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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4284 Members Latest Member: - Nicholas Mizer Most online today: 221 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Best Friends] Senate Frosh at JiffyCon  (Read 10533 times)
Emily Care
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« on: November 13, 2006, 06:49:52 AM »

Hey there,

We played Best Friends on Saturday at JiffyCon.  The blue fever that hit the nation on Tuesday infected us, or else we'd just had too many donuts, but we played a game with 5 freshman congresswomen newly entering the Senate. The characters were five girl friends who had gone to college together, and all ended up in politics: just on all the possible opposite sides of the ring.  This setting was, Dev P.'s inspired suggestion. (The plot was complex, so I may have some details a little fuzzy--corrections from the players are appreciated.)

players & characters:
Meg played Louise DuPree Democratic Senator from Missouri, an African-American woman who got her seat in a campaign against gerrymandering in MS.
 
Nathan played Victoria Roberts Green/Rainbow (thank you very much!) Senator from Colorado, a buff and athletic white woman who was a tireless campaigner for the enviroment.

Julia played Camille Richardson Neo-con Senator from Alabama, a rich and complex African-American woman (described as Condie Rice on acid) who had had a sexual liason with the decrepit 75 year old president during her internship, had a gay husband and an open relationship, as well as a lover in the Taliban. 

Steve played Catherine Wells Libertarian Senator from New Mexico, a white woman for small government who lived off the land in Alaska (though she spent a bunch of that time holed up in a hotel, but she'd never admit it).

Dev played Cynthia Chavez Moderate Republican from Ohio, a pro-business Latina who was all about using the system to its utmost, and who had a suitcase of small, unmarked bills stashed away in her office.

They made some great connections between the characters with the Nonsense:  Cynthia and Victoria had been Kendo sparring partners in college and kept that rivalry alive in their relationship, Louise had seen Camille get stoned (despiter her later denials) in college, Camille sent Victoria fake "secret admirer" notes in college, Louise stole Camille's college boyfriend, and there was sexual attraction all over the place: Catherine wanted Victoria but denied it, Cynthia was "intellectually" attracted to Louise, and Camille was attracted to Cynthia. Their goal as a group was to oust a corrupt high official and to infiltrate a literal "old boys club", the Platinum club, scene of back dealing and Senate intrigue that was closed to women.

What have those animals done for you lately?
Whew! As gm, I was like "where to begin?"  I kicked it off with the young, manipulative VP trying to bribe Victoria to back a vote to repeal the Endangered Species Act.  Vicky kept her cool and turned down the bribe, pushing a Friend Chip to Catherine to overcome the super-cool VP. She took her tale of the outrageous offer to her old college buddy Catherine, who she looked up to. Cynthia was also there. She came to Catherine to ask her advice about a threatening note she'd received that said "we know about your dealings", presumably about the suitcase of cash. However, Cynthia never got to raise this issue, though the background of the note became revealed  later.   

We had a short scene with Camille and Louise where they sparred about Camille's past recreational (inhale) habits, and in which she got pulled aside by a secret service-man who invited her to a private meeting with the President, and ended with Camille getting a (scrambled) cell-phone call from her Taliban lover.  (Julia unfortunately got called away to bring her baby to the emergency room to remove a bead embedded in her nose--we've all done something like that sometime, yes?--so we didn't get to see more of Camille. A great loss, it wouIld have been great to have the great Neo-con storming about.

The conspiracy
Louise then joined the others and they hatched a plan to use the bribery attempt to gain leverage to allow them to enter the old boys' club.  They decided that since Victoria forcefully rejected the offer, that she would be the "outsider" who they would publically repudiate. Cynthia, who reassured Victoria that she was likely mis-understanding what had been a perfectly standard and legit offer (ha!), would act as the point person and contact the VP. Louise and Victoria would stage an argument on the floor to show her distance from Victoria, and establish herself as being more pro-growth than pro-environment to maker her a believable ally.

Both these scenes came off and became entangled: Louise and Victoria debated the merits of an obscure bill about road building or interstate transit law, that would ultimately affect the livelihood of the silver fish, a tiny minnow-like fish in the rivers of New Mexico (Catherine's home state).  It turned out that Rob, an old boyfriend of both Louise and Vicky was on Catherine's Senatorial staff, and their arguments on the floor were a conflict both about the law, and about getting his interest.  Louise pushed on Pretty, won it hands down, and accepted a proposal to "meet for a further briefing" with Rob, despite her happy marriage with a supportive husband. Just a business meeting, for sure.

The plot thicks
Cynthia contacted the VP, and asked for a private dinner meeting.  She got questioned about Victoria--since they were known to be old college buddies--and was asked to make contact with the Jr. Senator from New Mexico, to assure her support on the transit bill, for a "moderate incentive". Cynthia had worked out that Catherine would take the bribe and take the dive, although the money was funneled through a third party to a "Save the Silver Fish" fund in her state.  The VP, then made the offer to bring Camille, Louise, Catherine and Cynthia in to the Platinum club, as the club's first women members, for a price: they had to destroy Victoria's coalition against the Endangered Species Act repeal. 

A heated debate ensues: will they throw Vicky to the dogs to gain the coveted access to the club, or can they bring her in and find a way to work with her on this? Would she possibly allow the Endangered Species Act to be destroyed? What could they possibly wear if they became the first women members of the club?  Louise, Catherine and Cynthia had a three way contest, trying to convince one another of the best course of action. In the end, Catherine pushed on Tough, and got them to come clean with Victoria.

They went to Victoria with the bad news, but she was having none of it. "You want me to help undermine the Endangered Species Act, which has been the cornerstone of environmental protections for a quarter century? You are crazy if you think I'll do that!"  Still debating the issue of what to do, Cynthia was contacted again by the mysterious note sender and told to come to a deserted part of the capital, late in  the evening. She asked the athletic Victoria to accompany her and was brought in alone to meet: the President! He'd become fed up with the manipulations of the VP and had evidence on bribes from some time in the past that he gave to Cynthia to leak. He trusted Cynthia because he'd gotten wind of what she was using the untraceable cash for: funneling money to a world-wide genocide prevention program.  Cynthia took the list back to Victoria, and said she'd use them judiciously as leverage against the VP. Victoria--who was done with back-rooms-dealing--pushed on tough to literally take the list from Cynthia, dash from the car and make off with it. Cynthia was left thinking: "All these years of careful negotiation and dealing, only to be mugged of the really big thing that comes along, man...."

Bring the bad men down
A flurry of action commenced: Cynthia pulled strings to get Victoria temporarily suspended from speaking on the Senate floor, for irregularities in how volunteers were recompensed, and Victoria contacted Louise to see if she could contact the Senate ethics committee for her.  The list was revealed, and in the ensuing furor, the ESA repeal was tabled and hopelessly lost in the shuffle.  Louise got to face-off with the VP, and won in a battle using Pretty.  Scuttlebut on the floor said Louise had a promising future before her.

Notes on play
This was really fun to run.  The players came up with a welter of great details about themselves and dirt on eachother. The main challenge for me was in marshalling all of that information, and keeping it straight. I was just jotting notes on notebook paper, and I unfortunately mis-aligned some connections (frex I thought Louise and Victoria had an ex in common, rather than Camille and Louise. It worked out okay since Julia didn't make it back to join us, so Nathan and Meg got to have that rivalry instead)  Eventually I hit on drawing a matrix to list the relationships between the characters (a table with columns down and across with their names and a word or two about the connection in each box).  But a nice gm sheet to help keep some of that straight would be terribly useful. There may already be one that I missed finding. These connections and dirt are the heart of the game. Whenever I needed to know what to do, I checked out my notes to find something to bring in from their character backgrounds or to throw them at eachother. Another thing I winged was making up the VP PC. I gave him some monster stats (3 Cool, 3 Rich, though only 1 Pretty). It felt right, but the book doesn't make it seem the norm to have an NPC with stats that high.

There was some discussion about the topic we chose being too heavy for the game. It definitely ended up being a lot more truly political than I think we'd intended at the start.  People said they'd like to play again, doing a trip to the mall or some such to really get at the inter-character sniping. I feared at times I was doing too much, though Meg said she felt like the game didn't leave me much to do as gm, so that's reassuring that I wasn't over doing it. I'd planned on using the house-rule Ron's group used--when you get a friend chip you frame a scene--but it ended up being more organic than that.

All in all, I had a lot of fun. It was a bit heavier than the players might have expected to play, but I loved the exploration of these political positions that the players brought to bear, and am actually kind of proud of having been involved in it.  How awesome is it to have a game where you can do that?

Thanks for the amazing session, you guys. And thank you for the great game, Gregor!

best,
Emily
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Parthenia
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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2006, 08:27:27 AM »

I really wish I could have been there!!! It sounds like it was really fun. Let it be on record that Camille was out dealing with Taliban and Presidential booty calls, and that's why she missed the intrigue.
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Graham W
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« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2006, 08:39:06 AM »

Hey Emily, I have questions. Did you play the VP and decide on the bribery and "destroy the Endangered Species Act" plots? In general, were you deliberately trying to pit the players against each other with your GMing? Did you do much scene framing?

And any other thoughts or musings on how to GM the game successfully? Because, you know, I'm doing it soon.

Graham
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Emily Care
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« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2006, 11:32:21 AM »

Julia: I wish you'd been there too! Your character added a lot even from her short appearance, though.

Graham: yes, I did introduce all those items.  I did a fair amount of scene framing. If you can, I recommend using Ron's group's house rule, which makes the scene framing much more reminiscent of PtA. My main advice to you is to make sure the players create juicy cross connections via their Nonsense. We did ours in two rounds, first they made some up, then I had them go back & makes at least two connections to the other characters as I remembered Gregor suggesting.  Frontline that aspect of it when you present it to your players. 

Although, I almost got overwhelmed in the number of directions all this good stuff along with their background gave me to work with. Having an already thought out form or structure for notation would help you a lot. You may also want to focus.  I felt like I had to pull out two or three key details for each of them that I could bring into play to put pressure on them right off the bat. 

If you use more distributed scene framing, you may want to establish characters' individual goals in more detail, so they each have something they are working towards. The gm's job seems to be to make sure to bring in aspects of the characters' backgrounds and to keep the pressure cooking, while giving them lots of room to work their own agendas with, for and against one another.

Who are you running it for, Graham? At a convention?

best,
Emily
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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Nathan P.
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« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2006, 07:12:12 AM »

So I've been wanting to play Best Friends since Gen Con. Character generation remains brilliant, and Em hit all the high points in her post. It was definitly a fun game, but I had a couple of points to...uh....point out.

I wonder if Julia leaving the game, and thus not using any of her Friend-Chips, messed with the economy at all. At the end of the game myself and (I think) Meg had a pile, while Dev had none and Steve only had a couple. As a benificiary of this, I noticed that having an edge in Friend-Chips is very deterministic. In the ongoing conflict between Victoria and Cynthia, I kinda knew that my character was going to win, because I always had the option to push and Dev didn't. I don't know whether this was a function of our particular game being fairly focused on only a couple kinds of challenges, or what.

I think we were talking about how it was difficult to conceptualize how these characters were described on the sheet in the context of Congress - that is, an environment that demands a certain baseline intelligence, slickness, and so on. When we brought it upon ourselves to seperate our personal relationships from our political relationships, it was very satisfying, but Best Friends is all about conflating whats on the surface with whats underneath, I think. So we were struggling against the game a bit in that. Again, playing the same characters as, say, all baristas at the coffee shop that they worked at in college, or something, would be really fun and more in line with the game.

This game goes on my "play again without stretching it so much" pile, for sure. And I love the spot to draw your character on the sheet; Dev accused me of lasersharking mine.
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Nathan P.
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My Games | ndp design
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Graham W
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« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2006, 09:45:47 AM »

That's great, Emily, thanks. Reading your posts and Ron's, it looks as though there's two things you should do with Nonsense: create connections with the other players and create connections with some external adversity.

It's interesting that you didn't play a character, because I remember that Ron did.

And it looks like you were using some fairly textbook Bangs: the bribery and the "Will you destroy the Act?". Cool. Good to remember.

Yes, I'm running it at Dragonmeet in London.

Graham

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jrs
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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2006, 10:54:29 AM »

I wonder if Julia leaving the game, and thus not using any of her Friend-Chips, messed with the economy at all. At the end of the game myself and (I think) Meg had a pile, while Dev had none and Steve only had a couple. As a benificiary of this, I noticed that having an edge in Friend-Chips is very deterministic. In the ongoing conflict between Victoria and Cynthia, I kinda knew that my character was going to win, because I always had the option to push and Dev didn't. I don't know whether this was a function of our particular game being fairly focused on only a couple kinds of challenges, or what.

I would imagine that if a player departs early, it would definitely have an effect on the friend-chip economy.  The players with Friends that hate the absent Friend would not be able to "push" in order to accomplish tasks based on their low-scores.  It would seem that some mechanism to allow that push avenue to persist should be established in that situation.  Did you allow players who hated Julia's character push to be successful?

It's interesting that you didn't play a character, because I remember that Ron did.


Remember that in Ron's game (our game really, I was there too), we drifted the system so that we did not have a single GM.  It's my fault, because when I played at GenCon with Gregor (the infamous frat boy game), Gregor played more as one of the Best Friends than as GM.  So without actually reading the rules, I insisted that Ron had to be one of the girls too, and we devised the "who received the last friend-chip frames the next scene" rule for our game.  It has worked really well, but it is definitely not the rules as written.

Julie
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2006, 11:45:50 AM »

Hey Julie,

We pushed to her character as per normal, but as Julia wasn't there, she wasn't ever pushing. So it was kind of a Friend-Chip black hole (though I don't remember how many she would have had by the end of the game).
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Nathan P.
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2006, 12:19:48 PM »

Thanks for the thread Em. :-)

If I were the GM then I think that I would have stepped into playing the character once the player went away. Or, if that seemed a bit much I would ask everyone to re-assign the hatreds they had for her to the other friends who are still there (following the going to the right thing that makes sure the 5 hatreds aimed at her get spread evenly amongst the others, and naturally everyone loses the hatreds that she had for them, i.e. everyone gives out and gets 5 hatreds).

Other things that leap out to me:
(i) friend-chips get capped at 5.
(ii) if you end up with 0 friend-chips then you should be looking to create conflicts where your friends might want to push to you.
(iii) a blander alternative to scene framing order I had was that everyone got to frame one scene, you all put your name in a hat and draw out the next person's turn when a scene ends. It's maybe a bit too "equal".
(iv) external issues and adversity can be overcome real easy if we all agree (after all you either beat it with your hatreds or push if you have to). The real adversity comes when your Best Friends oppose your success. Or they start acting in concert with you/against you.
(v) Only one push per conflict from any player means that with careful alliances even the highest hatred in the group at any one thing can get brought down.

I have 2 APs that I really need to write up. One sucked bad as the players had no internal conflict they just wanted to beat on the world, which is really, really easy and not what the game is about. The other one (ancient Rome) really rocked and had a very elaborate and cross-linked set of relationships. That also meant that alliances and pushes had more bite and meaning.

Following on from that is really Nathan's points, I think. It's about these friends and their friendships. The other thing that possibly Nathan touched on is whether or not the 5 hatreds matched up to the setting? Perhaps Tough didn't matter and you might want to replace it with "Argumentative" or something (Liberal? Principled?). Drifting the realms of the Hatreds might create more thematically appropriate conflicts?

Glad you guys had a blast and that you were able to get some serious points across. :-)
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Parthenia
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« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2006, 07:20:22 AM »



Hey Julie,

We pushed to her character as per normal, but as Julia wasn't there, she wasn't ever pushing. So it was kind of a Friend-Chip black hole (though I don't remember how many she would have had by the end of the game).

I think I had five or six.

There was a chance I might have returned in time to continue playing--at least that's what I was thinking when I left. As it stood, everyone had two hatreds for one other character in order to have a total of 5 hatreds (we had 5 players at the beginning). So if I had forfeited my character altogether and everyone reassigned their hatred for Camille, then would each person assign 3 hatreds for one person, or 2 hatreds for two people? Clear as mud?
 
I so want to play this game and not have to stop to get beads out of my daughters' noses!
(Parthenia=Julia)
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2006, 03:50:35 PM »

Hi Julia

Yeah, it's difficult to know what to do in those circumstances.

Oh, quick explanation of the handing out hatreds: and as there were five of you initially it was the person sitting to everyone's immediate right that got the extra hatred. When you shift down to four, it's the next person to the right again that gets that second extra hatred (i.e. the person to your immediate left should only have one hatred from you, everyone else has two).

Hope you get to play it again soon. :-)

What sorts of things were the conflicts on? Always Pretty and Cool? Or was it a fair mix. I'm conscious that I find Pretty and Cool the "easy" ones to conflict on. So I make an effort to try and find Rich, Tough and Smart conflicts. Of course, players should be trying to find these too to put get the other characters to push their friend-chips, etc.
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Graham W
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« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2006, 12:37:17 AM »

Can I make a suggestion? Let's say I'm pushing a Friendchip to Julia for a Tough conflict, but Julia's left the game. How about the Friendchip doesn't actually go to Julia: it goes to the character who Julia hates for being Tougher? And similarly for other conflicts: whenever Julia would receive a Friendchip, it actually goes to the player who Julia hates for being Prettier / Smarter / etc.

That way, you don't need to reassign the hatreds; the economy of chips still works; and Julia can come back and take the character if she wants to.

(Sorry for using your name here, Julia: it was just easier that way)

Graham

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jrs
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« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2006, 06:59:40 AM »

Graham,

In our game, we did exactly that when a player pushes to another player who already has 5 friend-chips.  The friend-chip would then "bounce" according to the second player's hates.  I don't remember if that is in the rules; I'll have to check when I'm home.  It seems like it would be a good solution to temporary departures.

Julie
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2006, 09:44:53 AM »

This is a moderator post, for clarification and one reminder rather than discipline

Graham, Julia was correcting your spelling of her name, not its use. She already uses her real name as a sign-off and has no objection to that.

Parthenia = Julia

jrs = Julie (another person)

Rules of the Forge = real names are recommended in dialogue, regardless of usernames; so Graham, don't apologize for using them

Please continue with the discussion; any questions about this post can be handled by private message.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2006, 12:22:03 PM »

Gah. I read it over again and figured out who was confused about what, and it is absolutely not worth untangling at the expense of discussion.

All that really matters is that everyone knows who everyone is now, I hope. Carry on, carry on ...

Best, Ron
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