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Author Topic: Otherkind in action  (Read 3992 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: July 25, 2002, 06:59:07 AM »

Hi there,

I'm in the process of writing up my GenCon demo pack, including character sheets, scenario notes, NPCs, a system summary for games I don't know as well, etc. So far I've got twenty (ie for twenty games) and I'm still going.

One of them was Otherkind, and in the process of writing up the demo, I got an urge to play this wonderful little game. So last night, for our Riddle of Steel get-together, we began with a short Otherkind session. I especially liked it because one player was a fellow who hadn't played with us before, but had extensive Shadowrun and Earthdawn play behind him, and he was interested in how this "weird stuff" worked.

Well, not surprisingly, the game mechanic is excellent. It's really fun - one of the best post-Pool/InSpectres games, a group which includes Violence Future, Donjon (w/ or w/out "Krawl"), Trollbabe, Paladin, OctaNe (in its current form), Wyrd (in its current form), The Questing Beast (obviously), The World The Flesh and the Devil, and Bedlam. The four-dice result mechanic perfectly captures Vincent's stated goal - for game-play to be focused on decisions rather than capabilities. It's easy yet opens up a lot of creativity.

Here's the list of notions we produced during the course of the session, not presented here in any particular order.

* The Narration die was a bit of a gimme for the players, who didn't mind turning the narration over to the GM and thus farming off one of their low dice. Of course, this is not a bad thing - it means that a group with a lot of trust among narrators, player or GM has a somewhat higher success rate on the other three dice than a group with more of a GM-hoses + player-angles-for-advantage arrangement.

* Can a character use multiple Color dice from Artful / Powerful / Graceful? For instance, in the "save the Numinous place" roll, one character had both Gardening and Runes for Color dice, and it seemed reasonable that both could be included in the roll.

Huh! I just realized - that "save the Numinous place" roll is a hell of a lot like the Binding the Unbidden roll in a Whispering Vault scenario. Interesting ...

* The GM needs to pile on, pile on the Iron in the scenario. Once the players learn the cooperative-roll rules, and once they get good at their Color dice, and once the GM decides to liven things up by providing "nuance" Color dice, the success rate across the four dice leaps up 'way high. This is all very good, but only Iron can be relied upon to bring the necessary tension and ethical choices back into play.

* If a group of Otherkind PCs are doing things in a complex situation, and they are not using a shared roll but rather one-apiece individual rolls, how is order set? One player suggested that the rolls be simultaneous but the actions "go off" in the order of the Narration die, from highest to lowest. I thought that made a lot of sense. We agreed that the Motion die shouldn't be the one used, to keep "success" from always going first.

* We all wanted a bit more negativity to the reduction of a character's Connection to Life, as well as a bit more correspondence to the stereotypes of the fantasy-races. Hence, we decided that an orc loses the ability to digest foodstuffs, as written, but not the ability to eat meat, especially man-flesh. Hence an orc with Connection 0 can only eat human meat. Similarly, we decided that an elf who loses all Connection is not only aged, but shriveled and shrunk, basically a brownie who must beg and trade labor for bowls of milk in order to maintain any ability to survive.

* When does a player-character get to travel to Elsewhere? That option seems to be a necessary component of the Premise, but it doesn't seem to show up in the rules, just stated that it can happen some day. One player rightly asked, "Hell, we just created this doorway, why can't we go through?"

* We took a pretty free-form, open-ended approach toward what actions a PC may make, using the Pool as an example. In other words, a character can "do" pretty much anything, but gets a Color die for stuff corresponding to the descriptions on the sheet. That was the theory, anyway, but a couple of times, people said, "I can't do anything, all I can do is fight with my knife, carve things, and sing!" and they had to be reminded that the game wasn't that constraining. I think an extensive text, with examples, should clarify to readers of the game what characters "can" do.

* Much to my surprise, the players wanted Injury to be worse. One of them suggested that a 1 be worse than a 2, to the extent of destroying a given Color die description forever (but permitting it to be replaced by something else), and they all agreed that a severe injury description should result in a formal right for the GM to hose the PC in future narrations.

* Here is the most important feedback - the thing we all agreed upon immediately and think should be a major part of (shared) character creation. Player-characters in this game need something to live for, personally speaking. They need to care about something on this side of Elsewhere, which is why they have stayed to be the "rearguard" and risk their Connection to Life to save. Yes, the game mandates that they care about the Numinous places/things in the abstract, but we all think that a much more personal, individualized commitment would be the clincher to making this game a real winner.

As for the scenario itself, I decided to go with a Numinous grove that had been the subject of a botched "save it" ritual - such that it attracted humans. The humans who'd moved there were kind of a pagan bunch, which means their priestess was a high-Moonlight sort, but they were [/i]catching and sacrificing[/i] the Numinous creatures who were trying to use the Numinous site as a gateway to Elsewhere. This provided the Otherkind characters with a pretty problem, especially because some high-Iron types were the humans' heavy backup.

Overall, I think that we played fairly superficially. I wish we'd all spent a bit more time on narration, putting in feelings and decisions as well as just "results," and I probably should have built up the NPCs a bit more in terms of the setting itself. In fact, I think Otherkind badly needs a sketchy setting, so that a distinct continuity can arise from episode to episode. Without that, you get kind of a "Hm, fun one-shot" feel from play, whereas with it, I think the characters' personal sagas would be surprisingly deep.

Vincent, let me know your thoughts on some of this stuff, and everyone, chime in with any comments.

Best,
Ron
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2002, 08:39:14 AM »

Just off the top of my head, I think Otherkind is indeed one of those games that would benefit from a sketchy setting.  It doesn't have a toolkit approach like Sorcerer, and the races together with the Moonlight/Iron elements already suggest the outline of a particular setting.  Filling in some setting detail would go a long way toward giving players ideas about what their characters could care about on the "iron" side of the gates.

Hoping to play Otherkind myself in a couple of weeks.

Best,

Blake
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2002, 09:23:04 AM »

Hey there,

You'll like this game, Blake.

Vincent, I just remembered something else I was going to ask about. It's a pretty major structural issue.

Given that one can regain Connection to Life via saving Numinous places or things, conceivably, a character might fill in the fifth "Kill" box and still have a positive Connection. We decided that it would make  most sense to have all kills after the fifth be "heavy," such that each is an automatic drop in Connection. After all, if a character is in this state, he or she is living on "borrowed Radiance," so to speak.

Now, it could be that I'm misinterpreting the rules in some way, or that there's some text that explains what to do that I missed. Vincent, let me know.

A much more minor issue concerns Radiance, considering that characters often end up spending a fair amount of it. Our take on this is that Radiance 0 simply means, no more is available for spending, but no other direct consequences. That seems like enough.

Best,
Ron
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Bob McNamee
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« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2002, 02:07:10 PM »

Hi Ron,

We just played Otherkind this week over at the IndieRPG IRC gaming this week... Paganini has some logs from it.

I don't believe that you can regain Connection to Life... you do gain Radiance from saving Numinous things....unless I've missed a sentence....

It was going to be a recommendation of mine to allow a trade of 2 Radiance to get back one Life box, but never go past a Black box to get a higher Connection to Life. That way a character could "tread water" trading the Magic of Elsewhere to keelp from slipping down the slippery slope.

We were often not working together, with no "free color dice" added by GM...it became VERY bloody (at least for me...dice gods needed their sacrifice), but fun.

I would love to see much more Radiance gained or started with, and/or perhaps the ability to use Radiance points to boost rolls at any time (using magic etc)

Bob McNamee
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Bob McNamee
Indie-netgaming- Out of the ordinary on-line gaming!
Dav
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« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2002, 09:10:15 PM »

Vincent;

I played with Ron on the Otherkind game.  Much was had by all.

However, while I echo Ron's points (we discussed them at length post-game), there was one other point I felt needed a raising.

I very quickly within the scenario nearly butchered some poor bastard (got a 2 on the Life area), oops.  However, I ended up saving him, talking him into being my friend, and all-round he became "my tall man-servant" (he might disagree).

However, what I wanted to say was that I felt the use of a Moonlight die (swapping it into your mic of results) should have some lasting impact upon the character and NPC (a negative result would yield an enemy for life, a positive- a friend for life, a neutral- a guy who doesn't care one way or the other for life [yeah, I know, that one needs work])  You get the idea.

Also, I had this wicked idea (this is that DYING EARTH "it's fun to be hosed" feeling boiling forth), when you roll a 1, in addition to losing your color dice (or 2, if the idea comes to fruition, you know, whatever), you have to assign your dice BEFORE you roll for your next action (thus, possibly, compounding the trouble you have found yourself in).  The other idea would be to give the GM dice akin to "Trouble" in Orkworld (but perhaps not so wide-ranging and diverse).

Anyway, just some few cents.

Dav
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2002, 04:42:16 AM »

Hot diggity!

Ron:
Quote
Can a character use multiple Color dice from Artful / Powerful / Graceful?

It's cool with me, for now at least.  I never took a stand in the text, mostly because I knew I'd have to play it both ways to decide.  (Though having a different color die for each implies that you can.)  
Quote
Huh! I just realized - that "save the Numinous place" roll is a hell of a lot like the Binding the Unbidden roll in a Whispering Vault scenario. Interesting ...

I haven't read Whispering Vault.  Care to say more about it?  I'm very curious.
Quote
The GM needs to pile on, pile on the Iron in the scenario.

Yeah.

But what do you think of those cooperative-roll rules?  I haven't tried them yet, and I wonder if they don't reward cooperation to the point that why would you ever not.
Quote
One player suggested that the rolls be simultaneous but the actions "go off" in the order of the Narration die, from highest to lowest.

Very nice.  Sounds just right.
Quote
One player rightly asked, "Hell, we just created this doorway, why can't we go through?"

Well yeah.  But, um, why?  There's nothing to do Elsewhere but be happy.  If the character's done, retiring to Elsewhere with the rest of her kind, to enjoy her well-earned heroic leisure, that's cool.  Otherkind don't die; retreating Elsewhere is their end.  If the character's not done, if she wants to like go in one doorway and come out another to get behind her enemies or something, that's fine with me if it suits the situation.  Make it part of a roll and let whoever narrates decide.  

If the character's not done but needs a break, she wants to hang out for a while with her adoring lovers and admiring fans, I dunno.

Am I missing the point?
Quote
...we all think that a much more personal, individualized commitment would be the clincher to making this game a real winner.

I know.  I just don't know how yet.  Would it be as easy as saying so, or do I need mechanics?  I gotta run the game and see what I do.

Either way I think I'll go ahead and make group character creation official.

Back in Design when I first posted about the game, practically everybody mentioned human lovers.  That made me happy.  I think there's a lot of goodness there if I can get to it.

Blake:
Quote
...the races together with the Moonlight/Iron elements already suggest the outline of a particular setting. Filling in some setting detail would go a long way toward giving players ideas about what their characters could care about on the "iron" side of the gates.

I'm thinking about something fantasy-American, actually.  I'm not interested in connecting the game to any sort of real-world history or human society, of course, and the Iron/Moonlight thing calls for pretty much fantasy-European people.  But I have a sense of the Numinosity of North America's landscape that I can't of Europe's.  The game becomes concrete for me when I think of setting it, say, on the Hudson in upstate New York, or in Bryce Canyon, Utah.  Or Nova Scotia, or the Bayou.

Bob:
Quote
I don't believe that you can regain Connection to Life...

Right.  You can't regain Connection to Life, but you can spend Radiance to make up for your lost Connection to Life, vs. Iron.  My Connection to Life is 2, I go up against Iron 4, it costs me 2 Radiance if I want to use my Connection to Life die.
Quote
I would love to see much more Radiance gained or started with...

I'm open to that.  Two Radiance per Numinosity saved, three per, whatever.  That's another thing I have to play the game before I settle on.  Spending Radiance on magic is also cool with me.  Maybe when you make up your character, in addition to the Artful Graceful Powerful, you can give yourself a magical power, which you spend a point of Radiance to use.  Hm.

Is the IndieRPG IRC the Yahoo group?  I'd love to see the logs.

Dav:
Quote
I felt the use of a Moonlight die (swapping it into your mic of results) should have some lasting impact upon the character and NPC...

I agree.
Quote
when you roll a 1, in addition to losing your color dice, you have to assign your dice BEFORE you roll for your next action...

Yikes.  That's a really good idea.  Ouchie.

Everybody, y'all are the best.  You made my week.

-Vincent
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2002, 06:07:56 AM »

Hi Vincent,

Glad to be of help! The game was fun.

Here's my call, right now. Several of your statements in your post ring my alarm bell - clearly, you have not yet played the game as written. If you want to develop it into a "real game," so to speak, you must do this. Don't change a bunch of elements due to our comments. Don't change anything from what's written. Play that version yourself, preferably several times.

I'm hammering this point so hard because I have recently reviewed the progress of every, single, last game design ever proposed on the Forge. Clinton was right: the ones which fly are the ones which the creator plays. Yes, other people might play them, but if their comments get incorporated before the creator plays the game, the project fizzles. I'd hate to see that happen to Otherkind.

And it looks like it's happening already. Frankly, I loathe the idea of anything but a light-European setting - it doesn't work for any of the fundamental aesthetics of character creation and theme. See? A big disconnect, already, right there in terms of you as Writer and one person as Player. Unless you are a Player too, this divergence is permanent.

I'll hold off on further discussion of the points I raised, and that you responded to, until that gets going.

Best,
Ron
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lumpley
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« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2002, 06:58:31 AM »

Absolutely.

The only thing I'm going to add sight-unseen is group character creation, which my group always does anyway.  Everything else -- Radiance per Numinosity, extra hosiness in combat, wandering in and out of Elsewhere, specifics of the setting, whatever -- we'll see.

If you want to hold off discussion, that's fine, of course.  The discussion couldn't really go anywhere anyway; another exchange or two and I'd say "hm." and that'd be that.  But I am interested.

-Vincent
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Bob McNamee
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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2002, 05:24:13 PM »

Hi Vincent!

Yeah that's the Yahoo group that meets on Magicstar IRC monday night around 8-9 pm EST.

Bob McNamee
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Bob McNamee
Indie-netgaming- Out of the ordinary on-line gaming!
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