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[Scarlet Wake] A couple of sessions... [long]

Started by Kirk Mitchell, July 12, 2004, 04:24:13 AM

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Kirk Mitchell

This is the same post that I made at the Scarlet Wake playtest forum, and it focusses mostly on the issues that we had and how to fix them, but if anyone is interested in the the first playtest of Scarlet Wake, here it is.

Ok. This is probably going to be a long post, but I'll just say something quick up front. The game is quite good and very tight, but it needs a bit of refining.

First, before my friends came over, I read through the rules once to get myself familiar with the basic concepts, and a second time to go over some of the more difficult aspects (not many, I'm happy to say). I noticed a couple of places where there was some confusion.

Pg. 16, Introduce Peons: Why go through all that lengthy description, when it would make sense to simply say that you can essentially get more peon points to spend at any point during the game when you spend kick.

Pg. 17, first column, end of the last paragraph: You say

Quote from: BenHowever, a PC can make an offer of cooperation.

However, as I understand it, the PCs must fight before they can cooperate, so I suggest the following alteration

Quote from: BenHowever, at any point during the fight, a PC can make an offer of cooperation.

This is not immediately apparrent.

Also, there should be a bit on what is classed as an encounter and how to determine that, as it took a while to get to grips with this.

I understand how difficult the it is to write play examples, but it needs to be finished (or maybe just playtest the game and get a dictaphone recording of the session and add the relevant commentary).

Now, onto the sessions:

I ran two sessions, each consisting of one turn (we didn't have a lot of time, and unfortunately one person didn't get a chance to play as a protagonist, but took great glee in completely screwing up the other players).

Character creation takes a very long time, almost as long as D&D, and the amount of mathematics is a bit tricky to get used to, but once you get familiar with the ideas and the shuffling of points it speeds up. I would make the reccomendation that each level of boss has a certain amount of peon points, rather than 200 to spread across the lot. You have so far resisted this idea so I won't push the matter, it might just speed up character creation so that you can get on with the ass kicking.

First Session

In the first session, I started off play to get the others familiar with the game, and some things immediately became apparent. There needs to be more information on how to play antagonists, as the two boys that I was playing with didn't really know how to get started. I had to give them a couple of pushes to get them going, but when they did things began to pick up. However, as soon as things began to pick up, another issue came to light. Who gets narration rights and when? I mean, who gets to introduce things, who controls the world and who does what? When we were playing, the rules seemed to say that the protagonist gets to introduce things and say what happens. If so, the antagonists didn't seem to be able to do much. I suggest a bit more discussion on the limits to the narration rights on the various parties, and who gets to do what. It ended up, until I told them that they could act as the GM together, that I was playing against myself. They were unsure because the rules didn't seem to say exactly what they could do.

Once we got over that hump, the next little issue became evident. Not a major one, but one that cost us a lot of time. Part of the issue was the fact that one of the players, my brother, didn't quite grasp the fact of what my character was able to do. I was describing my character leaping around with a jet black broadsword slicing and dicing and getting hit with flesh wounds left right and center. It turned out that he hadn't watched many action movies, so as soon as the session was over I showed him The One and he got it. This was an issue entirely on the social contract level, but it was annoying because I had to argue with him for every single narration, spending much more time than we should have. However, to sort of encourage cool narration, I propose a "coolness reward". At the end of the narration, the players can vote from 1 to 5 on how cool that narration was. Say if the most votes were 3, then the next roll that the player makes, they get to add a d8 to that roll (the coolness bonus only lasting for the next roll). Just a suggestion, but the game might end up getting cooler because of it. THere is no real reason to describe all of these cool actions at the moment, it is only for self gratification. If you were forced (or "encouraged") to make it cooler for the rest of the players, the descriptions might begin to get cooler.

I managed to get myself into a bind very quickly, making the mistake of making the "bring it on" hand movement after killing only 3 level 5 peons. There were 10 level 1s, 15 level 4s and 4 level 5s. I got my ass kicked. One issue with this was that the book never says whether the player gets to do any damage if they get put into a bind and take some of the bastards down with them. I mean, if you get into a bind are you allowed to decide to take more damage to do some damage. If so, are you allowed to narrate your little combat before you get put into the bind. Our group decided that you could narrate combat first, so I managed to take down some of the bastards with me, but that really needs to be cleaned up in the rules.

Oh, and you definetly need to emphasise keeping scenes to the time limit [sheepish grin]. I was enjoying myself a little too much.

Second Session

On the second session, my brother started off the game. This one we didn't have all that much time anyways, and the other player had to leave early so he didn't get a chance to play. That didn't stop him from kicking my brother's ass.

Now that we had gotten the feel for the game, we managed to get the game rolling a little faster. It was here that the issue with who gets narration rights and what is an encounter became more apparent. I was one of the protagonists, and as soon as I started to play, where the limits to who gets to narrate immediately became difficult to define. I didn't know whether I could introduce things or not, or when I was allowed to do so. We knew that the protagonist gets to narrate everything about combat, but we didn't know whether the antagonist gets to start it off by narrating how the peons plunge into battle, what the peons are armed with etc. At one point we distracted my brother's player with a group of beautiful women. He failed his roll to realise that it was a ruse and we placed a Peon in his car with a gun at the protagonists head. Were we allowed to do so? The rules didn't say anything.

Also, during the numerous fight scenes, my brother decided that he wanted to pick up a person's weapon during the narration. The rules say that you can only get a cooler weapon by fighting an important person for it or "buying" it. There is nothing about "borrowing" weapons. We decided that he could narrate using another's weapon, but it didn't change his weapon stat and he had to "lose" it at the end of his narration. Also, when we spent some kick to repeatedly cause him to lose his weapon stat, he asked if he could borrow a weapon to replace the stat. We didn't know what to do, but ruled that he could, but we could decide how cool the weapon was (it was only some brass knuckles, so we gave it a 1).

Then, when we really got into spending kick, we wanted to introduce a sub boss, but we noticed that a sub boss has the same stats as the protagonist. In a suprisingly bright flash in insight on the part of my brother (not the sharpest of tools) he asked if a pre-existing sub boss's stats went up if yours go up (not his exact wording, he used smaller words). This would be a good thing to clear up as well.

One final thing, we managed to put my brother in a very nasty bind (we tied him up with chains, dumped him in a shopping cart and pushed him onto the freeway overpass) he failed two of the rolls that would have gotten him out, and succeeded at the third one. The third one however would have needed a second one to get him out completely. The first roll he made was to try and break the bonds. He failed. He then tried to wriggle out of the bonds. He failed. He then tried to get his knives to pick the lock. He got his knives but he had already made three rolls. We looked in the rules where it said that there could only be a maximum of three rolls in every bind, and we thought that since it was a bind that he should have to roll to pick the lock (especially because he was being smashed by cars while he was doing so and causing a 12 car pileup). We decided that he hadn't made it in time and was thrown off the freeway into the river and was knocked into a coma. The session then ended with my friend having to go early. Otherwise, we had fun.

There was one last thing that we had trouble with, every time that I said that we ruled or decided something: who has authority to interpret the rules? We used a majority vote after a discussion of our positions, but there was nothing in the rules on dispute of the rules. I don't know where it is, but look for Vincent's Standard Rant, I can't remember the subtitle. It is his only one under that particular title I believe. I'll look for it and post back on it later with the link, but it deals with this exact topic, as well as narration rights.

Final Thoughts

Looking back over what we did, we had a lot of fun. We were living in the world that we described, and were oohing and aahing at the brutality that we narrated. It was like the perfect action movie. However, with the issues that I have discussed, the game was most definately less than perfect. The rules are well thought out, the ideas are solid, there just needs to be a little bit of refinement.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some revenge to seek.


P.S. Watched The Crow (is the Brandon Lee one the original? because that's the one that I saw). Good movie. Me like. Now I just need to find Kill Bill and the Count of Monte Cristo. What about Mad Max?
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