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Author Topic: [FLFS] Second Playtest -- HMS Achilles  (Read 1917 times)
Josh Roby
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Posts: 1055

Category Three Forgite


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« on: January 15, 2006, 12:41:30 PM »

For context, first Playtest here: [FLFS] First Playtest -- HMS Dauntless

Timeframe:

3:00 - 5:00 First Session
     3:30 - 4:00 Character Creation
     4:00 - 5:00 Engineering the Situation
5:00 - 5:30 Dinner Break (Taco Bell!)
5:30 - 6:00 Elaborating Cogs
6:00 - 6:30 Explaining Rules
6:30 - 10:30 Roleplay
10:30 - 11:00 Feedback

First Session (3:00 - 5:00)

There were three of us: my brother Seth, his wife Sonja, and myself.  We played as Naval Intelligence operatives (I never would have thought of this possibility on my own), and went with the GMless game structure option so we all had characters.  Seth played Cmdr. Dwight Schultz, our "face man," Sonja played Lt. Penelope Hayek, a demimondaine socialite-slash-agent, and I played Lt. "Woody" Woodhouse, an intelligence engineer.

I was again struck by how the First Session allowed us to rather quickly and easily set up an entire campaign, including the overall (small-p) premise, the mood and feel, what we were doing, and how we would structure the game.  I was very happy when Seth suggested we run GMless, because that meant I got to play.

Engineering the Situation (4:00 - 5:00)

I found it interesting that the Engineering the Situation process worked as well if not better without a GM.  My old gamer habits made me wonder about everybody at the table knowing what was happening and killing the suspense, but this simply didn't happen.  The fact that we created the situation and not the solution and that we made cogs into character foils created a good deal of suspense.  We didn't know how it would resolve, and we were engaged directly in the situation.  That we all knew the situation allowed us to navigate it in roleplay very efficiently, too -- there was no wasted game time.

We wrote Inspirations on 3x5 cards and drew two at a time to create conflicts -- that didn't work too well, so we just laid them out on the table and shuffled them around.  While the conflicts didn't just leap out at us, we did come up with our three.  The creation of conflicts is still the most difficult step in the process; I need to figure out how to streamline it a little better.  They were all very "spy-like," though, which was neat.

Every single time I do this process, I wonder at this stage if things will actually gel together into a coherent story.  They always seem so disparate here.  Then we built, complicated, and engaged the cogs, and all the sudden it all fell into place.  We broke for dinner and then came back to elaborate the cogs, which went smoothly -- both Seth and Sonja commented that the checkbox character creation makes NPCs easy to make.

Roleplay (6:30 - 10:30)

We started out, again, with somebody charging a thematic battery and smashing up the ship.  I wonder if this will be a continuing theme.

It took us about fifteen minutes to settle into GMless play under the FLFS rules.  We worked out that whoever has narration can ask another player to play an NPC opposite them, so they don't end up talking to themselves.  This worked well.  With three PCs and four NPCs, it was uncommon for any of us to be "sitting out" a scene.

We did find a need for something to finish a scene -- under GMed play it's all GM fiat, which is a suboptimal solution -- and we settled onto an ad hoc system that we later discussed in Feedback.  Basically any player could declare that they were done with that scene, and the other players could either agree or say that they wanted to continue because they wanted to do X.  Yes, it's blitheringly simple, but our first "scene" dragged us from the landing site, through the fields, into town, and into the salon before we figured it out.  Once we did, roleplay went bang-bang-bang.

Of the three character foils, one worked out marvellously and became a centerpiece of the game, one worked moderately well to establish characterization, and one was barely used at all.  The guard at the lab we needed the plans out of was Penelope's brother; most of the game revolved around getting the plans without hurting or defaming him, working around him and not-quite-lying to him.  This foil also very powerfully engaged Sonja throughout the game, which was awesome.  The salon mistress was an old family friend of Cmdr Schultz, which helped establish his character, but didn't really complicate it -- the salon mistress wasn't central to any conflict, though, which is probably why.  The last foil was the inventor, who was a "thematic" foil for my character.  This is the least powerful type of connection, but I also simply didn't roleplay my character opposite him except for the very end of the game.

Of the three conflicts in the situation, we really played up two of them and one faded back into color, which wasn't a bad thing.  There were a few parts of the situation that we didn't explore, but I don't think the roleplay was the worse for it.  It's possible that the engineered situation creates opportunities for play, not all of which must or even will be explored; I'll need to see a few more games to verify this, but it's probably something that should be mentioned in the text, to assuage the consciences of overachieving gamers who think they need to hit every nook and cranny in order to be "done."

Spoils Scrips worked very well this time around.  Both Seth and I put a heavy emphasis on passing scrips at the start of the game and that sort of set the tone.  The opening scenes did a lot of establishing character, and we got a feel for our characters very quickly because of it.  I suspect that that heavy emphasis will be important for new groups (and I'll add a little sidebar to suggest making a big deal about it in that context).  Once we got underway, though, the scrips flew around the table.  Sonja scored 47 spoils points over the course of the game.  Our Exchange Rate was set to three, and we were playing with the agreement that we could buy stats in-game, which we never actually did.  This seemed about right for a one-shot -- the 1:1 rate suggested in the book is way the hell too low.

On the other hand, we didn't charge and discharge our Thematic Batteries as much in this game as the players did in the last game.  I suppose we were more focused on each other's batteries (and scoring spoils) than our own.  Additionally, the GMless play meant that we were busy focusing on serving it up for the others instead of ourselves in general.  We only called for Checks on ourselves twice in the entire game.  Additionally, Cmdr Schultz started out with the Thematic Battery: Jew, which was pretty much a non-starter.  We changed it to Commanding Officer halfway through, and Seth later said that, when we play the characters again, he'll replace that with something a little less straightforward, like "Military Tradition."

Feedback (10:30 - 11:00)

I've folded a lot of what we discussed in Feedback into the Roleplay section above, to give it context.  Otherwise, Seth suggested that players could do a "Sixth Session" which would be sort of an expanded Feedback, going through many of the First Session steps, to talk about what they were digging on, what they weren't, and where they wanted to go from there.  Players would do it every few sessions (Sixth, Eleventh, Sixteenth, etc).  I like the suggestion and will be adding it into the text.

Both Seth and Sonja commented more than once on the lack of "down-time" or dragging scenes, which we chalked up to doing NPCs as cameos, conflict resolution, and our ad hoc scene-ending process.  They also said they'd be interested in playing another session with those characters, which sounds like a good idea to me.
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