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Author Topic: [Contenders] Gold Rush bareknuckle  (Read 3953 times)
Caesar_X
Member

Posts: 84


« on: November 16, 2006, 04:41:07 PM »

This week we got together for an eagerly awaited session of Contenders, Joe J Prince's boxing RPG.  This was only my second GM-less game (after The Shab-al-Hiri Roach), so I was curious to see how the dynamics between the players would work.  Also, the game was a really fun read and it is far more than just a boxing game.  We finished up MLWM recently and we felt the similarities between the two games would only do Contenders justice.

The three of us discussed some ideas for a setting, and one favorite was inside of a 1950s penitentiary in the South, with prisoners boxing to get a reduced sentence from the corrupt warden.  But we got even more excited about 1850s Gold Rush-era San Francisco.  We all work in downtown SF and could imagine the dirt covered streets, horse carriages, busy port life and bare-knuckle boxing in the city by the bay!

The characters were:

Patrick (Paddy) O'Connell <Chris B.>
-Connection: Johnny O'Connell (brother); seriously injured on a NW Pacific fishing boat.  Stuck in a wheelchair and needs money for medicine.
--Hope: That he will walk again.
--Fear: That he will give up and commit suicide.

Diego dos Mieroles <Shannon>
-Connection: Li Tung, a Chinese rail worker.
--Hope: Help bring Li's family over to the U.S.
--Fear: That he will die in his dangerous job.

Leom O'Malley <Chris P.>
-Connection: Sally O'Malley (sister)
--Hope: That we will have a roof over our heads.
--Fear: That my sister will prostitute herself.

In the very first scenes, Paddy defeated Leom in a six-round match where we saw the Conditioning rules in effect as Leom really lost his gas.  Diego took a 2 Cash job guarding someone's claim while they were at the Assay Office.  He lost his conflict and got claimjumped.

Then Paddy took his fight money and had a Connection scene where he bought his brother a puppy to cheer him up.  Johnny ended up loving the little dog.  "I only wish I could take him for a walk..."

We had funny crossover scenes when Diego took a 2 Cash job guarding a brothel and Leom ended up using the same place to train his Conditioning stat.  After the first few bouts we had a flurry of training scenes and a few more fights, mostly against NPCs.

One of my personal highlights was when Paddy took a job bringing in boxes of books to the new library.  One of the players pointed out, "Hey, that's a 3 Cash job.  Isn't it supposed to be dirty or something?"  So I had to quickly change my tune.  "Yeah, well the boxes are hiding stolen jewerly and I'm trying to get them past the cops."  I failed miserably and San Francisco's finest beat a point of Pain into me.

At the end of the session, Diego beat the NPC Booker T. in a quick three-round bout.

Here are a few questions and comments I had after the session:

1. It seems like there is more incentive for NPC boxers to use dirty tactics since it doesn't affect them in a meta sense (outside of that particular fight).
2. The cards are fun, but they end up being kind of unwieldy because of the constant shuffling.  Maybe they would work better if every player had their own deck of cards?
3. The first fight was six rounds and it wasn't very exciting for the player who wasn't involved.  I wish there were ways to get non-fighting players more engaged?  It was better in later bouts when we had more money to bet on the fights.
4. When the rules say "Gain a point of Pain", does that mean that their Pain stat increases?  It's difficult to tell sometimes since all of the stats except for Pain are positive ones.
5. Roleplaying is sometimes difficult when there is little driving the narrative and not much incentive to go past the "single sentence" setup for a scene.  There's no real overall motion that is moving the narrative forward, which is typically handled by the GM.  For example, in MLWM, you need to roleplay to bring in intimacy, etc.  In Dogs, you need to roleplay items and/or connections to bring them into a conflict.  That creates a real give-and-take in the narrative.
6. In the Roach, which is another GM-less game, there is a simple way of creating conflict between the players by each them Like and Dislike other characters.  I didn't feel as much conflict in Contenders between the characters.  I suspect we will only threaten those who are gaining a lot of Hope.


Overall we had a fun time and look forward to playing these characters some more.  Hopefully we will be able to concentrate on roleplaying more now that we have the mechanics down.

Thoughts?

Chris B.
Caesar_X@yahoo.com
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Chris Peterson
Member

Posts: 75


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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2006, 10:31:07 AM »

I enjoyed this game. It seemed overly linear at first, but I quickly saw bigger strategies are work. I was also pleasantly surprised at the number of different settings we brainstormed beyond the generic Rocky boxing setting, from prison boxing (with Smokes replacing Cash) to Roman gladiator fights to Gold Rush era boxing matches.

My concerns and questions:

* I agree that the playing cards cumbersome and increased handling time. This might be easier if each player had their own deck like War.

* Also, revealing my "hand" during a boxing match was not very suspenseful. I could imagine a change where you reveal one card at a time, like PTA's alternate card rule for increasing suspense.

* As a player, I could control the number of cards I would draw, but once I have (say) eight cards in my hand, there is no player skill involved. As a joke, I would sometimes let the sidelined player or even my opponent draw my cards during a match. Smiley

* Testing the limits of the game system, I also bet against my character in a match. "Luckily", I lost the match and won the bet. Smiley Is betting against yourself supposed to be allowed by the rules??


chris p.
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chris
rafial
Member

Posts: 594


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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2006, 11:32:37 AM »

A quick comment on the card management.  When we played, we had three people, so during the fight scenes if worked very to have the third player take the part of the "match ref", calling the fight sequence, dealing & gathering the spent cards, and reshuffling as necessary (plus adding patter as inspired).  In fact we had two decks available, so that the ref could have a preshuffled deck to bring out when the first one ran out, and then reshuffle the spent deck during downtime.
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Joe J Prince
Member

Posts: 99

Putting the fun into dysfunction!


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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2006, 06:11:47 AM »

Hi Chris

I enjoyed hearing about your game, it's a very cool setting.

Many thanks to Rafial, Gregor and Malcolm for giving such great feedback in the previous thread too.

It seems like there is more incentive for NPC boxers to use dirty tactics since it doesn't affect them in a meta sense (outside of that particular fight).
Yes there is slightly, but with the chance of being spotted, it's still fairly balanced.

Quote
When the rules say "Gain a point of Pain", does that mean that their Pain stat increases? It's difficult to tell sometimes since all of the stats except for Pain are positive ones.
Yes it does. Pain can be positive sometimes...

Quote from: Chris Peterson
I also bet against my character in a match. "Luckily", I lost the match and won the bet. :) Is betting against yourself supposed to be allowed by the rules??
Yes, you're allowed to bet against yourself and try to throw the fight. I'm thinking about implementing some rules when a Contender has to fight under a 'must lose' stipulation though. In a recent game a player in this situation bet 11 cash on himself losing (though there were some tense moments where he nearly knocked his opponent out).

I think rafial's got the right idea with card management, should also help the third player feel more involved during the match. PLaying an NPC promoter or commentator is a good idea too.

As for the roleplaying, there is a danger of getting sucked into the reward mechanics and neglecting the characters. I've fallen into this trap myself sometimes. All I can say is that the game plays much better and is more rewarding the greater you invest in your characters and in each other's stories.  You can see this to great effect in Malc et als game.

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21865.0

Cheers
Joe
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