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Author Topic: [shooting the moon] for the love of Captain Jack  (Read 3031 times)
Emily Care
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« on: March 05, 2006, 10:27:25 AM »

Hello,

Got to playtest Shooting the Moon this weekend.  It is the sequel to Breaking the Ice, and has been at a bit of a standstill for development since I've been wrapped up in finishing up my grad degree this semester. 

It's another wierd & wiggly game that deals with relationships, but this time around you play two suitor vying for the love of a beloved. So it's a 2 or three player game. I've been asked if it could be expanded out for more, which may be possible, but for now the mechanics revolve around those 2-3 folks making stuff up together and making things hard on one another, so I'll have to see how 3+ play shakes down.

I played with Tom (bluegargantua), who was also one of my first playtesters for BtI. We got to do some work on his game in development, ReSource, too.Thanks again, Tom!

World and Character Creation
You start out by picking a setting. In the past I've done Dangerous Liasons, sci-fi space opera and Buffy. I've been pretty surprised at how flexible it is.  Tom & I chose pirates.  We'd play 2 lady pirate captains trying to capture the heart (or something) of the most dangerous rogue on the high seas, the traditional Captain Jack.

So once you pick a setting, you choose 6 attributes of the Beloved.  These are things that are highly sought after or desirable in the setting. (Hence, you are establishing things about the world at the same time. In the Space Opera game the Beloved was "addicted" which meant we could bring in lots of drugs that the space-faring aristorcracy used & abused.)  You alternate, each chosing 3. If there'd been a third player, we all would have chosen 2. The attribute we chose for Jack were:

Ruthless
Daring
Ambitious
Infamous
Carouser
Best Ship

Then you choose a couple of these words and make an antonym and synonym for them.  We chose 2 each (if there'd been 3 players it would have been 1 each).  Tom chose Ruthless and Best Ship. I chose Daring and Ambitious. So we got:

Daring: (S)Thrillseeking, (A)Cautious
Ruthless: (S)Heartless, (A)Caring
Ambitious: (S)Vainglorious, (A)Contented
Best Ship: (S)First Rate Ship, (A)Tub)

We  helped eachother find good synonyms and antonyms.  You then take the S&As and alternate choosing them for the characters that are the Suitors of the Beloved. When you choose one of a pair, the other one goes to the other Suitor.

I chose: Heartless and Vainglorious and got stuck with Cautious and Tub.
Tom chose: Thrillseeking and First Rate Ship and got stuck with Caring and Contented.

You then modify the Suitor attributes by chosing modifiers and giving them to the other character (again, if there had been 3 players the player of the Beloved would have been involved in all of this).  You also choose three additional resources, a person a place and a thing. So the Suitor characters ended up as:

Suitor 1: Bloody Anne (played by Em)
Heartless but loves animals  (!!!)
Cautious but not when gambling
Vainglorious but practical
Ship is a Tub but well-crewed ("most vicious rowboat of the high seas")
person:1st Mate, best in the 7 seas, in love with her.
place: Free port for pirates
thing: poison dagger
 
Suitor 2: My Fair Bonnie (played by Tom)
Caring but only toward shipmates
Thrillseeking but afraid of heights (heh, heh)
Contented but with status quo of being a pirate
First Rate Ship but Haunted
person: Spanish Captain ghost, who loves her
place: Skull Island
thing: last dubloon of gold from crew they killed, lucky piece

We also chose what each of us was risking to gain the Beloved's love and we chose the same thing: our ship

We then chose more attributes for the Beloved. Why he was available (his Opening) and what was obstacle was confronting him right now (his Obstacle). If there'd been someone playing him, they'd have chosen a dream or ambition for him.  As it was we got:

The Beloved: Captain Jack scourge of the 7 seas
Ruthless, Infamous, Daring, Carouser, Ambitious, Best Ship
opening: We were his only equals & potential mates
obstacle: The entire British Navy was after him. Like all of them. Every man jack & ship. : )

So the last thing for us to choose was the Prize.  What were we after? Jack's love, hand in marriage etc?  Tom suggested that we were trying to get the hat of the Admiral that was leading the chase on Jack, presumably with his head in it.   

Beginning Play
The way the game works is that the players of the Suitors pursue the Prize by trying to attain three Goals, and before each Goal you face three Hurdles. The player of the Beloved and the other Suitor create this opposition the Suitor, and you accrue resources that will allow you to gain the Prize, along with creating more traits and aspects of the characters as you go along.  I was trying to nail down the dice mechanics for the game with this playtest. They seemed to work pretty well, and Tom gave me some good suggestions.

The Goals are chosen by the players of the Suitor. If there'd been a player of the Beloved, that person would have made up some adversity for both Tom & I. But since it was just us two, we got to make things tough for eachother on our own. We chose the first goal to find the Admiral's ship. We both wanted to be the first so as to have a leg up on getting his "hat" for Jack.

Slow Boat to Skull Island
I went first.  Another thing you do for the game is you have a sheet of paper that is "the world".  You write down places & people  on it and make loose word webs with traits and aspects and objects and things that you bring into play in your narration.  Tom suggested we make a map too, so we put the islands on it and drew in our ships. My "tub" was a trireme type dealy, with oars sticking out. : ( It was funny, though. We said that my excellent crew were the buffest in the south seas.  I heartlessly forced them to run marathons & carry boxes filled with rocks when we were on land to ensure that they were totally ripped & able to row the boat along. Ah, my poor crew. But more later:

I set the scene for what we were doing, getting ready to navigate to where we thought the Admirals' ship was: to the waters off Skull Island where the entire British fleet was assembling in hopes of getting Jack.  (Did I say already that we had a very silly tone to our game? It was very funny to play.)  Tom created a Hurdle and got dice for tying in traits from the characters or the world that got in my way.  The Hurdle was that by boat was really slow, and he pulled in the Tub trait, the fact that Jack was Ambitious so he'd  get pissed at me for holding them back & that Bonnie & Jack's ships were first rate etc. so would easily out speed us.  If I failed the Hurdle, he would get to give me a trait, and the one he chose was "Isolated". He got his three dice, plus an extra one since he was endangering my ship which I had chosen to risk. If there'd been a Beloved Player, they would have been able to add another die for narrating what Jack did.

Oppositioning
Now, when it's your turn, you get to choose how many dice you roll against the opposition, up to 8 or so. (May be higher in a 3 player game).  This is totally based on how goals are contested in Capes.  The reason being that for every die I rolled that came up a 5 or a 6, the other Suitor's player would gain a die to use towards the Goal.  This is totally based on how goals are contested in Capes. My thanks to Ben Lehman for pointing this out as a great model, and for getting me to play at Dreamation, and to Tony for hitting on this dynamic. It is great.  You basically are rewarding the Opposing player for coming up with things that will really get the goat of the Active Player.  The worse the trait you're going to give them, the more you will fight, and the more chance they have of getting dice to beat you at the Goal.  Yes, it's machiavellian. 

I pulled in my awesome 1st Mate to navigate a "short-cut", using fast currents through dangerous waters to get us there fast, my heartlessness to whip the sailors into rowing really fast and various other traits and aspects of the world. I told the other two pirates to "go on ahead without me" and took the sneaky short cut.  I rolled 6 dice against Tom's 4, but unfortunately lost.  I got "Isolated" added to my sheet, and Tom narrated that things went wrong with the short-cut. It turned into a slow-cut with the current going the wrong way etc.

The hurdle I gave Tom was an ambush by other pirates that I had paid off to take out Bonnie.  He handily had her fend off the two boatloads of pirates that boarded her ship by night, and added Confident to his sheet. "Bring it!", became her battle cry.  For the next hurdle, Tom explained that the problems with the current were due to an El Nino condition we hadn't known about, that had brought many strange creatures to these waters, including a giant squid--no, a Kraken--make that the Kraken who attacks my ship and, get this  I dig because "I love animals". 

Grrrrr!  Curse you Tom! Using my traits against me! It was awesome.   : )

So I use my "heartless" trait and start pacifying the Kraken by feeding it my crew.  (Yes, I did have moral problems later)  I narrated that it helped me, and then I brought other animals in the water to help: tying ropes to a pod of dolphins to tow my ship to the rendezvous point.  I won the conflict and added "Master of Ocean Animals" to my sheet. 

Tom then had to have Bonnie face a group of frigates from the fleet and gained Sealed Orders from the British Navy, and I faced off against angry mer-people peaceniks that wanted to free the dolphins that I had "enslaved".  I rocked ocean house, and gained one of the mermaids as a living mast head who could lead us and warn us of danger etc.  Clearly "magical" would have to get added to my sheet at some point. 

Facing Fears
Tom's final hurdle with  Bonnie was trying to locate the Admiral's ship from among the huge mass of ships. She was the only one who could do so since she had read the sealed orders, but to do so she had to climb to the crow's nest & look out over the fleet. (ha!)  If Tom failed, I would get to add the trait Humiliated before her Crew to his sheet.  hee-hee-hee...  But he rose to the challenge and called on his Caring for his shipmates & Jack, and the First Rate nature of his ship that had excellent rigging and a nice cage of netting around the crow's nest, and imagined herself high atop the volcano on Skull Island, visualizing herself on the high plateau, high up but safely surrounded by a wide vista of land, and gripping the lucky dubloon.  Tom rolled well & Bonnie triumphed, seeing the ship & also finding a blind spot on the Admiral's ship that he wrote down on his sheet.

We resolved the Goal by "activating" the dice we'd gained from Hurdles in groups of threes. Narrating how Bonnie singled out the ship, I followed her to the spot, the Kraken tossed the British ships about and Bonnie got guidance from the ghost about what the British Navy would do, what tactics they would use.  Tom rolled 14 dice and I rolled 9, and it ended up in his favor. 

The dice mechanic was to roll all the dice, compare the highest dice.  If one had the highest single die that was higher than the other, that person won, but if there was a tie, you look to the other dice and either used  your highest single die, or other dice that were in groups and compared their value. 

For example:

I had a 6-5-5-4-3-2-1-1-1
Tom had a 6-4-4-4-3-3-3-2-2-2-1-1-1-1 

Our 6s tie and cancel out. We compare down and I had two 5s, for a total of 10. He had three 4s for a total of 12, so he won.  I think I'll playtest this method some more and see how it goes.  For a three player game, for each rank that there is a tie, the Beloved's player gets to narrate a complication and add a trait to both the players' sheets. 

This was really fun, and it seemed to flow pretty well. So I am encouraged & will have to get playtest rules together very soon.

all the best,
Emily
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Black & Green Games
Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2006, 07:03:23 PM »

Hiya,

Some mechanics questions...
Quote
Now, when it's your turn, you get to choose how many dice you roll against the opposition, up to 8 or so. (May be higher in a 3 player game).  This is totally based on how goals are contested in Capes.  The reason being that for every die I rolled that came up a 5 or a 6, the other Suitor's player would gain a die to use towards the Goal.
Does the opposition set some difficulty number or decide how many dice he uses?

Do you mean that if you choose more dice, there will be more 5's and 6's, so there's a risk to using more dice? Because I'm not sure there is an increasing risk, even though you could get more fives and sixes.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2006, 05:06:18 AM »

Wow, that sounds fun.  I'm particularly interested in the three peson variant. 

Does it handle low key and "serious" as well as BtI does?  This AP report seemed deliciously over-the-top. 

Can't wait to try it out!
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Emily Care
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2006, 12:56:01 PM »

Hey there,

Callan:  Stakes resolution is via opposed rolls. There are three types of rolls: hurdles, goals and for the prize. They are nested and affect one another. For hurdles, the opposition has a set maximum number of dice they can roll. The get the dice by narrating things.  The active player has a larger range of dice they can choose to get, and the more dice they choose to roll the greater the chance that the opposition player will gain resources towards the next level up of resolution: the goal.  The resources you get toward attaining the prize is determined by the outcome of all the hurdle and goal rolls, and most all the dice rolled can give resources to the Beloved player as the other source of opposition. 

Jason:  I am very interested in finding out the answer to your question.  Is it as suited to deeper exploration as Breaking the Ice?  I will have to playtest it with that intent to see how well it works and to see if there is anything needed to allow it to go that way.  Of the three games that this is a part of (the Three Quick Games about the Human Heart cycle) this will definitely be the lightest, I believe.  The situation is less intimate, since there are potentially three people involved and because most of the relationships are competitive.

There is a mechanic that may or may not make it into the final version that allows the Suitor players to essentially make conflicts, like in BtI.  Something they are risking or bringing into question in order to gain the affections of the Beloved.  In this example it was the boats--no big deal, no moral complications really. It could be that we were risking our friendship with one another, or the loyalty of our crew, or our reputations as dashing daring doers etc. 

However, it is clearly quite suited to creative, silly play.  Making the setting has ended up being a really fun aspect of the game.  Can't wait to see how it goes for you, I'll get cracking on that draft. 

best,
Emily
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Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2006, 10:12:09 PM »

Quote
the more dice they choose to roll the greater the chance that the opposition player will gain resources towards the next level up of resolution: the goal.
With dice pools, it'll be less chance and more a hard and predictable distribution (particularly if your rolling them several times though a session). If I understand the mechanic, it ends up being a fixed ratio. Like if it were adding points instead of dice, if I raise a point, then that's a point against me winning the game. That means raising the dice is an empty move - it's like leveling up and going from +8 to attack to +10 to attack, but at the same time all the monsters get +2 armour class (in this example, you haven't advanced at all).

Right now I don't see any competition really there, just an impression of it.

Is there supposed to be some quality about the tests, that a player might want to win, even though it reduces their final win chance? Like "I simply must get a blood rose from the forrest of death...even if I don't win my vampire princess's heart, it's important that I give that to her.". Ie, it expresses something about how they show love, even if it's at the expense of finding it (ewww, I can't believe I just said that). If your stabbing at something like that, then a method like yours could work out, if the ratio is stacked against a player (eg, if I add a dice, that'll most likely give the opposition two dice at the end).
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Emily Care
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2006, 07:37:27 AM »

Quote
If your stabbing at something like that, then a method like yours could work out, if the ratio is stacked against a player (eg, if I add a dice, that'll most likely give the opposition two dice at the end).

Yes, that is what I have in mind.  The conflict type traits will work that way.

Quote
That means raising the dice is an empty move - it's like leveling up and going from +8 to attack to +10 to attack, but at the same time all the monsters get +2 armour class (in this example, you haven't advanced at all).

Do you mean that if increasing my dice pools gives an advantage to my opponent then it is the same as not gaining an additional die?  I see what you mean, if you gain 2 dice toward a goal by winning a hurdle, and are rolling 8 dice with a 1 in 3 chance of giving a die to the other player to roll against you later, it means that on average it comes out about even if you win, or even a bit against you. I could go with only gaining a die on the roll of 6s, which would reduce it to a 1 in 6 chance, and/or make hurdles worth 3 dice toward a goal. 

If someone decides that they want to not compete for hurdles, since it will be more likely to give advantage to the their opponent, what that means is that they are surrenduring the authorship of their character to the other. You can opt out of rolling lots of dice against hurdles, but it has narrative consequences.  In fact, like the name of the game implies, it may be possible to lose your way to victory (roll-over on hurdles but get your opponent to roll a lot of dice on their turns), but at what cost?

best,
Emily
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2006, 01:38:20 PM »

Beginning Play
The way the game works is that the players of the Suitors pursue the Prize by trying to attain three Goals, and before each Goal you face three Hurdles. The player of the Beloved and the other Suitor create this opposition the Suitor, and you accrue resources that will allow you to gain the Prize, along with creating more traits and aspects of the characters as you go along.  I was trying to nail down the dice mechanics for the game with this playtest. They seemed to work pretty well, and Tom gave me some good suggestions.


In a way this is the real map of the game more than a map of locations. The goals and hurddles are the structure of the actions carried out in the game. I use a similar mental geography in Engle Matrix Games.

In a quest game the players start off knowing what they are after - the prize. They know how many barriers stand in their way but don't know what those barriers (hurdles) are. They make arguments to define what the barriers are (and prepare to deal with them) opposing players meanwhile make plans to stop them and add new barriers in. When the players decide to start the quest they have to cross each barrier till they reach the goal and then get home again. I like three barriers per quest - it makes for a single evenings worth of play. I also have players gain statuses (traits) from arguments. These fill in data in the world matrix.

I'll be interested how this kind of mental geography works out in your games.

Oh, I'm starting the therapy group where we'll play Breaking the Ice in. I'll let you know how it comes out.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Chris Engle
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bluegargantua
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2006, 06:13:12 PM »

If someone decides that they want to not compete for hurdles, since it will be more likely to give advantage to the their opponent, what that means is that they are surrenduring the authorship of their character to the other. You can opt out of rolling lots of dice against hurdles, but it has narrative consequences.  In fact, like the name of the game implies, it may be possible to lose your way to victory (roll-over on hurdles but get your opponent to roll a lot of dice on their turns), but at what cost?

  Emily, correct me if I'm wrong, but the total number of dice you have available to use in a Goal contest are:

  1.)  All the 5's and 6's your opponent rolled during the hurdles.
  plus
  2.)  Twice the number of hurdles you've won during this goal resolution.

  I seem to recall I had a bunch of dice from your 5's and 6's plus a bunch more for winning hurdles.  That's a key element and it partially explains why you don't just lose every hurdle to keep 5's and 6's out of your opponent's pool.  Still, it's a valid (though not overwhelming) tactic to simply pass up on the hurdles and aggressively challenge when you're the opposition.  On your opponent's turn you want them rolling a lot of dice.  With an Opposition limit of 4 dice, the player generally went to 6 dice.  That means that on an average roll, the player will win, but the Opposition gets at least 2 dice from high rolls.  So you keep pace even as they win.  If they screw up or roll a lot of high dice, you might even come out ahead.  You may want to examine that a little bit more just to make sure that someone can't turtle up and still have a better-than-average chance to win goals.

  But overall, it was a very fun session.  I'd be very curious to see this with 3 players.

later
Tom
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