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Author Topic: [3:16] Another damned Bambi! Shoot it, shoot it! AK-K-K-K-K!  (Read 5656 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: July 09, 2008, 07:01:55 AM »

Hello,

After way too much time not gaming, we played 3:16! I'd been reviewing the manuscript as it approached publication readiness, and Gregor sent me the latest, just-pre-press copy in time for my big social weekend. I figure it's close enough to publication not to be considered playtesting any more.

The game included Tod, Julie, Maura, Ralph, and me; we played in my shady and comfortable back yard, sitting on the grass or in lawn chairs.

Julie: Corporal Crazy Connie, Ralph: Sgt. Dirty Smitty, Maura: Trooper Dangerous Evelyn, Tod: Trooper Hot-Headed Granfield. They were all pitched a little high toward Non-Fighting Ability, although I think Ralph or someone shifted their score a little bit once that became apparent.

So with four player-characters, Alien Ability = 5. I used 16 points (the number of PCs x 4 option) for the planet called Holbein: Temperate, Sentient Planet, Impair (I rolled for all of these and in my opinion it is lame to do otherwise). H'mmm! Shades of "Shore Leave" from the original Star Trek. I decided upon flowers, bambis, and fairies for some foe ideas - you can see where I was going with this.

Given the nature of the thing, I arranged the Tokens differently from your advice, hitting hardest at the outset.

I was really fatigued and beleaguered by hosting, socializing, parenting, and other stuff all at once, so Ralph was very helpful with the rules, which he'd read the night before. Here are the places I screwed up to one degree or another. I confused myself with Impair at first until a couple of minutes into the first encounter. Also, for very stupid people such as myself who understand a rule perfectly and then, in the heat of explaining it to others, screw it up, I suggest putting DO NOT WRITE ANY STRENGTHS OR WEAKNESSES PRIOR TO PLAY right there in character creation.

As for play, I had a wonderful time with Lt. Frinks, both in the briefing session and in the communications on-planet. He was a rather unimaginative martinet; I liked the idea that he could not believe in cute foes and as things proceeded became convinced that his corporal must be on drugs.

Our little story for this planet centered around using the field manual, for which I demanded NFA rolls. I think this will be one of the most fun elements of the game, open to nigh-infinite variations. Basically, given the total lack of sympathy on the other end of the radio, Crazy Connie was forced to consult her manual and Julie failed her roll. The phrase she thought was appropriate to tell Frinks in her report, "forty-five alpha gold!", was never really specified as to what it meant, but Frinks instructed her to secure an individual and to kill it, then bring it back. Which was obviously (a) not going to make anyone happy later given the non-threatening appearance of whatever it would be, and (b) not going to keep them from getting killed.

The Troopers were especially contemptuous of the officers' inability to read the manual, and it was Granfield who nailed his roll and was correctly instructed by the manual to locate and destroy the planet's brain. He started digging, and given another great NFA roll, plus a grenade, cracked open the shell surrounding the brain and initiated the final encounter.

During all of that drama, we also had one Battlestar Galactica Razor moment when Connie drew a gun on an insubordinate trooper.

We saw only one use of a Strength, to get the characters out of that hard-core first encounter. I sensed a certain reluctance and confusion about this aspect of the rules, especially when one person was under the impression that they had to announce doing so as a stated action prior to all the dice-rolling.

I made them roll for healing, but I didn't mind doing it, either.

I fumbled the Impair rules again in the last encounter, so they had a slightly easier time with it than they should have, although not without some enjoyable mishaps. And if I do say so "ourselves," some knockout cinematic action. The fight with the planet's brain was really quite exciting.

Let's see, Connie was promoted (but so was Lt. Frinks, to her annoyance), Smitty and Evelyn went up a level, and Granfield got a bravery medal. Of course, the most effective and heroic grunt was the one least mechanically rewarded, so he's got this real G.I. Willie and G.I. Joe vibe happening. (I'm referring to the original 1940s characters.)

We were all absolutely charmed by play itself, had a wonderful time with all the adverse stuff, and produced some very good characterizations out of the decisions and depictions.  Everyone wants to see what happens next time, both in terms of which trooper will eventually make Connie snap her string, and of who might be blasted into hideous spattered bits in an encounter.

My personal desire, beyond spattering characters into bits, is to see major Strengths and Weaknesses in use, so you can bet that (a) we'll review those rules very carefully before play next time, and (b) I'll use the x5 Tokens rule to make the planet dangerous enough to need them.

Oh yeah, one thing that I hope there's still time to re-scribble in the text. Ralph and I were both quite unhappy with the text about how aliens had to be bad guys. I agree that you want war stories, not simply mowing down peaceable citizens going about their business, nor the troopers being greeted by pacifist elders and sweetly-smiling young women in gowns. I also agree that the point of play does not include personable distinct alien individuals who can be seen as fellow player-characters. However, I think you can get past these pitfalls by specifying that the aliens always respond appropriately to a brutal, hostile commando-style invasion, i.e., by fighting back. You don't have to make them evil and in fact I think it's not really a good idea to do so.

I am excited by this game, Gregor. The Ronnies are one of the independent-game endeavors of which I'm most proud, not in the sense of myself, but in terms of what people did with them. I especially like the constructive use of old-school concepts, especially levels, without any need either to be ironic about them or to ape their original use.

Best, Ron
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2008, 08:27:42 AM »

Thanks Ron!

Yes, I'm making the very final changes by Friday so I'll take those notes on board (work has conspired to get in my way this week). Spookily I was chatting via e-mail with David Donachie about Impair today, actually. It uses up Threat Tokens quite greedily but can really drive down every PCs' capability if you spend a lot of them.

One of the exciting things I think about the Special Abilities are that some are harder than others, so it's not like every planet has an equal difficulty. Some are also harsher depending on the AA of the characters and the aliens too, and at which point you've reached in the campaign.

It's funny, Lt Frinks is always a hate figure, even when he was Malcolm's PC! So I'm delighted to see him pop up in your game as an equally annoying figure.
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Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2008, 02:01:36 PM »

Actually, Smitty was the Corporal, thank you very much.  Sergeants get yelled at by officers.  Corporals take smoke breaks and blast things with E-Cannon...and hopefully soon my new rocket launcher toy. 

There were a few typos and incorrect references in the examples in the version you sent Ron.  You may well have caught all those yourself by now, but if you want to send me a copy I can probably re-find the ones I spotted.

One piece that I didn't see and would like to...cuz I like having such things spelled out (and in a military game it makes sense to do so) is the actual authority of the respective ranks to override the mission briefing.  Meaning, we started out with a Sarge leading our patrol receiving orders via the mission briefing from an Lt.  Now she's an Lt and we'll presumeably be receiving our briefing from a Captain.  At some point, however, I expect that it will be a player coming up with our own mission briefings...at least I'm guessing that will be necessary in order to make the transition from ground pounders following orders to pissed off mutineers trying to get back home...or set up their own independent colony like the one example alien group...or whatever.  There's a big gap there that doesn't seem to provide an alternative to the "get briefing, kill stuff, level up" procedure of the initial missions...unless I missed it.  Some might call this a Fruitful Void, but I'd have trouble seeing the fruit in it (of course I also happen to be of the mind that while "Fruitful Voids" might exist and may even be useful design concepts, most of 'em strike me as just design holes...so YMMV on this one).

Anyway, totally sweet little game.  I'm especially fond of how a knife can be just as effective at eliminating Threat Tokens as an E-Cannon...but the E-Cannon will help you level up faster cuz you just plain kill more things.

Oh, that reminds me, you may want to provide some GM guidance for how to descriptively handle situations where the bad guys aren't attacking in hordes.  In one encounter we were met by a single life sucking Butterfly and in the final a single planet sized Brain that wanted to absorb us.  In both cases identifying the damage roll as "Kills" didn't work literally.  I don't think that's a problem that needs a rule, but perhaps a sentence either saying "Don't ever do that, all aliens are hordes whose numbers are determined after the fact based on damage rolls" or "That's fine, just describe it like such and so".
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2008, 04:18:55 PM »

Hey Gregor,

Also, for very stupid people such as myself who understand a rule perfectly and then, in the heat of explaining it to others, screw it up, I suggest putting DO NOT WRITE ANY STRENGTHS OR WEAKNESSES PRIOR TO PLAY right there in character creation.

If you come to Sorcerer with biases (about the way Humanity *must* work, perhaps, from having played Vampire) and a not particularly receptive respect for the text, you quite likely fail at narrativism when you play. If you come to a narrativist game with expectations about how some character mechanics work from having played various story games and a not particularly receptive respect for the text, you make a hash of the designed play experience.

Gregor, I haven't seen your text, but my advice is no mollycoddling! If you've clearly laid out what players are supposed to do, don't listen to advice suggesting you go reactive with text that tries to correct players who might impose mechanical memes from various other living cultures of play onto your game. You can't keep it from happening, and you'll end up with an anxious and fretful text if you try. Repeat after me.
No.
Mollycoddling.

(Yes, I have a strong opinion on this. I don't want to derail your thread, but briefly, Acts of Evil will be a bÝrked, mystifying, and unsatisfying experience if folks can't set aside mechanical memes they're incubating from other cultures of play. There's nothing I can do to prevent it beyond writing a clear text. And I refuse to accept responsibility for it.)

And otherwise listen to Ron. He loves you.

Paul
« Last Edit: July 09, 2008, 04:22:09 PM by Paul Czege » Logged

"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Matt Machell
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« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2008, 01:18:47 AM »

There's a big gap there that doesn't seem to provide an alternative to the "get briefing, kill stuff, level up" procedure of the initial missions...unless I missed it. 

I wonder if this is related to the minimal use of strengths and weaknesses during the game? From play of previous versions of the rules, these have generally led to situations that break from that cycle. Effectively building in issues in the flashbacks that can only be resolved by actions in the "present".

-Matt

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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2008, 05:46:54 AM »

Oh I'm sure that there will be plenty of *motivation* to do other things in the present.  But the situation of being a patrol on a hostile world at the bottom of a military chain of command means that the opportunity to act on that motivation will be necessarily local.  My question is more along the lines of "Now that I'm a Major, what options exist to act on these building motivations that go beyond the locality of the next planet we've been ordered to invade".
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2008, 07:56:51 AM »

I've tried to be direct in the text, and I appreciate the point Paul (and agree with it).

Ralph, the Officer ranks get more orders than the grunts and I think the break point there is at Major. At Major you are charged with doing the dirtiest missions, the toughest stuff and you're in charge of units that are the best of the best.

Above that rank you have the Lt Colonels (who are to oversee the destruction of planets), Colonels (identifying target planets for destruction) and Brigadier (ensure no one goes back to Terra/kill all life in the Cosmos). A PC at those ranks is driving where the brigade is going. Or at least I hope that's what comes across.

I put a bit in the text about early play being all about the missions, and later play not being all about the missions any more.

I've sent you a PDF, Ralph. And if you have any comments just drop me an e-mail. It would be much appreciated. David Donachie made a similar point to me about some text to advise about the numbers of beasts and so I'll put a text box in.

My aim is that you can pick up the book and by going through it and just playing you will have repeatably good fun.
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Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2008, 09:48:37 AM »

I've tried to be direct in the text, and I appreciate the point Paul (and agree with it).

Ralph, the Officer ranks get more orders than the grunts and I think the break point there is at Major. At Major you are charged with doing the dirtiest missions, the toughest stuff and you're in charge of units that are the best of the best.

Above that rank you have the Lt Colonels (who are to oversee the destruction of planets), Colonels (identifying target planets for destruction) and Brigadier (ensure no one goes back to Terra/kill all life in the Cosmos). A PC at those ranks is driving where the brigade is going. Or at least I hope that's what comes across.

Yeah, that's the part.  It does come across that at those ranks a PC is supposed to be driving.  My question is that I don't know what that's supposed to look like.

How is Major Smitty deciding what to do on planet Picasso different from Corporal Smitty receiving a briefing from Lt. Frinks about planet Picasso?  How does Colonel Smitty deciding to go blow up Goethe result in a different feel of play from Corporal Smitty being ordered to go blow up Goethe?  What am I as a player actually doing differently once I achieve flag rank from what I as a player was doing when I was just a grunt?

Maybe the answer is nothing, but those orders made me sense that the answer is actually "a whole lot"...

I did get the PDF, I'll try to have at least a quick response back by tomorrow.  There's an off chance I can convince tonight's playtesting group to play it...it was one of the options that was thrown out as a possibility.

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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2008, 09:19:17 AM »

Hey Ron...I was right.  Page 22 lower left.  Smitty definitely deserves a medal for bravery for getting the final hit on the planetbrain...Yeeeeaaaahhhhhh boyyyyyy, pin it on me babeee, chicks dig the jewelry.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2008, 09:42:00 AM »

Huh. No, Lt. Frinks blackballs you to the computer and you've screwed out of a medal you fully deserve.

And you're a good soldier, so you bend over and take it, too.

Best, Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2008, 09:53:31 AM »

Ha...
amusingly in my reply to Gregor I'd already written that I'm going to waste CAPTAIN Frinks for screwing me out of my medal...sometimes the obvious things are the most fun...
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