he also might have tracked down Mordecai via the poisoning incident, as a peer of the people who'd been hit by it. So! This crime is best described as "bootlegging absinthe together." And the bastards got away with it!! Both players had the system down pretty well at this point, and I found that what looked like a clear GM advantage in Opposition Points initially, in the first Cycle, didn't stand up so well once they could hammer my rolls with multiple Aspects. I even used 7 Opposition Points I'd banked, to no avail.

I like it.
Yes, Collaborative Crimes are a way for the players to level the field. Likewise, Intolerances are way to hammer the players.
The key to, as GM, winning a Collaborative Crime? Get the players to both set their Tensions high.
Put all points into either Fear or Inspector. Hammer them with Discovery-Conditioning OR Calm-Interrogation.
Don't try to do everything.

Quote
Anyway, in comparison to the other two games, Perfect lacks that extremely clear large-scale, session-defining reward structure that is so important to people who are not gamers.

True. Is that a bad thing? or just a difference?

Quote
They both insisted we play again, to continue the story. Well, for this to be fun, I probably need to work up some NPCs, and to look for screwdown mechanisms or SIS-elements as strongly as I can. The rules offer no "finishing state," though, neither for characters nor overall, no climactic crime or anything like that ... seems to go on and on, unless some totally-SIS thing leads people to say, "well, that's it." Or at least not obviously, which may be all right ... if the fruitful-void exists. I'm actually a big fan of not holding readers' hands about that, so if it's there, I am absolutely not saying it should be explicit in the rules

Different groups I've played with have found different endings.
When I played with Remi Truer... He had Freedom of Thought at that point...
There was this point when he choked an Inspector (whom he rivalled) to death.
And right before he finished, he yelled, "Do you feel this?"
And Inspectors rushed in, and watched their comrade die. And they hit him, and Conditioned him on the spot, with him staring at the body.

After that, me and Remi were both like... "Yeah, that's where the game ends. With him broken, and his rival dead."

That's how I envision, in my perfect world, the game ending: Something that pulls all the players/characters in, is climactic, and leaves everyone feeling like they accomplished something... or lost something, depending.

There is no rule for ending the game, outside of Social Contract stuff.

Quote
Brian provided a classic example of a Line in play, too, when he alluded to something he could think of defining Mordecai's daughter as, but wouldn't say and didn't want it in the game. I asked at first, "What, he keeps her in the basement?" and Brian just shook his head firmly. "I don't want it in there," he said. This was very important, because it doesn't really matter what it was - the point is that Brian was making clear that our game would indeed have Lines, and that's pretty key in a game like this, in which crimes may automatically succeed.

That is awesome. Setting lines is something that is essential to a game like this, you're correct.
At my Sunday Perfect game, I totally forgot to do this upfront.
And I had this shady guy playing a snoddy character with Archetypes: Hedonist, Sadist.
He narrated knocking a little girl into an alleyway to rape her.
I was like... "Um... guys, are we okay with the narration heading in this direction? Because if not we can cut narration short."
They said yes... but I can't help thinking, "FUCK! I didn't have my bases covered!"

I'm glad to know that Brian drew that Line, and that he did it so effectively. Bravo.

Quote
I didn't use Intolerance scenes, mainly because I forgot about them, but as far as I can tell, they gravitate toward acting against their intolerances anyway, especially the second Crime Cycle. I'll get them in there better next time, because I know they'll slaver after the new Aspects, and that way I can get some cool NPCs going.

Don't feel that you NEED to use Intolerance scenes, just because they are there.
They are a cool way to ground people, or keep the game moving, or introduce new elements as the GM... but if they don't come up, that's cool too - what matters more are player-driven scenes and Collaborative Crimes.

Quote
1. How about resolving inter-character conflict? I kind of like the idea that "I kill him" can be simply done, because it may well be functional given the consensus-based advice in the rules.

It can be done, just so long as everyone at the table approves.
I totally would love to hear of a game where a character kills another.
I've had a player once go, "That's weak shit. Why would the Inspector stop hitting me? I killed his partner."
...The player totally gave me permission to have this Inspector beat him to death.
I look around the table to see everyone nodding approval.
So I had the Inspector beat his character to death.

Quote
2. What content is added by Certifications and Freedoms, in practice? I can see some ways to do it, but I'd really like to know what you actually do in play, Joe.

Certifications are story starters, more or less. If a player is stuck on where to go next... They always know that they work in a Factory. They always know they belong to that Art Trader's Guild - the one which their rival is also a member of. They...
You get the idea.

They flesh out setting, provide you with a jumping off point, and help ground your narration into your character's world.

Freedoms? They vary a little bit, each one.
Again - largely colour. They are also flags - they tell you what the character does and doesn't want.
If someone takes Freedom of Thought, you can tell they will be reserved. Or... on the flipside, maybe they are bursting at the seams.
Freedoms are also a way to step up the crime in a different way.

Freedoms, Status and Certifications are all tools to add colour, flesh out the world, and provide a jumping off point.
Freedoms and Intolerances serve as Roadblocks and additional things to fight against.

Quote
My final point concerns one overwhelmingly confusing element in the rules which will be sure to trip anyone up. Joe let me know that it was due to a late rules-change, which I'm not really sure I think was a good rules-change anyway.

The original rule was that every single Crime Cycle requires both a Calm and a Discovery Test, with failure in either leading to a subsequent Interrogation or Conditioning Test, respectively. Apparently, late in development, playtesting led Joe to permit cutting off a Crime Cycle in the middle, if you failed either the Calm or Discovery Test (whichever came first), because someone didn't like getting hammered by both Interrogation and Conditioning.

I like the original way. Yes, it sucks hard to get both Interrogated and Conditioned. Yes, Brian pouted when it happened to him, first thing. But the immediate effect was to throw himself into committing real crimes with full resentful fervor, because now it had become personal.

It's really easy to change things that shouldn't be changed, in playtesting, just because your friend pouts when his character gets kicked in the nuts. Old experience: avoid deprotagonization, listen to your friend. But new principle: adversity is your friend if it fuels the reward system. (This also leads me to state that I think the "losing Payout" options for Fallouts are not well-considered, and should not be present. Payout should be a given. Yes, I know you don't suffer Fallout if you lose, but still.)

Best, Ron

Ron, I'm really taking this to heart.
The "automatically end a cycle" rule was one I was leery of, and decided to go for.
Now... I'm asking you this, designer to designer, as opposed to designer to player:

Should that rule exist?
Now that the Gencon stock I ordered is gone, I am making some editing changes (typos and the like.)
If you, and others, think it is a glitchy thing... It can easily be removed.

*wavering*

Quote
Next run: I'll work up a list of NPCs, make explicit uses of Intolerances, and be more clear about the by-the-rules scene creation. I also plan to explain what I'm doing with the Tension Points, so they can see it's a good idea to run me out of points in Calm and Discovery Tests, and that way even if they lose, they can thumb their noses at the Inspectors in the Interrogation and Conditioning Tests, with full-up Aspects. Given the very strong interest in the daughter throughout the group, I'll work with that too, from their suggestions, including the possibility that she's an Inspector or that her mother is an Inspector.

That's all awesome.

I have a few questions for you:

1.) How hands-on was your GMing? Did you fulfill my vision of a GM for Perfect, or did your role vary from that?

2.) How much did you ask questions, and prod them to narrate deeper?

3.) Did you enjoy the game?
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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2006, 04:27:48 PM »

Hi Joe,

You know what's weird about Lines and Veils? Everyone seems to think I've advocated setting them through discussion prior to play. And bluntly, I think that's a fucking terrible idea. I like finding them through necessity and opportunity, as demonstrated by Brian. My whole point in talking about them is to say, recognize that they will necessarily be there and be ready to perceive the signals when they arise.

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1.) How hands-on was your GMing? Did you fulfill my vision of a GM for Perfect, or did your role vary from that?

Aside from the deviations I mentioned above, I think I accorded with your advice in the rulebook quite well. A lot of it dovetails with my personal style anyway, and I'm content to see what conflicts develop (as opposed merely to crimes) through the continuing organic interaction among us. I'm extremely disinclined to shoehorn some kind of story arc into what's going on; I'd prefer for "what's going on" to emerge through cues and emphases.

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2.) How much did you ask questions, and prod them to narrate deeper?

Always. Your advocated "question" techniques are a staple of how I GM in general. I'm, uh, the author of Sorcerer after all ... and if you aren't familiar with Trollbabe, you should check it out. The character begins as nothing more than a question mark, and all the GM has to do is keep invoking it.

Quote
3.) Did you enjoy the game?

Yes, I did! The fun part was seeing the two guys get so much out of it. For example, I have no trouble at all understanding why they chose to loathe bankers and lawyers - as intended I'm sure, Gaillist society is not being treated as a disconnected fantasy by our impromptu group, but rather as a medium through which real-life frustrations and confusions can be acted upon.

I am looking forward to playing again tonight with a few more brain cells to rub together, so I can starting "playing" Gaillist-ness as a kind of atmospheric semi-character of its own.

Best, Ron
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joepub
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2006, 08:21:48 PM »

Quote
Everyone seems to think I've advocated setting them through discussion prior to play. And bluntly, I think that's a fucking terrible idea.

Oh, I was never under the assumption that Ron Edwards set Lines before play.
I just know that Joe McDonald likes to - with this game.

I like to clear some things before starting - is murder okay? how about rape? how about hurting children? animals?

The reason why I like setting some Lines before play is this: A player gets this cool idea, and narrates his character acting it out. Suddenly someone states a Line. And the player has to go, "Okay, my cool idea involved killing a defenseless person. That's not cool at this gaming table. Crap, how do I re-work my scene?"

That said... I think it's equally important to state, upfront, "We all need to watch each other's comfort levels."

with that con example, I was merely stating: if you do neither, it can have some undesired effects, for sure.

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Aside from the deviations I mentioned above, I think I accorded with your advice in the rulebook quite well. A lot of it dovetails with my personal style anyway

Cool. It was interesting watching my gencon roommate react to my GMing when I demo'd for him (he's a d&d nut.) He was amazed that I, as GM, didn't make a single statement (outside of Crime Cycles). All I did was ask questions.

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3.) Did you enjoy the game?

Yes, I did! The fun part was seeing the two guys get so much out of it. For example, I have no trouble at all understanding why they chose to loathe bankers and lawyers - as intended I'm sure, Gaillist society is not being treated as a disconnected fantasy by our impromptu group, but rather as a medium through which real-life frustrations and confusions can be acted upon.

Awesome stuff, Ron. I'm glad you enjoyed.
Post your next session as soon as possible!
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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2006, 08:35:36 PM »

What I noticed during the Hare & Hound game is that we did not pre-set lines and veils but at one point, it was pretty clear that if I won a conflict, domestic abuse against Nathan's character, a female prostitute was going to happen in a brutal fashion.

And as it went down, I said, "Man, I have a line of comfort and we are edging right up to it," everyone nodded in agreement.  The person who won narration, maybe that was me, narrated that the camera panned out of the apartment to the gaslight in the window and you could hear the sounds of abuse beyond it.

It was way more poignant than any other option and the scene had begun on that gaslamp too, so there was a nice synergy there.

The important thing was that we were all very conscious of how uncomfortable the subject matter was making us and we were all present as support.  We took a break right after that and some people ran to the bathroom but everyone got together outside of the game room in two's and three's and just kind of talked about how awesome the scene was and supported our own shellshockedness.

Hope that helps; it is my most emotional lines and veils experience and we edged up tot he line of my comfort and edged past it just a touch and it was perfect.
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« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2006, 06:31:29 AM »

Couple of side questions, while we await session 3.

The automatic conclusion of a crime cycle if either Calm or Discovery are won by the player was a point I might have helped tip, with comments during my editing. For me, though, it was an almost semantic issue, on top of the feeling that it would hammer players. By my thinking, if the crime is successful by default, someone who was Calm would not be Discovered; someone Discovered could still avoid Conditioning by winning at Interrogation; and so only someone successfully Interrogated would go into Conditioning, to suffer or prevail.

But I think it ran more like this (the old way):
Not Calm (player failed)?
--Yes: BAD! You gave yourself away; go to Interrogation to see if they suss out what you did wrong.
--No: GOOD! You did not give yourself away; go to Discovery to see if you are spotted anyway.
[Damned if you do, mostly damned if you don't.]

Discovered (player failed)?
--Yes: BAD! You are caught red-handed; go to Conditioning.
--No: SUCCESS! You got away scot free. (End)

Interrogation worked (player failed)?
--Yes: BAD! They catch you in a lie or make you confess; go to Conditioning.
--No: SUCCESS! They know you're screwing around, but can't pin a thing on you. (End)

Conditioning worked (player failed)?
--Yes: BAD! Take it on the chin: you have a new Conditioning. (End)
--No: SUCCESS! They think they have a handle on you... but you know they are fools. (End)

Look closely at the BAD and GOOD/SUCCESS ratios (particularly for Calm). That's what made me call this "double-dipping." The best you could do with Calm is not screw up. While that makes a certain linguistic sense, recall that the crimes succeed, by default. I find it odd to reconcile that I could be totally Calm in a successful crime, and yet be Discovered. If I got Discovered, why wasn't the crime commission stopped? (Yes, some crimes can be completed in the instant of Discovery--like being seen as you pull the trigger to kill someone--but does that mean the same thing as "successful crime?")

Perhaps a bit of thought around the word "successful" WRT crimes might be in order. Maybe a better term is "completed."
In text: "All crimes attempted will be completed—their objectives will be met, though not necessarily without a price. The central questions in a Crime Cycle are whether (a) the perpetrator is Calm enough not to give away his or her own guilty conscience or (b) someone sees the completion of the crime and reports it to an Inspector... assuming it is not an Inspector that sees it!"

That would make a cycle more like the old way ("double dipping"), without the (to me) jarring notion of a successful, yet Discovered, crime. Further, going back to the double dip might mitigate the problems Ron had with collaborative crimes being neigh unstoppable.

Hmmm... then again, maybe it's OK that collaborations tend to get away scot free? I mean, what *defines* a caper movie, if not the fact that, as a well oiled team, a group off perps can pull of ludicrously complex heists and such without ever being caught or even suspected? In Perfect, then, if one goes it solo, the Tension does stay down, but there are no Trusts to help; that seems right. But maybe some mechanical tuning is in order; especially if the rules permit collaborations between, say, five players on one crime, each with, say, two Trusts with another perp in the cycle. Now we're talking about something like 10 Trusts getting pinged with the tests... and the GM is probably screwed. His Inspectors become Keystone Kops.

Hmmm... but maybe that's an end game state? The criminal group is so intermeshed with reinforcing Trusts that they, effectively, become the law. The Inspectors become laughing stocks of ineffectiveness.

Watching this thread closely, as it will probably highly influence v2 edits;
David
P.S. By the way, now that you're going into v2, could you find a new word for the *result* of Conditioning, other than "Conditioning?" There could be confusion between the *process* and the result, if both use the same word.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2006, 06:44:18 AM »

Hi there,

Joe, this makes no sense to me:

Quote
The reason why I like setting some Lines before play is this: A player gets this cool idea, and narrates his character acting it out. Suddenly someone states a Line. And the player has to go, "Okay, my cool idea involved killing a defenseless person. That's not cool at this gaming table. Crap, how do I re-work my scene?"

All you're describing to me, as I see it, is functional Social Contract in action. Let's take a look at the fundamental Social Contract issue when discussing in-game content and character actions, as identified by Meguey Baker: I Will Not Abandon You as opposed to (and I do mean opposed to!) No One Gets Hurt.

It is absolutely clear to me that you have written Perfect fully in the spirit of the latter. The characters are totally over the line relative to their society, yes, but the real people are to discover one another's bed-rock sensibilities and and to share them via the fiction, without real-world doubt or challenge being thrown at those sensibilities.

In such circumstances, it works just as Judd describes. Player says X. Other player says "uhh! not for me!" First player revises X. There's no hassle, there's no "oh crap," there's nothing like that. In that Social Contract, that's the whole story.*

In fact, I suggest that this is the only way you find the real Lines as opposed to faux, socially-mediating, pseudo-Lines that people will claim they hold prior to play. My advice was and is to stay sensitive to them when they arise, just as you say here:

Quote
to state, upfront, "We all need to watch each other's comfort levels."

... rather than try to hold some group-encounter "let's share" session at the outset, which in terms of Lines is probably not going to be honest, and may well result in a "playpen" uber-safe, boring zone of play. That kind of situation means that the key goal of "discover and share one another's sensibilities" is muzzled.

Hey, we played again last night! New post coming up.

Best, Ron

* I'm not going to provide a counter-example for I Will Not Abandon You. The two are not parallel and thus there is no way to contrast them using the same short-term example. Social Contract differences are too large-scale, too fully consequential to the entire circumstances of play and content, to be illustrated by Ephemera.
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« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2006, 06:58:28 AM »

Hi David,

Those points seem to me to be coming from the idea that being either Interrogated or Conditioned are punishment mechanics, like taking damage in D&D. Whereas I think that negative consequences to the character in Perfect are the source of adversity, in the sense of "what I must face." Also, as I saw last night, character improvement is so rapid and effective, that new sources of adversity (new Fallouts from Interrogation, Conditionings from Conditioning) are crucial.

Ultimately, as I see it, it's the turnover and evolution of a character's Aspects, including Trusts, which make the game interesting, beyond (and more important than) the immediate vicarious rush of the individual Tests.

In terms of timing, I don't see any difficulty with reconciling any of the following with committing the crime itself.

Calm, not Discovered
Interrogated successfully or unsuccessfully, not Discovered
Calm, Conditioned successfully or unsuccessfully
Interrogated successfully or unsuccessfully, Conditioned successfully or unsuccessfully

One might assume, not unreasonably, that the crime must occur between the Calm Test and the Discovery Test. As I say, it's not an unreasonable assumption, however, it is incorrect. The rules don't situate the crime relative to the Tests. It can come anywhere - before both, between them, or after both; plus, the two tests can be conducted in either order.

For example, say you were Calm, then you do the crime, and they Discover you!! How can this be? As I see it, the Inspectors' sinister forensics team just tracked you down through clues, in classic cop style. Seems easy.

Joe, I strongly suggest that with that point in mind, requiring both the "basic" Tests can be retained for maximum fun - and that goes back to my first point, that without the harsh consequences, characters' internal changes and sources of adversity are slowed down.

Regarding the terminology, I am not trying to refute you (David) but rather offering another data point. As I see it, calling it "completed" rather than "successful" seems like a big shrug. The original phrasing didn't cause any conceptual bump for me.

Best, Ron
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David Artman
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« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2006, 07:51:49 AM »

Those points seem to me to be coming from the idea that being either Interrogated or Conditioned are punishment mechanics, like taking damage in D&D. Whereas I think that negative consequences to the character in Perfect are the source of adversity, in the sense of "what I must face." Also, as I saw last night, character improvement is so rapid and effective, that new sources of adversity (new Fallouts from Interrogation, Conditionings from Conditioning) are crucial.
Ultimately, as I see it, it's the turnover and evolution of a character's Aspects, including Trusts, which make the game interesting, beyond (and more important than) the immediate vicarious rush of the individual Tests.
I hear ya, and that makes sense. Out of the two elements of the old way (which, I bet will become The Way after this), hammering the character was my biggest concern. I thought that two separate opportunities to get "bad stuff" was harsh and might lead to characters being just shambling wrecks, not valiant iconoclasts (or vicious terrorists). If you've found that, in play, the "bad stuff" is really just "good stuff" for the story--and that's the point of play, before character advancement or efficacy--then I'll readily agree that the double dip is not a real "issue." Such a focus on story definitely keeps the characters hopping: every discrete, meaningful "act" a character takes has a fairly good chance of tripping that character up further down the road.

Or.... Maybe there could be a systemic way to offer the GM guidance at to whether he or she should do both auto test or just one or the other, based on the Tensions or on the player narration of the crime? Fiat always works (as a shortcut) but maybe the Tension system can just let a GM, say, get more Opposition Points [my term, by the way! :-) ] if he or she will only do one of the two auto tests? Maybe get 1.5x the Opp Points, for the single test, that you would for the double test? Or would it be enough to know that all your Opp Points will go into that one test? Or would that break something further down the line (like Banked Points or double test becoming untenable)? Hmmm... come to think of it, maybe the system already does this "single test option" emergently: if I as GM toss all my Opp Points into Fear (for Calm), then I probably don't have much chance of winning the later (assuming auto) Discovery, right?

Quote
The rules don't situate the crime relative to the Tests. It can come anywhere - before both, between them, or after both; plus, the two tests can be conducted in either order.
...
Regarding the terminology, I am not trying to refute you (David) but rather offering another data point. As I see it, calling it "completed" rather than "successful" seems like a big shrug. The original phrasing didn't cause any conceptual bump for me.
Best, Ron
Again, I hear ya. Just semantics, which is ultimately about data points (i.e. popularity or adoption). I read too much into the term "success," and (in my humble duty as editor) I thought that others might as well, particularly in the context of crime timing (ex: how can I be Discovered *before* committing the crime--which *will* be a success/complete? A sting operation, perhaps?)

...Or perhaps test order is irrelevant by sheer mechanics, if all four tests must ultimately be concluded to be coherently folded into the narration (basically, Fortune-At-The-Start)?

Further, I believe there is even an example that talks about the order of Discovery and Calm being reversed--the one with the rose for a lady. Guy tests Discover to steal the rose and put it on lady's doorstep, but must test Calm the next day to make sure he doesn't come off as a stalker and freak her out or whatever. [That one, in fact, might be what first made me cry "double dip."] One example, however, does not a system rule make: perhaps the rule text needs to explicitly state that the crime, Calm, and Discovery may occur in any order which can be reasonably framed into a scene or series of scenes. Maybe even take it to the limit of FATS and have all tests bid, rolled, and concluded before any narration occurs? Basically:
1) Frame—Player(s) state a basic crime description/overview.
2) Justify—GM asks questions about motive, Archtypes, etc.
3) Test—Conduct all tests that must or may that occur, in whatever order fits the Framing.
4) Narrate—Winner of the tests describes the actual flow events and immediate impacts on the setting.
5) Accommodate—The GM lays the "ground work" for the next crime; he or she links this crime into the story arc or subsequent non-player (i.e. NPC or setting or institutional) actions/reactions.

Making sense... or sensing make?
David
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joepub
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2006, 03:46:41 PM »

Quote
Further, I believe there is even an example that talks about the order of Discovery and Calm being reversed--the one with the rose for a lady. Guy tests Discover to steal the rose and put it on lady's doorstep, but must test Calm the next day to make sure he doesn't come off as a stalker and freak her out or whatever. [That one, in fact, might be what first made me cry "double dip."] One example, however, does not a system rule make: perhaps the rule text needs to explicitly state that the crime, Calm, and Discovery may occur in any order which can be reasonably framed into a scene or series of scenes.

David, just to clarify - Calm and Discovery can be tested in whichever order makes the most sense per the individual crime.


Ron, can I hear about the second session?
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« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2006, 12:15:50 PM »

Hello!

All right, the three of us returned for our second session on Wednesday evening. I stuck to my guns regarding always requiring Calm and Discovery Tests. I even wavered at one point after a really vicious Interrogation, but steeled myself and continued on to the Discovery Test anyway. So here are the crimes and various outcomes.

Neville's first crime: to establish an underground fashion of wearing colorful leg-warmers, as Brian was apparently enjoying getting some surrealism into things. He also added some neat elements, such as Neville's girlfriend, Heloise, and an engineer pal who was secretly building a biplane in a hangar somewhere out in the boondocks. He got away with this one, I think; he'd set the Tension points pretty low. He had to hop quick to avoid Discovery, though, and I characterized the Inspector who'd originally Conditioned him, in the previous session, as having a handlebar mustache.

Mordecai's first crime was more straighforward: he's not going to church again! Ever! If I remember correctly, I managed to get him Interrogated, establishing some Fallout in order to to counteract James' nasty tendency to remove it from his Aspects. I introduced a mysterious female Inspector during his Conditioning scene, which he resisted successfully. All she did was watch from behind the other Inspectors, as they beat him, and shake her head sadly. He set these Tension points really low on this one.

Next, they ran a collaborative crime which didn't screw around: to murder the "false" pastor plus smearing shit all over the crime scene. James suggested the killing, because this is the pastor of the church that kept getting on his nerves. Brian impressed me mightily - he insisted that Neville would only collaborate if James could come up with a reason that the pastor was a lousy religious-guy. James had to work at it, and then suggested that the guy was having an affair with Heloise! "That's enough!" proclaimed Brian and they proceeded to suffer greatly via the Inspector points. As with the previous crime, I was putting all my Opposition Points into the Inspector category, as I was seeking to establish Conditionings.

However, for this cycle, they were hard to catch! I did get Mordecai into another Conditioning scene, in which the female Inspector, Elaine, sent the others out of the room where Mordecai lay naked and strapped to a table, then proceeded to screw him in order to Condition him. James set his teeth: "I am gonna be totally impotent," he gritted. "She gets nothing from me." To my disappointment, he succeeded, even though he couldn't use his black boots and dagger - I let him use the teddy bear, as a memory.

(Side note: a person who shall go unnamed was quoted from GenCon as saying, "I really like role-playing with Ron, but once in a while, I wish we could leave the lights off." Point taken. I think I shall forego on-screen fucking in my role-playing for a little while. A couple of sessions, at least.)

They did get new Trusts, but I can't remember what they were.

Neville's final crime of the evening was to drug a conference full of lawyers and stuff them into hair-shirt straitjackets. I'm serious. Brian was really getting into his "Opus Dei on meth" image of the character, more-or-less emerging from a guy who'd started mainly as a slightly twisted playboy. This time, I finally Conditioned the bastard ... they instilled an aversion to women - he can't talk to them, talk about them, or go near them.

Mordecai's final crime of the evening was a requested Intolerance scene: I suggested that a banker wanted to get in on his smuggling; I liked this idea because it seemed fun that Mordecai would have to balance his intolerance of bankers with the chance to make more crime & money. James was more than equal to the task, choosing to agree to the deal, but to swindle the banker heinously. And this time, I got to Condition him too! At last! Elaine actually brought in the daughter, whom I asked James to describe. He described her as seven or eight, and crying. Elaine conditioned Mordecai to be "the perfect Gaillist father for our daughter," and left her with him.

I should point out that these Conditionings were set at 17 and 22 Tension points, respectively - maximal power. Cool. I also gave Mordecai his free Aspect, which was "former Inspector," as James had hinted at that as a neat possibility during the first session.

So each character-arc seems to be a little more coherent, in the casual sense of the word, than it did while in the middle of running/playing them. Mordecai turns out to be an Inspector in deep cover, who's effectively gone native. Neville turns out to be a religious fanatic, hyped on the excesses of the "contact with God" rituals he embraces, rather than the bloodless, endless, everyday Masses of Gaillist life. Amay-zing what a couple of female NPCs will do, given our starting point without any except the hinted-at daughter.

I now have a slightly better handle about how story-ness will or may arise out of Social Contract rather than rules structure, for this game. Again, I have a lot of experience with this sort of thing, looking back at le mon mouri as the most dramatic example in the last few years.

Steve, I was as dubious as you were, but am now pretty happy with it. If one does check into the "hey guys, let's do this" level, it's there to be found. The key from the GM's point of view  is to run a few cycles and get a lot of stuff in there as content, whether features of the setting as described, or made-up stuff and NPCs along the way. Then, one can look back and cross-reference that stuff with the character's weak spots or breaking-points, when making up new Fallouts (from failed Interrogations), Conditionings (from failed Conditionings), Aspects (from Intolerance scenes) and Trusts (from collaborative crimes). It may not work for everyone but seemed to fly well with Brian and James.

At the end of this session, when I mentioned the two conspirator-type guys in the setting-story ... Brian said, "My next and final crime will be to kill the minister." It made me realize I should have been more proactive about Gaillist life and history throughout all of play. That also leads me to another recommendation, for myself and others, in games like Pefect: don't forget the crime-by-crime impact on the setting. In fact, the rules even say to make this explicit per crime, but it's easy to miss, and in this case, I just realized that the crimes have really caused so much trouble to society that the characters' personal stories really are headed to a showdown with the larger power structure.

I'm not too sure whether we'll really finish it up, but I'm happy with the way they latched onto doing so. I think the game's good for getting a solid V for Vendetta or A Clockwork Orange storyline out of it, over several sessions, as long as everyone knows when and how that may come about.

Best, Ron
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joepub
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2006, 10:45:29 AM »

Quote
I stuck to my guns regarding always requiring Calm and Discovery Tests. I even wavered at one point after a really vicious Interrogation, but steeled myself and continued on to the Discovery Test anyway.

Right. Thanks for explicitly stating this fact.

Quote
Neville's first crime: to establish an underground fashion of wearing colorful leg-warmers, as Brian was apparently enjoying getting some surrealism into things.

During one demo, a crime was establishing an underground fashion show.
During a full game, a crime was once putting an extra feather into someone's hat.

It's really cool, in my opinion, when those bizarre fashion-related crimes get thrown onto the table.
There's all this very direct stuff - murder, arson, direct law breaking...
And then there's this subtle hedging of the rules in the world of fashion design.

Quote
Next, they ran a collaborative crime which didn't screw around: to murder the "false" pastor plus smearing shit all over the crime scene. James suggested the killing, because this is the pastor of the church that kept getting on his nerves. Brian impressed me mightily - he insisted that Neville would only collaborate if James could come up with a reason that the pastor was a lousy religious-guy. James had to work at it, and then suggested that the guy was having an affair with Heloise! "That's enough!" proclaimed Brian and they proceeded to suffer greatly via the Inspector points.

That's too cool, Ron.
In your opinion, how did the collaborative crimes work out?
Did they overpower the players? Underpower them?

Did they provide a levelling force when the GM power was staggered in comparison to the players?

Quote
However, for this cycle, they were hard to catch! I did get Mordecai into another Conditioning scene, in which the female Inspector, Elaine, sent the others out of the room where Mordecai lay naked and strapped to a table, then proceeded to screw him in order to Condition him. James set his teeth: "I am gonna be totally impotent," he gritted. "She gets nothing from me." To my disappointment, he succeeded, even though he couldn't use his black boots and dagger - I let him use the teddy bear, as a memory.

Awesome!
Sometimes, a Conditioning should either be from a non-Inspector... or an Inspector who isn't actually conditioning someone.

My favourite conditioning of all time was when a character broke his (I believe it was a male character...) leg, and had to watch by as his friend didn't get out of the burning building in time. Knowing that his partner in arson died, and he couldn't save him, left a huge psychological impact.

I totally endorse that kind of stuff: When you've got a good handle on the Inspectors-sit-you-down kind of Conditioning, start going out on creative limbs and re-defining what "Conditioning" can be in the world.

How did this Conditioning, which was wildly different from the standard one, work out?
Did the players dig it?
Was it a cool change of pace from the typical Conditioning?

Quote
So each character-arc seems to be a little more coherent, in the casual sense of the word, than it did while in the middle of running/playing them. Mordecai turns out to be an Inspector in deep cover, who's effectively gone native. Neville turns out to be a religious fanatic, hyped on the excesses of the "contact with God" rituals he embraces, rather than the bloodless, endless, everyday Masses of Gaillist life. Amay-zing what a couple of female NPCs will do, given our starting point without any except the hinted-at daughter.

Yes, I totally love it!

In my opinion, Clockwork Orange does the same thing: Takes a random string of crimes and starts to meld it into a portrayal of why Alex and his droogs have been marginalized and desensitized.
That's part of what I was aiming for in Perfect: Letting actions slowly come together to form a story.

Quote
Steve, I was as dubious as you were, but am now pretty happy with it. If one does check into the "hey guys, let's do this" level, it's there to be found. The key from the GM's point of view  is to run a few cycles and get a lot of stuff in there as content, whether features of the setting as described, or made-up stuff and NPCs along the way. Then, one can look back and cross-reference that stuff with the character's weak spots or breaking-points, when making up new Fallouts (from failed Interrogations), Conditionings (from failed Conditionings), Aspects (from Intolerance scenes) and Trusts (from collaborative crimes). It may not work for everyone but seemed to fly well with Brian and James.

Ron totally hit the nail on the head with this one, I think.
The key is to create a shared world first - establish NPCs that matter, stuff that they care about...
And then proceed to destroy it in front of their eyes.
Make them care enough to keep fighting.

During a conditioning, burn the very piece of art they were trying to steal back.
During an Interrogation, tell the character that you have his daughter in another cell.

And then once you've got everything they care about under pressure, reflect those pressures in the Fallouts, Conditionings and Aspects you introduce or alter.



Ron, do me one favour here:
Give me a quote. A single one or two line soundbite that tells me what works with Perfect and why you like it.
Something that could be put up on a website, say.
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