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Author Topic: Various Funkiness after Playtest Session  (Read 7204 times)
Andy Kitkowski
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« on: September 15, 2004, 08:16:58 PM »

Hey Mike, sorry to keep you waiting on playtest notes.  I usually like to take the time to formulate my thoughts into coherent patterns so that I can order and solidify my feedback.  Unfortunately, this week happens to be the absolute busiest week of work this year (which is incidentally where I usually post my Forge threads), so I haven't had the time or energy.  So I'm afraid I'll have to braindump here.  Sorry about the smell.

* So last week I introduced the game to them, and focused on a single one-shot adventure over the course of approx 3.5 hours.  Character generation was simple, and even though I didn't put any limits on their characters (not even thematic ones like "You're all X-Men" or "Your powers are all mystical in nature", which helps them work together, which is something they as players actually enjoy doing a lot), they had characters ready in under 10 minutes. Although I did forget to have them list their Aspects by the Struggle Type (I had them all use Ideals vs Real World), they came up with aspects that really reflected that well.

* We had 4 characters, and set the game in DC: A man posessed by a demon that sometimes takes complete control of him to do evil; A female museum janitor and genius (we had a few "Good Will Hunting" moments with her at the museum) who somehow gained mole-like powers; A Sierra Club lobbyist and more conservative hippy-type who got bitten by a radioactive flytrap (sent by plant-like aliens who were studying humans); and a telekinetic evil midget.
PLAYER: "Yeah, my guy is a telekenetic midget."
ANDY: "..."
PLAYER "Who wants to take over the world! He's kinda evil. But very smart."
ANDY "..."
PLAYER "And he has a big dumb strong brother who helps him out because he can't do everything by himself."
ANDY: ".... fuck it, it's a one shot, let's go."

And surprisingly, the telekinetic 'evil' (more like demonically ambitious in the end) midget was a surprisingly well-played guy. Anyway.

So first I set the stage, told them about how the game generally works.  Note, aside from having to explain the Comic Drama Chart a few times, and how wilds worked and the like, there weren't any real hard "sticking points" that they couldn't understand after an explanation or two. They rules overall were really consistent, tight, etc.

Anyway, on with the show: First, I set off an enrichment scene to give a glimpse of the Bad Guys (A Russian mafia boss and a heavy bruiser). Then, I had each player "set off" their first Enrichment Scene. I described how it should work in DJing terms.  How the player pretty much writes their enrichment scene, 'setting it off' for the GM to step in and throw a little bit of scenery and flavor into the mix (and asked other players to do the same).  This is my "traditional RPG group", they're used to (though gleefully breaking out of) 'D&D Mode', and overall very bright folks who are really into getting more out of gaming, so I had a lot to work with. Even so, I didn't expect them to get into their first Enrichment Scene so much. Each character had set something up profoundly cool that I had trouble keeping up with (I was assisting by adding flavor when appropriate; reactions of NPCs, the sights and smells, etc).  Then each had a conflict which, of course, they all pretty much set themselves up to fail. All did, no surprises there.

Then, I pretended to "advance time": I had them wind up one or two of their Aspects, kicking them to Active or Threatened to signify the passage of time.  Of course, were we playing a solid campaign, this all would have happened naturally. Anyway, Then I had them each describe an enrichment scene (randomly pairing up the four players) that they shared together.  

One sticking point: One team decided to put their stake on the same issue, assisting each other to make it happen. The other two decided to do their enrichment conflict in a way that was not on the same issue. Rather one had a conflict, then expected to win (and did), and that caused the second conflict which the second player got involved with, trying to lose (and did).  Now, it was because I forced them to unnaturally bind a makeshift enrichment scene that this happened, but I'd love to see some direction on this in the final book: Guidance on how to share enrichment scenes, and how to deal with characters whose conflicts are not the same issue...
...or would that be just a seperate Enrichment Scene after all, one that just happens to take place 10 of game time seconds after in the first character's conflict?

Anyway, time advanced again and we had small conflicts, just to show how the conflict system worked, pretty fun.  Thing is:
1) Aside from "Aspects cannot be devastated", I'd like to see some thought put in a chapter about how to play up antagonists against the PCs in pre-finale conflicts.  That is, if I wanted to i could have had the antagonist just blow through all his aspects, setting them all to Threatened (pre-devestated), grabbing tons of cards to smack the PC with.  Or I could bow out early, yeilding and saving him for later. Of course it all depend  on the story and situation, but I'd love a "behind the scenes/rules" look at what happens if you save your Antagonists' aspects vs blowing them up early on, and some pointers for play across the comic arc.

After that, I showed how they can take decks from the GM by yeilding on that comic arc, etc.  Then, running low on time, we decided to move it to the Grand Finale, the last act of the comic arc, and I generated some backstory with the players' help on what happened in the "3-4 gaming sessions" that would have occured before this grand finale. We determined that one player had some aspects devastated, a few others were low, one was devestated and returned (the hippie- his powers went from plant control to "I am a plant", capable of sprouting poisonous clawlike thorns, etc).  I had them face off against one single Hulk-like baddie, and it was a brilliant display.

Filler-wise, the showdown took place at the Lincoln Memorial.  We determined that the Russian Mafia bruiser was a biological experiment, and he was kinda like Omage Red but with plantlike or biotic tentacles instead of metal ones. No anime schoolgirls were present. Anyway, he was set to detonate a biologicat weapon that was housed in a crawlspace under Lincoln's ass. The heroes show up, fighting ensues.

Now, here's where I had another kind of hangup: Several characters vs one antagonist (and vice versa, I'd wager):  Going by the "one card in the panel, then move to the next player" method, that would have really made the battle chaotic and just too 'out there', especially with all the suit changes and the three characters, all with their own patented attacks, bumping on the same bad guy. And of course playing one character to a yield woulf have been boring or anticlimactic for the other two: "OK, well, when you guys are done, I'm next.  Unless you beat him, in which case it's over, I guess".

Sicne I have a brain in my head and can balance the rules with the action flow of the game, I did both: Depending on a combination of:
1) How the players described attacking or reacting to the antagonist, and
2) How the suits were changed, and
3) How many cards I had and which kinds came up,
I would battle one character for a single panel, then move to the next for three, then the next for two, then back to the first for another, etc.  My players and I were fine with this, it worked great.  But I can see Mike getting murdered in reviews by "stratelaced Joe Blow gamer" who needs everything spelled out for him: "When do I turn the action to the next player?" "Should I flip to the next character when one changes suits?"  "Should I just take each character through one panel like the book says?", etc.  Some guidelines (and that's all they need to be) combined with solid examples will really make the book shine here, I think.

Oh, and what to do when it's time for the GM to yield. Does he yield to the character he was in conflict with, or can he yield to ANY of the characters, etc.  importantly, can any of the characters that were in the conflict with him, once that NPC yields, take their card (even if they were not the person who did the coup de grace) and add it to the Comic Arc, etc.

Oh yeah, and how to decide who takes initiative during attacks (though this may have been written down): My NPC vs two PCs, I had one PC attcking the NPC, and I declared that the first action of the NPC was to attack the second NPC, which made keeping track of panels a tad fuzzy, but it all worked out in the end.

The characters saved the day, of course. It was an assload of fun, all set up and taken down in just around 3 hours. There were dramatic moments, zany moments, and "Awesome!!!" moments. There's a ton of good things going for With Great Power, and I hope that the final version has enough examples and guidelines for what to do in the above situations (again, I had no problems with it, cause I do a lot of drifting anyway, I'm thinking more for people who aren't used to this kind of game).

Oh, storywise: I had Sergei ("Biomega Red", not his name just my way of describing him with this post) take on beat down, and get beaten by (the Sierra club guy took to bare fists at him at one point rather successfully, and that was fun to describe; "Your keen muscles, trained by years of Ultimate Frisbee, snap like pistons as you punch at Sergei's bare chest..."), two heroes in turn (the third hero we decided had finished his conflict with his antagonist in the last scene, and the fourth was "unconscious", while her Devastated Aspects changed to different ones).  The telekinetic midget made a passerby's steel umbrella fly into this huge hulklike Russian dude, who fell to his knees reaching for the detonator which would set off the Doomsday device. I had three low cards in my hand, a heart a spade and a club, all my aspects but one devastated, and decided to turn the conflict back to the hippie who had just last panel shifted suits. I dropped my spade, and the played switched to Diamons.  Coup de grace.

He sat there thinking for a minute, and came back with:
"OK, so my Alien Benefactors show up, right?"
We could all see where he was going with this: Right as Sergei reached the detonator, the dark night clouds parted in a ring, and a giant green beam of light shot through the heavens and obliterated him (and part of the reflecting pool).

Anyway, as I said, lotsa fun.  Some questions and points of clarification we had (as stated above), but totally worth hammering through the playtest session.  They want to try it again in a few weeks.

That's that for now. Again, sorry about the brain dump, if I had more time I'd have organized my thoughts better than this Questions-Problems-Feedback-Actual Play thread here.

If I think of anything I missed (I'm sure I did miss some), I'll post later.

Thanks!
-Andy
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2004, 06:18:12 AM »

Hi, Andy!

Thanks for posting this. Work's killer for me, too, so for right now, all I've got for you is a "Rock on, brother!"

Glad the playtest went well. What I've been doing in the "multiple PCs vs. single NPCs" area is simply play separate Pages with each player. This results in the villians getting more "actions" than the heroes, but since the game doesn't even pay lip service to Sim in-game causality, I'm not losing any sleep over it.

I'll write more later, but it might be this weekend. Thanks again for running and posting this.
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dunlaing
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« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2004, 07:27:26 AM »

I think that for one NPC vs multiple PCs, you have to think of it like a Martial Arts movie.

You don't normally see one person actually fight multiple opponents at the same time (unless they're mooks) in a martial arts movie. Instead, you end up seeing everyone taking turns going up and attacking. Most comic book battles I can remember work that way as well (at least until the climax). One notable exception would be in Identity Crisis #2 where the heroes all jump Deathstroke at once, but that's clearly an aberration and is preceded by the typical, taking turns kind of fight.

For such a fight, I would go with what someone else suggested here, where you move to the next player every time the active player changes suit. That way you avoid the chaos of each person getting one panel and then moving on, but you also don't go all the way to a yielded conflict before switching.

Example: Thor, Iron Man, Thing, Mr. Fantastic, and Dr. Strange are fighting Galactus.
Thor attacks Galactus by throwing his hammer at him (Jclubs). Galactus knocks the hammer away easily (Aclubs). Thor catches the hammer and decides to call down lightning (6diamonds, 8diamonds). Galactus ignores the lightning, causing sparks to leap onto the Chrysler Building as he walks past (10diamonds). SWITCH!
Iron Man swoops in. Iron Man configures his armor's power cells to absorb electricity and saves the people in the Chrysler Building (4clubs). Galactus knocks over a water tower accidentally and it falls toward innocents (Kclubs). Iron Man catches the water tower and throws it at Galactus (7hearts, 9hearts). Galactus doesn't even notice (Jhearts). SWITCH!

etc.

A minor variant that occurs to me would be to make the SWITCH! right at the moment that the suit changes, before the action actually takes place (so Thor doesn't actually bring down the lightning until the next time we get to him). Benefits of that:
* It gives the player time to think of how he's switching the conflict around (Thor's player wouldn't necessarily even know that the new thing he's doing is calling down lightning when he makes the switch)
* You don't have to remember what the switch was while you do all the other PCs (because Thor is still fighting using lightning when his turn comes up again barring another suit change)
* It seems more natural to focus on each PC doing one type of thing as opposed to switching focus right after they've started the next type of thing.
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Christopher Weeks
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« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2004, 09:42:46 AM »

I think shifting the scene to the next player after the current player changes suit but before the GM responds is the best thing for leaving the tension high.

If Thor catches the hammer and we see lightening start arcing around as the player drops the 6&8 of diamonds and then it cuts to Iron Man, it does two things.  Iron Man is in a position to be more proactive -- assaulting Galactus or responding to an earlier suit-change from his own conflict.  It also leaves Thor's lightening in the back of the GM's mind which might color the way that Galactus' cards are played in the other conflicts.  I could see that resource management being considered either good or bad, but I think I think it's a good element.

Obviously, this interpretation of the switching invalidates some of the points made in the variant above.

Chris
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2004, 12:26:54 PM »

Yeah, that's a decent idea.  Thing is, suit-shifting happens a LOT in the game.  So often, saying "Play moves to the next player when the first player shifts suits in his panel", pragmatically means, "You'll be playing one hand in each panel, and 70%+ of the time play will switch to the next player."

I'd love to see some universal rules on this matter as the next person ("switch to the next player's panel if they change suits", "switch to the next player's panel after 3 panels on the previous character", "switch to the next player's panel if a card with the number 5 or less is played", etc).  But it might be too much.  Maybe some solid advice for a novice GM on reading the situation and understanding when it would be good to switch would be best?  Unless someone's got some killer formula for this...

-Oh, and I'd also love to see some similar advice on the following (again, a page filled with simple examples to get the more "trapped"/"resistant"/inexperienced players jumping in there and setting it off):
* Ways to start off enrichment scenes.  Examples of how they are crafted between player(s) and the GM.  
* Ways to shift the nature of the conflict.
* As above, examples of "when is a good time to switch players in a conflict, with some sample guidelines",

Again, after playing this game some 3 times now, I can attest that for ME it's very easy to do all the above. But hanging out on RPGNet and the like, with people who are ernest, hardcore, and interested gamers, I can see how people used to the Old School Superhero gaming could be thrown off by the type of work/thinking involved to make these collaborations between GM and player successful.
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dunlaing
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« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2004, 05:09:39 AM »

Quote from: Andy Kitkowski
I'd love to see some universal rules on this matter as the next person ("switch to the next player's panel if they change suits", "switch to the next player's panel after 3 panels on the previous character", "switch to the next player's panel if a card with the number 5 or less is played", etc).  


Well, to be fair, there are universal rules on the matter. The rule is that you switch to the next player after each panel.
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2004, 06:26:23 AM »

Quote from: dunlaing
Quote from: Andy Kitkowski
I'd love to see some universal rules on this matter as the next person ("switch to the next player's panel if they change suits", "switch to the next player's panel after 3 panels on the previous character", "switch to the next player's panel if a card with the number 5 or less is played", etc).  


Well, to be fair, there are universal rules on the matter. The rule is that you switch to the next player after each panel.


I'm sorry, what I meant by that is:

1) I'd love to see a universal rule that took play flow more into account than "You switch to the next player after each panel".
2) Or perhaps NO rule, but rather a small list of suggested conditions/triggers that the GM may use to set off switching between players (like the ones in the quote above in parenthesis).
3) In any case, something more robust than "Switch players every panel", but emphatically not 'No Rules/suggestions', or "Just switch when you want to".  

Thanks!
-Andy
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Alan
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« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2004, 07:34:30 AM »

If switching suits happens too often to trigger a jump to the next player,  how about specifying a particular kind of card that triggers the jump?  A face card, an even card, anything over nine, playing two even cards for the suit switch, etc.
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2004, 11:04:20 AM »

I've become rather fond of player chosen resource driven turn order mechanics.

What if every player got a button marked "POW" or "ZOWIE" or the like.
They work like this:

1)  The player who's up first turns their button in to the GM.

2)  If any other player wants to interrupt and get a chance at the spot light..."and that's when I drop throw the garbage truck at him"...they give their button to the acting player (shouting out the appropriate sound effect, of course).  Now play shifts to them.  The previous player now has a button to pass off should they want to jump in again.

3)  If the GM wants to cut the action to another player he passes the turned-in button back to the currently acting player and takes the button from whomever he cuts to.

The buttons really just become a tactile game token.


The system monkey in me would want to take this idea a step further and have each character take a signature action or saying like "Snikt" or "Bampf" or "Lords of Light!" at character creation that they have to incorporate into their button use.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2004, 08:59:44 AM »

Hello, back from an too-much-to-do, not-enough-time weekend.

Quote from: Andy Kitkowski

-Oh, and I'd also love to see some similar advice on the following (again, a page filled with simple examples to get the more "trapped"/"resistant"/inexperienced players jumping in there and setting it off):
* Ways to start off enrichment scenes.  Examples of how they are crafted between player(s) and the GM.  
* Ways to shift the nature of the conflict.
* As above, examples of "when is a good time to switch players in a conflict, with some sample guidelines",


Consider these to be on my very long to-do-list. Nailing down just what "change the nature of conflict" and "what's at stake during a conflict" means is going to be essential for making the conflict system hum.

Quote
Again, after playing this game some 3 times now, I can attest that for ME it's very easy to do all the above. But hanging out on RPGNet and the like, with people who are ernest, hardcore, and interested gamers, I can see how people used to the Old School Superhero gaming could be thrown off by the type of work/thinking involved to make these collaborations between GM and player successful.


I had hoped that the section on Scripts, Pencils, Inks and Colors would help cover some of that territory with folks unaccustomed to Fortune-in-the-Middle. But as you rightly point out, the nuts-and-bolts have to be tight, as well. I'm very fond of Ralph's suggestion, allowing players to grab the spotlight if they're up for it. I'm concerned, though, about non-impulsive players winding up with a big pile of tokens that they never spend.

I count a few possiblities of when to switch players, as outlined in suggestion on this and other threads, and my own thinking:

1) one panel per player (as currently written) This is clearly less-than-optimal and will be changing.
2) six panels between GM and Player A, then switch to six panels between GM and player B
3) after a change of suit has occured, and the opponent has played one panel in response.
3a) after a change of suit has occured, but before the opponent has played any response.
4) have a specific circumstance trigger a player switch (face card, two evens to switch suit, etc.)
5) have Cancelation and one panel of response trigger the player switch.
6) add Ralph's "Bamf Tokens" to allow players to manage their own switches

Here's what my current plan of action is: Run all these through some preliminary playtesting this weekend. Trot out the most promising candidates at two conventions I'll be attending in October: Southern Exposure & Ubercon. Based on those experiences, I'll redraft the conflict rules.

Bill, I loved your example combat: Very cool.
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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2004, 09:36:25 AM »

Quote
I'm very fond of Ralph's suggestion, allowing players to grab the spotlight if they're up for it. I'm concerned, though, about non-impulsive players winding up with a big pile of tokens that they never spend.


For clarification, in the method as I outlined it, no player would ever have more than 1 token, they'd just be getting shuffled around.  

The currently acting player will have given his token to the GM.
If the GM wants to switch to another player he gives the token back and takes the one from the new player.
If another player wants to go they give their token to the acting player.

Mechanically speaking, this does absolutely nothing.  What I think it might do, however, is just provide a structure to hang your hat on.  By breaking it down into a physical action of passing a token it gives readers something to visualize when they're going through the rules, and you as author some built in terminology to refer to to make it easier to explain.  It also helps explicitly share the burden of "when to cut to a new player" with everyone making extensive advice to the GM on how to do this less crucial.


One could then some number of little rules stuff to the concept if desired, but the concept itself is pure structure.  As an example, one could make the token's two sided (say heads and tails for simplicity).  You could only use your token to interrupt if its "heads" up.  When someone interrupts you and gives you a token you get "tails" up.  Some mechanism (like the GM introducing a new aspect into the scene) then triggers the tokens be flipped to heads.  This would just provide a sense of pacing.  But isn't necessary to the concept.
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dunlaing
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My name is Bill


« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2004, 10:14:40 AM »

Quote from: Michael S. Miller
Bill, I loved your example combat: Very cool.

Thanks! I re-read the big fight against Galactus in John Byrne's FF run recently while waiting for my wife to finish shopping at Barnes & Noble.

Valamir:
The one concern I have about your suggestion is the "Biff!" "Pow!" "Zap!" part. It seems too Adam West-y to me. Caution needs to be taken here to avoid that. This game is about ethics and morality and struggle, not camp.
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