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Author Topic: [Dirty Virgins] At first the playtest was fun, then it was not  (Read 3269 times)
hix
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Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« on: January 25, 2006, 06:20:12 PM »

I play-tested the Ronnies version of Dirty Virgins on Tuesday. It came about because two players didn't make to our Buffy game - so after an intense game of Modern Art, I suggested DV, printed out the rules and the modifications I made in this post & we gave it a go.

The basic idea: you play Virgins trying to muddy their reputations so that the Dragon won't choose them as the sacrifice tomorrow morning.

The game has two phases.  In the first, players describe all the dirty tricks their Virgins get up to & cards are drawn to see whether that works or not.  In the second phase, players vote for who should be eaten.  Phase 1 turned out to be extremely creative and hilarious, especially when we built on each other's exploits.  My character tended to follow Jenni's around and try and one-up her.  In fact, one-upmanship was the name of this part of the game.  Phase 2's voting was number based, quiet and no one enjoyed it as much.  In fact it was a real gearshift between the two phases & Lee made the comment that they were basically two different games.

Sound familiar, Ron?

While setting up the game I found that the rules (and the ramifications of the rules) were complicated to explain.  This was only partly to do should do with me running this so off-the-cuff.  At one point, Lee was looking for the in-fictional justification between the Honour/Shame split and I wasn't able to articulate it.  That's usually a key indicator for me that the concept is either too complicated or too weak.

(Also, the whole game is filled with too much paperwork.)

Players got into the spirit of Phase 1 very quickly and, as I said, we had a great time building off of each other's narrations.  The two big questions that were raised were whether the cards are an effective randomiser - and whether there's any incentive to bid large amounts of Shame.  Both of those are related to the gambling system being pretty harsh and not paying out that often.

The mood shifted very quickly from enjoyment to sobriety we went into Phase 2.  There wasn't a fantastic amount of connection between the two phases & again Lee was asking questions about the justification for the voting within the fiction. 

We made 2 adjustments while in the middle of playing Phase 2. First we removed secrecy from the voting. Everybody got a number of cards = to their number of votes & just handed them straight to the players they wanted. Second, we agreed that while the Virgin with the highest Honour score would be eaten by the Dragon, the virgin with the lowest score would be stoned to death by the villagers.  This made things a lot tenser as you had to maneouvre your way between the two extremes.

It was also kind of obvious who was going to get dicked on in the final round ... which is really where I started to feel that Ron's Survivor comments from the feedback thread were most applicable.

So, the fun of the game was in Phase 1, while the voting didn't seem to work.

**

With both this and the Lucky Jones playtest, I'm noticing that the problems I identify usually aren't mechanical - it's not that I see a rule that bugs me; it's more about getting a sense of the emotions at the table & the game's pacing - and then going back into the rules to see what could be creating that. Of course it helps to have players who are good at articulating what they're feeling, right then & there.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2006, 07:01:22 PM »

Awesome experience, post, and reflection, Steve. I'd even say that if you weren't agreeing with me. I think.

Yup, voting suxxorg. Looking forward to your next playtest without it.

By the way, do you have any notions about illustrators. 'Cause I have several in mind to recommend to you.

Best,
Ron
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2006, 04:49:59 PM »

we agreed that while the Virgin with the highest Honour score would be eaten by the Dragon, the virgin with the lowest score would be stoned to death by the villagers.  This made things a lot tenser as you had to maneouvre your way between the two extremes.

Ho yeah, that turns it up a notch. I like. And it still works without the voting thing (which, uh, "suxxorg," yes).

My question (the answer to which is an indicator whether to follow my suggestion and head towards greater RPG-ness and premise-y stuff, or to follow Ron's suggestion and head towards boardgamery):

How much did the players engage with their Virgins? Were the Virgins people or pawns? And yeah, author stance, pawn stance, director stance, there's that, but also, how much energy-in and excitement-out were cycled through the fictional situation and the characters in it, and how much were the energy & excitement about "hey, I said this funny thing" and the gameplay?
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hix
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Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2006, 08:53:31 PM »

Damn, that's a tough question, Sydney. And while I will answer it, I'll also try to get answers from the other players too.

**

Once we got over our unfamiliarity with the rules, it seemed like the laughs and energy mostly came from thinking up outrageous things to do. Actually, scratch that. "Thinking up outrageous things to do" was where the fun came from most consistently. Thinking up Shameful Acts sometimes took a look time, and I don't believe they ever got a laugh in and off themselves. They had to be tied to narration. Quite a lot of the laughter there was performance-based (me, for instance, acting out a crazy, chicken-blood spitting Virgin. See below), with some of it being that laughter you get just for managing to reincorporate something.

The most fun for me - and where the other players looked really engaged - was when we built on established locations and used them to frame events. Jenni blasphemes in a church, then I urinate in the holy water. Then Wayne (I think) dispenses the polluted holy water to the township. Later, I bite the heads off some chickens, Jenni throws them at a noblewoman & then I spit chicken blood all over the noblewoman.

I think that's what makes your question hard to answer. There was a split & I couldn't really judge the proportions.

I think there was pawn stance in the 'let's make my Virgin do this crazy thing' sense, Director stance in the willingness to introduce locations and people. Author stance? Well, I'm not sure if I really understand stance, but that interlinking (like the chicken stuff I mentioned above) kind've created setpieces.

What do you think, Sydney?

Other things to note:
- There was almost no sense of the Virgins having distinct personalities. But there was a sense of buying into and imagining their plight.
- There was absolutely no vestige of 'projecting ourselves into the characters' in the Voting phase. It was raw, Player vs. Player, look at the numbers stuff.

**

Ron, I have no ideas about illustrators. I'd love to hear your recommends. In terms of time-frame, I'm looking at clearing 2 other projects off my plate (a script & Lucky Jones) and then developing this in about 3-6 months.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2006, 08:58:45 PM »

Card game.

Cards have the Shameful Acts, so no one has to make them up. It's doing them that's funny.

But people have to come up with the Outrageous Acts because that's easy. Coming up with locations and spinning new acts off of old actions should be part of the definition of Outrageous Acts, with lots of examples.

Keep it simple - the virgin with the least Shameful Acts loses (uh, "wins," uh, you know what I mean). Wrap some strategy with the cards around that; see Give Me the Brain (only that game, none of its spin-offs) for an idea of what kind of card-play I'm talking about.

Best,
Ron
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hix
Member

Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2006, 09:41:49 PM »

Am I following your logic, Ron?

Shameful Act = a specific, one-off, described-on-the-card event. No creativity needed.
Outrageous Act = something free-form, narrated by the player during the game? Creativity needed.

Guess I'm asking: how are you definining 'Outrageous Act' in this context?

**

Also, whoa! Amazing how much more useful the Forge becomes once you're playtesting your designs.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2006, 05:50:14 AM »

Hi Steve,

Well, that's the suggestion, yes. Think of Shameful Acts more-or-less as cards in Monopoly - oh man, I have to do this? On the other hand, the more shame you accumulate, the more likely you'll not be eaten by the dragon, so maybe it's not the same dynamic at all. The point is that if people weren't enjoying (I mean, balls-to-the-wall, crazy enjoyment) making'em up, why not, well, not make them up? And you definitely need a randomizing element with massive Color, for which cards are ideal.

Outrageous Acts seem like the input that people enjoyed spontaneously inserting, the only thing about the game which approaches an SIS in the first place. I suggest keeping it right at the level it is, which is to say, a hint of an SIS, sort of a nod in the direction of RPGs, at most. It seems like they might be less "shameful" in general, i.e., more about the virgin's willingness to be nonconformist, than an actual (ummm, how does one say) slut/etc.

The answer to how I'm defining it ought to come out of your session of play, not out of my head - how did you guys do Outrageous Acts? It seems to me as if you already answered this, here in this thread, in detail. Take that text and make the rules-definition, and you're good.

How such acts interface with the rules and the chances of winning, I have no idea. Just don't let it be possible to steamroll the cards with the play-acting. If anything, it should be the other way around (see the Roach as a fine fine example).

H'mmm. Idea. OK, one deck of cards, with these card types: Shameful Act (damn, gotta do this), Outrageous Act (you can play these to hop in with an OA, maybe, whenever you want), Dragon (do these accumulate? I dunno; do they get canceled/matched by OAs and SAs? maybe), and others, not too many kinds. Let the Town Fathers take care of themselves as features of SAs and OAs; you guys did that without a hitch too.

The virgins would therefore have no "player-character" qualities at all; they'd be like the capitalists in Monopoly, the executioners in Guillotine, or the zombies in Give Me the Brain. I'm dead certain that the baseline concept of the game is sufficient to get people into the right frame of mind, just as in those three games.

How would card play go? I dunno that either. Play Once Upon a Time, Give Me the Brain, Guillotine, and (in my opinion) a ton of Hearts (the most ruthless, simplest Bridge-type game, without bets/bids). That oughta get the motor running.

I need to clarify, that although I'm very intent on these suggestions, it's likely that if you try them out, you'll go, "Naah!" and come up with an alternative that really does play better and suit your game design vision better. That would be the ideal outcome. It's the motor I'm concerned with now, not the actual vehicle or destination.

Quote
Amazing how much more useful the Forge becomes once you're playtesting your designs.

Always has been, always will be. Where do you think Trollbabe came from, or Sex & Sorcery?

Best,
Ron
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2006, 06:31:44 AM »

Yup, it's a card game. Ron's right (again)
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