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Author Topic: [Carry] - Obsidian Fist Playtest  (Read 2219 times)
Maurice T
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Posts: 2


« on: February 27, 2006, 04:16:10 PM »

As this is a first post for me, a quick introduction.
I run a website known as The Windsor Gaming Resource that has news and information on all types of gaming, roleplaying, board games, card games, video games, etc.  This board has a growing forum on which we review, post news about and generally discuss games.  A while back Nathan P of Hamsterprophet Productions found our board and asked us to review Timestream.  This we did, rather critically.
I was very supprised when he contacted me and asked me to playtest Carry.  I was quite critical of Timestream, and I think that's why he picked my group.  Well now having played I am glad he did.  Nathan asked me to post our session playtest here on this forum, so here I am...

Okay ran a game of this on Sunday with 3 of my regular players, Church, Pandoragreen and Lobo.

I will try to model this off the other playtests that were posted.

Lobo - Professor
Burden: Sadistic and Upatriotic
Pregnant girlfriend back home.
Best Friend got her Pregnant

(thought that tied in great with the Sadistic part).

Church - Temple (technically Shirly, but we just used Temple due to the religious burden)
Deeply Religious Pacifist
But follows orders.
Having a crisis of Faith (doubts).

(this came out great as during the game Temple lost faith in god, "How can a god, any god allow this to happen")

Pandoragreen - Big White
Seeking aproval from agressive father
Addicted to Drugs
Can not read.

(the can not read made character choices a bit difficult as most were collage students or grads but it worked out). Being the only black player there was some great companionship due to race formed in the game with Big White and Coyote. Similarly Professor grew more racist and had it out for Coyote.

Summary of play:
I didn't take detailed notes, but basically it started with the example in the text, farmer out in the woods. One of the best scenes though was right at the begining of this where Temple was patrolling with Big White and asked "You ever read the Bible son?" and the conversation went on, with Whites illiteracy coming out.

The scene didn't go as well for the Grunts as in the example, they ended up wounding an innocent.

Later the team was scouting out a village. This played out great, a three man team went down to investigate potential VC, one was Professor along with Skid and Coyote. There was a good chase scene, which ended in an action scene.

Here is where the rules broke down. See below in the section about orders. Things ran well with the squad taking some damage and the VC being pushed back.

The squad then took over the village as a home base. The men (grunts included) were ordered to heard the villagers into their homes and lock them in. At this point Temple (just found the irony in the guy called Church playing a character called Temple), lost his faith. Church gave a great soliloque about god and faith that was truly impressive.

We jumped ahead a couple days. The squad was split into the three fire teams each taking a different route to meet up in the jungle. Had an action scene that was pretty good, but had the same order issue.

There was another quick scene where Professor spotted two men trying to desert the squad and gave them one hell of a verbal beat down (after a close conflict roll). This ran awesomely.

When the Grunts got to the bridge team Fire Team Charlie was missing (Grunts were Alpha and Beta). Grunts and two Fodder sent to look for them (I kept using Coyote and Skid, just seemed to like how they developed a relationship with both Professor and Big White).

This turned into a friendly fire incident with the Grunts badly wounding most of team Charlie and taking out the Leader of the squad. This ran great! Tensions went up and watching the Grunts fumble about shooting at the immaginary VC in the brush to cover their asses was great.

We then had a fight on the bridge that had one memorable scene where Professor volunteered Bull to do a heroic run on a Machine Gun Nest due to Bull being "f'ing useless" (he was shell shocked during the first Action sequence). Big White stepped in and volunteered and after a good Conflict was sent in by Red. The action at the bridge after was alright, but nothing special. One moment at the end stuck out where Big White jumped in the water after a dying Coyote because he was a 'brother.

At this point it just seemed to be moving slow, and we were having a few systems issues, so I decided to move things along quickly and came up with narative that wipped out most of the rest of the squad.

The next scene had them racing to a chopper for evac with a near dead Coyote, Jesus the medic and a near insane Skid. I had Skid loose it and there was a great conflic between him and Professor (now clearly taking a leadership role, okay he always did, but more rationally here, see the orders thing below yet again). After the conflic Skid had nearly lost it, went behind the chopper to help Jesus tend the wounded when a shot went off, Jesus came out bloody and looking totally white and spooked and said "I took care of Skid", at this Prof. lost it and shot Jesus in the Head, this set White off who then lunged for Prof's throat...

At this point I realized we already *were* in the endgame, as the Shit had hit the fan and it seemed appropriate timing.

Both Temple and White attacked Prof but he beat them both bloodily and easily. Then snapped, ran out in to the jungle both guns blazing screaming at the top of his lungs, only to get caught buy a group of VC who mowed him down.

Thats the rough and dirty. If the players want to flesh it out feel free. Lots of good things happened in the game so if I missed your favourite moment I apologize.

The Playtest:

As I mentioned it so many times above I will start right into 'the order thing':
Okay it just happened that all my players chose Privates for their first game. This meant that in any Action sequence one of them, the one with the most months in, gave the orders. This just made no sense. Why would a private be giving orders for an entire squad?!? Plus what does Months in have to do with Rank. 4 people of equal rank would not necessarily listen to the guy that had been there the longest. This just didn't play out well and brought up quite a bit of debate that frankly ruined the mood at the time.

Eventually we switched it to they gave orders just for the Grunts, but that didn't really make sense either as they were from different Fire Teams. To make it work I ran the rest of the scenes so that only the PCs or lower ranked people were present. But I had to modify the story to fit the system for it to make any sense to us.

Okay now the rest:

We all thought the burden system was great, this was half of the fun. It took a bit to take it seriously (thought the whole squad was going to be gay for a bit), but once we got into it, it became a great way to design a character, and made for great roleplaying. The only issue we saw is that if you played enough, and I admit it would take a long time, you may run out of burdens, or you would at least keep seeing the same ones pop up time and time again.

The chracters, the squad, were great. There are some great characters, and no one had trouple finding one that fit (even with the illiterate thing above). Some of the combos of Burden vs Grunt were really great, and make for some truely memerable characters.

We also thought the profile system was rather cool, as well as the way it worked with the approach system. Very cool concept. There was one issue though, when in a Transitional profile you can't use a D12, and in a Cardinal a D4... what happens if this is the only die you have left? You can't use it so you automatically lose conflicts (stated in the rules) and you can't pass it unless during an Action Scene (during the order sequence), so you are stuck with the Die. This basicaly means you loose any conflicts, you can't change Profiles and you can't refresh you dice pool. This didn't seem right at all. We made a house rule that if you are in a conflict and the only die you have you can't use, you automatically loose and the die goes to the winner of the conflict. This seemed to work.

As a GM I have to say there were way too many people to keep track of. Even using the index card system (well not exactly index cards, but basically the same thing) I had trouble keeping track of the 13 characters not being played. Even more so it was impossible to make them seem 'real' or believable. What I did do was break the team up as much as possible and focus on certain Fodder to develop into characters (as can be seen above). This worked alright but the rest of the squad pretty much truely became nameless Fodder. Now I can tell the more I run it the more I will get to know each character, but it was difficult for a 1st run, and I think that needs to be adressed somehow.

Of Dice. We all thought the dice system was very unique and rather cool. There were a couple things that came up though. First, why would you use a small die, generally it came down to using the biggest die possible at all times. Having played once, I could see using a small die just to pass it to a potential target during endgame, or the GM, but I still think big dice will be favoured. The other dice issue we had was that the GM was never getting dice. No conlict ever broke out between the three Grunts and any grunt not in the conflict got all dice. This made NPC conficts too easy as I had no ammo left at the end.

We got to a point in the game where things were dragging (as noted above).  We were having rules issues with the orders, the GM had no dice in his pool and things just weren't moving quickly.  We actually found the fodder lasted too long, with only 3 players, this meant very few dice were ending up on either side of the conflic and the two Grunts passing dice were of opposite opinions (with one die to the GM for Big White, and one die to the Professor for Temple).  This mean most action scenes had low outcomes and little effect on the squad.  A second time around, assuming there is a better solution to giving orders, I will run the order faze longer with more dice being passed before the dice are rolled.  That will help this a bit.

The Endgame:
First note was already above, we started it early and without planning. We just hit the right moment in the game for it to happen and it worked beautifully. It came up intuitively (none of the players knew it was coming as they hadn't read the rules) and was a very pleasant supprise to the group. It played out excellently, though lopsided (all players have now said they would definately pass dice differently knowing how things may end).

The burdens came up a lot during roleplay but never really came up in diced conflicts and thus the Burden dice never got used.

The fact that to push you have to change profiles made Pushing a non-option for most players as it didn't make sense at the time for thier profiles to change.

A suggestion: if you use your burden to push and it doesn't cause a profile change then I think pushing would happen more often as well as the burden dice would get used more often. Players would still have to justify the use of the burden die with this method.

Some general praise:
The rules were well written and pretty much clear. More examples would be helpful as the ones that were there cleared up a ton.

This is one of the most solid games I have played. I can't really explain it though, there are things that could use improvement, but for some reason you just go away from it feeling like it was solid. A couple of my players noted the same.

We all had a good time, most of us better then expected, and also all stated we would love to give it another go.

We would also recommend this game to many other gamers, it wouldn't be for everyone, but I would suggest tyring it if you are willing to take it seriously.

This actually made us think. We paused a few times in game to talk about what it would be like, or what actually happened, or how things went down in Nam. One question we spent some time discussing was what was done with dead teammates. If it was hot would they just leave them there in the jungle and take their tags? They wouldn't carry the body through the jungle forever, it wouldn't be safe for the squad. Would they radio it in? etc.
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Nathan P.
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Posts: 536


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« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2006, 10:51:13 AM »

Gah, sorry it took so long to get back to you....

Burdens sound great, I really like how you guys used them to inform the play of the characters, and their relationships to each other (White illiteracy and Temples faith, etc).

You mention using the same Fodder characters - I do the same thing. Some of them fit in well with the Grunts and end up getting more screen time, and thats cool.

Quote
This turned into a friendly fire incident with the Grunts badly wounding most of team Charlie and taking out the Leader of the squad.  This ran great!  Tensions went up and watching the Grunts fumble about shooting at the immaginary VC in the brush to cover their asses was great.

We then had a fight on the bridge that had one memorable scene where Professor volunteered Bull to do a heroic run on a Machine Gun Nest due to Bull being "f'ing useless" (he was shell shocked during the first Action sequence).  Big White stepped in and volunteered and after a good Conflict was sent in by Red.  The action at the bridge after was alright, but nothing special.  One moment at the end stuck out where Big White jumped in the water after a dying Coyote because he was a 'brother.

Wow. Thats a great sequence.

Quote
At this point I realized we already *were* in the endgame, as the Shit had hit the fan and it seemed appropriate timing.

Yeh, seriously!

Quote
Lots of good things happened in the game so if I missed your favourite moment I apologize.

This is me, smiling. It sounds like you guys had a good time, and hit a lot of the stuff that play should get into. This rocks.

Re: the order thing. The question has been coming up in my games as well. I'm happy with the mechanic itself in terms of resolution of the action and the subsequent squad fallout, but, as you point it, it doesn't map to some in-game situations. I have a couple ideas for trying to solve the problem, but I was wondering if, based on your play, there was an obvious solution to the problem (that I may not be seeing because I haven't played an all-private game yet).

Re: Burdens. Yeh, burdens are great. To tell the truth, you would have to play way more than I think anyone really needs to play this game before you got to the point where you would run out of ideas...I'm glad that you find the characters engaging!

Re: having an unusable die. I've been playing (and failed to mention in the rules) that you trigger a profile change when you're down to unusable dice in your pool, as well as no dice. Totally my bad. I think I actually like your fix better, though!

Re: trackability of Fodder. You are absolutely right. I'm brainstorming different ways to address this. Again, if you had an idea based on your play that would make it easier, don't hesitate to mention it...

re: Dice. I'm glad you liked the system! I agree that something needs to happen to make small dice more interesting/valuable, and its something I'm experiementing with in my playtests. Next revision should have something about it.

re: The GM never getting any dice. It hasn't been a problem in my play. One intent of the system is that the players should be rewarding the GM, as well as each other, for entertaining and cool play. Obviously, you guys weren't having a dearth of this, which gives me some food for thought. My instinct is that a group coming from a more traditional background will see more of this, while me with my crazy hippie games have less of it. Definitly something to consider.

Re: dragging play. Not surprising, given the orders issue. In general, it takes a couple Action scenes to guage how long you need to push them in order to establish the pacing, which is fine.

re: Endgame. This (and the Orders/action scene issues) is the common theme of playtesting thus far. Basically, the new rule is that when Endgame happens, it happens. If it hasn't happened by the time all the Fodder are dead, then it has to happen.

Re: Pushing. Hmmm. To Push, you need to change Approach (honorable/violent/peaceful/subversive), not Profile (Soldier/Invincible/etc). So, like, if you take a Peaceful Approach ("Hey man, you need to put down that gun"), and you lose the initial roll, you could Push and change to Honorable ("Look, a good soldier doesn't threaten his fellows"). Was this how you understood it?

Thanks for the praise, especially for this:

Quote
We all had a good time, most of us better then expected,

and

Quote
This actually made us think.  We paused a few times in game to talk about what it would be like, or what actually happened, or how things went down in Nam.

Perfect awesomeness. Thank you.

I'm putting together the next revision, and would love for you guys to give it another go once it's ready.
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Nathan P.
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My Games | ndp design
Also | carry. a game about war.
I think Design Matters
Maurice T
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Posts: 2


« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2006, 09:15:26 AM »

Quote:Re: Pushing. Hmmm. To Push, you need to change Approach (honorable/violent/peaceful/subversive), not Profile (Soldier/Invincible/etc). So, like, if you take a Peaceful Approach ("Hey man, you need to put down that gun"), and you lose the initial roll, you could Push and change to Honorable ("Look, a good soldier doesn't threaten his fellows"). Was this how you understood it?
 


Bloody hell, got confused between approaches and profiles when we play. That makes much more sense, and will definitely get more use.

My thoughts on fixes... guess I should have put that in the initial responce.

The order thing: Don't give the grunts ranks or years in to start, roll them randomly. All Fodder must be lower ranked then the highest level grunt. This will appeal to more traditional gamers (like ourselves) as there is more random character generation. This way One Grunt will always be in charge. This can be done as simply as the person with the highest roll is the Sargent. To fit this better with your 'hippy' system  I suggest that the players pick a die size at random for this. That way if a player really doesn't want to lead they can take a D4. Since it's random though there is still a chance that they could be the leader (many choices in Nam were made for you). You could do something similar with months 'in' as well. Ranks equal a + to a die roll, so you don't get a Sarge with only one month in.

A variation on this could be to have the players decide between them, creating a back story, do a basic training montage, the one who performed the best in basic training because the Sarge or the Squad Leader.

Another Variation - roll as above but Ram is still the Boss. This will probably help GMs scene better as they can still control the main authority in the group, then scene it so that Ram often splits the squad and the highest ranking Grunt runs the other half (third whatever) this will still allow for the friendly fire scene above, which I doubt would come up if a player gave all the orders.

Traceability of Fodder: dunno on this one. First thing I did was cut out the chars. from the file into about 1" strips. Then figured out to order them into three rows by rank and fire team. This made things much easier to manage, but still not easy. Another thought I had was a quick squad summary, just real basics like
"Joe Blow - Alpha - Private - white brown hair - scared - Companion"
for each member, divided by fire team. You would still have the detail cards to refer back to but in the heat of the scene you have a quicker reference.

A great idea:
Just had a thought, that I really love. You could add a section at the beginning on game length, stating that this is a variable length game. If you want a quick 1-2 hour intense session just take Fire Team Alpha. If you want a 2-3 hour session add Team Beta. If you care for a longer more in depth look at the horrors of war, try a game with all three teams (3 or more hours). Mix up the teams after your first game, try a short game with just Beta.

You could also recommend only using one team for your first couple games and mix it up that way the game is still unique for the first three plays as they are different people, and you would get to know each of them better before tossing the whole pot in.

GM not getting dice. I agree, it mainly has to do with most of us having 20 or so years experience in traditional gaming. No matter how you try to avoid it, the mentality is players vs GM. That did carry over. Though near the end it started to click in. Mainly because the scenes weren't intersting if the GM had no muscle behind it.

Small Dice:
Hmm... well I have a thought you may like, though not sure if it would help this issue.

I think the game needs some system for players to pass dice without rolling them. Something more then the background thing. Some buddy system. Where a player gets in a conflict and another says "I back him up". He then hands a die of his choice (size meaning how much 'help' is given). An Example:

"Big White" is caught by the Sargent hiding behind the barracks smoking a joint.
Red lays heavily verbally into white threatening violence with a closed shaking fist.
A conflict is called. White wants to calm the Sargent and avoid physical conflict. If he wins the sarge scolds him and takes his stash but that's all, if he looses The Sargent forcefully takes the stash, gives White a shot in the jaw and levels him.
Coyote turns the corner and sees the confrontation. He runs in with the player stating "I back up White. I go to the sarge and explain that we are all under a lot of stress, we saw three of our men get shot down today and everyone is on edge, you can't blame White for a break from reality. I feel pretty strong about this but then again I don't want the Sarge to start in on me next, I give white a D6"
White rolls his chosen die + the D6 from Coyote.... etc.

This could work both ways as well, with the player passing the GM a 'support' die.

Also about low dice - I think next time they will get more use at the end of the game, now that the players know the Endgame scenario they will be trying to give their low dice to their expected target, while keeping high for themselves.

Actually more then willing to try out Carry 2.1 (3.0, whatever).

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