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[Badass Space Marines] Things to develop

Started by MikeSands, January 24, 2006, 06:21:05 AM

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From the actual play thread over here:

Steve Hickey said:
Quote1.  Duration. The session felt slightly long to me.  I wondered whether this was because there were an equal number of Facts to be filled out on each phase.  Perhaps if there were slightly less Facts in each successive phase, the sense of pacing would increase as we drove towards the end.

2.  Inconsistent number of Facts?  We had to fill out all of the Facts in each of phases 1, 2 and 3 before we could move to the next phase.  For those who don't know, each phase describes in act of the story: Shipping out, Arrival at the Hot Zone, the Enemy Attacks and Game Over.  However in phase 4, it seemed like we only had to fill out two Facts in order to trigger the endgame.  This actually threw me for a couple of seconds - the logic of it seemed unclear.

3.  Character interactions. This may have been my own fault, but I felt like I didn't interact with some of the players of the other marines as much as I could have.  I set up a rivalry with Gino's character, reinforced it with a Fact that he had shot me in the back (twice!) and left it at that.  It struck me that phases 1 and 2 could be well served by having more marine versus marine character interactions (to draw on in combat).

4.  Facts.  Players need to realise that Facts need to be well selected in order to give them bonuses in combat.  Everything in the game bends (or should bend?) towards making the stunt system work effectively.

5.  Facts 2.  Contributing Facts gives you Fuel, which give you bonuses in combat.  Great.  But initially I didn't know/didn't realise/completely forgot that you also earned Fuel via PC death.  I felt that Fuel was a scarce resource, and that made me hesitant to contribute more than my 'fair share' of Facts.  So I guess there are two things here: a) no system for arbitrating which player gets to contribute Facts, so GM fiat tended to come into play; and b) the benefits of having your player die need to be explained more clearly, perhaps.

6.  Adversity.  I think you'll agree that by the end of our session there was less tension about whether our characters would survive and more player enjoyment at exploiting the combat system.  And I think that tension needs to be in there.  However, I think a smart informed group playing Badass Space Marines needs to be able to make smart informed choices about how to maximise their chances of survival - while at the same time the GM should have a fair chance of killing them.  Obviously, you mentioned redesigns in your initial post.  The thing is I can't really judge this element of the game because I didn't know how the 'rules' for how much fuel the GM earned, how it was taken away from the GM & how the GM allocated fuel to each attack by the aliens.

7.  Improving weapons.  I didn't see much point in spending Fuel to do this, given that I expected my Marine to die at any time.  The cost of improving a weapon by one point seemed to be outweighed by the benefits of using fuel in a combat then-and-there.

8.  Keeping track of names.  I noticed how Leslie folded a piece of paper and wrote Evans on that so that we could tell what her Marine was called.  Things like that would be a good idea for all the character handouts; one side has the Stats, the other side has the name in big font.  You fold it over so the player can read the stats and everyone else can read the name.

9.  Supporting characters.  Maybe players should just grab unfolded Marines from the marine pool, so you can actually see what their bonuses are.

10. Replayability.  I wondered whether having fact sheets with different facts on them would enhance the replayability of the game, or whether you would actually get a different experience if you just stuck with filling out the fact sheet that you've provided.  What was your experience with this?

11.  Genre emulation.  Kind of related to the above - I'm not sure whether this game is a full-on rerun of 'Aliens' or its own thing entirely (certainly I didn't expect the amount of low gravity space wrestling with killer robots that we had in our game) but I had too much fun to consider this a major issue.  Thought I'd bring it up though.

Regarding the duration, yes, it ran too long. I think that was a GM thing more than a rules thing - specifically, I could have hit you harder and earlier but I held back (mainly due to the opposite occuring in the earlier run). I may have been thinking about it too much, rather than trusting my instincts and the way I built the rules. More playtests required here, I suspect, to see what the average survival rate/game duration/etc is.

I think you are right about the final phase facts - the logic was simply that each phase gets four. Nothing about gameplay there. I may strip a couple out of the final phase and put them in phases 2 and 3 (i.e. an extra mystery/clue fact and an extra solution/discovery fact). Phase 4 can just stick with 'we escape when ___' and 'we can defeat them if ___'

I don't think there's an issue with forcing more marine interaction - the reason that didn't really happen was more that the combat came on so quickly. This may have been partly because people were focused on setting facts, and I'll be sure to mention in the next version that it's a pretty insignificant source of fuel overall ("players wanting fuel should aim to get their current marines killed each fight, and select badly injured ones to replace them!")

With regard to different fact sheets, I figure you could play the game a bunch of times fine with the one we had. However, I'm planning to sell it and it seems kind of cheap to just have one. Especially as I wrote up two more sheets yesterday in the energised aftermath of playing it (and another marine squad, no less). No experience of the value of that yet, as all four games played used the same sheet.

Oh, and for the setting facts order, it wasn't GM fiat at all. There is a simple way of determining the order - the person who says they want to do it first gets the point. Everyone else can chime in with ideas and all, but it's the initial idea and "I want to set this one now" that get you the point. Maybe subject to some abuse but really it just doesn't add up to that much Fuel. And the 'everyone thinks it's lame' rule gives you an out if one player tries to hog all the facts and drive the story where they want (which, in this game, I see as basically behaving like a dickhead - not something I can deal with in the rules).

I think that's the best I can do to deal with those issues... and they're the big ones.

There are a few things you have there that I agree with but they're there for other reasons. The improving weapons rule is one of those. It's a mug's bet, given how quickly the GM can kill you. However, I just knew that a lot of players would want to get better guns than they started with. And that has happened every game, generally adding to the cool stunts performed (as in the game you played, with the sarge taking robots down with powered-armour wrestling moves after he blew all that Fuel getting the armour).

The level of tension is pretty much the same - I think the Fuel the GM gets is set about right (there are a few little changes going in, but not much), it's just the tactics on spending it that need to be worked through. Really something to get from wider playtests. Maybe it should just advise the GM to try and be as mean as possible ("Can you throw 100 creatures at them? Then do it!"), and we can see what happens... I'll try that next time I run a game, maybe.

Thanks for all that thoughtful stuff, Steve, it's really good just to know the game made you think so much about it - very flattering.


I realised there weren't really any questions in there for other people to ponder, just the next bit of what me and Steve were saying over in the other thread.

Here is the big issue I'm struggling with at the moment.

I'd like to reward marine interaction and the only way that makes sense to do this is via Fuel. That way, cool dialog leads to more stunts, which is what I want to have more of.

Maybe I need to use a PTA Fan Mail style limited pool of Fuel that people can give each other for nifty interaction?

I guess that would work but I'd like something more solid. A rule that says "A cool marine interaction can unequivocally be recognised by these features a, b, c. Whenever players do a, b and c then they gain a Fuel." Pinning down an objective a, b, and c is the hard part.

Here's another idea... each player may request one 'respite' scene per game. It occurs as soon as the current scene ends. It is framed by the player (and no creatures can attack). It's just a marine interaction scene. At the end, every player (except the one who requested it maybe?) gets a Fuel. That doesn't seem like it will really work, either, but I can't say exactly why. I guess it feels like it's just a Fan Mail pool you have to work harder for.

Any other ideas would be appreciated.


Here's how you could do it. You have your a,b,c and it's something like what you've already got:
a) Marine X feels _______________ towards Marine Y
b) because _______________________.

Maybe every player can fill one of those facts in every scene, towards one other player. Or maybe it's  just one player per scene who can fill in one of those facts. Anyway, it'd be kinda like Family Scenes in Lucky Jones - passing the spotlight around the various Marines' relationships. Maybe you'd have a separate Marine Interaction Fact sheet to fill in.

So, ... You get the fuel both from filling in (a) and then from filling in (b), and when the combat starts (a)+(b) equals 1 Fact to draw on.

And that all helps clarify my point 3:

Quote from: MeI set up a rivalry with Gino's character, reinforced it with a Fact that he had shot me in the back (twice!) and left it at that.  It struck me that phases 1 and 2 could be well served by having more marine versus marine character interactions (to draw on in combat).

What I meant was that once Gino and I had been killed off, it was hard to draw that particular Fact into the stunt system anymore. For all intents and purposes, it was dead weight. Having interactions between the Marines being able to be defined as the game goes on will give more variety to the stunt system & it seems more in genre to me (Gorman, Vasquez / Ripley, Burke / Ripley, Hudson).

Or have I just rephrased what you already said?

(Oh yeah, two other appropriate movies: Resident Evil, Doom)

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Ron Edwards

Hi Mike,

Based only on the posts, I'm a little dubious about the reward of interaction being future stunts. When I'm playing Space Marine bad-ass, I'm not really, ultimately, interested in describing slo-mo back-flips, or anything else stunt-ish ... I'm interested in seeing real bad-assery, i.e., ruthlessness, loyalty, cunning, drive, and teamwork, yield satisfying results in a given situation.

I'm not really seeing how stunts, and the degree to which I can provide them in play, relate to that goal. Am I missing the way Fuel is really used in play? Or am I merely not bringing in the right goal?




I don't really want to build in a relationship type mechanic of the sort you describe, mainly because it will get in the way of the rest of play a bit much - too many extra things to keep track of.


Your post may get right to the heart of things. The system needs to support exactly that kind of badassery, but it's not supported at the moment. Which is not to say that I want to remove the stunt system, that's definitely important. But I do want to reward the other stuff too. So the goal is both those things, not one or the other.

I'm going to have to think hard about this, work out what I want it to do. Hmm.

Thanks for the comments, guys.


I've had the day to mull over what you said, Ron, and my conclusion is that it would be good to have a different reward for interaction than just more Fuel, something that reflects the quality of the interactions.

Now, the game system is pretty minimal, so there aren't many places that this could go without adding a whole new bunch of stuff. Basically the rules as they stand are:
- the GM frames scenes, everyone plays them out
- you can set a Fact inspired by what happens in a scene, or set it and then play out the marines' discovery of it
- in some scenes, the marines fight creatures

The combat rules have one place that might be a good one to slot another kind of reward for interaction in. Currently, the GM can allocate the damage done by the creatures arbitrarily and there isn't any way to avoid it. One thought I had was that marine interactions could be awarded a point depending on whether people come across more as a stone killer or tough comrade (*need better term) to the others. The stone killers could get points that prevent damage to themselves and the comrades could prevent damage to other marines. Maybe there could be some other options, but I can't think of them.

Another idea was that maybe players could just give other marines a descriptor reflecting their interactions, and that this could be pulled in as a bonus later. So if someone is acting unfazeable (or whatever) you can say "Give yourself an 'unfazeable' trait". This ends up being just another combat bonus as the game stands now, however.

Anything else spring out at people?

I'll add that this is hard stuff to think through, because I'm really pleased with what I've got now. It plays great, people have fun. But it's basically an action movie game, lacking depth. I would really like to include something that hooks the players in to the badass side of these guys, but not if doing so loses the action stuff I have. Maybe it will turn out that is a different game? I'm not sure.


QuoteBut it's basically an action movie game, lacking depth. I would really like to include something that hooks the players in to the badass side of these guys, but not if doing so loses the action stuff I have. Maybe it will turn out that is a different game? I'm not sure

It seems you've run into the same problem I had with Descent. My original vision left me with a game that would work as a cool boardgame according to one of my players. (I've been distracted by a Norwegian game design competition and my baby daughter for a while, so I haven't typed the changes.) But like you I felt like this:
QuoteI don't really want to build in a relationship type mechanic of the sort you describe, mainly because it will get in the way of the rest of play a bit much - too many extra things to keep track of.
I had specifically chosen not to have rules for sosial interaction (following the reasoning that if CoC doesn't need combat rules why should Descent have Social Interaction rules). However playtest showed that I needed this.
Did any kind of need like this pop up in your game?
I'd love to see what you got.

back again



Interesting that we came up to a similar problem there.

I've ended up deciding to leave it all as is - adding the kind of thing that Ron was talking about would, I think, dilute the existing cool stuff too much. What's there works well, for emulating cinematic action, which is enough for me at the moment.

I'm currently revising a last few things before I put a call out for playtesters, so you should get a chance to look at it soon.