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Author Topic: [SIS] Playtest Questions  (Read 7170 times)
xenopulse
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« on: March 11, 2007, 08:12:37 AM »

Hi Emily,

We played Sign in Stranger at the Go Play PDX II gathering yesterday.  Great fun was had by all.  I actually hadn't laughed that much in a while.  All of the sheets are in Charles' hands, so I'll leave it to someone from that household to write the AP report.  Let's just say that the highlights included flashbacks with screwing students on E and the Russian mob, aliens slurping the hair off tiny giraffes, and the accidental grabbing of (and getting stuck to and burned by) alien sex organs.  And that was NOT the planet offering us jobs as sex safari adventurists.

I did have a couple of questions that came up during play that I'd like to ask.

1) Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives
Are these English words or alien ones?  Jake thought they were supposed to be alien, but the text didn't say anything about it.  We used English words, and while we made up some interesting stuff, some of it was difficult, too.  We also cross-referenced items; we had "food" and "giraffe," and so we linked the two up. Does that work?  Also, when do we draw these?  When we do an investigation?  At any other time?

2) Functions
The text speaks of Functions, but the sheet for world elements doesn't list them.  Also, what's a Function's function? Smiley  They occur potentially as a result of fallout, but then we couldn't figure out what to do with them.

3) How to Play
Is there a guideline on how to proceed in play wrt picking scenes and the likes?  It seemed like we should give each player a turn to have their colonist be the focus character.  Or maybe it's supposed to develop naturally in play?  Either way, more guidance is needed, I think.  We sometimes had some slow "What now?" moments.

4) Panic Roll
The rules say rolling below is a failure, above is a success.  What about rolling equal to your Assimilation?  We figured, because you start with 1 and not 0, that rolling equal to is a success.  Though it was funny when the first time around we thought that panic was inevitable.

5) Language
We had some issue with whether the aliens would speak our language.  Through free roleplaying, we fell into having several of the alien characters be able to communicate with the colonists, and then they proceeded to explain things about the alien world.  It seems like that might defeat the purpose of the investigation a bit--what are your thoughts on that?

As an added note, a little conversation about the tone of the game would have probably helped. My guy might have been a tad bit too serious to fit in seamlessly with what we all established together.

That all said--a lot of the rules worked very well.  Cross-pollinating the planets with each other's aliens is great.  Flashback scenes are wonderful (and for me, actually more intriguing than exploring the alien world, but that's probably my play preference coming out).  We definitely were encouraged to come up with weird alien shit, and there was a good amount of potential for the characters to have issues with each other, though most of those didn't develop because we were still very much focused on working our way through the rules.

I think this is going to be a very awesome game when the kinks are worked out Smiley
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Emily Care
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2007, 06:27:40 AM »

Hi Christian,

Sex safari adventurists!! Oh, priceless. So what were your jobs? Thanks for posting this. Yay! I'm so glad you had fun. And good questions.

1) Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives
Are these English words or alien ones? 

These are in English. I want to encourage people to make up and use alien words too, but for random words have to be intelligible to the humans playing. You're making up what the humans think they see in the world around them. Nearest earth equivalent and all that.  And cross-referencing is totally fine.

2) Functions
The text speaks of Functions, but the sheet for world elements doesn't list them.  Also, what's a Function's function? Smiley  They occur potentially as a result of fallout, but then we couldn't figure out what to do with them.

Oh, duh--I meant to replace "Aspects" on the Elements sheet with "Functions". I thought I had, but no. Sorry for the confusion.

3) How to Play
Is there a guideline on how to proceed in play wrt picking scenes and the likes?  It seemed like we should give each player a turn to have their colonist be the focus character.  Or maybe it's supposed to develop naturally in play?  Either way, more guidance is needed, I think.  We sometimes had some slow "What now?" moments.

Initially I did want there to be turns, but I've resisted it out of a desire to free the game up from being too rigid in form. Ideally there would be time and space for free play, with every player getting a chance to initiate at least one of the special scenes per session.  But taking turns might be the easiest way.

4) Panic Roll
The rules say rolling below is a failure, above is a success.  What about rolling equal to your Assimilation?  We figured, because you start with 1 and not 0, that rolling equal to is a success.  Though it was funny when the first time around we thought that panic was inevitable.

Ha! I had that all mixed up. It should be, rolling below or equal is a success, and above is a failure. Sorry about that. Glad you had some flashbacks anyway. They are some of my favorite parts too.

5) Language
We had some issue with whether the aliens would speak our language.  Through free roleplaying, we fell into having several of the alien characters be able to communicate with the colonists, and then they proceeded to explain things about the alien world.  It seems like that might defeat the purpose of the investigation a bit--what are your thoughts on that?

I want the Xsians to play a more key role, as translators for example. The Xsian ambassador should speak various Earth tongues, and perhaps would assign an alien of the dominant species or another Xsian to be the group's translator.  And as alien characters get made up, that could be one of their traits: speak some human tongues etc.  Language is wierd issue--what are the Colonists speaking? Since they don't all have to be from Earth. I kind of like the idea of everyone having to learn Esperanto and talking with one another, as well as trying to deal with the aliens, though that may be a bit too much.

As an added note, a little conversation about the tone of the game would have probably helped. My guy might have been a tad bit too serious to fit in seamlessly with what we all established together.
Noted. Excellent point. I forget how serious the tone sounds, but the game really runs on the humor of the wierd stuff people come up with.

Other things to be fleshed out: 
  • How to play Supporting and Plot characters. What I  hit on was the idea that how much you can communicate with a Supporting character depends on your level of Assimilation.  So if your Assim. is 1, then maybe you only have one point of connection, like they speak your language, or you bond over eating smnnang larvae.  And the person playing that alien gets to do all kinds of other things that don't necessarily make sense, but you can make them make sense when your Assimilation goes up.  Seems quite possible for people to find out later that they are mated to an alien.
  • When and how does your Assimilation change? There are just a couple moments now when that is so.  As possible fallout from long-term injuries, when you gain a relationship with an alien--and I"m not sure if I included that second one. There should be more ways, possibly as part of a successful Crisis. 
  • When and how does your Assimilation change? There are just a couple moments now when that is so.  As possible fallout from long-term injuries, when you gain a relationship with an alien--and I"m not sure if I included that second one. There should be more ways, possibly as part of a successful Crisis. 
  • When and how does your Assimilation change? There are just a couple moments now when that is so.  As possible fallout from long-term injuries, when you gain a relationship with an alien--and I"m not sure if I included that second one. There should be more ways, possibly as part of a successful Crisis. 
  • Role of Colonists as information gatherers. I'd like each of the Colonists to record the information about the world as it applies to their area. I have this image of making beautiful notebooks devoted to each discipline as aids to play. But there is already a lot of record keeping, so I think it needs to get streamlined.

It sounds like the issues/story seeds for the characters began to bear fruit. (Russian mafia, eh? Good motivating factor to leave Earth.) Did the Questions and Troubles make sense? How did the Investigation scene mechanics feel?
best,
Emily
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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xenopulse
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2007, 07:57:46 AM »

The job we took was to establish an embassy. We could have also chosen:
- pacify the subjugated species (for an invading alien force)
- hunt something (presumably monsters, but possibly sentient)
- body gathering
- the sex safari adventurists thing, but we didn't know if we would be going on it or be part of the attraction
- and I'm forgetting one, sadly

The investigation mechanic is probably the most solid thing about the whole deal, though I wasn't sure whether it included having to draw a verb or adjective for an element.  In fact, it was a bit unclear when to draw in any case.

You had it mostly right with the panic roll, by the way; I meant "success" as in "panic yes" Smiley  It's just that it didn't say what happened on an equal roll.

The issue I drew for my character was heart break, which kind of fit since I decided he had a daughter he wasn't allowed to see and was an ex-con, so that was clearly related.  In his flashback scene, he was confronted by his superior in the mob, with his pregnant girlfriend present, for having messed up another mobster--and it ended up with the superior stabbing the girl in the leg to make a point.  I'm pretty sure that that relates directly to her breaking his heart Smiley

Oh, which reminds me: stress response is very cool, too. Mine was picking fights, which obviously lent itself to good dramatic reactions.

Questions and Troubles--we didn't really use that much.  We investigated elements related to how we live (our noun for that was "cells," which was fun), what people eat ("giraffe"), and what we were supposed to do.  I marked off boxes as we investigated, but I wasn't sure at what pace.  I.e., mark one box for every investigation scene? Or a character scene where we deal with the question, too? Etc.

What would really help, by the way, are a few examples sprinkled in the text.
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Alephnul
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2007, 10:49:44 AM »

The last job option was "Nanny" (for very friendly parasitic aliens).

I think the major problem we had was that we pretty much skipped the metagame discussion we were supposed to have at the start of the second session (we finished the "first session" section with plenty of time to play, so went straight to the second session). I think it would help to have some suggestions on what specific questions to answer in the metagame section (particularly for the first session). The language question, for one, seems like it should have been discussed before we started play. Also the seriousness question. Also the area of focus for the session. We ended up with different players having very different assumptions about what the answers were to those questions.

Another thing that I noticed was that several players had more of an idea about the planet they created than just the enigmatic details they wrote down on the sheet, so choosing a planet had a slight degree of choosing who had more of an investment in what the alien world was like. This seemed like it could create either a power imbalance or frustration for the player whose world was chosen. I wonder if changing planet creation so that it worked more like "Eat Poo You Cat" or Exquisite Corpse, where each player contributes a different component to each planet might make ownership of the planets more balanced (and also possibly make the planets even more incomprehensible to start off with).

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xenopulse
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2007, 11:29:21 AM »

What Charles said.

It's difficult, I think, to create concepts and not feel a sense of ownership over them.  Just writing down the nouns, verbs and adjectives works out because they're uninterpreted by the time they're pulled.  But making up alien races and planets naturally involves a process where the players become invested in their creations.  I'm not sure how to get around that easily.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2007, 12:06:27 PM »

Another thing that I noticed was that several players had more of an idea about the planet they created than just the enigmatic details they wrote down on the sheet, so choosing a planet had a slight degree of choosing who had more of an investment in what the alien world was like.
I'd noticed that happening as well in one of my playtests--people naturally start thinking about the world and make stuff up about it in their heads. Or base it on something they read, and thus "know" more about it than others going in.

I like Charles' idea. It would make it so that people knew a little bit about more of the planets & species, but wouldn't know everything about all of them.It would start people on more of an even footing. I will have to try it.

I marked off boxes as we investigated, but I wasn't sure at what pace.  I.e., mark one box for every investigation scene? Or a character scene where we deal with the question, too? Etc.
You handled it right.

best,
Em

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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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Jake Richmond
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2007, 10:15:13 PM »

Quote
Another thing that I noticed was that several players had more of an idea about the planet they created than just the enigmatic details they wrote down on the sheet, so choosing a planet had a slight degree of choosing who had more of an investment in what the alien world was like.

It seems to me like this is only a problem if the players don't understand that they're not supposed to design the entire planet all by themselves. If each player accepts that what they're putting down on their planet sheet is just a "sketch" and that they don't have anymore ownership over it then the other players then it should be fine.

Quote
I think the major problem we had was that we pretty much skipped the metagame discussion we were supposed to have at the start of the second session (we finished the "first session" section with plenty of time to play, so went straight to the second session). I think it would help to have some suggestions on what specific questions to answer in the metagame section (particularly for the first session). The language question, for one, seems like it should have been discussed before we started play. Also the seriousness question.

I agree. If we had taken the time to talk about the game a bit I think things would have gone a little smoother. We could have discussed what we wanted to see happen in the next session, and established that introducing characters that could and would answer every question we could think to ask was a bad idea.


I had sevral questions about the game, but I think Christian has covered most of them. I did have a lot of fun and I hope we can try it again fairly soon.



Jake
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Alephnul
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2007, 10:26:51 PM »

I don't actually think that having an alien NPC who was fluent in human languages and interested in explaining things to the PCs is fundamentally a problem, I think the problem was that the possibility of such a character was something that Jake and I (and I think Christian as well) just hadn't considered as part of what the game could or should be like, so we were simply blind sided by that. Having an NPC who thinks that they can explain everything to the PCs could just serve to push the characters into a whole extra domain of confusion (while not really resolving most of the basic areas of confusion that the NPC wouldn't even have thought to explain), and could be fun if the players all agreed that it was something that was okay to bring into play.

One other idea that Matt and I talked about after the game was that the assignment of lunar training roles might have been fun to add into the in-character discussion over what planet to choose. The planet choosing discussion wasn't as strong as it might have been, and I think it was because the characters were strangely lacking in investment in which world to choose. Both the players and the characters knew that the information on the world sheets weren't likely to be accurate, and were no where near enough information to go on, that none of us seemed very invested in arguing a position. I think if we had had to discuss who was going to get the medical training, and whether or not we all really wanted the hulking Russian mobster to be allowed to have the military training, that that would have given us something that we would have had stronger opinions about.
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