[Like moths ...] Game Chef review by Mael

Started by Mael, April 21, 2012, 05:27:56 PM

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Chefs: Artur Cnotalski, Szymon Gosek
Title: Like moths...
Link: http://shadowsof.pl/like_moths.pdf
Elevator Pitch: Dr. Moreau minions are fighting for survival within a twisted and deadly arena. Only the strongest will survive.
Word count: 1011
Eligibility: yes.

As the characters are doomed to die at the end whatever they do, it works with the condition "only play the game once".
If we consider only the theme title, "Last chance", well, I won't say there is really any chance here ... but on the other hand, as the introduction text says, the characters do think they have a chance.

- Doctor: yup, as Dr Moreau, the main antagonist, a well known and very colorful character - not actually present during the game though (but that could become a powerful tool, more about that later)
- Lantern: yup, as the goal to be reached, the endgame mechanism, and a sadistic trap
- One Shot: sure it is !
- Shark teeth: well, there could be shark teeth ... or elephant trunk, or bunny ears :)

... about the two last ingredients, out of curiosity I would have liked to have The Forge's threads links.

Things I liked
First, The Island of Doctor Moreau is a really cool inspiration source.

I've also liked the character creation, really quick and easy, and the traits system push the players to be creative.

The bid: I think this interactive, participative and kind of competitive process of room creation in the labyrinth is a really great feature of this game - it mix creativity and strategy pretty well.

You chose to focus the experiment on "survival of the fittest" by using the environment (in the original natural selection sense, not just who's the stronger) - that's clever, and I can totally see the mad Doctor do this kind of thing.

Things I didn't get
I'm not sure what happens to a player losing its character during play.
It seems to me that it's game over for them - they just have to wait until every other characters dies. That doesn't seem very fun, but if one game is really quick, maybe that could be ok.

About the combat system, I didn't understand if players roll all their dice each time or just one, and how the GM chose the number of dice to roll for its critters. I'm also not sure if the die given to the players by the GM when he rolls a "1" is permanent or temporary - like just for the next roll (it is written right after that there is no way to heal, so I understand that players shouldn't regain dice permanently).

I think the trait system could benefit for more detailed explanations: is there any kind of bonus other than the ones you mentioned ? Could traits be cumulative ? For example, is that possible to have REALLY long tentacles (that would be two traits, but then you hit on "2" - that would probably be too powerful).

One thing about the bid: when you put dice aside, is that just for the bid duration, or are they permanently removed ? I guess not, but I prefer asking.

More problematic, I couldn't find within the text any rule explaining how the players find the Lantern, and thus how to end the game ... is that supposed to be decided by the GM ? Ot maybe there is a fixed number of critters before the game starts, and players reach the Lantern after defeating all of them ?

The role of the GM is also still a little unclear to me.
Is he an opponent to players ? If so it seems that he could pretty easily overpower them, but I haven't playtested so I can't be sure.
Or is he supposed to make the challenge difficult, but fair ? In that case, maybe a little system or guide could be of use, like the scene pathing in Heroquest.

About the GM role: could the GM be Doctor Moreau himself? That would make sense, and in that case its role would be to test the capacities of its "creations" (PCs and others) before anything ... The problem I see with this approach is that the players participation to the "room conception" becomes a bit strange. That is, unless they're also a bit of the Doctor by themselves - like, shared DNA, or maybe they just interpret the aspect of the Doctor that wants to test their capacities.
I see much potential in this last interpretation, because it implies that each time anyone uses the Director's Stance to add elements to the labyrinth, it gives more insight about the Doctor's personality.
So in a sense, everybody would play the Doctor, and the emergence of its personality is a narrative and participative process. Maybe that's far from your original idea, but I think your system has some potential to go that way.

Thinking about The Island of Doctor Moreau gave me another idea.
If I remember the book well, it is a reflexion about animal instincts vs human nature and social rules, and thus the Doctor tries to suppress these instincts by forcing its "creations" to obey laws that go against their nature.
Couldn't it be interesting to have a more "mental and social" experiments, maybe based on logical puzzles or social situations, to choose the ones capable to evolve, resist their animal instincts and think almost like humans ?
Of course, that's not the same game anymore, as this goes a little too far from your design.
I'm probably influenced by my own game design either (it deals with that kind of evolution from animal to human idea), so if you don't like this stuff no problem, it was just a random thought.

I think this game has a great potential. At first it seems to be just about fighting critters in a dungeon, but there is room for creativity, imagination and strategy.
There also is something sad about these poor creatures, killing each others just to end dead on the Lantern - like moths indeed. I really liked this part - Doctor Moreau's creations have always been pitiful.

Thank you for this game !