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Author Topic: [Lucky Jones] 2 playtests at Kapcon  (Read 2289 times)
hix
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Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« on: January 24, 2006, 07:13:10 PM »

I ran 2 games of Lucky Jones at Kapcon this weekend & it went down well. By pulling in an extra player at the last minute, I was able to sit outside the game a little bit and observe (while still taking my turn as the Cast Member).

Oh, basic explanation. Each game of Lucky Jones = an episode of a sitcom. In any given scene, one player’s the star of the show while everyone else hurts and helps them. There's a copy of the beta-rules here.

That first game was Family Guy-meets-American Beauty. We had adorable youngsters, sly patriarchal bastards trying to escape their families, Uncle Ivan, a seemingly cursed remote controlled car … just a succession of inspired moments and characters whose main goal was to provide adversity to the current player (while adding to the lunacy). We played 2 episodes in that first session and the amount of reincorporation and character development was just incredible. Favourite characters from the previous ep reappearing, Wants were built on or (in one case) stayed exactly the same – whatever seemed right for the character.

The second session turned into American Pie-meets-24. We had sleazy sex comedy coupled with an increasingly serious work situation that eventually involved the FBI and terrorists. We only got through one episode that session - and it was during those 3 hours that I finally started to get some understanding of what was and wasn't working with my game.

Things that surprised me:

- Lucky Jones is so much about the ephemeral moments of comedy.  The system seems to encourage players to make jokes, introduce zany characters or one-liners & then to move on.

- There is an intuitive continuity to episodes - even while timelines were being stretched hard, they never broke.  For instance, one player had a plot set over one night while another player's plot spanned a couple of weeks.  Through judicious flashbacks and weavings, everything seemed to make sense.  In fact, when things got quite tricky to connect, the whole table got together and collaborated to figure out a way to make it work.

- There was a fantastic moment when someone broke the PG-rating we were (implicitly) creating, another person yelled "Cut!", there was a little bit of discussion as if we were on the set of the sitcom while it was being shot and then I yelled "Take 2 " and we were back in the game.

- Stories that I was riveted by. I was reluctant to ever leave the room for water or toilet breaks because the story could keep going without me & I wanted to see what’d happen next, so I'd have to leaveI’d then rush back in and breathlessly ask what I’d missed.

- Even though the rules were a bit broken, I'm now convinced there's a really fun game in here.

In terms of rewrites, I found the second session extremely valuable.  During that first game, I was just trying to wrap my head around presenting the rules and then watching it play. In the second session I was able to step back & ask myself questions about what was working or not. In fact, about halfway through that session, gameplay kind of disintegrated for a while as we actually analysed the process & pacing that Lucky Jones was creating.

Biggest discoveries:

The game takes too long to play. Ideally, I'd like there to be two episodes in a session with the first episode coming in somewhere between 45 to 90 minutes.  Right now it's more like two to three hours. Restructuring the way you swap between tracks should go a long way to fixing that.

However, I have also discovered that there could be a long-term reward cycle (in the form of Penalties) operating in the game. Penalties are earned by failing to get what you want by the end of an episode. If I adjust how Penalties are used, so that you can either use it on yourself (giving yourself a slight disadvantage) or pass it to another person (giving yourself a slight advantage), then I think this will create a Fruitful Void

That's the first time I've ever been able to sense what a Fruitful Void would feel like, so I'm quite excited!  Basically, I think that being able to trade Penalties between players will force them to ask the implicit question "What sort of family are we?"  Are they a group of individuals who'll crap on the people around them for some medium-term gain or will they suck it in and make sacrifices for each other?

I like that.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2006, 11:27:13 AM »

Hi Steve,

I'm interested in just how madcap and freewheeling you want the basic conflicts of the show to be. FBI and terrorists? Elephants dancing? Alien invasion? Getting a bank loan? Dealing with kids cheating in school?

I sort of like the idea that it can go anywhere, any time, but am not sure if that's part of the plan.

Best,
Ron
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MikeSands
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2006, 01:09:22 PM »

I'm not sure if this was Steve's plan, but in playing one of those games it certainly felt like it could go anywhere.

The feeling that, when you were 'the knock' (i.e. creator of adversity) you could narrate anything at all to be the worst possible thing that could happen next was pretty important to the feel.
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hix
Member

Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2006, 02:01:14 PM »

When I first started designing the game (about a year and a half ago), I wanted it to emulate shows like Angel, Joan of Arcadia, Everwood ... shows with drama-comedy potential but leaning slightly towards the laughs.

Did the first 2 playtests with 2 different groups about six months ago. During those, they created families that were clearly in sit-com universes but still pretty grounded. After those playtests, I realised that my design was perfect for sit-coms and not so much for the comedy-dramas ... so I decided to stop fighting it.

At the Kapcon playtests last weekend, I realised that the tone of the show is kind of like the 'colour' of Sorcery in Dogs in the Vineyard. Each group is going to come up with their own understanding of what their particular show is like. Part of this starts in the selecting of Wants (each character's goal for a particular episode). The rules have a section about discussing how the tone of the show will be determined by what Wants you set. And playtesting proved that that's partially true. Tony S played the Dad, and he set a Want of getting to understand his teenage kids better. It was (at times) heart-breaking.

But Mike's also right. The Knock has a lot of power to make Wants veer off in crazy directions - plus there's the feedback loop of being inspired by other players' subplots. Example: Sam wanted to fix his character's motorbike. He nearly went to hospital trying to sell roadside coffee, borrowed money from Tony Soprano, another PC lent him parts (which turned out to be military), which lead to his bike becoming some sort of weird-arse time-machine. He ended up in Canada in a romantic relationship with a terrorist.

Part of the craziness was that we all said "This is a one-off con game", although we also agreed it'd be great to play a following episode that reset all the characters to the status quo.

Finally, tone gets set as an idiosyncratic melange of each PC's Wants in that particular episode. Example (from Game 2):
- Mike Wanted to see the girl next door naked. Pure R-sex comedy.
- Tony Wanted to get down with the kids. Family Sit-Com with a heart.
- Blair Wanted to cover up his screw-up at work. A dark Malcolm in the Middle episode leading to 24, the Sitcom.
- Nasia Wanted her 'youngest daughter' character to sneak out for a night. Farrelly Brothers cruelty ensues.
- Sam Wanted to fix the bike. Some sort of animated show where things get ridiculous, leading to a surreal Back to the Future kinda deal.

And each of those vibes informs everybody else's roleplay.

So, its freewheeling-ness wasn't part of the plan ... but it's more like I've given up control. The game can support it, so why not make it the group's responsibility to set tone? Besides, it's great seeing how different each family can be with just the simplest  of common starting points.

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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
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