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Author Topic: [Wings of Blood] Belt of children heads  (Read 1335 times)
Paolo D.
Member

Posts: 78


« on: March 06, 2011, 06:28:51 AM »

Finally, my first chance to playtest Wings of Blood, my game for the February Ronnies! (see here for the original feedback thread, if you want to)

This Monday night we were having some issues in gathering together the usual group, so I said "Ehi dudes, playtesting night!!!" and I ran the first playtest for Wings of Blood with my friends Nicola, Andrea and Marco. Some of them were in a hurry, so we couldn't play a full session, however I realized a lot of things from that night.

[here, I wanted to post the link to the the version we played, a new complete pdf already modified after Ron's feedback - but google documents won't load for me today, so I'll provide you the link to the 1km1kt update when I'll have it. Sorry for that - just stay tuned]


Explaining the game and reactions at the table

The color and the setting are definitely the “kewl stuff” of this game: Marco, the only one in the group who didn't know what the game was about, got really excited about it after my initial explanation. He even suggested to start playing my WoB regularly instead of our current Monday game (which is Dungeonslayers, by the way; probably we won't change game for now, but I really appreciated him ;-).
Should I ask myself “why”, I'd say that our excitement is mostly about the emotional feelings involved in the premises and the character archetype of the game: revenge, rage, compassion, mixed by the fact that your character has wings and so you will be the one with the chance to do something about the injustice involved.
I wrote this because is something that I think I should keep in mind during the rest of the design process: this is the coolest thing, the one that I should keep as the center of the game.


Getting through character creation, two major issues

Character creation, with the Death Oath, the random physical features and stuff, works good. The Death Oath guides the player through the evocative color of the game and, contemporary, tells them which important things deserve their attention (for example, the Death Oath said: He killed [name], not He stole or He kidnapped, because death is important in this game) and the tables are good at giving a lot of color to the characters.

However, I noticed a couple of issues:

1) the Nemesis. All the characters plays against the same Nemesis, but it's hard to start establishing things about it in your Death Oath if you don't know anything about it in the first place. I think that a sort of “Nemesis creation phase” is needed, before starting with the characters. I think that it could be something like the way to create the master in My Life with Master... Because the Nemesis is more a part of the Setting and an “incarnation” of some Premise of the game, than just “the big antagonist”.

So, we tried this way:

?   each player (again, player, not character) other the GM tells something that really hates in other people: a flaw, an injustice, or a bad deed... Then, we think a way to put all these things in a single bad guy. My friends said “meanness”, “killing children” and “corruption”. The result was Putrescent Tail, a corrupted aristocrat who “plays the warlord” from island to island, killing people on his way. We knew that we were on the right way when we noticed that it was easy for us to hate him.

?   When the player arrives to the following part of the Death Oath: “Until, a sad day, death entered in my life, and it was (nemesis) fault, a (explain who he/she is, and how does he/she overpowers the other saurids).” he/she writes the Nemesis name and what his/her character hates more of him, from his/her character's point of view.

This worked great for us, but I look forward to hear your impressions and suggestions about this issue.

2) Equipment. Again. As it is now, the equipment (now called “Legacies”, because it's made from pieces of dead saurids that were close to you) does a really good job in terms of enforcing the color and (I think) the premise of the game (because your are “carrying your dears” in a very physical and metaphorical way). Marco creates a necklace made from little bones of his ancestors – he'll use it to enforce his ability to summon them. And Nicola came out with his “children skulls belt”, made from the skulls of his dear friends killed by the Nemesis. This last one was like a punch in the stomach to me – dear God, he's wearing children after all! But, as I felt the punch, I knew that it was a real good item ;-)

Since here, all ok. The issue is that, other these Legacies with such a powerful color, the players don't know which items carry with them, because they can't figure out what their characters could actually need at chargen.
We solved it saying that they can come out with already carried items, during the first island. But this solution isn't totally satisfying to me...

I think that I'll try telling to the players to “connect” a piece of their Death Oath with a Legacy. For example: “I was born in a farm with a field of corns, where my parents tenderly loved me”, could lead to a Legacy like: “A ring made by my mother's vertebrae” or “A sickle made from the sharpened bones of an ancestor”. This could work, maybe.


Mood matters

The character creation from the random tables is crazy fun! Two on three characters ended out really weird, and it's definitely how it was supposed to work. By the way, probably I should move the “wings creation” phase at the end of the generation of the other physical features – it's very hard to come out with a good idea about them without knowing how is the rest like.

However, I noticed a certain tendency to go with a comedy style. The saurids should be strange or weird, but they shouldn't be humorous. I think that at least one or two of the players decided to take a “comedy stance” to their characters because of the weirdness that they rolled the first time on the tables, before the re-rolling refinements. In particular, Nicola came out with a pair of “butterfly-like wings” that are really ugly (or humorous) if you look at them with his “sawed sheds”.

I think that I should state clearly in the game text that this game is not about funny monsters, and charge the GM to enforce it at the table during chargen (through dialogue only, like “Hey, butterfly wings? Guys, are you sure that this is ok with the mood of the game?”) – the “democracy at the table” rule should do the rest.


What about boobs?

Ok, this could seem to be a weird statement, but we got really hammered by this setting question:

Has a female saurid any boobs? And if not, should I put boobs on them?

Realistic mode ON (me): lizards don't have boobs because they are reptiles, they produce eggs. So no boobs.

Colorful mode ON (my players): but boobs are cool! If a game has whorehouses (and this one definitely has them), then boobs are needed as part of the setting, indeed.

...and, in the end, I think that they could be right... There's a way to accommodate both “modes”, and it's stating that the saurids make eggs but breast-feeds their babies, like the platypus.


Refining island preparation and the "first step"

At least a couple of players stated clearly (through their Death Oath or with straight talk) that they want their character to play their “first step” in their home island. I think that this could become a basic feature of the game: your first step will be in your island, where the blood of your dears was just spilled. This thing gave us a lot of fuel for our first (and only) scene with Andrea.

I also decided to just throw away one of the “questions” while preparing the island, the “How could the character take advantage from the local saurids to reach the current step?”, because it regards something that should be emerging, straight through play, and shouldn't be predefined by the GM.


...Action (?)

We played just one scene, with some chances to test the Struggle resolution system, and it did quite a good job for now, but it definitely needs more playtesting.


Ok, that's it for now. Comments? Impressions? I'm particularly interested regarding any suggestion about the issues I stated.
I could post the characters descriptions if someone wants to see them and have some fun reading about those lizard heroes ;-)


Have a nice flight! :-)
Paolo
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2011, 07:00:11 AM »

Post the characters!

Best, Ron
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Paolo D.
Member

Posts: 78


« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2011, 08:14:06 AM »

Ok, here they are!

-----

Flying Hook (Nicola)

I was born in the island “Unlimited lands III” and in this place I spent my childhood playing with the livestock.
I was raised raising the livestock and hunting the predators that were putting them in danger.
Until, a sad day, death entered in my life, and it was Putrescent Tail's fault, a corrupted aristocrat without respect for the life of the youngsters, easy prey of a sadistic hunter.
He killed my sister and other the saurid children whose were playing in the field with the livestock.
I can't forgive this, because I could be there too, years ago.
I'll fly away, from island to island, from land to land, and I'll search for him until he'll answer to me about his crimes, because blood calls blood.
The first step, will be to open my ears to catch the cries of the mothers who lost their children, to promise them revenge.

Small build,  sawed sheds, absent neck, big arms, webbed hands, sawed tail, two pairs of legs, webbed feet.
With stubby horns, a crest made by big horny sheds, very big and protuberant eyes, protruding canines, long claws.
Colored with blue, black, purple and green.
Wings: in four small pairs, butterfly-like.

Influence others 8, Speed 4, Interact with spirits 4; Rage 4, Heart 3.

Legacies: belt of children heads (small), staff made by bones and claws of his uncle (big).

-----

Red crest (Marco):

I was born knowing that I should have took the place of my father as a Guardian.
[The “I was raised as...” part is missing, we just forgot it; when I'll have a character sheet, this won't be a trouble anymore – so no problem]
Until, a sad day, death entered in my life, and it was Putrescent Tail's fault, a corrupted aristocrat, viscid and mean, with no respect to the life, who steals with arrogance from the weaks and enjoy their pain.
He killed my sister because my father didn't want to surrender, and he killed him too after torturing him for his own pleasure..
I can't forgive this, because he took away everything from me without a reason.
I'll fly away, from island to island, from land to land, and I'll search for him until he'll answer to me about his crimes, because blood calls blood.
The first step, will be to free my land from his fetid presence.

Small build, Slimy and sawed sheds, flexible neck, two elbows per arm, hands with adhesives, long tail, short legs, webbed feet.
With stubby horns, very small crest, protuberant eyes, sawed canines, hooked claws.
Colored with orange, white, yellow and red.
Wings: very big, disproportional to his size.

Speed 8, Cunning 4, Brute force 4; Rage 4, Heart 3.

Legacies: ancestor necklace (made of little bones) (small), hooked tail of his grandfather (like a whip) (big).

-----

Shining Star (Andrea)

I was born in a green, flourishing island, son of farmers and woodsmen.
I was raised free and happy, playing in the forest with his animals. Until I was sixteen this was my life, simple and happy.
Until, a sad day, death entered in my life, and it was Putrescent Tail's fault, a corrupted aristocrat, viscid and mean, unable to appreciate and respect what is not interested in, rapacious as the worst reptile!!
He killed my whole family, burning them alive after closing the exits of our home.
I can't forgive this: the screams of my dears are still resounding in my dreams, and the guilt for being hiding in the wood while I was seeing it is haunting me day after day. I seek rest for the spirits of my dears, and relieve for mine.
I'll fly away, from island to island, from land to land, and I'll search for him until he'll answer to me about his crimes, because blood calls blood.
The first step will be to go searching other victims of this cruelty, to see with my eyes the suffering that Putrescent Tail carried and to bring more energy to my thirst (at first, in my home island).

Big build, shining sheds, long neck, normal legs, big arms, six fingers, smooth and glowing tail, webbed feet with three fingers.
With spiked horns, fish-like crest, very big eyes, more teeth rows and hooked claws.
Colored with yellow, orange, white and red.
Wings: red, dragon-like and big.

Brute force 8, Speed 4, Interact with spirits 4; Rage 4, Heart 3.

No legacies (he just didn't know what to take).

-----

Ok, that's it. I can almost touch our hating for this Nemesis as I read the Death Oaths, and I really look forward to see how these reptiles will fight for their revenge as I read their physical features.

Best,
Paolo
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Paolo D.
Member

Posts: 78


« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2011, 09:22:08 AM »

Uh, and the 1km1kt page of Wings of Blood has just been updated with my last pdf (the one I tested in Monday).

The link is here: Wings of Blood page, check out for the 0.2.1 version.

Best,
Paolo
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Devon Oratz
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2011, 09:37:53 AM »

Quote
...and, in the end, I think that they could be right... There's a way to accommodate both “modes”, and it's stating that the saurids make eggs but breast-feeds their babies, like the platypus.

I like this solution. No such thing as too damn weird.
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Baxil
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2011, 07:37:59 PM »

Paolo,

Great to see this playtested.  :)

However, I noticed a certain tendency to go with a comedy style. The saurids should be strange or weird, but they shouldn't be humorous. I think that at least one or two of the players decided to take a “comedy stance” to their characters because of the weirdness that they rolled the first time on the tables, before the re-rolling refinements. In particular, Nicola came out with a pair of “butterfly-like wings” that are really ugly (or humorous) if you look at them with his “sawed sheds”.

I think that I should state clearly in the game text that this game is not about funny monsters, and charge the GM to enforce it at the table during chargen (through dialogue only, like “Hey, butterfly wings? Guys, are you sure that this is ok with the mood of the game?”) – the “democracy at the table” rule should do the rest.

I think what's happening here is that your players might be intimidated by the new game.  I often see from my roleplaying group - especially the new players, and the players who are first starting to GM - that same comic tone.  It is a LOT easier to approach an RPG in a silly fashion than it is to play it straight.  If you "do it wrong", or if you are out of ideas, then at least you are being entertaining and having fun.

It might also be a social contract issue.  If they're there to play a lighthearted game, that will come through no matter what the rules say.  I notice that they're also adding whorehouses and discussing dragon boobs, so it might help to ask up front what they want out of the game they're helping you play.

Speaking of which:

Quote
What about (saurid) boobs?

This is a question with precedent!  ;)

But I think you have it exactly right in Realism vs. Color. 

Consider this a vote for Color.  So much of the fun of a character is coming up with appearances, and you should accommodate that!  (This doesn't mean a vote for "boobs=yes" -- it means that if it's important to your players, run with it.)

The actual question "Reptile boobs?" probably has the potential to derail this thread, so I'll only say: that argument has been circulating for literally decades in the furry circles I frequent, and I could talk your ear off about it.

(... "Reptile ears?"  GO.)

- Bax
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Paolo D.
Member

Posts: 78


« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2011, 07:21:46 AM »

Thanks Devon and Baxil! :-)

About the comic tone issue:

Quote
I think what's happening here is that your players might be intimidated by the new game.  I often see from my roleplaying group - especially the new players, and the players who are first starting to GM - that same comic tone.  It is a LOT easier to approach an RPG in a silly fashion than it is to play it straight.  If you "do it wrong", or if you are out of ideas, then at least you are being entertaining and having fun.

This one.
Wings of Blood is definitely a scaring game, in terms of emotive content. It's an adventurous game, but it involves strong emotions like rage, guilt and grief.
At least one of the players admitted that this game scares him (however, he's the only one of us who haven't tried yet games with a strong "guilt" component, like DitV, so this could be because he's new to them, too).

I also think that a lot of this comic attitude could have been induced by our initial approach with the random generation tables (for the physical features and for the names - the least only to search for some inspiration): it's easy to take a laugh after you see what you just rolled, and I'm ok with it, it's good to relieve from some tension after the writing of the  Death Oaths.
But, after this, the game has to stay on a more serious mood to provide the game experience I want to deliver through it.

I know that "social level" - trumps - "procedures" in every kind of game experience... However I'm very worried about this issue in this game because it has a strong potential for comic derailment (caused by the weird physical features, mostly) so maybe some procedural precaution could be needed, a sort of safety net.

Maybe, something like a "peer review" phase after the whole chargen. Each player could take a look on other characters, and say "Hmm, butterfly wings? Really dude?" and, if at least another person at the table (GM included) thinks that a given feature is not coherent with the rest of that character's concept, his player has to change it with another one more suited, at his choice.
It could be a good way to help all the people in staying on the same page, too.

About saurid boobs:

In this game, Color trumps Realism, definitely. Still, my issue is not about "realism" (which, by the way, is a word that I hate in rpg discussions: each single gamer seems to have his own personal definition for it*) but is about plausibility: to give a coherent and credible explanation, mostly through the Setting, for some of my Color choices.
I think that the "platypus solution" could work as a credible explanation for saurid's brest, we'll see how it works with my first female saurid npc in our next playtesting session.

Thanks,
Paolo

* Baxil: I don't want to "hammer" you for this, you are giving me a really good feedback and I really appreciate your presence in this topic... Still, please, no "realism" in my topic :-)
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Baxil
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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2011, 10:30:13 AM »

Then let us speak no more of so-called "realism"!  :)

For chargen, I doubt peer review would help.  It does nothing if your players "get" the game, and it won't solve tone problems if they don't "get" it.*  If the group playing the game is not looking for a strong game about rage, guilt and grief, then Wings Of Blood will fall flat no matter how much the rules try to force it.

I like the way that Ben Lehman solves this for Polaris.  He has a section for "Why you should play this game" and "Why you SHOULDN'T play this game" right on the Polaris home page (and, if I remember correctly, in the game as well).

Quote
Why you shouldn’t play this game
In Polaris, your knight will betray his people and die forgotten and alone. If you don’t like losing you won’t like Polaris.

Polaris is powerful. In Polaris, you will wield the greatest powers of the cosmos against the greatest powers of hell. If you don’t like powerful protagonists, you won’t like Polaris.

Polaris is deadly. If you don’t like games where a favorite character can be killed with a dependent clause and the flick of a sword, don’t play Polaris.

In Polaris, a player who can improvise well will have an advantage over a player who does not like to improvise (although you are never required to improvise). If you don’t like games that reward snap creative thinking, you won’t like Polaris.

However, this still leaves you with the problem of helping your playtesting group get into a game that they normally would not play.  I hope other people here can offer some insights on that, because I would like to know the answer to that myself.

--
* Thanks to Ron for clarifying this in the Deathbird Black Ronnies thread.
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Paolo D.
Member

Posts: 78


« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2011, 11:25:39 AM »

Quote
I like the way that Ben Lehman solves this for Polaris.  He has a section for "Why you should play this game" and "Why you SHOULDN'T play this game" right on the Polaris home page (and, if I remember correctly, in the game as well).

Peer review or not, a thing like this is definitely worth of being included in my game text, it could be very useful (and I don't know why I forgot it by the way, it's part of many games I read and I like, for example DitV and, well, Polaris).
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