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Author Topic: [The Eye in the Pyramid] how to document ad-lib without stalling play?  (Read 923 times)
David Berg
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Posts: 997


« on: February 07, 2011, 03:56:46 PM »

The Eye in the Pyramid - latest rules text PDF

And, if anyone's curious, here's the first playtest report, Ronnies feedback thread, and the original rules text.

The first playtest was over the top and pretty goofy.  The GMs introduced their banana-smoking parties, military camps at ancient pyramids, and magical martial arts temples with a good deal of grinning and laughing.

This second playtest was quite different.  In the first step of play, we decided to go for a creepy tone.  Despite the fact that the transcript of play might sound pretty ridiculous, we played it straight, and creepiness was achieved.  I think one key was that the written Elements, while still bizarre, were devoid of the comic touches from the first game.

The unfolding narrative strongly implicated history-manipulating aliens, and the "better humanity" tech companies, political institutions, and drug cartels seemed likely tools of some master plan.  By the end of the final investigation, it was clear that the aliens' tech was the key to whatever plan was afoot.

This made the final revelation really satisfying, when we flipped some of these expectations on their heads!  I got the most points, picked first, and chose "mastermind" for my brujeria witchcraft cult.  Donna went second and picked "actually benevolent" for the aliens!  John and Saif were both shocked at this revelation.  The scary aliens were trying to help humanity, but their tech was stolen by the true puppet-masters, a drug-trafficking cult attempting to summon dark powers to create Hell on earth.  Their political controls were in place to mass-distribute the chemicals (and the music that would activate them!) they needed for their mass ritual.

So, the ominous scenes and surprise endings were fun, but we had some procedural problems in the middle.

You get points for narrating Connections between established Elements.  These Connections may then be reincorporated into future scenes.  The problems involved identifying Connections and remembering them later.  Here's a typical example:

John: Maybe the music is what made the crowd hallucinate.

Donna: Maybe the music activated the brujeria's drugs in their systems!

Dave: Yeah!  But why?  Maybe...

Donna: Maybe they wanted to... uh...  Something to do with wanting people to hallucinate...

Dave: Maybe it was a test run for when the brujeria causes a mass hallucination to use for some evil ritual!

Donna: Yeah!

John: Sweet.  Okay, here's a token.  Uh... who do I give it to?

Dave: Well, Donna connected the drugs to the music...

Donna: Dave finished it with the brujeria plan, give it to him.

John and Dave shrug, and John hands the token to Dave. 


The rule is that you get a point (by being handed a token) for narrating a Connection, which is defined as relating two Elements (in this case, Smokable Hallucinogens and Southern Rock Concert) to each other, and relating that to a conspiracy (here, the brujeria).

Then, once the characters have left the rock show, and the investigation of Saif's conspiracy (which wasn't the brujeria, but that's the conspiracy on Donna's character's mind) is over, we determine one Connection to be carried over into the next investigation.  Before we can pick one, we need to remember our options, and that looked like this:

John: There was that Connection about drugs and rock...

Dave: Oh yeah!  What was it?  The music... activates the drugs!

John: How did that matter?

Saif: Something about the brujeria.


Can anyone suggest ways to better define and remember Connections? 

Writing them down as they're made would work, but might really throw a wrench in the most fun part of the game, which is a springboarding and snowballing frenzy of theories. 

Drawing arrows might help somewhat, but would seem to be a practical hurdle, what with Element note cards being slapped down in the middle of the table wherever there's space (and ending with 16 on the table at once).
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happysmellyfish
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2011, 05:49:10 PM »

I have the same issue with playtests of Secret Hearts. There's stuff going on, that for mechanical and storytelling reasons you need to remember, but writing it down puts a break on everything.

In a more traditional game, each player is responsible for their slice of the bookkeeping, via character sheets. But that doesn't seem like it would work here. The person talking is exactly who you DON'T want to stop and lose steam. Plus, the narrative is very combined, so you don't want to split that narrative into different camps.

I still think a giant whiteboard is the way to go here :-)

But realistically, perhaps a scribe is the way to go. In each segment, one person takes the paper and a bunch of multi colored pens. They draw a line between Ideas, and write what the means of connection is.

Example : a line between rock music and mnd control, with trance written on the line.

The color used indicates which player thought of it.

It's all a bit hectic but that's the point. The system should be wild enough, and the Ideas coming fast enough, that going scribe is super fun rather than restricting. Obviously, the scribe role would rotate.

Does that make sense? Or is mind map really not the way to go here?
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2011, 10:51:04 PM »

Having a scribe would definitely get the job done, but man, the whole fun of the game is to either go nuts over conspiracies as a player or present conspiracies as GM.  Spending a whole investigation (typically over 30 mins) doing neither would suck, and having that role thrust on you during the middle of an investigation would also suck.

The person who just narrated a Connecton may be the fairest choice to write stuff down, but that kills their character's role in the fiction at a moment where that role may be the most fun.

I think the note-taker with the least downside would actually be the GM.  If the characters would just keep talking to each other for a moment after each Connection, this would be fine.  But in situations where they're like, "Scary theory!  Let's move!" and then they have to wait for the GM to finish writing, that'd be a bummer.

Maybe there's some way to troubleshoot one of these options...

It's worth stating that I'm accepting convenience as a limitation here.  No forcing players to use unusual props like whiteboards.  Cards might be okay, though, like printed-out arrows that could be slapped on top of the notecard array.
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Baxil
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Posts: 84


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« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2011, 01:18:18 PM »

If I'm reading your question correctly, it sounds like the major thing to remember is which Elements are involved in the connection, yes?  The rest can probably be reconstructed from there with minimal effort.

You already have Element note cards - my instinct is to suggest grabbing the Element cards and putting them into a pile together, which is quick enough not to disrupt flow (and then later, in between scenes, those can be transcribed onto a separate Connection card so the Element cards are available again).  But it sounds like the Element cards already have a specific place to be.

So ... hmm.

What about having a couple of colored marker tokens, or dice of various sizes, or something that you could put down on the related Elements?  If you draw a Connection between rock music, drugs, and the brujeria, put a red token (or a d4) on each of those cards; for the next Connection, between drugs, bananas, and space aliens, drop a blue token (or a d6) on each.
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2011, 03:35:58 PM »

I like this!  Colors, and maybe initials for the person responsible.

In order for this to work, the conspiracies themselves would need to be on the table.  Adding 4 more notecards to the table is a minor bummer, but maybe worth it.

I'm also pondering awarding points for 2 stages of connections: (1) connecting two elements, and (2) connecting that relationship to a conspiracy.  So, in the example above, Donna and I would each get a point.  If she'd roped in the brujeria without my help, she'd have gotten 2 points.
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