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Author Topic: [BtI] Sealed lips, chained heart  (Read 5428 times)
Sam!
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Posts: 25


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« on: January 25, 2009, 02:43:57 PM »

Disclaimer

I don’t have any proper questions going with my post, I just want to share how awesome session I just had. And maybe my stuff is helpful to someone else. I’m not saying that I’m against commenting on this one, just that this isn’t a real discussion starter.
(Yes, this is my very first AP post in the Forge.)

Leading up to the playing

So, I’ve had Breaking the Ice in my bookself for games for quite some time. It seems to be nearly impossible to find a player of the opposite sex for it. This may be due to a lack of my own activity or my personality - the game by its premise sounds like stuff that comes too close to home. I’ve played it twice with lads, and the problem is definitely not in the system. I’ve also tried it out with girls twice and gone down quite soon after the start.

Enter my girlfriend (I did ask for a permission to write a report, but I didn’t ask a permission to mention her by name, so we’ll have to do without). We’ve been together less than six months and I’ve tried not to push roleplaying to her. I’m more like "check this out even once to see what’s my top hobby like” than “I want you to play with me all the time forever”. I’m really putting an effort to avoid nerd behaviour, not least because I have a regular gaming group with whom to play. Anyway, she was quite willing to give roleplaying a shot (“it sounds interesting” etc.; she has vivid imagination and she has read a lot of fantasy books), though she was really afraid of embarrassing herself. "Okay", I thought, "let’s go with a one-shot two player game". Options from my game bookshelf are either Contenders or Breaking the Ice. She preferred dating.

We didn’t get to play right away. We talked about the playing already before Christmas, but put it further twice. “Fine”, I thought, “she doesn’t really want to play with me. Totally A-OK”. I dropped the subject, but to my surprise took it up herself after Christmas. We set the date.

Setup and fiction content

We had a whole evening for this thing, so I didn’t rush things. As we are both students and my room is somewhat ascetic, I arranged the bedside table so that we could roll dice on it and otherwise sit or lie about on the bed. Some candies as snacks and water for drink nearby and the surroundings were all set.

We started out just normally, according to the rules. The question about the rating was a bit of a shocker, not because of graphic content as such but as what she’d be comfortable to describe. I wasn’t worried, though. I’ve always considered it and the genre issue as breaking the ice -questions, where you actually start to talk and learn to know little something about the other person. In trait creating phase she already spontaneously weaved toge a character concept. Once we had the characters, the setting and the initial situation done we had a dinner.

My character (we made my character first as an example) was Orvokki (means Violet, a flower and a name), a rich man’s daughter, who studied in Helsinki (the capital where both me and my girlfriend live) in a private school and was interested into nature and paganism (sort of wicca, yes). The conflict was that the father would not accept the other character. Her character was Aki-Petteri, an ambulance nurse in Helsinki, who was kind yet quite short-temperament fellow. His interests lie in remembering and dreaming of holidays in sunny beaches and the conflict was being a workaholic.

The first date took five turns, during which our characters went from the railway station for a coffee and had a flat tire. We took a break, discussed the game a bit, I washed the dishes and resumed then the game. The second date took four turns, when Orvokki and Aki-Petteri went for a movie and continued the evening at Aki-Petteri’s place. Again a little break to check the rules, talk how it went and decide to play it to the end (I constantly kept the door open so that she could’ve ended playing anytime she liked - and she wanted to play it all through). The final date was likewise four turns, starting with a picnic and ending in hospital (Orvokki’s roommate had a baby). We went through the debriefing questions and narrated beautiful epilogues for our characters. Unfortunately the dice were against us during the second date, so the characters didn’t end up together, but the thing really meant a lot for both of them.

It was a good thing we had the whole evening for it. We started brainstorming the proper genre at around three in the Saturday afternoon and narrated the epilogues... I don’t even know, at about nine o’clock in the evening? I have a feeling that the dates went quite quickly, so either we had longer breaks than I thought or maybe it was earlier when we were done.

The way we played

It started out clunky, of course. I said what die I went after and narrated hardly more than one sentence to gain it. On her first turn she needed a lot of time to gather her courage and played a laconic character, so I tried to ease the pressure by not staring at her, giving her the time she needed and just being physically close to her. I, as mentioned, had seen the game crashing right in the beginning and knew it was no big deal, so I had no stress about it. She got the game going, but I think I kept on clunking for the whole first date (like “Okay, I try to go for a bonus die by doing something nice for your character. Orvokki notices that Aki-Petteri really listens to her [following what happened just previously], and not considering her to be a wacky sorceress-wannabe. She smiles and goes on explaining how nice it is to meet someone like him. She extended her hand and touches his hand. ‘Thank you’, she says and looks him in the eyes intensively. Do I get the die?”) just to give an example how the game works and what I was doing.

Little by little we made the game run smoother. The “extra” turn with the flat tire during the first date was run by me (ie. I was the active player), but it was her idea. Whenever she seemed to be staggering with her shyness - really, I don’t think she had any problems with the playing itself, but merely with doubts about my approval - I explained that she could “pull back” from “acting” to “scriptwriting”. That is, she could just explain in broad terms what her character did and said instead of actually talking for the character.

After the second date she told me that she really liked the game. (And today when she called she said - I didn’t even ask - that yesterday’s playing was fun.) Knowing that we have quite an open and trustful relationship I don’t doubt one second that she would say that kind of things just for the sake of being polite. It was her initial that we played also the third scene. At this point she said, however, that the rules didn’t quite fit her taste. It would be more fun just to co-narrate the dating in freeform-manner instead of aiming for the rules (this was what the review in a Finnish roleplaying magazine said as well). I explained that the rules were there to give narrating some structure, but concluded that they were to support, not to restrict the narrating, so we had quite a long freeform-ish start for the third scene. Yet I kept on giving her dice on the grounds of common feeling: “that’s entertaing! oh, hilarious! Aki-Petteri is such a slob, re-roll that one” and she rolled them. Afterwards I’m pretty sure that this is exactly the right way to use the dice system.

I got to tell, while there was some wavering in the beginning, we steered towards drama in the end. As I brought in Orvokki’s father to the hospital, we had a clear, strong ending with the central question hitting the table. With 4 Attraction levels and 3 Compatibilities we could only have tears in the last scene. We narrated epilogues, where the characters clearly missed each other. Orvokki was married to the high class but named her son as Aki-Petteri and Aki-Petteri moved to Sweden, where he lived as a single, and carrying Orvokki’s pagan amulet (it was cool that she narrated exactly the same thing about Aki-Petteri’s future as I would have). The epilogues were quite touching for both of us due to our own relationship.

Thank you, Emily, for this very excellent game.
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Sami Koponen
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2009, 04:49:02 PM »

Ha, nice to see that her first efforts with roleplaying went well. Interesting actual play account. I don't consider BtI exactly a beginner's game because of the one-on-one nature of the game, but perhaps it's a good idea for people who come into the hobby with performance anxiety to play "in private" like that. Rules-wise you might consider playing another game of BtI at some point - perhaps knowing the rules from the start will help appreciate them more. Or not, freeforming is certainly alluring for many.

If you're going to continue with the one-on-one roleplaying experiments, you might wish to consider a GM-based adventure game. Something with concretely adventurous challenges, constraint and action. Something like the Moomin adventure you wrote a while back, perhaps, or Trollbabe. Might be interesting and different from the sentimental style of BtI.

I find your comments on nerd behaviour interesting. I've certainly encountered many people for whom roleplaying together is quite a big deal in many different ways. I've done a lot myself to reinvent the social structure of rpgs in that regard, both in my own play and in writing.

Also, I'm going to be in Helsinki for a couple of days after Tracon. I'd love to meet up with you two at some point - let me know if you're interested.
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Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Emily Care
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2009, 07:03:44 AM »

Hi Sami,

Thanks for your great play report! I'm very glad it was a good experience for your girlfriend. The two player nature of the game was meant to give people exactly the kind of safe space to explore and not feel self-conscious that you provided her with it. Also, being encouraged to help eachother out with what happens next makes it easier to not freeze up which can make a role playing experience not fun, or even traumatic.

Quote
At this point she said, however, that the rules didn’t quite fit her taste. It would be more fun just to co-narrate the dating in freeform-manner instead of aiming for the rules (this was what the review in a Finnish roleplaying magazine said as well). I explained that the rules were there to give narrating some structure, but concluded that they were to support, not to restrict the narrating, so we had quite a long freeform-ish start for the third scene. Yet I kept on giving her dice on the grounds of common feeling: “that’s entertaing! oh, hilarious! Aki-Petteri is such a slob, re-roll that one” and she rolled them. Afterwards I’m pretty sure that this is exactly the right way to use the dice system.

This is just how I envision play. Free play, in character or not, but brainstormy between the two players, with the dice awarded in response to reinforce what was described, and as you said, structure play. I generally do the bonus dice first, but interspersing the re-rolls works fine, too. I'll have to work on conveying all of that better when I revise the game.

I hope all your girlfriend's experiences with role playing go as well or better!

best,
Emily
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Sam!
Member

Posts: 25


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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2009, 05:49:49 PM »

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
I don't consider BtI exactly a beginner's game because of the one-on-one nature of the game, but perhaps it's a good idea for people who come into the hobby with performance anxiety to play "in private" like that.
It's not only the one-on-one thingie, which I consider the strenght of BtI. It's also about the genre, character creation and strong structure, which I suppose to be easy to catch for a beginner. I really cannot praise the character creation enough: It's really feeding one's imagination quite unlike most of roleplaying games, where you have to start with a blank page.

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
If you're going to continue with the one-on-one roleplaying experiments, you might wish to consider a GM-based adventure game. Something with concretely adventurous challenges, constraint and action. Something like the Moomin adventure you wrote a while back, perhaps, or Trollbabe. Might be interesting and different from the sentimental style of BtI.
Actually, as strange as it might sound, we opted for Dogs in the Vineyard as a next game. We invited her brother as well to build a familiar playing group. We'll see what comes out of that.

Quote from: Emily Care
This is just how I envision play. Free play, in character or not, but brainstormy between the two players, with the dice awarded in response to reinforce what was described, and as you said, structure play. I generally do the bonus dice first, but interspersing the re-rolls works fine, too. I'll have to work on conveying all of that better when I revise the game.
It's pretty clear already, I'd say. It was so cool when I read to her the list of things the Active Player gets dice for (p. 27), and she was like "So all kinds of nice and entertaining narration, right?"

And yes, we did play the game so that different dice types followed one after another (first the Attraction dice, then Bonus dice, then Re-rolls etc.). We didn't always have time to go through them all, in case we already rolled enough successes or if we just run out of situation. I tried to play as close to the rules text as possible to provide a clear structure. However, I might have gone a bit on the excessive side, because she wished for freeformish approach at the beginning of the third date. Still, in my opinion it's better to move from structure to free play than to start out in free mode and then grasp for rules in order to hold the chaos together. As Eero said, second time should be a smoother ride now that we both know the rules and have some experience under our belts.
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Sami Koponen
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