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Author Topic: [InSpectres] First franchise (long)  (Read 10600 times)
Halzebier
Member

Posts: 216


« on: June 19, 2004, 02:10:00 PM »

Hi there!

Our group played its first game of InSpectres yesterday.

This also happened to be our first narrativist endeavour, though none of the guys is familiar with any RPG theory. I've run a couple of unusual one-shots over the years (e.g. a diceless game of CoC, a freeform fairy tale game etc.), but no narrativist designs (though I have a shelf full of them).

*-*-*

1. The Characters

I explain the setting and what we ought to be aiming for and off we go.

There's a short dispute about whether to play in New York or our real-life hometown (Aachen, Germany). I keep out of it and the guys go for Aachen.

From then on, character creation is a homerun. The players all 'get it', some right away, some after a bit of pondering and taking cues from their fellows.

a) David creates P.P., a shy and pimply tech geek living with his mom. He has a knack for noticing small details.

I'm amused to see the player come up with quirks and disadvantages without any prompting or incentive. (He and I are the most effective min-maxers in our regular D&D game.)

b) Immo creates Oscar, a self-styled entrepreneur and not-quite con-man, owning a hot-dog stand, used electronics store and internet cafe - in that order. His special talent is an extensive knowledge of comic books.

He's an obvious choice for franchise founder, so I pitch it to him and he accepts. Scratch one vaguely realised NPC on my part.

c) Kai creates Eric, a perpetual student, having dabbled in all humanities under the sun (this is a bit of an inside joke, as the German education system allows people to do that sort of thing). His talent is an extensive knowledge of trivia.

Kai's not a part of our D&D group but has played in every experiment or indie game I have ever run. He has zero gamist leanings and I was not at all surprised to see him take to narrativism like a fish to water.

d) Channing creates Harry, a globe-trotter who has studied martial arts at the Shaolin Monastery. He's also got a knowledge talent: non-Western cultures.

Truth be told, I was a bit worried here, as the player seemed to go for a combat monster (his first idea for a talent was Fitness which he abandoned after I told him that this was covered by the Athletics ability which he had already maxed-out). But whatever the motivation behind this design, there were no problems in play.

*-*-*

2. The Franchise

The guys have a blast creating the franchise. In my view, this is one of the high points of the evening.

The guys end up with a small 5-point start-up in a run-down part of town (in the defunct internet cafe's spot, to be exact) and flesh it out with great gusto until pizza arrives in real life.

*-*-*

3. The Interview

Uh-oh. What to do? I decide to go for a meeting with a potential investor. I'm uneasy about this, as I feel that the meeting should have a point, i.e. its success should not be a given. Gamist thinking? I dunno.

Anyway, I put some pressure on the franchise right away: Financial troubles loom and the bailiffs are breathing down Oscar's neck.

So the meeting with Mr. Brown, the investor, is important.

I play him as a somewhat effeminate enthusiast of the obscure and allow him to be a sucker for Harry's tales of meeting shamans in India etc. Good stuff from Harry's player.

Just when the investor's interview of the franchise's employees is coming along nicely, I have two bailiffs turn up and start eyeing the office. With a bit of prodding from Oscar, P.P. keeps the investor's attention while he and Eric try to fend off the bailiffs.

Our first roll of the dice. Eric rolls Knowledge to contest some legal minutiae, gets a 5 and locks down one of the bailiffs. Oscar uses his Social attribute (or whatever that's called in the English version of InSpectres) and gets a 6. Problem solved, if in a pedestrian way the bailiffs leave.

As this is the interview phase, I'm unsure of whether I should pass out any franchise dice. I decide against it (in retrospect, I think I should have handed out the reward, but it hardly mattered).

*-*-*

4. The Mission

4.1. The Task

I use the fax from the rulebook (poltergeist in medieval clothes haunts local factory) to avoid another conversation and get us some action right away.

4.2. Research

P.P. scours the internet, uses his knowledge, gets a 5, and decides that he'll order a ParaTech Ectoplasm Detector and that it will arrive in two days.

Though I'm not sure about this at all, I announce with confidence that the franchise has just received its first die and that the Ectoplasm Detector will have to be part of the adventure's solution, come hell or high water.

Dunno if this is right.

4.3. On-site Investigation

The characters drive over to the factory and Kai invokes the Spotlight option: "We had just decided to check out the site without an Ectoplasm Detector and were on our way, when I remembered reading about the location." Turns out that it was a place for executions during the French Revolution.

Very cool and it sets a nice example.

Next, they check out the deserted facility. I'm unsure of how to proceed and there's a bit of aimless wandering around the site. Before things bog down, I have a disembodied hand turn up and attack Harry. He takes it down with his martial arts, using his 6 to pin it on a spike (the kind you use for notes on a desk) and to spot an ancient ring on one finger.

We're finally getting somewhere: Harry's player takes a while to come up with the ring-scheme and seems very unsure about it, but I lavish praise on it this is exactly the kind of player authoring I'd been waiting for (and which I should probably have nudged a bit earlier).

Eric takes a look, rolls a 6 for Knowledge and decides there are Egyptian hieroglyphs on it. He uses the second success (for that's how we've begun to interpret the numbers a 5 is one success, a 6 is two successes) to spin an elaborate tale about a Pharaoh's Curse.

As he finishes his story, I decide to throw some stress dice at the team: Eric's player has used the Pharaoh's name like twenty times in his telling, so I decide that he has invoked him. A mummy materializes, knocks back Harry and Eric (who've had enough spotlight for now, I feel) and proceeds to wreak havoc. Harry and Eric take two stress dice and roll abysmally both. We're unsure of which abilities to apply them to, so we roll a d4.

Oscar rolls Tech and uses the pocket lighter that came with the promotional package from InSpectres which he has just invented. Now the mummy is burning. Temporary relief for the PCs, but not an improvement of the overall situation. The fire begins to spread.

P.P. rolls tech and uses a fork lift truck to get the mummy immobilized by shoving it against a conveyor belt where it gets all tangled up. The player is unsure of whether he can narrate such an outcome but I tell him he's golden.

*-*-*

Well, to cut a long story short (the day is getting late and the post is getting long), the team ends up traveling to Egypt to lay the spirit to rest.

They modifiy the Ectoplasm Detector to suck the ghost into the real world, get a crucial call from a seer they'd gotten on their side earlier ("she'll call the team in a future crisis to provide advice just in time"), fall out of favour with the Museum of Kairo and save the day. Just as it should be. =)

*-*-*

On to a bit of post-game analysis:

(a) Stress didn't work very well. It seems to spiral upward or downward with no middle ground. Once you have a coolness die or two, you're golden. If not, you're going down, taking one hit to your abilities after another. This crippled the characters early on, so I let them have a partial pay-out of franchise dice before going to Egypt.

(b) Spotlights were rare Kai took one in the beginning and set an example, but it wasn't before the end that another player used the option. Channing basically used his to wrap things up, effectively narrating a happy ending. Even though it wasn't late yet, I let it slide because I liked his spotlight and had the impression that we were about to run out of steam.

(c) As a GM, I had tremendous fun just sitting back and watching the players. I had a short list of stimuli loosely prepared (e.g. "You find an ornate little chest." - "What's in it?" "You tell me."), but I didn't need any of them. I was never short of ideas, but was amused to find how easy it was to sit back and enjoy the show I'd anticipated having to fight down the urge to take control.

(d) Except for Kai (who took the first spotlight and spun the ring's tale), the players sweated quite a bit. Often, they would roll, but think no step further than how to justify their best ability's use. And then they'd have to decide what should happen next.

(e) Despite this, they enjoyed the authorial power and everyone had at least one strong and inspired scene.

*-*-*

I'd been wanting to do this for a long time and even more so after some people here suggested a change of pace when I vented about our D&D game (which has a slightly different composition, though). It was a fun game, and I'd love to play this way more often, but I predict that even though my players enjoyed it, their first reaction will be to get to safe ground again.

Still, I'm happy if I can get them to try out something new from time to time. Maybe we'll try MLWM next (I can't see myself going for Universalis or Sorcerer just yet).

*-*-*

And what about InSpectres?

The writing (and the translation) is excellent and really sets the mood.

The player empowerment scheme works phenomenally well for a mystery in fact, I have a hard time imagining a superior mystery RPG experience (for the usual reasons such as hard-to-find clues you're not allowed to miss and so on).

The setting's light tone (Ghostbusters, Men in Black) is a perfect fit, as an improvised mystery is bound to get both silly and fantastic.

The rules provide an effective mechanism for empowering the players, but I'm kinda dubious about the whole stress thing. I certainly got no feeling for when, how often, how strongly to stress out the PCs. Beyond providing player empowerment (which can be done in any number of ways, though this is certainly a good one), the mechanics didn't seem to do anything for us.

Regards,

Hal
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Halzebier
Member

Posts: 216


« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2004, 02:31:07 PM »

Quote from: Halzebier
Beyond providing player empowerment (which can be done in any number of ways, though this is certainly a good one), the mechanics didn't seem to do anything for us.


This sounds rather more negative than I intended it to.

I'm certain I did not run the game correctly or as well as I should have, so the blame's on me. However, I still don't have a handle on several aspects of the game, so a bit more help from the game would be nice.

('Tis difficult, of course. The game provides good examples, but there are still some grey areas - or so I feel. Then again, the game's brevity is one of its strengths, as it is bound to get people to try it out.)

This may be a moot point, though, as (a) the evening was a success and (b) I'd like to play or run it again, so experience may solve my issues.

So that's a high recommendation of InSpectres, in case anyone was wondering. =)

Regards,

Hal
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Michael S. Miller
Member

Posts: 846


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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2004, 03:00:34 AM »

Hi, Hal.

I always love reading a good InSpectres write-up. Here's my thoughts on your post-game analysis:

Quote from: Halzebier
(a) Stress didn't work very well. It seems to spiral upward or downward with no middle ground. Once you have a coolness die or two, you're golden. If not, you're going down, taking one hit to your abilities after another. This crippled the characters early on, so I let them have a partial pay-out of franchise dice before going to Egypt.


I agree that Stress doesn't seem to fit particularly well as a penalty to the resolution system. What I eventually figured out is that its true purpose is as conflict for the Franchise system. The players go on missions to earn Franchise dice to help them build their franchise to bigger and better heights, but everyone's individual Stress sucks those dice away. That's the conflict to play up in InSpectres. Thus you get discussions like:

Character 1 (who had a Cool Die): "I'm gonna put these last 2 dice in the Bank."

Character 2: "But I'm still down 2 dice in Athletics from that encouter with the mummy! You expect me to work with these crutches?"

Character 1: "We need to grow the business, and we're all in this together. Consider it 'taking one for the team.' "

Character 2 resolves to do a really nasty Confessional (I think you called them Spotlights in the German version) about Character 1 when possible.

Nowadays, I try to run several very short missions in a single session just to emphasize the franchise rules.

Quote
(b) Spotlights were rare Kai took one in the beginning and set an example, but it wasn't before the end that another player used the option. Channing basically used his to wrap things up, effectively narrating a happy ending. Even though it wasn't late yet, I let it slide because I liked his spotlight and had the impression that we were about to run out of steam.


I, too, am at a loss at how to encourage Spotlights/Confessionals. It seems that either the group seizes them, and I have to ask them to slow down just so I can finish a sentence, or the chair lingers empty all through the game. Has anyone ever considered GM-Confessionals, where an NPC important to the mission grabbed the chair and shelled out some confidential talk tot he camera?

Quote
(c) As a GM, I had tremendous fun just sitting back and watching the players.


I second that! Running InSpectres is as fun and easy as it gets. Easier than playing it, I think.

Quote
(d) Except for Kai (who took the first spotlight and spun the ring's tale), the players sweated quite a bit. Often, they would roll, but think no step further than how to justify their best ability's use. And then they'd have to decide what should happen next.


Perhaps prompt them with "if this were a movie, what do you suppose would happen next?" Just a thought.

Quote
(e) Despite this, they enjoyed the authorial power and everyone had at least one strong and inspired scene.


I'm glad. And thanks for writing this up. I really think InSpectres is Jared's strongest design to date.
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Halzebier
Member

Posts: 216


« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2004, 04:26:47 AM »

Quote from: Michael S. Miller
I agree that Stress doesn't seem to fit particularly well as a penalty to the resolution system. What I eventually figured out is that its true purpose is as conflict for the Franchise system. The players go on missions to earn Franchise dice to help them build their franchise to bigger and better heights, but everyone's individual Stress sucks those dice away. That's the conflict to play up in InSpectres.


Yeah. I gathered as much from this forum, but I couldn't quite see how to do this in a one-shot. Part of the fun of InSpectres is integrating the diverse input, which usually leads to outrageous cases.

If, however, the cases are too short and resolved by gaining just a couple of dice, then they will tend to be too simplistic - or so I fear.

Quote
Nowadays, I try to run several very short missions in a single session just to emphasize the franchise rules.


Are these interconnected (e.g. by a follow-up case, a recurring villain - inasmuch as the latter is possible)?

Quote
I, too, am at a loss at how to encourage Spotlights/Confessionals. It seems that either the group seizes them, and I have to ask them to slow down just so I can finish a sentence, or the chair lingers empty all through the game. Has anyone ever considered GM-Confessionals, where an NPC important to the mission grabbed the chair and shelled out some confidential talk tot he camera?


I like the term "Confessional" much better, but didn't remember it. The German version's "Spotlight" is a bit misleading if one is familiar with RPG theory.

In any case, I'm hesitant to take the reins -- maybe when the guys are more experienced and have the confidence and urge to vie for control.

Thanks for your reply,

Hal
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beingfrank
Member

Posts: 121


WWW
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2004, 06:27:53 AM »

Quote from: Michael S. Miller
I, too, am at a loss at how to encourage Spotlights/Confessionals. It seems that either the group seizes them, and I have to ask them to slow down just so I can finish a sentence, or the chair lingers empty all through the game. Has anyone ever considered GM-Confessionals, where an NPC important to the mission grabbed the chair and shelled out some confidential talk tot he camera?


I haven't tried that.  I was very tempted though, because Confessionals looked like so much fun.  But then my overall impression of running Inspectres was that I really need to find someone to GM it for me, so I get a chance to play too.

What I did find myself doing when the group wasn't using Confessionals much, without even thinking about it as a deliberate strategy, was coming down hard on OOC or semi-OOC talk.  If the players starting making comments on the action that were in character, but not actually in the scene, I got right in their face, demanded to know if that was something their character said out loud at that instant, and if it wasn't, then I told them to go sit in the Confessional chair or shut the hell up.  Then, if they wanted to make snarky comments about what was happening, they bloody well had to use Confessionals, and once they started they realised how much fun it could be, and what other things they could use them for.

But it was probably a bit aggressive for some people's tastes, and I don't think I'd have done it if I hadn't know the players really well and also been completely willing to let the whole enterprise to crash and burn if the players didn't contribute to the fun.
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Raskir
Guest
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2007, 04:35:57 PM »

Hi everyone,

I would like to test out InSpectres myself, but there is no possiblity of getting the german rules anymore.
My English is not that good, so if anybody got the german ruleset, it would be great if he can contact me at my email adress!
@Halzebier: When you read this, please send me a mail, couse we are living in the same town!

Thx in advance,
Raskir
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