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Author Topic: [Six Bullets] Playtest 3 - a radical rethink  (Read 1882 times)
andrew_kenrick
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« on: August 20, 2006, 02:32:21 PM »

Six Bullets had its 3rd playtest late last night, and its first airing in face to face roleplaying. It was the same group who have run through the material a couple of times online, so they knew what to expect.

We were running it to see if it worked in real life, and how long a game would take. No surprises that a game took far less time to play out than it would have done online, even with more players, but it ran even quicker than expected. I suspect much of this was to do with the late hour and the speed of the scenes.

There were 6 of us, which meant 1 protagonist and 5 antagonists, and we adjusted the Vengeance attribute and number of scenes to reflect this.

The game through up a lot of interesting issues – some solvable, others less so, so I’ll discuss what happened in the context of those. We went for a totally new setting and genre, deciding to go for a Dumas vibe and set it in Renaissance France, with me as the protagonist as some sort of rogue Musketeer, Jan as the evil Cardinal de Pompeii and the others playing his various cronies.

1. Although the game is supposed to be about revenge, and the slow unravelling of what happened and why, the rules do not support this in any meaningful way. There is no incentive to drop revelations and reveals into the story (although as a group, we did this well), and no disincentive for one of the players to blow the whole thing right up front and leave the other players with nothing to reveal themselves.

We discussed limiting each antagonist to adding 1 big revelation to the story in their scene but I’m not sure if this is too arbitrary or unworkable. Thoughts?

2. In each scene there are two absolutes – that the protagonist won’t die, but the antagonist will. It was argued that as these were inevitable, events that would end the scene, they did not need to be mechanical and merely narrative.

My fear here is that if it becomes purely narrative, there is nothing to make the fight between hero and villain a tussle or indeed dramatic. During the game we had several memorable battles, including one in the final scene where my hero fought his opponent on board a whaling ship tossed about on the North Sea, hurling harpoons and fighting over a whale corpse before finally ending up wrestling in a rowing boat. This was cool, but it was a result of the back and forth nature of the dice. I wonder had we been purely narrating the death of the villain, would we have gone to all that trouble? Equally I guess one lucky roll by me (or me just deciding to narrate my opponent’s death as the outcome of the conflict) could have had the same disappointing result.

Olly suggested that the combats could work like a game of verbal tennis to counter this, so that the hero had to win the advantage (via a successful dice roll), in order to be follow up with a conflict resulting in the villain’s death (via the second successful dice roll in a row). I think this is quite neat, and adds a little more consideration and drama into the narration of a combat, although we didn’t have time to try it in action. Does this sound workable?

3. Because all of the scenes devolve into combat (it wouldn’t be a revenge movie otherwise), Jan raised the point about why should anyone ever put any of their dice into non-combat abilities. I had no answer for this as the game stands now, although might have found a solution with a reworking of the mechanics.

4. The issue of characters being sacrosanct cropped up again. During Rob’s scene he decided that my character had wooden legs, I decided I didn’t want that, so in the rules this was a narrative conflict and we diced. He rolled 2 dice (a base of 1, +1 for having a character in the scene), I rolled 3 dice (same as Rob, +1 for having a character directly affected by the outcome) – as Jan pointed out, basically a crap shoot. I lost, my character wound up with wooden legs.

Now as it happened we managed to do cool things with that – in Rich’s scene he declared that he had chopped them off whilst torturing me, and in the prologue I declared to them that they would not touch the king (my ward) so long as I stood, so when they subdued me they rectified that. It was neat.

But, the point remained – I did not like someone else messing with my idea for my character. This cropped up in the first playtest (Olly’s idea for his devout priest, messed by Rob’s attempts to have a rentboy in his room), and I think we need to declare characters as out of bounds for narration. Only the character’s player can do something that directly changes his character.

5. This game also saw our first run with my new narrative conflict rules. In short, they didn’t work – they were a crapshoot. Jan said we might as well just flip coins. Also there was the issue of abusing them, by one player repeatedly attempting to force narrative conflicts. This didn’t happen, but it could have done, and the issue is resources and the lack thereof.

This made me reconsider the rules full stop. Instead of 6 dice to be distributed between character attributes, and a separate mechanic for narration, why not roll them together? That way each player could have a finite pool of 6 dice per scene (or per game), that they use to resolve both character and narrative conflicts. I think this could work, although it’s quite a radical change. Is this too drastic, or is it just what the game seems to need?
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
Eric Provost
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« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2006, 03:06:57 PM »

Quote from: Andrew
But, the point remained – I did not like someone else messing with my idea for my character.

Hiya Andrew.  That line kinda jumped out at me.  I'm curious if you think that your feelings about your character would change if Rob's attempt to get a little narrative control over it were framed in a different way. 

What if, instead of just announcing an attribute for your character then rolling dice to see if it was true or not then narrating why it came out that way, you did all that backwards?  Meaning that Rob could have framed a framed a flashback scene about trying to capture, torture, and mutilate your character.  Then he rolls dice.  Maybe a couple times.  Then, if he wins the dice roll (or series of dice rolls), he gets to narrate how his character once cut your character's legs off and how your character replaced them with wooden ones.

Would that make any difference?
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MPOSullivan
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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2006, 04:58:57 PM »

I'm looking at the Revelation part of the game myself and seeing a simple sollution.  Directly port over the fanmail concept from Prime Time Adventures.  Every player has a number of Revelation dice that he can hand out, maybe only one die per scene ore maybe more.  Whenever any player introduces a Revelation into the story the other players can reward that revelation with RDice.  These dice can be burned at any time later to add into a dice pool.  This means that Revelations that other players like and that everyone thinks fits will be rewarded more than the shitty ones that mess up everyones' ideas. 

So, let's say that I am the Protagonist and Anna, Bob and Carol are playing along with me.  Anna is playing Johnny Hood, my second nemisis in the story.  During our scene she introduces the Revelation that my wife died while trying to save my life. 

Bob: "Ooh, that sounds sad.  I like it."  (forks over a RDice)

Carol:  "It's not bad, but I'm waiting for something really juicy" (keeps her Rdice)

Me: "That is sweet.  You just scored my RDice."

And who's to say that characters other than the big two of the scene can't earn those RDice?  Later in the same game my Protagonist is in a Prohibition-era speakeasy pounding on Bob's character, Abel Gossamer, trying to get info.  Carol decides to spice things up a little and adds an extra to the scene, the place's Bartender. 

Me: "Where is Ricky hiding, Gossamer?!" (apes punching Gossamer in the face)

Bob: "I ain't saying nothing!"

Carol: "Why are you after Ricky so hard?  I mean, what did your own brother do to you that you'd come gunnin'?"

Me and Anna: (slide our RDice across the table to Carol)

Me: "He did a mighty un-brotherly thing."

And on the other subject, why can't you use non-combat skills to resolve conflicts?  It's all about stakes.  Let's say it's me and the troublesome Carol again.  My character and Ricky are in Ricky's garden at his mansion paid for by moonshine and turpentine.  Ricky's on his knees and snipping at roses with shears.  I've got a revolver pressed to the back of his head. 

My stakes: I want to end Carol's character. 

Carol's stakes: I'm going to try and distract the Protagonist with my gardening skills.

We both roll off.  Carol, suprisingly, gets the upper hand.

Carol: "You stand over you older brother, finger on the trigger.  I turn and show you a beautiful rose bloom from clipped fresh from the bush.  "Do you see?  The kind of beauty that people can make.  Even bad people like me."  Your finger hesitates on the trigger while I get up and walk across the greenhouse."

Or, if I won:

Me: I stand over you, my finger wrapped around the trigger on my revolver.

Carol: I turn and show you a beautiful rose bloom from clipped fresh from the bush.  "Do you see?  The kind of beauty that people can make.  Even bad people like me."

Me: "Takes a lot to grow good flowers.  Good, rich soil.  None richer than a graveyard plot."  I pull back the trigger.  Outside you can see the windows of the greenhouse rattle in their housing. 

If you actively use stakes as a part of conflict resolution, every single roll-off becomes a statement about characters' styles.  Picking up from above, and just going forward with the idea in generaly, I'd say that the winner of a conflict gets to dictate the opening stakes of the next conflict, allowing the player to keep the other on the ropes. 

Just more of me thinking. 
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Michael P. O'Sullivan
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andrew_kenrick
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« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2006, 02:15:04 PM »

Hmm, now I think both of you guys are onto something, and it might just be the same thing ...

How about, instead of a prologue at the end where all the loose threads are wrapped up in a single scene, the prologue is split up and scattered throughout play. So when a revelation or narrative change is suggested, you could cut to a flashback/forward to the prologue and play out that scene then and there, rather than waiting for the end of the game ...

Addressing more specific comments - Eric, yes I think it would have made a difference. The latter option would have gone down a lot better, perhaps because the latter provides a solution, rather than just a problem. It makes it interesting, rather than just messing about.

Michael - as for the Rdice, I like the idea of them too. I'm wondering whether they fit in with the mechanics as they currently stand, or with the dice pools I mentioned earlier. They certainly fit nicely alongside vdice, used by the protagonist for vengeance.

As for the stakes setting and conflict resolution - this is definitely something that we have been doing in our playtests, and I think they're going to make the cut into the latest playtest document. I like the idea about gaining a narrative advantage through winning conflicts ... this segues in with the "tennis" idea mentioned earlier quite nicely.
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
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