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Author Topic: [octaNe] "Hey buddy, watch the tentacle!"  (Read 4433 times)
jlhburnett
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« on: January 21, 2010, 09:32:17 PM »

This past weekend, my Skype group decided to give octaNe a whirl.  It didn't go as smoothly as we'd hoped, although things got better towards the end of the session. We all agreed that we wanted to try it again later.  Not content to wait until “later,” I decided to run octaNe Wednesday with my home group.

In short, we had a blast.  My home group is made up of veteran and neophyte gamers, men and women, ages 18-to-36.  I am convinced that newbie players have an easier time with rules-lite systems like octaNe than veterans do.  The newbies weren't all hung up looking for initiative rules or trying to figure out how to make perception checks and quickly embraced the idea of shared narrative.  We old-timers had a bit of a stylistic bump to get over.

So let's talk about the game.  I didn't have a name for the game at the time, but I'm now going to call it “Hey Buddy, Watch That Tentacle!”  I started off the game in Psychotronic mode (kind of the default for any game we play; our D&D games are wacky), but my players being who they are, it started drifting into the gonzo Grindhouse zone.  My players are all hentai fans (I am not, strangely), and when they got full narrative control, things took some unsuspected turns.

The Players and Their Characters
Ivy, my wife, is a veteran gamer and a long-time World of Darkness fan.  She played Sailor Neko, a Japanese Superhero.  She's a cat-girl in a sailor scout costume with skills in Limit Break and Total Distraction (“Neko Flash!”)

John, our roommate, played a lot of D&D in college and has started gaming regularly once again.  He played Sailor Neko's Weird but Cute Pet, Squickle.  Squickle is a small hentai monster that looks like a cute little monkey that bursts into a mass of tentacles when excited.  His skills included  Panty Removal and Tentacle Attack.

Kitty has only been playing RPGs for a few months, but she's played a lot of video games. She played Joe the Ultra Vixen.  Joe has “massive terrible fake tits” and drives a tricked-out Winnebago. Her skills included Mother Trucker and Duct Tape Fabulous.

Brian is also pretty new to the hobby, although I think he played D&D once or twice before falling in with us.  He played Alucard the Metallurgist.  Alucard carries a bass guitar adorned with two massive blades.  His skills include Pyrotechnics and Deafening Sound Pulse.

NPCs
Flo, the hard working waitress at the Dine & Dash.

A trio of vampires: Lioncourt (whip-thin, wearing a black trenchcoat), Mina (skinny, white hair, black leather minidress), and Ravyn with a Y (overweight, red hair, black velvet dress)

Legion, the vampires' demonic smart car.  A jet black 1959 El Dorado with red headlights and huge fins. “666 horsepower fueled by widows' tears and the blood of unbaptized babies!”

One space slug.


The Game Begins...
We start things off in Shangri-L.A. Sailor Neko is contacted by The Most Excellent Superhero Command and told that there are giant lizard monsters menacing No'Land, and she must go defeat them.  “I go fight bad guy? Yay!” Neko and Squickle hire Joe to drive them across the Wasteland in her Winnebago.

Cut to several hours later, and the 'Bago pulls into the Dine & Dash, a lonely truck stop in the middle of the radioactive wastes.  It's just past dusk, and the truck stop is empty aside from Flo the waitress and a long-haired man in a black leather jacket carrying a bass guitar.  Neko whispers to Joe and Squickle that he looks like a Bad Guy and that they should keep an eye on him.  A bit later, while the PCs are enjoying their plates of biscuits and ostrich  gravy, a trio of what are obviously vampires (pale skin, ankhs, black leather and velvet) walk into the truck stop.  As they pass the bassist, they see the name “Alucard” plastered on his guitar case.  With a name like that, they understandably think he's a fellow vampire.  The vamps sit down at Alucard's table and introduce themselves as Lioncourt, Mina, and Ravyn (“with a Y”). They tell Alucard that they plan on going all “Near Dark” on this truck stop and ask him if he wants to join in on the human killin'.  Alucard says “I think you got me confused with someone else,” and gets up to go talk to Neko, Joe, and Squickle. 

Alucard informs the others of the vamps' plans.  About this time, the vampires' patience runs out, and they announce their plans to kill everyone. Alucard uses a Charm stunt on the vamps to get them out of the diner (“Maybe you all wanna take this outside?”) while the waitress behind the counter screams “No bassists!  No bassists!”

Thus starts the vampire turck stop rumble!

It starts with a face off—three vampires and their demonic smartcar against the PCs and their RV.  Things start off with Sailor Neko leaping onto the smartcar's roof, while Joe rams into it with the Winnebago.  The smartcar rolls several times, but lands on its wheels with Neko inside it.  Squickle starts a gas spill that quickly catches fire (dropping the scene's Threat Level).  Alucard leaps at Ravyn and chops her with his bass.  He puts her down, but his blades get tangled up in her heavy ankh necklace.

Sailor Neko tries to figure out what to do next.  Ivy (her player) says “I could try and charm the car, but that doesn't make any sense.”  I reply “That is exactly the WRONG way of thinking for this game.”  That's when the light bulbs suddenly turned on over everyone's heads, and the game really kicked into gear.

Neko rubs her “no-nos” all over the smartcar's dashboard, and the evil car falls in love with her.  Joe and Mina the vampire get into a cat fight, rolling on the ground scratching and clawing.  Clothes are shredded and things pop out all over.  Alucard uses some metal magic, blasting the dead vampire off his bass with a thundering riff and bringing Lioncourt to his knees, ears bleeding. 

Squickle attacks Mina with a horrific tentacle attack.  John described it in nightmarish detail, and I shall not repeat it here.  Suffice it to say, it involved the words “spikes,” “violation,” and “pulsating.”  Mina is reduced to something akin to hamburger, and vampire blood drips into Joe's open wounds (no side effects from that...yet!).   Alucard finishes off Lioncourt, and the first big fight scene ends with an impromptu musical number as Joe go-go dances topless on top of the smartcar.

Introductions are finally made all around as the PCs debate their next movie.  Flo the waitress seems eager for them to leave her truck stop, and Alucard “politely” informs her that they just saved her from death-by-vampire.  She replies “Honey, I'm the only waitress in a truck top in the middle of an atomic wasteland.  I've seen worse than vampires.”  She continues to tell the group about the trio of giant gila monsters that stomped by her place just the other day.  This grabs the attention of the monster-fightin' Sailor Neko. While the team debates what course of action to take, Alucard produces a hip flask of whiskey. Joe tries out the player-vs-player rules as she convinces the naive Sailor Neko to get rather drunk.

Blah, blah, blah... The PCs eventually decide to track down the giant gila monsters, and they hit the open road.  Joe, Neko, and Sqickle ride in the Winnebago, Alucard rides his motorcycle, and Legion the demonic smart car follows along behind them (Neko is determined to convert the smart car and make him a Good Guy).

Time passes, and the team comes across the burning wreckage of a semi truck.  It's tipped over, the top half of the driver hangs out of the window (the bottom half is elsewhere), and busted crates of bubble wrap litter the road.  Alucard decides to give the truck and driver a proper burial, and uses his heavy metal magic to open a pit beneath the wreckage.  The metallurgist succeeds in burying the truck, but the vibrations of his sonic spell attract the attention of a Space Slug!

As the slug (Hazard Level 3) bursts out of the ground, the players  debate running away. Being who they are, they decide to fight the beast instead.  Joe begins to circle the 'Bego around the worm, trying to keep its attention. But RVs aren't made for tight maneuvering on blasted roads, and the darn thing tips over. Neko climbs on top of the 'Bago and begins to do some wiggly snake dance in an attempt to charm the slug.  This works too well, and the slug embraces her in its slimy mouth tentacles.  Squickle, meanwhile, attempts to use his weird powers to mimic the slug's pheromones.  While the slug is occupied with all this, Alucard drives his motorcycle up a pile of rocks and launches into the sky.  He leaps off the cycle and lands on the back of the worm.

With Neko in danger, Joe leaps out of the Winnebago with a roll of duct tape and attempts to wrap the slug's mouth shut.  One thing or another happens, and Joe winds up accidentally duct-taping herself to  the slug. Neko actually manages to wriggle out of the slug's wormy embrace, but it involves slipping out of her clothes as well.  I'm not sure exactly what Squickle had in mind, but somehow it involved “enveloping” both the girls, the slug, and himself in his hentai-tentacles.  He was trying to “exhaust” it or something.  The results were debatable.  Alucard slipped of the back of the slug and hit the ground, trying not to vomit as his brain tried to unsee the whole ordeal.

And that's where we left it as a cliffhanger.  People had to go home.


Opinions and Observations:
The session was repeatedly called “the most fun game we've played ever.”

My players are not hack-n-slash gamers, but they are never happier than when they're blowing up stuff or starting fires.

We discovered that Kitty has never seen Tremors. We need to fix that.

octaNe could easily be kit-bashed in to a hentai game.  I consider this a “Bad Idea.”

After reading octaNe, I wasn't sure how well “boss fights” would work using just Hazard Ratings.  In play, the slug fight showed me that it works very, very well.

I'm still not quite sure how to handle NPC/allies actions in scenes.  I suppose any player/GM could narrate their actions as part of a normal player stunt.  It didn't really occur to us at the time, and Legion the smart car spent the worm fight chuckling evilly to himself on the sidelines.

Will we play more octaNe?  Yes.  Yes we will.
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-Joshua LH Burnett-
Assistant Creative Director, Hex Games
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2010, 06:26:30 AM »

!

That may be the most successful octaNe play-report I have ever seen. It also borders on the sort of thing often seen in the more recent game Escape from Tentacle City.

Your account is very clear in terms of fictional events, but I would like to know more about the interplay, ebb-and-flow, of the mechanics. How did the various different sources of narration work? Did you utilize the textual mechanics in detail?

Best, Ron
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jlhburnett
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2010, 11:51:17 AM »

Thanks, Ron! I'll have to check out this Tentacle City game, now.

Allow me to discuss how things went mechanically in our octaNe game.


After we made characters, I took a 20 minute break and went to the bedroom to quickly sketch out a plot idea. I concentrated mostly on how to get the different characters together, give them a vague goal, think of one or two "cogs" (to borrow a term from "Full Light Full Steam") and set the players loose. My notes consisted entirely of "Monsters in No"land" "Crocidle Cultists" "Truckstop in the wastelands" "Vampire smartcar" "demolished semi" "Bette Rage" and doodlles of a muscle car and a woman with comically large breasts. I'm pretty used to improv pick-up games, and I felt this was enough to go on.

Historically, my players don't like being saddled with complete plot control, but they like having input and the ability to nudge things.  I made sure I had enough plot hooks for the players to latch onto, as well as a few cogs to toss at them in the case of uncomfortable silences.

Thankfully and surprisingly, things went pretty smooth from the start. For the first few scenes, the players were a little hesitant, mostly trying to get a feel for the setting. Once Sailor Neko realized that she could seduce a car, the group understood that I'd pretty much let them do anything. This opened them up pretty quickly. They loved having narrative control and took simple joy in being able “to do whatever we want!”

I found it easiest to describe a “partial control” result like this:  If a roll comes up “Moderator has partial control,” then I (the Moderator) get to describe what happens, but you (the player) get to add an “and” or “but” to the result.  The opposite happens for “Player gets partial control” result.  This seemed to work very very well.

My players all have a good rapport, so they were very good at working with each other.  This helped a lot with the timing of actions.  Often, a player would volunteer to take his stunt last, because another player's action set them up nicely or it just looked cooler.

For instance:
Kitty: (declaring Daring stunts): “I'm going to run them over with the Winnebago.”
Brian (declaring Daring stunts): “I'm going to blast the smartcar with fire!”
John (declaring Craft stunts): “I'm going to sneak over and drain the gas out of the smart car.”
Brian:  “Ah!  You should go first, then I can set the spilled gas on fire!”
Kitty: “Then I'll ram it with the RV! Boom!”

The biggest hurdle was the Might and Magic rules.  Three out of four characters had either Might or Magic, so it came up a lot.  The players wanted to use their weird powers a lot, and they ran out of Plot Points quickly.  I had to explain to them a couple times that they would probably need to “soften up” their adversaries first with other Styles to gather up the necessary Plot points to bring out that big spell or superpower.  I am going to assume this was an intentional design element.  I'm still not sure my players understand the rules for reducing the Hazard Rating of a scene with Might/Magic. 

In retrospect, I didn't toss out near enough Plot Points for good roleplaying and fun.  There's no real excuse for that other than I was just being damn forgetful.  Usually I'm pretty liberal with bennies/yum yums/ style points/whatever.
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-Joshua LH Burnett-
Assistant Creative Director, Hex Games
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