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[Breaking the Ice] Getting earnest

Started by Frank T, June 16, 2005, 09:27:55 AM

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Frank T

Yesterday, Nicolas (Crost) and I played our first session of Breaking the Ice in IRC. We used Emily's newest playtest version. The session lasted for three hours in which we accomplished character creation and four scenes, not even finishing the first date. IRC is painfully slow, and the handling of the rules was a little clumsy, too. Part of that probably was owed to the medium, but much of it resulted from not knowing the rules very well.

We had to look something up every now and then. Questions that arose were: What were those sources of bonus dice again? What compatibilities can I create? When do I get to re-roll? We ended up granting dice very readily, because we had to in order to ever finish a scene. Some questions linger:

1) What about deliberate actions of your character that make him look bad? Would those grant re-rolls, too? We handled it that way, though if you read the rules precisely, they are excluded. And, thinking about it, why should it give you a chance for gaining attraction if you deliberately piss off your date?

2) What's the difference between turn and scene? Is there any? Would it be possible to have two scenes in a turn? Two turns in one scene?

3) The rules for the end of a turn are tough. It says you have to spend all dice until you get your three successes. But especially if you have already created a bunch of compatibilities, and addressed those in the previous scenes, I don't think this works out. It's just too cramped, not every compatibility always fits in the scene.

Also, I just realized that you are supposed to accumulate dice in "stages" and roll them together afterwards. We rolled the dice whenever we got them. But that may have been due to the fact that we played in IRC, and in a chat game, you don't have the kind of organic events you don't want to interrupt.

So much for the mechanical stuff. Now for the transscript. The game helped us to create two very interesting and likeable characters, and four wonderfully unspectacular, human scenes. I had a great time.

I had proposed to do something earnest, something a little more meaningful and a little less clichéd, with a tone somewhat like "As good as it gets" (starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt).

We had a little problem with the switch, both of us being white straight males in their late twenties with an urban upper middle class academic background and liberal political views. In the end, we went for the fact that Nicolas is looking for a job after just finishing his PhD, whereas I already work 50 hours a week at the office. So he would play a hard-worker and I would play someone out of work. We decided it'd be more interesting for the woman to have the job.

So we have Linda. Linda's favorite color is pink. She is a successful photographer for fashion magazines, herself a hip, sexy and always well-dressed lady. She is very independent, likes to go on parties, and craves for attention. Her conflict is that she has slept with a lot of men and has problems forming lasting relationships.

And we have Henning. Henning's favorite color is purple. He has a Major in literature and worked in advertising until he suffered a nervous breakdown that required clinical treatment. He still takes antidepressants and is just trying to get back on his feet. His mental illness also is his conflict.
Both of them met at a party, since Henning likes trance music and dancing to oblivion. He's a handsome guy, despite his lack of self-confidence. So having met at a party is their first compatibility.

Scene 1: Henning is collecting Linda from work. She just shot a series with Heidi Klum, which is kind of intimidating. He asks her where they should go, and she proposes a sushi bar. He agrees (although he doesn't like sushi). They start talking about the party where they met, and discover they both used to work for Springer & Jacoby (Germany's biggest advertising agency). That made the second compatibility and closed the scene.

Scene 2: They arrive at the sushi bar, Linda taking charge and handling everything. Trouble starts as Nicolas (active player in that scene) introduces Linda's conflict, having the guy she discarded just two weeks ago show up. Nicolas rolls crap throughout the scene, and the not very charming things Linda says (in order to get re-rolls) do for the Ice to freeze back in place. Having used up everything but the compatibilities and only got one success, we decided to cut the scene (and ended the turn).

Scene 3: After a long and awkward silence, the food arrives. Henning braves it and starts talking about the Japanese garden he once built (gardening is something he started as part of his therapy). As he fumbles with the chop-sticks, Linda helps him and the silence evaporates into relieved laughter. At that moment, introducing Henning's conflict, Linda sees the scars on his arm where he used to cut himself. He tells her it's something long past. They gain an attraction level.

Scene 4: Linda orders sake and only afterwards realizes Henning's tortured look. She proposes to go somewhere else, and he happily agrees, admitting he doesn't really like sushi. They decide to go to the club where they first met and have a drink there. Linda confesses that she doesn't like sushi all that much either, thus making the third compatibility. (And I must confess that we planned that one from the very moment we agreed on the sushi bar...)

So, that was session one. More after we play again next Wednesday.

- Frank


Damn. So simple, so nice. I've gotta take the playtest version for a spin with my GF.
Tobias op den Brouw

- DitV misses dead gods in Augurann
- My GroupDesign .pdf.

Christopher Weeks

Quote from: Frank TAnd, thinking about it, why should it give you a chance for gaining attraction if you deliberately piss off your date?

I don't know what the rules say, but I've always used humor to piss my wife off.  The best score I can make is when she's obviously really annoyed at something I've just said but can't help laugh or at least smile.  She'll rant about me being an ass or whatever, but I really do believe it brings us closer.  Obviously, everyone has different dynamics, but I think this is a valid one.

Andrew Morris

I eperienced the same thing when playing, Frank. Making your character look bad to increase Attraction felt a bit forced and unnatural.

Also, I imagine Breaking the Ice would be a particularly difficult game to play online -- there was a lot of informal discussion and reading of body language going on when I played, and you'd lose most of that over IRC.

I was actually wondering how this game would play out between hetero, same-sex players. Did you find it at all uncomfortable at times? If not, do you think the fact that it was online served to mitigate that?
Download: Unistat

Frank T

Andrew, that's some tough questions. I'd honestly have to try it out face to face. On the part of body language and informal discussion—well, of course the body language goes missing, but we did a LOT of informal discussion in the IRC game. I don't know if it'd feel strange to play the game with a straight guy face to face. I mean, back in the days of Simulationism and all-male groups, we did flirting scenes, too , didn't we?

Of course it'd be a different game if I played it with my girlfriend. You could probably call it semi-larp or foreplay then. (Man, we GOTTA do that.) But I don't think I'd have a problem playing the game with a guy. On the other hand, it'd probably be more fun with a hot chic, I'll grant you that.

- Frank

Andrew Morris

Well, sure...what's the fun in asking easy questions? In the two games of Breaking the Ice that I played, after we'd gained some familiarity with the rules, there was notable sexual tension. I wonder how much that dynamic affects the game, and whether losing it (or trying to force it) due to playing with another straight guy would change the game. I imagine it'd be uncomfortable, and perhaps outside of many players' comfort zones.

Mechanically, you seem like you got a lot done in a short time -- over the course of two games, we were unable to create even a single Compatibility. How many dice were you rolling per scene? How much temporary Attraction became permanent between scenes?
Download: Unistat

Frank T

Hey Andrew, I ain't saying you could do this with just any two roleplayers. And you are probably right that the sexual tension adds another level to the game. As we are playing in IRC, we are telling a story for the heart, period. It's nothing more than colaborative storytelling, which is fun, not to be mistaken. But if flirting is involved, the game probably kicks off differently.

Now that I mention it, I recall that PtA game on our last forum meeting in Germany. It was my character's spotlight and he had a fight with his girlfriend, being a real jerk and hurting her feelings. The scenes were allright, but they really startet to burn when Nicolas handed the NPC over to a female player whom I always flirt with anyway. I engaged more in the acting then.

But well, as I said, no acting involved in IRC, so nothing lost.

For your mechanics questions: We didn't roll for permanent attraction yet because I take it you are only supposed to between dates. As for how many dice we rolled:

Scene 1: 1 attraction + 3 bonus + 2 compatibility --> made it
Scene 2: 1 attraction + 3 bonus + 3 re-rolls + 3 conflict --> didn't make it
Scene 3: 1 attraction + 2 (?) bonus + 1 re-roll + 3 conflict --> made it
Scene 4: 2 attraction + 2 (?) bonus + 1 re-roll + 2 compatibility --> made it

- Frank

Andrew Morris

Quote from: Frank TScene 1: 1 attraction + 3 bonus + 2 compatibility --> made it
Scene 2: 1 attraction + 3 bonus + 3 re-rolls + 3 conflict --> didn't make it
Scene 3: 1 attraction + 2 (?) bonus + 1 re-roll + 3 conflict --> made it
Scene 4: 2 attraction + 2 (?) bonus + 1 re-roll + 2 compatibility --> made it or both of us don't understand the rules, then. I thought you could only create Compatibilities between dates. Also, when you say "made it," what do you mean? Each scene should give a number of successes -- three creates a temporary point of Attraction; five creates a Compatibility. At least that's my understanding of the rules. So how did you have Compatibility dice in the first scene?
Download: Unistat


Quote from: Frank TAnd, thinking about it, why should it give you a chance for gaining attraction if you deliberately piss off your date?

Watch a couple episodes of a show like "Third Wheel" or "Blind Date" sometimes. (I know, it's painful. And ugly. And stupid. But it'll teach you something about your fellow human beings.) My brothers used to watch them all the time, and when I was to tired to get up and move I'd watch too.

There were many, many times where durring the post date interview the girl would say that she didn't want another date with a guy because he was too nice. Or that she did because he was nasty and bad and she liked her guys like that.

While it may not work for you, me, or him, there are a lot of people out there that get attacted to people who piss them off, who have bad attitudes and don't care, and who treat them like crap.

So if the dice go that way, maybe your character is one of those people? And if not, then not.
- Brand Robins

Frank T

Hey Andrew, maybe we used different versions then, and maybe the version I used already had incorporated your playtest results. The rules by which we played were: You start with one compatibility and one attraction level. Three successes let you either raise the temporary attraction level, or create a compatibility. Worked well for us.

Brand, good point. Let's wait for Emily to make the call.

Andrew Morris

Hmm...that must be it, Frank. I guess I haven't seen the latest version.
Download: Unistat

Emily Care

Hello all,

Frank: Many, many thanks.  You were successful in 3 out of 4 Attraction rolls, right? (increasing the Attr level once and creating 2 new compatibilities). And you will continue the first date next time. That's a fine success rate. I can imagine it being long over IRC, but hope it gets quicker as you become more familiar with it. I'd definitely suggest building up a pool for each type of dice Award (Bonus, Re-roll etc) and then rolling the all together. A scene may end once you've gotten 3 successes, or if you've rolled all the dice you can.  You may stop before you've called on all the possible dice, but since you can always make up a new trait, or call into play some setting element, there should always be some way to bring them all in.  

I'm going to answer Andrew before I get to the issue of why negative things for count for Attraction rolls.

Quote from: Andrew Morris or both of us don't understand the rules, then. I thought you could only create Compatibilities between dates.
Yup, Frank said it. The version that Frank has is different than the one you used, Andrew.  I've separated out Compatibilities from Attraction now. For this version, I also changed it so that you can create them at the resolution of a scene if you get three successes. But you do so instead of raising the Attraction level.  This is how it runs in this version:

May either increase Attraction or Create Compatibility if gain 3 successes (roll 5 or 6) in a given Attraction Roll.
Must Re-roll all non-permanent Attraction levels between dates (roll 1d6 per non-permanent level, any that come up 5 or 6 become permanent).  

The  big question for me is will this allow enough increase of effectiveness, while keeping the tension high throughout the three dates? Frank, if you can play out the game with these rules & give me feed back that would be great.  

Okay, so why do negative things go towards increasing Attraction etc? Despite that probably real trend, Brand, of people wanting their potential mates to be jerks, that's not what I'm after.  I believe that is exactly why I left out "being mean" to the list of things you can do for a Re-Roll.  If you are mean to your date, the Guide should feel free not to give you a die for it, I'd say.  What I'm after, instead, is the fact that things go wrong on dates, in real life and in fiction, and that is what makes them interesting to recall.  The date where you go to the movies, love it, have a great dinner & happily hop in the sack is just not as interesting as the date where you get a flat tire on the way to the restaurant, & end up having fast food dinner with the homeless guy under the railroad trestle while waiting for the tow truck.  

Also, since the "nice-type" attributes increase over the course of the game (Attaction level goes up, Compatibilities get created) the need for bad things to happen in order for you to get successes will go down.  So things should ease for the poor characters as time goes on.  

the very best,
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Emily Care

Quote from: Frank1) What about deliberate actions of your character that make him look bad? Would those grant re-rolls, too? We handled it that way, though if you read the rules precisely, they are excluded. And, thinking about it, why should it give you a chance for gaining attraction if you deliberately piss off your date?
It does make sense to include the character's actions that make it look bad. You can make a mistake and it can be very charming even if it makes you look silly, like Henning's fumbling with the chopsticks. Or saying something that the other character doesn't like, that happens.  But I would draw the line at actively being mean.

QuoteWhat's the difference between a turn and a scene?
A Scene and a player's Turn are the same. If it's confusing, I'll see if it makes more sense to just use one or the other in the rules.

My thanks also to Nicholas!


edited to add:  re: pissing off your date--Or using humor like Christopher mentioned. That makes total sense.  Hmm... I wonder if I am the one to make the call, after all.  The Guide is the one who gets to award the dice or not. It might be better to put this, explicitly, into negotiations of the social contract in game play.  Thoughts?
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Frank T

You're welcome, Emily! :-)

We will definitely play this through all of the three dates and report everything dutifully. I still don't really get the "accumulation of dice" thing, though. Are you saying you should first collect all of the bonus dice, then roll them, then collect all of the re-rolls? Doesn't make much sense to me.

With using up all the dice: Is surely no problem with the bonus dice and re-rolls, but especially the compatibilities just don't fit in every scene.

So being mean does not grant re-rolls. Or grants re-rolls at guide's discretion? I think it makes more sense to get re-rolls for things from the outside that cause trouble. It'd feel strange to me to have one character be really mean and then the attraction level go up or a compatibility be created. I see Brand's point, though.

- Frank

Frank T

Regarding scene and turn: We had one moment when I suggested that they leave the sushi bar, and Nicolas said, "They can't, that'd be a new scene." I said: "So what?" The problem was, we needed to roll some more dice to finish the scene, but events had somewhat moved beyond the sushi bar. In the end, we avoided having to make a decision by getting the three successes on the way to the door.

But still, I would suggest to separate scene and turn. There is just no need to tie them together for better or worse. The active player takes the lead, he decides to make a cut or not. Period. Where is the problem?

- Frank