*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
May 21, 2019, 04:08:02 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Avatar-13 inital sessions  (Read 2621 times)
Matt Snyder
Member

Posts: 1380


WWW
« on: February 26, 2003, 12:23:38 PM »

The story thus far

This post covers two sessions of actual play of Avatar-13. I posted the first draft of this game in Indie Game Design a couple weeks ago. It has since changed substantially in terms of mechanics, not so much in terms of intended approach. I'll go through events first, the wrap up with mechanics explanation & changes.

Casting call

Harry "Jank" Jankins was a decorated cop and detective, even rewarded with top-of-the-line cybernetic eye implants paid for by the city of New Atlantis (a mega-city on the Atlantic coast). Jank was an extraordinary detective, but became fascinated and obsessed with a serial murder case. While on the trail of a suspect, several gangland kids assaulted him. He retailiated violently, beating one kid severely. The kid had rich parents, and after a lawsuit Jank found himself out of a job. He turned to work as a private detective.

Penelope is a wannabe actress who found herself in the prostitution business. After escorting clients for needed cash, she soon learned that the real money was in controlling the business, so she set herself up as a madam with a few girls. She still desires to be an actress, but can't bring herself to stop pimping. The money's just too good.

Blackjack is a electronics whiz who sells gadgets and devices aon the black market. He worked for a small defense contractor, but his company and project were sabotaged by false accusations from a competitor. He found himself effectively blacklisted, so turned his expertise to fixing autos and v-craft as a mechanic, which eventually led to procuring (and creating and repairing) black market goods.

Finally, "Doc" is a trauma ward resident. He grew up in the sprawl amid poverty and crime, but after getting a second chance as a youth found he liked school and became an outstanding student. He maintained many of his rough-and-tough friends from the lower tiers of the sprawl, and eventually returned to give a little back by working as a ER trauma healthcare provider.

There's still crime in the city

To kick of the first session, the players faced the following situations for their characters:

Jank had been hired by an elderly gentleman named Paul Streeter to trail a hooker named Eve. He was supposed to simply follow her and report on her whereabouts and activities.

Penelope agreed to accompany one of her girls, Eve, to a Chinese restaurant where she was to exchange a datastick of information for a Retinal Flash -- an illegal device that temporarily masks one's retinal eye imprint.

Blackjack had been approached by an anonymous buyer who wanted a Retinal Flash in exchange for information regarding the defense contractor competitor that effective put him out of work.

Meanwhile, Doc was hovering about the city on ambulance duty (the player joined a bit late for me to set up something more compelling, but it worked out ok).

I used to eat there. Really good noodles

Play started with Penelope and Eve waiting to make the deal at the Last Emperor Chinese restaurant. Shortly after they arrived, Jank walks in and begins to record their conversations. Eve gets nervous and goes to the bathroom; she misses Blackjack (with whom she needs to make the exchange) enter the restaurant.

A little conflict begins when Penelope recognizes Jank and that he's been following her. She phones Eve in the bathroom who says she'll scoot out the back door. Blackjack looks a bit lost, and ends up going to the bathroom himself, aluminum briefcase in tow.

Jank and Blackjack hear a scream out the back door, as did Penelope who had left the restaurant to make her getaway. Eve has been murdered by a well-dressed corporate goon. The PCs try to intervene, but the wired goon makes an easy getaway -- but not before Penelope snatched Eve's datastick away. The goon apparently was after it.

Everyone's got a price

Jank and Doc, who enters the scene as a fast-response medic, take Eve's body to a municipal clinic. They do some detective work and medical investigation (and Jank has to negotiate with Doc some to get the info): Turns out Eve here showed up dead six weeks ago. Or, rather, her DNA profile did. She's a clone. Cloning is illegal, and generally considered a morally corrupt science by the general populace.

Elsewhere, Blackjack and Penelope help each other make a quick getaway from the murder scene. Penelope, being the opportunist she is, sells the datastick to Blackjack for a tidy sum.

Jank does some more investigation, and questions both Blackjack and Penelope. Session one ends.

Back to the future

Session two opens up (after a nice dicussion among the players of how the mechanics work -- we all have several "I get it now!" moments).

Blackjack examines the data he's bought from Penelope (who got it from poor, dead Eve's purse). Turns out the data is for some very high-tech neural interfacing technology. He can't really understand it, so he calls his buddy Zero, a computer whiz and entrepreneur. Zero explains the technology -- it's a means to utilize a human mind as a computer, basically. But, the kicker is that the technology lets human minds network directly -- meaning all minds on the network can pretty much know EVERYTHING any other mind is thinking, doing or feeling. He says it is ultra high-tech shit, and has no idea how or what to do with any of the information. Blackjack does some head scratching.

During that time, Penelope attends an audition for a cereal commercial, in part hoping to find another poor actress who might replace Eve in her little "moonlight" business. She has a lead, then does the audition -- purposely failing the thing to 1) bank some Fortune (the game's metamechanic) and 2) inadvertently attract the scumbag producer as a client.

Fade to black

Jank, of course, trails Penelope. He bugs her car, then returns to her apartment while she's away to plant more bugs. Problem is, someone already had that idea. He enters, cybereyes adjusting to the dark in time to see movement and the place in shambles. He's immediately attack by a pair of small skimmer drones that spray tear agents in his face. He leaps into the kitchen, knowing two armed "covert ops" type-goons are in there. After a valiant attempt to hold one hostage, he's shot with a narcotic and all goes black . . .

Penelope returns home, and immediate calls the police, who arrive 40 minutes later. Ahem. They find Jank passed out on her kitchen floor and arrest him. Penelope presses charges (but, since the cops are run by a corp., this costs her $600. She pays.)

In jail, Jank gets interrogated by one of his old police chums who has now made detective. The guy lets him go, but not before grilling him about the murder and why he's shown up twice.

Back in his "underground lair," Blackjack is still head-scratching when his alarm systems go nuts. He sees more "covert ops" types pass by his outside cameras, then his place goes dark as the power goes out.

Session two ends on this cliff-hanger.

What have we learned, class?

Ok, first some perspective. After getting some feedback -- particularly some great feedback from Mike Holmes -- Avatar-13 rules changed.

In a nutshell? The game now uses a mechanic that's very similar to Sorcerer. All rolls are opposed rolls. Players roll their Action Pools against other character or GM-decreed "difficulty pools". The winner is simply the roll with the highest die value (we're using d6). Throw away ties.

Unlike Sorcerer, the rest of the dice are meaningless. Instead, only what you've Wagered from your dice pool prior to rolling matters in terms of degree of success (or a handful of other nifty Wager tricks).

This is quite different from the dice mechanic offered up in the origianl Avatar-13, but we had most of it in place before the first session.

During and after the first session, I realized some other key issues:

The biggest hurdle was handling defense in combat. I had "passive" and "active" defense modes in the original rules. Mike Holmes' critique helped me realize how broken that was. So, I went the route of Wagering to defend (basically to stop damage 1:1).

I realized then that this ONLY mattered if you failed. That is, you Wager dice to defend yourself from harm, but then that only matters if you lose the Phase and get "hit" -- so, you're wagering to lose, which doesn't make sense. And, it's one of only two times when wager is effective when you do lose.

Also, we struggled a bit with the concept of Rank, which is simply the order in which players resolve their goals. A quick reminder of how Sorcerer works cleared this up. Everyone rolls. The person with the highest rank resolves his goal (rank = dice pool + any Rank wagers you've made). If this doesn't prevent the next person from resolving his/her goal, the next person goes. And so on.

Another key issue was solidfying (though not finalizing) how the metamechanic Fortune works. Basically, Fortune can be used as "free wagers," meaning you can add a wager (from your Fortune total) to your Action without losing dice from your pool. Fortune used as wagers work in every way identically to wagering dice from your Action Pool.

Also, we decided that "Banking" wagers to convert them immediately into Fortune works fine. It even encourages you to wager ALL your dice (meaning you automatically fail at your goal) so you can bank everything. They liked this, and so did I. Penelope did this in her audition.

In play, we found so far that Fortune comes and goes pretty quickly, which I really like. It has a really fluid feel that luck and high-end action comes and goes quickly. We got to discussing Matrix as the example. Without prompting, they realized you could do the scene where Neo and Trinity show up at the agents building and kick security guard ass in ONE PHASE of this game with 1) a mook rule and 2) lots and lots of Fortune. When they realized that whole scene could go down with ass-loads of Fortune and only one dice pool roll, I knew I liked this system and that they "got it."

It took a "Come to Jesus" moment before the second session for everyone to "get" Wagering, which is absolutely crucial to how the game works. We worked verbally through several examples, and that helped greatly. The biggest misunderstanding was that the players didn't seem to see why you'd want to wager when you could just succeed better without wagering so.

It clicked when I explained that Wagering is like determining how many successes you'll get before you roll. Lots of "Ahas!" with that explanation.

Phew, ok. That covers lots of stuff for now. I'm looking forward to hearing comments, and I'm sure there will be questions. I'm happy to clarify. I've also left one or two other minor rules-tweaking notes at home, and I'll add those when I can.
Logged

Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
Eddy Fate
Member

Posts: 188


WWW
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2003, 01:08:59 PM »

Quote from: Matt Snyder
The story thus far


Looks cool, Matt.  I'm curious what prompted the change from a hard difficulty number to a "soft" rollable difficulty?  Also, how did you resolve the defense issue you cited?  I remember mentioning that I found it a bit confusing as well...

Regardless, not sure if it's the system or the gamemaster, but it sounds like it's got that great cyberpunk feel going.  Do you plan the players every to get together as a "party", or keep the Gibson-esque feel that they're all involved in the same story, but never really connecting as a group?
Logged

Eddy Webb
Vice-President, Spectrum Game Studios
Co-Line Developer for http://www.zmangames.com/CAH/">Cartoon Action Hour
http://www.shadowfist.com/html/store_CAH.htm">Order CAH online!
Matt Snyder
Member

Posts: 1380


WWW
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2003, 07:14:21 AM »

Thanks, Eddy!

There are a couple reasons I changed from hard target numbers to all-opposed rolling. We have Mike Holmes to "blame" for this. Mike has posted about this before in his Standard Rant #5: The Myth of Opposed Rolls. But, he also communicated with me directly over a series of private messages to clarify lots of stuff, and offer some great suggestions.

Here's why all rolls are opposed in Avatar-13: In the first iteration of the system, automatic success or autmatic failure could be quite possible. That's because you could either have too few dice to succeed or so many that you couldn't possibly fail. Mike argued, and I agreed, that this ain't good. For one, it means you enter conflicts in which the outcome is, well, not at all in conflict. Why bother with mechanics then anyway? Just say what happens, move on in play.

The real reason I've moved to opposed rolls, though, is related to this. In opposed rolls of this sort, both sides have a chance of success/failure regardless of how many dice they have. Yes, with only 1 die against 7, you're extremely unlikely to win. But, it's possible.

Why is this a good thing? Because it reinforces in players the mentality that wagering is a good thing to do. I WANT players to wager. If they know no matter how many dice they're rolling, they have a shot, then they're encouraged to wager. This is pivotal to how the game works. Wagering is the key.

Re: Cyberpunk feel & plot "streams"

I'm glad you get that Gibson vibe! That's a great sign. As for whether the players will ever get together as a group, yes, I think they will by necessity and common enemy. I'm taking my time with this and letting them do their own things for a while and letting them do what they do best -- "in their element." I will not force them to become a party. I will however be expanding the conspiracy and providing options for them to team up. Big Brother will eventually make their lives miserable, and misery loves company.

But, all that said, I do like that they're doing their own things, most especially because it really lets the players enjoy their game time and do the kinds of things they want to do with their characters. For example, Penelope's player used some director stance to whip up a cereal commercial audition. Great stuff, and it helped her do some things she wanted to do, all while opening up the opportunity for Jank to do some detective work in her apartment.
Logged

Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
Eddy Fate
Member

Posts: 188


WWW
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2003, 08:16:34 AM »

Quote from: Matt Snyder
Thanks, Eddy!

There are a couple reasons I changed from hard target numbers to all-opposed rolling. We have Mike Holmes to "blame" for this. Mike has posted about this before in his Standard Rant #5: The Myth of Opposed Rolls. But, he also communicated with me directly over a series of private messages to clarify lots of stuff, and offer some great suggestions.


Skimmed the rant.  Good, good ideas there for me to think on.  :-)

Quote from: Matt Snyder
Here's why all rolls are opposed in Avatar-13: In the first iteration of the system, automatic success or autmatic failure could be quite possible. That's because you could either have too few dice to succeed or so many that you couldn't possibly fail. Mike argued, and I agreed, that this ain't good. For one, it means you enter conflicts in which the outcome is, well, not at all in conflict... In opposed rolls of this sort, both sides have a chance of success/failure regardless of how many dice they have. Yes, with only 1 die against 7, you're extremely unlikely to win. But, it's possible.


Very, very good reasoning there.

Quote from: Matt Snyder
Why is this a good thing? Because it reinforces in players the mentality that wagering is a good thing to do. I WANT players to wager. If they know no matter how many dice they're rolling, they have a shot, then they're encouraged to wager. This is pivotal to how the game works. Wagering is the key.


One thing I've been learning from Jared, is that mechanics should enforce the sort of player involvement you want.  (Not in those exact words, but that's my take on some of his viewpoints, which might be totally wrong).  So, that's probably the best reason for Avatar-13 to have that system.

Quote from: Matt Snyder
But, all that said, I do like that they're doing their own things, most especially because it really lets the players enjoy their game time and do the kinds of things they want to do with their characters.


Rockin'.  I'm glad it's going so well, and I'm enjoying following this project!
Logged

Eddy Webb
Vice-President, Spectrum Game Studios
Co-Line Developer for http://www.zmangames.com/CAH/">Cartoon Action Hour
http://www.shadowfist.com/html/store_CAH.htm">Order CAH online!
Matt Snyder
Member

Posts: 1380


WWW
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2003, 12:49:46 PM »

We had another fun session of Avatar-13 last night. We've been alternating between this "experiment" and a great, ongoing Riddle of Steel campaign, which is a nice break for me to think about the sessions and enjoy playing for once!

Knock-knock

We pick up where we left off -- Blackjack, the group electronics whiz/black marketeer, is pouring over the data he swapped for (from the dead hooker, Eve) when his security system erupts with alarms. He looks up just in time to see a spec-ops team coming at his door. Shit! Conflict ensues, and this was the action highlight of the evening.

Conflict 1: Blackjack tries to determine how many operatives there are. He fails. Whoops. He's distracted by his many monitors just long enough for two of them to rig his door with some kind of charge.

Conflict 2: Blackjack's player, Flash, wants to put 'em down. Before the session, knowing this scene was going to take place, Flash and I agreed that he could use his Security skill (and relevant attributes, natch) effectively as a weapon. The specifics and effects of these would be up to Flash, and he was allowed to describe them as they took effect.

So, for his first "attack," he rolled successfully. With some wagered dice, he upped the Shock damage of his security system, and he decided that the effect was a hot-wired door/entryway that shocked the hell out of the two operatives, putting one down for the count.

Conflict 3: Blackjack wanted to trash his local data so the operatives would find nothing. Since he raced against the clock, I decided to force a conflict/roll. He succeeded, barely so. Meanwhile, the operatives tried to get inside. This was the point last night when, like an idiot, I found myself rolling .. . against myself! The spec.ops team assaulting Blackjack's place were trying to break down the door, so I thought to myself, "Ok, they get six dice, and the door has, say, three. WTF? Wait a minute, why the hell am I doing this?!?" Obviously, I needed to recognize that there was no conflict here. The bad guys break down the door. End of story. Gawd, that was dumb of me.

Conflict 4: After trashing data, Blackjack's goal is to dash to his car. His goal is simply to escape (and escape injury, hoepfully). Meanwhile, the operatives open up on him with their sub-machine guns. Blackjack fails, which means the SMG fire gets him good. Really good. He suffers a whopping 5 Trauma -- he should be toast.

But, Flash decides to spend fortune that he's saved up so far. By using the Fortune as a "free wager" for defense, he can whittle the damage down on a 1:1 basis. He knocks the damage down to 1 or 0 (can't recall).

Interestingly, Flash had declared he wanted to do this before the roll. However, I don't think I'm going to require this when using Fotune. Also, this solves the problem of defense wagers (see post above) -- basically, that when wagering for defense, you're wagering to fail.

I narrate the phase -- Blackjack leaps rather frantically into his car just as the SMGs tear it to shreds. The synthetic windows crack into a million splintered cobwebs and the plastics siding on his car becomes swiss cheese. He's safe, but can't reach the starter button in the car.

Conflict 5: Blackjack decides to do something about these gun-toting goons, so he wants to use his security booby-traps as weapons again. The operatives' goal is to shoot him dead. Fortunately, Blackjack wins the roll. And, Flash decides to spend some more Fortune to make the effect really nasty. He narrates that he overcharges the electroshocker by remote, and arcs of blue lightning streak to the railine behind which the gunmen crouch. All but two of 'em go down in an ozone haze.

Conflict 6: With only two enemies left, Blackjack makes a run for it. His goal: Hit it! The car goes online and lays rubber as bullets keep riddling the windshield. Flash had an easy time of it here, because the "mook" team's dice pool was sorely diminished w/ only two operatives in action.

Conflict 7: Plain-clothes gunmen in coats out on the street raise their SMGs, but Blackjack pretty gets away, not without a few more bulletholes in his car.

Phew! End one of our most action packed scenes thus far. More to come. Jank investigates Yet Another Murder with Doc. And, a new character joins the fray -- Asher, an AWOL military gal with New Atlantis underworld connections.
Logged

Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!