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Halloween Game Success

Started by LemmingLord, October 19, 2008, 06:38:11 PM

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I used Risus for the very first time to run a Halloween Horror game.  It seems that I and my players had a very good time so I wanted to express my success with using point earning mechanic for extra dice.

The big bad and several of the littler bads in the game were more than a match for one or even several characters working together based on he cliches of the characters I made available.  In addition to the standard cliches and description that made up each Risus character, each character had ways the player of that character could gain "slasher points," which could that be used up for extra dice whenever die rolling was called for.

Bud Bundy was one character who earned slasher points by insulting someone's intelligence or promiscuity. 

Chloe Sullvian was another character who earned slasher points by discovering secrets.

The Fresh Prince was another character who earned slasher points by exploiting the race card. 

I really enjoyed the dynamic as it urged people to play "in character" for tangible immediate benefits.  One thing I noticed right away was that some characters were gold mines for slasher points...  The fresh prince player, for example, was able to find away to insert exploiting the race card into almost every exchange, dramatically increasing that player's slasher point total.  What this really worked well for me as the GM was giving me a target for the baddies..  Since this was a slasher film genre, many characters were available and characters were expected to often be victims... So the character who was earning the most slasher points was appropriately the one zeroes in on by the big bad. 

I also noticed that this could bring about great interparty dynamics.. 

George McFly earned slasher points by buckling under the pressure of a bully.
Wayne Arnold earned slasher points by successfully bullying someone.

If I had players playing both characters, they could earn quite a bit of point by playing up that dynamic.. 

One of my big interests in gaming is finding ways to encourage players to playout their character's failing, doing stupid things, and generally suffering setbacks so that their later successes are that much sweeter.  Coming up with these point generators for characters for any game system might work to promote the kind of dips and swells you see in some of my favorite fiction. 

I leave the topic open for discussion of the slasher point mechanic (and the point generator specifics built into characters) and to hearing anyone else's recent Halloween games with successful play.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

I've always liked Risus, and it's great to see some discussion of it here.

What you did with the Slasher points is a bit like the relationship between Survival Points (per character) and Tension (for the group) in the game Dead of Night. As in that game, I think a mechanic like this works especially well when it avoids distinguishing between success and failure when used. In other words, when the bully guy bullies someone, it doesn't matter if he succeeds or fails, it still gets him the points. Am I reading you correctly about that?

The tricky thing, similar to what we're talking about in a couple of current threads concerning traits, is when someone 'uses' such a mechanic and it's deemed to be invalid for purposes of getting the points (or whatever). In a game like you're describing, I'm not sure this would come up much, because in my experience "more is more," as opposed to "less is more," in a Halloween Horror game. Did that issue arise for you guys at all?

Also, was each character "tagged" at the start of play for a unique way to earn slasher points? You described how each one did it, but I can't tell from your phrasing, "Bud Bundy was one character who earned slasher points by insulting someone's intelligence or promiscuity," whether it was part of the starting character definition or not. At the end of your post, you mention "point generator specifics built into the characters," and I think that's referring to the same thing, so I'm tentatively thinking yes.

Best, Ron


Yes, they were all pregen Risus characters with pregenerated ways of earning their slasher points. 

Some characters had to "fail" or "succeed," but most of the characters, by chance, that ended up played were ones without that limitation. 

Bud could get a point each time he insulted someone's promiscuity, for example.  It didn't have to be particularly good. 

George McFly had to back down from a bully... Which is either a failure or success depending on how you looked at it.

Skippy Handelman (from Family Ties) got points whenever he made friendly overtures AND was rejected..

Clearly if I was going to use a character-point based system to design these kinds of characters, it should be worth more to have a gold mine like "gets an SP everytime he calls someone by a nickname" than a lousy "gets an SP everytime he sees a girl in her undies."  The first isn't dependant on the cooperation of friends; the second IS.. 

I wonder if I was setting guidelines if I wouldn't give a point to both the actor and the supporter in these more difficult situations...  i.e. George McFly might get a point for seeing a girl in her undies, AND the girl in her undies would get a point as well..."

Tell me more about the points you were talking about from the other system....

Ron Edwards

QuoteI wonder if I was setting guidelines if I wouldn't give a point to both the actor and the supporter in these more difficult situations...  i.e. George McFly might get a point for seeing a girl in her undies, AND the girl in her undies would get a point as well...

That seems only fair.

You asked about Dead of Night. Well, there are two kinds of points: (1) Tension level, which is a single value for the game in general, and (2) Survival Points, which are character specific. Part of the game is to customize the rules for using Tension, which is a great thing and a whole 'nother discussion. What matters to your topic are the rules for Survival Points. Characters lose and gain them constantly.

You lose Survival Points mainly by getting hit or bitten or anything else horrible, but also by spending them yourself for things like "oh gee, there happens to be a gassed-up chainsaw in this garage," or even more profound things like acquiring specialties during the course of play. If you want to look at it in relation to more traditional games, Survival Points are basically hit points and experience points at the same time, as well, as "metagame rights" points.

The nifty thing is that you gain Survival Points in a variety of ways, but the most commonly-seen one is to play your character according to horror story cliches. Go down to the basement by yourself. Sneak off for a quickie. Say "We're safe now." The degree to which this is funny or scary depends on a lot on the particular customizing of the Tension rules, so I won't go into that here. My point here is that by acting in particular ways, characters gain instant bennies in terms of the sole reward mechanic of the game.

There aren't any character-specific ways of gaining Survival Points in Dead of Night, though. Everyone is working from the same list. However, certain cliches certainly make more sense for a given character, so in practice, a lot of the same dynamics that you describe are seen in playing this game.

As kind of a side note, in your game, would you say that the overall experience celebrated a straighforward horror-film or more of a celebration-through-parody? Films themselves display a spectrum from one to the other, so I'm interested in where your game fell on that spectrum.

I thought of another game which does something similar in a very interesting way, called Pace. In Pace, you basically fail in conflicts in order to build up points, which are then used in subsequent conflicts to win them. Typically, as an emergent phenomenon, the way a given player chooses to have his character fail often illuminates (or even creates) the character's personality and abilities.

Best, Ron