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Author Topic: [Doctor Chaos] OrcCon 2011  (Read 2730 times)

Posts: 1429

« on: February 22, 2011, 02:36:47 PM »

At OrcCon this weekend I had the opportunity to play Doctor Chaos.  Overall the game was very successful.  I'll go over some of the highlights.

First the social context.  There were five of us.  Two of players, Sean and Anna are quite young (early 20s) and play with me on a regular basis.  I've known them for just over a year now.  There was an older woman named Dawn who had played A Taste For Murder with me the previous evening.  Finally there was a guy I'd never met before named Troy.  Troy had a pair of goggles with him that he passed around the table for the people playing Doctor Chaos to wear.

Doctor Chaos ended up being a kind of techno-alchemist determined on controlling the national economy.  In game terms his primary style was Technology, his Scope was National and his Plan consisted of Control only.  The four Conditions were as follows:

Control the Media, Control The Weather, Distrupt Shipping, and
Change Trade Policy

First Question: I was wondering if these were too high level and abstract?  Espeically "Change Trade Policy"  Should this have been more specific?  I think the issue here was we knew what this generally meant and what the result would look like but had not idea what the actual details would be.

We also decided that this was all about pulling the nation out of what Doctor Chaos percieved to be a stagnating Dark Age.  He simply didn't believe that the nation was living up to its technological potential.  He wanted tomorrow's future, today.
Sean played The Lesser Villain.  He wanted to contrast the kind of cerebral, "behind-the-scenes" nature of Doctor Chaos.  So he created The Iron Boot an iron-suit battle-mech super solider kind of thing.  His plan was simply to Conquer.  His Conditions broke down as follows:

Steal Nuclear Weapons, Capture the Capitol.

Second Question: The current playtest text refers to the Lesser Villain geting Two or Three conditions.  Is that intended to actually be a choice?  I thought I saw in another thread that the Lesser Villain was very deliberately set at two conditions.  I wasn't sure which represented the most current thinking so I erred on the side of the more conservative choice.

The first Episode was kind of awkward.  I think was due to unfamiliarity with the game's structure.   The text is clear that the card play is meant to be super-hero action porn but Troy (who played Doctor Chaos first) had some trouble framing Doctor Chaos into a concrete actionable moment because he viewed "Control The Media" as being a slow, insideous, behind-the-scenes thing that no one would notice until it was too late.
I got around it by asking a few leading questions about HOW Doctor Chaos would go about achieving this.  Troy described how he would probably arm some "ultra vixens" with a mind controling toxin that he would send out to seduce the heads of major networks.  So, I suggested that we have Doctor Chaos in his lab deliving this toxin to his ultra-vixens.

Play was able to proceed from there.  The Lesser Villain was simply breaking into a nuclear missle silo in a full on assault.
Super Heroes:  Dawn introduced Phantasma who was fighting Iron Boot.  Anna introduced Lady Liberty who it turns out had secretly replaced the Blond in Doctor Chaos's Red, Blond and Brunette ultra-vixen trio.  I introduced The Raven, my black feathered bird man breaking into the lab to back-up Lady Liberty.

Phantasma was able to delay The Iron Boots but things did not go well for Lady Liberty and The Raven.  They ended up getting arrested for breaking and entering, destruction of private property, assault and slander.

The Portrait Moment thing feels like it ALMOST works.  In this case Doctor Chaos gave a speech in which he showed genuine pitty for the super-heroes.  He gave a news conference explaining how societies failings had led to these poor people to such extreme and desperate measures.  The one thing I noticed was that The Portrait moment thing seemed to just kind of hit the one Philosophy note over and over again.  The text mentions that Issues arre supposed to interfere and distract from The Plan.  I never really felt that.  If anything I felt like the whole Plan was there to fulfill personal needs created by the Issues.

The remaining Episodes went much, much better.  In particular the Hero Development rules are AWESOME.  In the second Episode I brought back Lady Liberty.  I gave her a Doubt about her govenments ability to enact real justice.  I described a moment where she gets out of prison and very pointedly turns her back on a statue of justice.

She got herself defeated AGAIN in the second Episode.  Doctor Chaos threw her off a cliff face on the mountain where his weather control station was.  But!  Dawn brought her back in the fourth Episode, this time adding the Disability: Blind.  We rewrote Lady Liberty to be Lady Justice.  I guess the question here, is, is this legal?  As we develop a hero can we change their Look, Style and Name to match the development?  We were all pretty excited about this.

Now here's a question: Does being defeated by the *Lesser* Villain count for development?  My reading of the rules is that it does not.  You have to be defeated by Doctor Chaos to be developed.

That interpretation of the rules lead to an interesting dynamic.  In the second Episode Troy introduced a super-hero named Caustic a guy who could generate acid.  He slid around on the ground as he melted it and his touch disolved things on contanct.  He chose to fight Iron Boot in the second Episosde and Iron Boot won.

The third Episode is where things got interesting.  So Doctor Chaos was on a roll.  He won the first and second Episodes and so controlled the Media and The Weather.  But Iron Boot had successfully taken control of the Capitol.  So Doctor Chaos is now up to Disrupt Shipping.  I asked Anna, who was now playing Doctor Chaos if any of that involved trying to control Iron Boot.  She said that she was using massive snow storms to close all ports and in particular she was trying to shut down the Capitol to put a lid on Iron Boot.  So with this in mind, Sean decided that he was going to oppose Doctor Chaos this Episode rather than pursue his delayed attempt to control nuclear weapons. 

Here's where things get interesting.  Because I decided that being defeated by the Lesser Villain didn't count for develoment there was nothing stopping Troy from playing Caustic again.  He also decided that even though the Lesser Villain was fighting Doctor Chaos he felt that Caustic held a grudge from having been defeated before.  He was going to fight the Lessar Villain AGAIN this round.

Mechanically and narratively this worked fine.  Doctor Chaos beat The Lesser Villain anyway so it didn't much matter BUT I'm still a little unsure if (a) this is even legal or (b) what exactly would have happened if Caustic beat Iron Boot and Iron Boot beat Doctor Chaos?  Does Caustic's victory simply cancel Iron Boots victory against Doctor Chaos?

Anyway, Doctor Chaos won the first three Episodes.  So we're down to Episode 4.  Iron Boot is now under control of Doctor Chaos.  As part of the setup I, because it was my turn to play him, described how Doctor Chaos had brought Iron Boots forces in the Capital under control and freed the former members of congress before whom Doctor Chaos was now explaining his new international trade plan which was completely necessary in the face of the recent disasters.

Sean decided he was going to pursue his last objective.  He described Iron Boot rallying a few of his straggling forces on a command ship and attempting to claim nuclear weapons in an effort to force Doctor Chaos to relinquish control of his forces and the Capitol.

This raised an interesting question.  What happens if Doctor Chaos and the Lesser Villain achieve their last conditions in the exact same episode?

Again this wasn't an issue.  The developed Lady Liberty beat Doctor Chaos but she was aided by the undeveloped Caustic and so technically scored a Delay.  Similarly the undeveloped Phantasma beat Iron Boot again but not by Gin scoring a Delay for him.
We ended the game there.  At one point in the final Episode Troy narrated Caustic sweep kicking Doctor Chaos and severing his legs.  So my final Portrait Moment was Doctor Chaos in a wheel chair having his minions unburying Iron Boot from the wreckage of his destroyed command ship and and asking for his aid in replacing his legs.

The one thing that didn't seem to go over too well was this idea of delaying and repeating objectives.  This was especially true when I noted that even if they had defeated Doctor Chaos in the last Episde that all his previous Conditions would have become unchecked and we would have cycled through them again.  An interesting suggestion was rather than Delaying a condition would be to replace the condition with a new one.  You aren't reducing the number of conditions but you are at least changing them.

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 17707

« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2011, 08:48:54 PM »

Hi Jesse,

Make sure to send the players' names to me by email for playtester listing.

Being a little general about villains' Conditions is fine. Specifying the details is what you get to do when you play them!

I like the ideological underpinnings for Doctor Chaos: tomorrow's future, today; fantastic. And I love The Iron Boot! Gold star for the perfect concept. However, note that the lesser villain does not have to be a foil or contrast for Doctor Chaos. People like to do it and there's nothing wrong with that, but they do not have to.

Two Conditions for the lesser villain seems like the way to go. I am not being especially rigorous with that decision, merely keeping things simple.

I see the problem with the first Episode's start. Your final suggestion to Troy faltered, being no more than a lab prep. You (and Troy) should have started it with the ultra-vixens in action, as Doctor Chaos watches on a screen or through their eyes or something like that. The heroes can bust in either on the vixens or on him directly. In other words, location is pretty much irrelevant.

That slight stumble led to a rather talky defeat for the heroes. This is superhero combat time - a defeat means gettng your ass kicked, or at the very least serious property damage, thank you very much.

Lady Liberty gets the prize for best hero intro yet! Some people really get this, and some people don't. And as for her subsequent developments, oh yeah!

Regarding Doctor Chaos' Issues and the Portrait, the text is really at an abominable transition point between my original notion about the Issues, that they would provide windows of opportunity for the heroes, and my current one, which is that they are a way of humanizing and specifying the Plan and the person behind it. Your stated interpretation is exactly what I want and I need to convert the text to the new concept.

You're also right that defeat by the lesser villain is pretty boring, mechanically. He or she can't defeat a hero dismissively (in terms of narration) and defeat of any kind doesn't count toward development (mechanically). Not to put too fine a point on it, there's not much point in stopping him except for purely in-fiction reasons, which people sometimes want to do.

Note that Doctor Chaos doesn't have to deal with the lesser villain's achievements based on the fiction alone. Successful Doctor Chaos narration always outweighs successful lesser villain narration. So nothing the latter does makes DC have to deal with it, mechanically. I mean, you can fold it in, narration-wise, for fun, if you want. More about this later.

Clearly I'm going to have to review the rules about re-playing heroes. As written, you cannot re-introduce and develop a hero after having been the last person to play him or her. Can you play an undeveloped hero sequentially? H'mmm. That seems to break my general notions of wanting to see ownership move around. On the other hand, undeveloped heroes are supposed to be played in a more unconstructed fashion. I might go with what you interpreted, in terms of phrasing the rules.

Let's see ... Caustic is trying to defeat Iron Boot, but Iron Boot is ignoring his own Plan and solely opposing Doctor Chaos. The solution is, always treat every distinct hand-comparison as independent phenomena. Don't consider cancellations of any kind. For your (a), yeah, it's legal. For (b), no.

What happens if Doctor Chaos and the Lesser Villain achieve their last conditions in the exact same episode?

I don't see the problem. The LV gets what he wants, but it's all for naught in the long run because DC runs the whole joint now.

To address the precise situation in your game, I assume that mechanically, Sean was saying Iron Boot pursues his goal as well as opposing Doctor Chaos. That's legal, as a concept going into the Episode mechanics. But it doesn't mean that if Iron Boot got his goal (i.e. his whole Plan) that doing so would crimp Doctor Chaos' style in any meaningful way.

Ah - now I think I get what you're struggling with. It sounds to me as if sometimes the group forgot that the lesser villain cannot defeat Doctor Chaos by achieving his Plan al, only by opposing Doctor Chaos' Plan. The fact that these can be narratively combined doesn't change that fact. So if we're talking solely about the Plans, and if as you say in your hypothetical case, Doctor Chaos' Plan was not successfully opposed, then if they both get their Goals, Doctor Chaos wins in the end. That's why the other guy is called the lesser villain.

You're absolutely right about delaying and repeating Conditions. It's kind of a drag. So, the endgame needs work - there's not enough screwdown! Replacement isn't a bad idea, but it doesn't solve the essential timing problem.

Now, before I get too mechanical about addressing this, what I'm seeing is that developed heroes didn't team up. That's the only way to get some traction for the heroes. At the moment, I am beginning to think that unless they get this under way, Doctor Chaos' already considerable mechanical advantage will start to escalate somehow, rocketing him toward a win.

At one point in the final Episode Troy narrated Caustic sweep kicking Doctor Chaos and severing his legs.  So my final Portrait Moment was Doctor Chaos in a wheel chair having his minions unburying Iron Boot from the wreckage of his destroyed command ship and and asking for his aid in replacing his legs.

The legs thing is fine, but ... asking?? What the fuck? Jesse, you need to work on your inner ultravillain.

Hey, again - thank you so much for playtesting this game. It really needs it, especially the after-two-thirds-through part, which is kind of my nemesis when it comes to Step On Up design. Although looking over this post, it reads a bit like I'm correcting and instructing, what you're really seeing is me correcting and instructing myself in terms of the next draft.

Best, Ron
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