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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: [Keen Edge of History] Second Playtest  (Read 2966 times)
Cliff H

Posts: 49

« on: February 14, 2011, 07:14:56 AM »

A last minute cancellation in our regular game opened up the possibility to give this game a second whirl. This time, things didn't hold up nearly as well, though I'm not sure how much of that is a failure of system and how much is because of poor player fit.

The doc's the same for the moment, as I've not decided if the playtest results are worth using, but you can find it here: www.mindgangster.com/~shadowitz/Keen Edge of History.pdf

This was the first time I tried out the new world building rules and the option to reshape the campaign in a postlude. I had two players, and right from the get go I felt like I had a little trouble. When I started out with asking about the kind of game we'd play, which would then determine the kinds of swords they made, I got back "One shots don't matter," and "I'm ambivalent." I said it would be classical D&Dish fantasy just to provide a little grounding, but clearly this wasn't the stuff from which great games are made.

Next up came world building. The list of major world powers they devised was:

  • An Evil God
  • A Dragon God
  • Dragons
  • Romans
  • Byzantines
  • Egyptians
  • The Crappy World Nation League

Clearly this was not the stuff from which awesome stories are made, but I wanted to carry on, so we moved into making swords. This went reasonably well, all told. One of the players actually made something pretty interesting, if a bit stock, and the other wound up making a sword based on a fishing fly, but made it sound interesting. He ran into problems later, however, since he chose an invoked power that was "hooking the jaw," and apparently had no idea how that would actually work. Since he neglected to tell me about that until we were well into play, he wound up with a useless power.

When it got to assigning points to their powers, I began to get some real feedback. They first wanted some sort of table of benchmarks so that they knew what was a good score and what was too low to be useful. I didn't have anything like that, but judging from the first playtest, I said a score of 3 was pobably really good, 2 was decent and 1 was only nominally useful. With that, they  immediatley declared that there weren't enough points available, since taking a 3 in any ability ate a massive chunk into the available pool. I look at that now and see their point, but still think that if your ability list is short, you could walk out with a couple (literally) of potent abilities. However, one of the players pointed out that while the game itself might work perfectly well handing you a "starter sword" and letting you build that up, everything in the text suggsted an already potent blade, and the math wasn't backing up the text. He had a fair point, so I'm considering doing as much as doubling the starting points.

One of the other suggestions he made was to perhaps instead grant a rank 3 power based on the sword's starting saga for free, and then allow the 10 build points to be used as normal, including increasing that freebie if desired. This might be a good way to go, as it makes the option of buying an additional saga at character creation more appealing, but also intoduces a richer legend right off the bat, which is perfectly fine by me.

Then we moved onto quest creation, and here's where things really began to fall apart. We rolled for narrative authority, and then the brainstorming began, or didn't in this case. One person began throwing out some idas but clearly was looking for some assistance The other player's conribution was: "I didn't win, and I wouldn't play this game. I'm not good with creativity on the fly. You're on your own." Again, not the stuff from which great storiesare written.

The scenario we wound up with was that undead dragons and 101 vikings were invading the village of Village Walk (I live on a street called Village Walk Drive). That's the end. They're in the village and they need to kill the horde. Done and done. Not really a quest, but clearly all I was getting from them. So, we began rolling dice.

Play was over in two rounds. I'd bitten the arm off one of the hands, swallowing the sword and passing it from play for this age. The other was torn apart by the horde and claimed by the vikings. One player just had rotten luck, while I had the most amazing die streak ever. The other had tried to game the system by putting all his points from Knight into offense, planning to then use his Rake to defend, where he put all his points into Sidestep. Once I said that you had to be all Knight or all Rake each round, he was left only being able to attack or defend on a given round. I'm not sure this is a flaw in the system, however. He tried to game it and it didn't work. Not all point distributions need to be equally valid.

More bothersome was how lopsided a scene can be based on die rolls. While the "quest" was nothing more than a single fight scene, it was over in two rounds, and you can only blame some of that on the one player's attempt to min/max the system. They were rolling awfully, and I came up with massive piles of successes two rounds in a row. It wiped them out. While they weren't enthusiastic about the concept of the game, they were still trying to win the fight. They couldn't, not with the way their dice were coming up.

The other implication of this is that they didn't have spare narration points for use toward accumulating glory, which powers the campaign alterations. This brings up an interesting problem. If a conflict is threatening enough to make the resolution close, the player's won't have enough spare successes left over round to round that he'll feel safe burning the extra narration points to accumulate glory. Thus the only way he'll accumulate glory is to go up against opposition that's in the pushover class. That's where I think the majority of design effort needs to go right now. There needs to be some competitive way of accumulating glory that impacts play, but that isn't necessarily based on havnig an overwhelming roll. As there aren't a whole lot of mechanics in the game to begin with, and I want to keep it that way, this is going to take some work.
Cliff H

Posts: 49

« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2011, 05:36:36 AM »

I've been really hung up on how to modify the glory rules to allow the players to raise their own stakes without making a challenge impossible. As it stands now, they need to really have a significant advantage over the opposition to have any real chance of adding lory to a scene, which means only the chump challenges see extra glory. That seems antithetical to the idea.

After reviewing the rules for opposition again, I realized that a situation or opponent's threat rating doesn't muck with the die pool at all, but in a tight fight, with narration points in close tally to one another round over round, a higher threat can be a dangerous thing, since it lets the opposition hang in there longer and possibly score additional successes against the players.

So I'm thinking of the possible fix to flash and glory: instead of spending additional narration points on a task, voluntarily increase the threat rating somehow. You can only do this on your turn, but it doesn't cost any narration points to do. No one else at the table has to agree with you either, bringing us back to the competition among allies idea. You can raise the threat on something a comrade is facing, and he can in turn narrate a threat incease on you. There should probably be a cap to the threat increase, but I've got no feel for an appropriate metric yet, so I'm going to say 5 and see how it works. A scene gains glory equal to the added threat, which is up for grabs to anyone who claims the scene in the post-quest bard roll.

Updated doc to follow later today.

Posts: 2984

« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2011, 10:02:24 AM »

Sounds plausible, and has the potential to be a very powerful mechanic, so much so that it will overshadow everything else.  And I don't mean that at all negatively. You might like to take a look at some of the AP accounts of 3:16 for examples of inter-character rivalry in play.


"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Posts: 49

« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2011, 02:21:10 AM »

I like the sounds of that, particularly because it may bring some wallflower creativity out of the woodwork. Maybe they're not confident narrating an entire scene, but they can think of small details that ratchet up the conflict.

Posts: 64

« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2011, 07:12:55 PM »

Looks like I'm late entering this thread.  (only saw it today)

I like the idea of increasing threat to pay for glory.  I don't like that threat being applied to the other swords.
Claiming glory should be about being heroic.

My proposal:
A heroic action immediately increases a player's current threat by 2.
In return they get 1 point of glory.
In addition they may choose one of the following:
a) reduce the threat to another player by 1
b) gain a narration point that can only be used for the benefit of others.

Example: Heroically charging down a hill while yelling a ferocious battle cry to distract the Viking hoard.
As more Vikings converge on the hero the threat is increased, but the narration point allows many villages to escape and (more importantly) live to tell the tale.

"Damn! I should have turned invisible." - Stephen Moore aka Altaem
"…there are more watermelon-sized potholes nowadays than ever." - another Stephen Moore
"Passion Fruit: Alchemy of the Egg" - yet another Stephen Moore
Bret Gillan

Posts: 425

That's Bret with one 't' damn it.

« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2011, 07:46:07 PM »

That's terrible. I think it's up to you whether they gave you useful information or not, but definitely do not try to fix your game to suit players who would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into playing it. They're not who you're writing this for. You're writing this for me! This game is great. The Campaign Metrics really excite me.

I'm afraid I can't help you much with the rules and probabilities and can only offer encouragement.
Cliff H

Posts: 49

« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2011, 05:55:02 AM »

That's terrible. I think it's up to you whether they gave you useful information or not, but definitely do not try to fix your game to suit players who would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into playing it. They're not who you're writing this for.

Very true. Luckily, of the two players in that playtest, the only one who had any feedback worth listening to actually did express some interest in playing again, just not with the other guy. And while we didn't give the game much of a workout, some of his ideas on making the swords feel mightier were valid.

Upon reflection I'm also thinking that a little tighter guidance on assigning die pools to opposition might be in order as well. Right now the prevailing thought is that all opposition is restricted to d6s except for the truly epic opponents. These might be at the culmination of an arc, but certainly at the apex of the entire quest. My luck still ran crazy during that last playtest, but shaving the d10s off the dragon rider's pool and leaving them just for the dragon proper would have helped.

You're writing this for me! This game is great. The Campaign Metrics really excite me.

I'm afraid I can't help you much with the rules and probabilities and can only offer encouragement.

My first fan! Thank you so much.That's more valuable than you can know.
Cliff H

Posts: 49

« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2011, 08:59:55 AM »

New version of the playtest document uploaded. This one includes the new take on Flash and Glory that adds to opposition Threat and also has a section on dealing with player character failure, in part or in whole (a TPK as the kids say these days.

I've got a group lined up and eager to play this game, which is awesome. They all want to finish the campaign we're currently playing first though. That's less awesome. I'll be a number of months before we get to wrap that up. I'm thinking of suggesting we start on world building ahead of time, to get the enthusiasm rolling and so we wind up with something deeper for when we kick off the campaign.

New doc is in the same place as the old one: www.mindgangster.com/~shadowitz/Keen Edge of History.pdf
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