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Author Topic: [Dreamation 2008] Serial: Satisfying play.  (Read 7609 times)
Kat Miller

Posts: 141

« on: February 01, 2008, 12:54:43 PM »

I wasn’t sure the game was going off, as 10 after the game should have started I had no one, but then Emily sat down and right after Nathan did.  Michael’s game folded due to lack of players so he brought his Gm Nicholas Marshal over and Alexander was just passing by and jumped in so I had a full table.  Counting myself we six players.

This was good because as of this summer Serial wasn’t handling larger numbers well.  Michael and I had made some significant changes to the game which proved to be very successful. 

The first change is really simple but really important.  The profile that the killer is using to target victims is now just one detail that the whole table agrees upon rather than each player adding a detail.  It was a too many cooks spoiling the soup thing.  Now ideas of types of people the killer could be hunting are tossed about until one is chosen that everyone likes.  For our game it was artists.

The victims goal has also been tightened, it used to be any question you might ask a fortune teller?  Now its called a Hope and all hopes start with these words: “I hope…”
Hopes can not be simple things that can be answered in a single scene.  This has made things less confusing.  Players come up with an obstacle that is preventing the victim from attaining the hope.

In order to encourage player investment into each victim, each player then suggests a different obstical for each victim.  Players get concrete idea about their victims by deciding which obsticals or good ones or which ones they don’t care for.

We decided on Artist for our profile, and these were our Potential Victims-
Kat: Myles Forrester; Violenist
I hope I find my “real”father.

Emily: Faith Bennigan: Web Cartoonist
I hope I get married.

Nathan: Sophie Guitierrez: Metal Sculptist
I hope I can get the permit to display in central park.

Alexander: Caleb O’hara
I hope Elizabeth doesn’t leave me.

Nicholas: Kathy ?: papier-mâché artist
I hope I don’t lose my son.

Michael: L.E. Westerner
I hope my protégé wins the Pulitzer.

Playing out the Potential Victim scenes has never been a problem and the table had a lot of enjoyment out of setting scenes, casting new characters to interact with and dealing with a range of obstacles that went from Severe cat allergy verses girlfriends much adored but malicious cat, a city council deciding ones work was pornographic, disapproving parents, a clueless, pampered unwilling protégé, the loss of a job, and a technophobe looking for answers a cyber café.

We had the Investigation Phase next and much here has been changed to facilitate better play.  There is no more role playing out the investigation to get dice in hopes of successes.

Now each player chooses a type of investigator at a team meeting actively working on the murder case.  Each player rolls a set number of dice and each success equals a piece of evidence you are reporting to the whole team as we work together to catch the killer. 

Our Investigators were:

Kat: Homicide Detective
Emily: Homicide Detective
Nathan: Forensic Technician
Alexander: Coroner
Nicholas: Crime Scene Investigator
Michael: Psychologist

The Team meeting set-up allows for banter, as well as team play.  The player who starts out as chief investigator for the round chooses the order that the investigators go in which allows players to build off of each other evidence.  The C.S.I. found a smudge, that the psychologist determined was the signature mark of our killer. 

This is important because each bit of evidence is now written on a post-it and forms chains of evidence, which give the dice for the Indictment Pool as well as determining what constitutes a success for each die rolled in the Indictment Pool.

The first Investigation Phase begins with a non-player character body.  This change allows each player at least 2 scenes with their potential victim in order to be more invested so that the reading of the first player victim at the start of the 2nd Investigation Phase has much more impact.  When Emily pulled out her own Potential Victim everyone felt it.  What made it more significant was in the scene prior Faith was talking an ex-boyfriend out of suicide convincing him how much life was worth living.

By the end of the 2nd Investigation phase players were looking at Nathan’s envelope with concern.  The players debated about whether to try and indict with the evidence we had or play another round.  We had 8 chains of evidence, but three of those chains were at a 2 (they only had two pieces of evidence thus only a 1 or a 2 rolled from a D6 would succeed)

The risk of failure is that each failed chain is frozen – unusable in court, and we immediately open Nathan’s envelope because a new body has been discovered.  The table decided to make the roll and we succeeded. Everyone was very excited and it felt like we had saved a life!

End game has changed so that each surviving Victims hope is answered not by the player but by vote from the rest of the table.  Players with Dead Victims describe a scene of friends and family coming to terms with the loss, the rest of the players get to describe or role play out their hopes achievement or disappointment.

Faith had and very interesting funeral when her Ex showed up.

Sophie got her permit and launched her sculpture on site at Central park.

Elizabeth left Caleb.

L. E. Westerner came out of retirement to announce his protégé was actually his illegitimate son. (No Pulitzer there)

Kathy got a better job and a better lawyer and her son stayed with her.

Myles battled techno phobia and found an uncle at the county clerks office who helped him find his dad (institutionalized with schizophrenia all these years).

One tip that was suggested and will be utilized is cards with investigator types on them, so that everyone can clearly see what each instigator does.

kat Miller
Emily Care

Posts: 1145

« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2008, 02:45:21 PM »

Kat this was an excellent experience. I love your emphasis on playing out the lives of the victims. Each small scene is fun and engaging in watching the ups and downs of a person's life, and since we all get to jump in and play characters everyone is a part of the action.  And also, it gave a real sense of pathos when the eventual murders began. 

It was quite fun running the investigation as well. I liked being able to make directorial decisions about what got decided next, and being able to give my input by asking particular questions of the investigators. We were lucky enough to make the roll to catch the killer on the second round, but I expect it would take longer in most games so more people would get to be the chief investigator.  But have you thought about the suggestion made at the table to have some sort of mechanic that lets people vie for that position?

Serial is a great game. You guys have done a very good job of giving it fun, clean design. I"m looking forward to getting to play again soon.


Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Posts: 150

« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2008, 06:38:31 AM »

And also, it gave a real sense of pathos when the eventual murders began. 
(resist joke about killer idea...)

this seems like just the kind of thing I love!

where can I learn more about the game?


Posts: 4

Mad linux user and Burning Wheel GM

« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2008, 04:06:10 AM »

Hey, Kat

Serial was great fun.

It was too bad that I didn't get more players for my Burning Wheel game. To be clear, Two showed. But I was not keen on playing that scenario with so few players. Then we all found other games open. So all was good. :-D

My only comment is I wish we did do some role playing during the Investigation Phase. Currently the game from the Investigator view is a little cold.
I would like to role play my Investigator's success. That would mean defining our investigators more thought. I really want to see these Potential Victim's from both sides, get small cuts of their lives. Then on to how our Investigators see them.

Also a fan mail like mechanic would be nice. For both, our Potential Victim scenes and Investigator RP. I really wanted to reward some of the awesome at that table.

Nicholas, aka zipht

Posts: 1157

designer of Dirty Secrets

« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2008, 03:31:44 PM »

My only comment is I wish we did do some role playing during the Investigation Phase. Currently the game from the Investigator view is a little cold.
I would like to role play my Investigator's success. That would mean defining our investigators more thought. I really want to see these Potential Victim's from both sides, get small cuts of their lives. Then on to how our Investigators see them.

This was my experience of Serial as well.  The Victim Phase is so intense and so gripping that I felt like the Investigation Phase was kinda uninteresting.  Personally, I wanted to see more procedural in the game.  But again, that's only because I felt that the Victim Phase was so moving that I wanted the Investigation Phase to be equally engaging.

Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown

Posts: 1

« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2008, 04:46:49 PM »

Kat, because I know Nick Marshall, I can say with some degree of certainty that I got a few pictures of that particular game
and have it listed at my Flickr page with other dreamtion2008 pics.

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