[IAWA] In a Noir Age

Started by Caesar_X, June 13, 2008, 02:54:21 AM

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Tonight, Chris P., Robert and I sat down to playtest using IAWA with Film Noir content, since that is one of my big interests.

Please note that this is not a thread about IAWA in particular or about how Vincent's rules worked. We purposefully broke the game to fit it into the Film Noir theme.

Since there were only three of us, we decided to run it GM-full. So first I read out the oracles that I had brought with me, based on these.

A greedy woman who walked out on her lower-class husband to claw her way to the top.

A dirty cop, caught red-handed by his rookie partner.

A taxi driver who stops for coffee and pie every night at 11.

A hotel dick, willing to look the other way for a bribe.

For a background, we decided to eschew the usual Los Angeles. Instead, we brought the story up to the mountains in Colorado, circa 1949. Sunset, a former mining town on a lake, now trying to make a run for being a resort. A small place with one hotel and lots of vacation cabins.

Next we went through the oracles again and pulled out all the possible characters. We ended up with ten, which seemed pretty heavy for three players to run. So we spent a few minutes to combine a few of them and ended up with seven characters that were much tighter. We also drew cards for an adjective (i.e. homicidal) to describe each character. The content and character names came from content I had created for The Naked City.

I ran Florence Peterson, a greedy diner waitress who wants to setup Carl and get him killed, and wants to steal Roy's taxi to get out of town. Her Particular Strength is Passionate Kiss; Consequential Strength, works Covertly and Self-Protection; works directly against With Love and Self-Protection.

Robert ran Carl Anderson, an on-the-run front desk clerk who is married to Florence. He wants to keep a hold of his wife, and wants out from under Roy's thumb. His Particular Strength is Predicting the Odds; Unique Strength; works Covertly and Maneuvering.

Chris P. ran Roy Delgrand, a notorious taxi driver who wants to use Carl's brain for gain, and wants to shame that "floozy" Florence. His Particular Strength is his taxi; Far-reaching Strength; Works Directly and Action.

NPCs were:

Billy Brooks, a homicidal hotel dick/dirty cop who wants to pimp Florence and bust Carl. His Particular Strength is "the Benjamins".

Vernon Horne, a jealous bellhop who wants to possess Florence and cut Carl out. His Particular Strength is his skeleton key that allows him to get in anywhere.

Clifford Fendley, an embittered rookie cop who wants to get Carl to testify against Billy. His Particular Strength is his cop shield.

Glenn Eddleman, a ruthless diner cook, who wants to make sure that Florence stays at the diner, and wants Roy under his thumb. His Particular Strength is his ability to eavesdrop on conversations.

Now I mentioned that we purposefully broke the rules of the game. There is a specific rule on page 12 that says "Don't roll the dice when two characters are having a conversation, no matter how heated it becomes; wait until one of the other acts." We talked about it, and felt like Film Noir action tended to be quite a bit more subtle than the average fantasy yarn. So we were okay with conflicts that were still about talking.

We played a short session, and actually took a lot of time creating these characters, so we only had time for four scenes:

1. Florence is serving the taxi driver Roy at the Sunset Cafe, when she notices a wealthy-looking man outside looking for a ride. She smells money and tries to convince Roy to take the both of them to the hotel after her shift. Roy doesn't want any part of her and just wants to get the rich guy as a fare to get the nice tip. Florence wins and I narrate her taking off her apron and walking outside to take moneybags by the arm and walk him to Roy's cab.

2. While the cab is pulling up to the hotel, the setting sun shines into the lobby. Just inside, Clifford the rookie cop is trying to convince Carl the desk clerk to visit the D.A. and hopefully testify against Clifford's former partner, who is now the hotel dick. Robert wins the conflict and says, "Listen, I'm not going to make your case for you. Come back when you actually have the goods on Billy.

3. After Clifford leaves and the folks in the cab are still outside, the bellhop sees the coast is clear and waves Billy in, who proceeds to browbeat Carl about "giving him up to the cops". This was a great scene because Billy wanted to beat up Carl. And Robert (playing Carl) decided that he wanted Billy to snap and beat Carl very badly. Chris P. won the conflict, and Billy just slapped him around enough to intimidate him before straightening Carl's shirt and walking off.

4. Just then, the group from the cab walks into the hotel lobby. Florence sees Billy and pulls him into a quiet alcove and is getting all romantic with him. She wants Billy to kill Carl for her, and even hands him over a knife to do the job. But Billy only sees dollar signs, and wants to pimp Florence out to the rich guy to make a nice bit of cash. We have a tough conflict, but in the end Billy wins, and Florence lowers her head and agrees to take the rich guy upstairs.

Thoughts on running IAWA with Film Noir content

I came into this game thinking that the most difficult part of character generation would be Particular Strengths, since we weren't doing fantasy or magic. But we all came up with some cool strength relatively quickly, and many of them got used in play. For example, it make total sense that Florence got to use her passionate kiss as I was playing her as a greedy femme fatale.

Our biggest challenge was coming up with Best Interests. I think there were several reasons for this. First, we were each creating a PC and either one or two NPCs, which was a lot to coordinate. Robert eventually drew up a quick R-map to keep the connections solid. Also, while I picked Florence who ended up being the center of a lot of attention, Robert and Chris P. (by their own admission) picked two of the boring characters to play as PCs. So we ended up breathing a little too much life into the NPCs and didn't say enough awesome for the PCs. Also, the PCs were complex, but diluted as well. Whereas the NPCs were simplistic, but very focused.

The negotiation at the end of conflicts was still a bit unclear for us, but I think that would get better with more play.

Personally, I had quite a lot of fun finally playing some Film Noir content. I think if we had more time, we could work our way into the story more and try to finish a chapter. But since Film Noir stories tend to use the same set of characters, I'm not sure how it would transfer moving to a second chapter that perhaps only contains a few characters from the preceeding chapter.

Thoughts? Questions? I'd also like to hear from Chris P. and Robert about their experiences with the Noir theme.