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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 61 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Untitled Paranormal Romance] Playtest I  (Read 3179 times)
Mathew E. Reuther

Posts: 114

I came, I saw, I ordered the burrito . . .

« on: October 29, 2010, 11:59:58 PM »

So, as mentioned elsewhere, I worked up a system to test with my group (part of anyway) this weekend. Just got back in from what proved to be an edifying experience.

The game is supposed to work as a kind of storytelling medium for "create-your-own" Paranormal Romance tales. Thus it's a pretty broad thing subject area overall. Vampires, time travel, far future, pure fantasy . . . pretty much any romance novel that isn't contemporary or historic. But just how broad it can really get we'll see a bit later on.

Group consisted of myself (acting as the Narrator), Bridgette (my wife), Laura, Adam, and Shabnam (Adam's wife) . . . each of these players is fairly experienced with the exception of Shabnam. Aside from some 4E D&D she's got no RPG experience.

Play begins with the group authoring the shared world. Players had veto rights to facts about the world, no more than two each, but none of them were actually used. The world was generated with the following facts: modern era, western coastal location, Europe (I picked Calais as a result), werewolves, vampires, unicorns and faeries all exist, magic powers exist, there is a famine, the world is dark (literally, the sun is obfuscated), paranormal beings are known but often discriminated against, and the general setting is gritty and dark.

At this point having a world to play with, we addressed the next part of the process, which is the proposal of a protagonist for the story. Each player drafted a hero/heroine to be potentially the main focus of the tale. They each pitched their creation, and then they all voted. Both Adam and Shabnam had difficulty with the process, but eventually came up with two fairly disparate vampire characters, Adam's a kind of dark, brooding one and Shabnam's a Viking vamp. Laura came up with an American who lost his parents to a "wolf attack" and was forced to move to Calais to live with his aunt. Bridgette came up with Charlie the Unicorn, who is terminally grumpy and missing a kidney. The votes were tallied after the pitches, and Charlie won, having garnered two votes, with Vic the Viking and Avram the American each getting a vote.

Now bear in mid, we're talking about a game that features romance as a central theme, and even a game mechanic. My wife had basically torpedoed me at this point . . .

Now, we actually generate characters. Having lost the bid for a protagonist Shabnam and Adam switch gears and create two new characters. Avram is worked up into a character by Laura, and Charlie is out hero, so he's fleshed out as well. By the time we're finished we have Charlie, the Eeyore-like Unicorn who just happens to shapeshift into a human female (you can find him on You Tube, btw), Avram the magical atheist (he doesn't believe it even when the fireballs are flying), Sergo the Sprite-not-Faerie (all 4.2-inches of him) and Chumbo the Roaming Gnome (think 2 and a half foot tall gypsy magician) . . .

This is what they do with romantic fantasy that offers an awful lot of free-form.

We started off a bit but it was actually pretty late by the time we'd gone through things, so we really only managed a small bit of play, rolled dice a couple of times to gather some information, and generally ended up winding it down for the session.

What did I learn?

1) Giving them too much control means they don't have enough of a clue where they need to start.
2) Universally they enjoyed working together to create the world they were playing in, but there was some minor feeling that maybe I should have reigned them in in some way. (This was largely just unspecified, not enough concrete "what" here really.)
3) The mechanic of generating secrets about other characters was difficult for them, and ended up in some pretty poor secrets and a few really good ones . . . which actually came from Shabnam, surprisingly. Suggestion was made to slide the secret generation until after characters have been introduced, thus immediately before play begins.
4) Without some kind of story hooks it's incredibly difficult to vise free-form characters into play in an organic manner . . . and it may very well be a bitch to make story hooks which work for the scope of what I'm trying to accomplish. It was all pretty much contrived once we got into play, and I think Laura was actively working against me introducing Avram. (Of course if I was dealing with having to meet a shapeshifting unicorn,as a magical atheist I'd probably resist . . .)
5) I've got mental blocks which prevent me from seeing how to deal with certain circumstances. (Like unicorn protagonists.)

All in all this was a pretty major success because Shabnam actually had fun (which when we played 4E she really didn't) and we exposed some serious weaknesses in how the game works. Can't ask for all that much more than knowing you've just hit something with one of your more hesitant players and have a steaming pile of poo to fix up, right? :)

Knee deep in the Change System's guts . . .
Michiel R

Posts: 13

« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2010, 10:45:40 AM »

sounds pretty cool. Especcially the freedom of players co-creating the world and the beginning player having fun. For new players I think its nicer to have freedom in creating instead of having to learn 4th rules.

It sounds though like you are going to wind up roleplaying a fairytale instead of an paranormal romance.
Imho its for this reasons:
- the characters are just very fantastic, not really paranormal (I find the paranormal more to be mysterious)
- a romance with soo different characters could be difficult (yet not inpossible)

For creating characters, maybe you could also just have asked, why are you all together, how did you get to know each other?

I really like the idea that you can give other persons a secret.

Posts: 871

« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2010, 02:35:13 PM »

5) I've got mental blocks which prevent me from seeing how to deal with certain circumstances. (Like unicorn protagonists.)

I don't think this is a problem with your mechanics, but rather a problem with the players.  Someone should have vetoed that.  Now, when doing this for the first time, stuff like unicorn protatgonists can come up and you learn from it, so it's no biggie and you move on.  In your rules, you might suggest to the reader that vetoing suggestions that would make addressing the central theme difficult is the entire point of the veto mechanic.  Think your design, from what you've described, is robust enough to handle these types of situations.  It's just that the players need to be aware that they can handle these situations.



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