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Started by Keiko, January 17, 2010, 03:49:13 PM

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A couple of years ago I stumbled across Capes and it captured my interest despite being an all together different game from any I had ever played before. I had (and may still have) some difficulty fully wrapping my head around the rules and the overall style of the game but I found it intriguing enough to try it with my usual gaming group.

It failed... spectacularly.

From time to time I look back on the experiment and I think I've figured out where it (and I) went wrong.

The players were very used to traditional style play. They were caught up in the idea that I was the "GM" and kept waiting for me to make things happen instead of seizing the initiative and doing it themselves. I don't think they completely caught on to the somewhat competitive nature of the game either and kept thinking in terms of the "team" and not wanting to work against each other.

The idea they're characters were personal things and not mainly playing pieces that allowed them to affect the narrative was hard to shake. There were allot or proprietary feelings and hesitation about overstepping 'bounds". Basically thinking of the game like a typical rpg and not more of a collaborative but competitive writing exercise, players reacting to the GM's plots and NPCs. I probably encouraged that with too many preemptive House Rules devoted to niche protection and keeping character concepts from being "violated" by other players.

They had trouble with Goals too. I think this stemmed form looking at Capes as a traditional RPG. They didn't know the proper scope for a Goal (or Event) and were setting Goals like "Punch Hyperman" instead of "Defeat Hyperman". I don't think they grasped the idea that the sides of a Goal didn't necessarily have to be Pass/Fail but mainly determined who got to narrate how it turned out. The Against side of "Defeat Hyperman" might have him knocked unconscious by being blindsided trying to save a bystander as a noble sacrifice while the For side might just want him beaten up and humiliated as a lead in to a more social scene where he wallows in self pity and regret.

Long story short (too late, I know), I want to try again and I'd like some tips anyone might have for presenting the game in a more clear format and making a fun introduction. I think my group can handle it; they're a very fun creative group of people but this sort of play is really new to us all and it can be a big leap in style.


One thing I am still not entirely clear on with Capes is where the "In character" and "out of character" divide lies or if there is one at all. When I (the player) set a Goal or an Event are they in character choices or are there OOC choices? What about Allying and other game actions? Obviously creating Events doesn't have to be remotely in character (but can be I supposed).


Callan S.

Hi - passing by, I'll try and help.

What's the fun thing about play, do you think?

I think traditional game culture often has this 'all players look to the GM expectantly' because the traditional games weren't actually fun to just play. And god forbid anyone should just do their own thing with the system - because honestly the system was broken as f', and whatever you did to the game or to other players was in turn, broken as f' (I can't remember if I can swear on this particular forum). So everyone just stopped doing anything and waited on the GM to hand them a bone, if ever. It sometimes became almost a sense of play pride that nobody did anything (since another way of putting it is nobody screwed anything up/things went smoothly - 'huzzah').

I think you have to identify what is the fun of this particular game, enough to be able to articulate it, then show them that they can get it on their own through system use - they don't have to wait for a GM to throw them a bone.
Philosopher Gamer


Hi Keiko,
I stumbled about similar problems. I have no idea whether this will work, but the next time I try Capes I will make sure that:

- I have a grippy situation present. (With characters, exemplars, some scenes and conflicts to frame)
- I have a witty comic code.
- I have a rules summary in the language of choice of the other players.

I guess one important thing is that you care about the thing that is at stake in the situation. The situation I have prepped is located in Berlin before 1989. I have 4 superheroes (some with villainious drives) and 2 exemplars (one son of the western superhero in love with a girl from the other side of the wall) and the comic code "No normal human being can cross the wall".
The exemplar conflicts between the superheroes are about suppression and surveillance of the people on the grand scale and about helping the young couple on the small scale.

With that setup I think you can have an evening full of fun.
Hope that helps. If you play Capes please write a report about how it went.

Filip Luszczyk

Quote100+ views and nothing? :)

Oh, I've only noticed this post after answering on that other site, were threads sink at a rate of 100 per hour. Either way, I'll copy & paste the advice for the sake of completeness:

Setting Goals and Events is pretty much an OOC thing, though it's generally a good idea to also introduce those in fiction terms (through IC speech or OOC narration or both, doesn't matter). It's particularly important to set Goals and Events that people at the table really care about. Otherwise the game is going to feel flat.

Overall, I've found Capes works much better after playing a couple of other indie games. My first sessions from a few years back were fun, but they often devolved into dragging dice battles. It's important to know what you want and avoid struggling just for the sake of it, when you don't care that much about the outcome. It's also imporant not to prolong scenes too much by adding superfluous Goals and Events.

I suggest that everyone plays the flash demo before the actual game. It does a much better job at teaching the basics than the rulebook itself. Still, it's good to re-read the book after a session or two, and again from time to time, paying attention to minutiae. I recall analysing examples proved very helpful to me, especially those expanded scene transcripts. Everybody in the group should read the rulebook at some point, 'nuff said.

If you're teaching the game, avoid playing at all in the first scene or two. Just guide the rest of the group step by step.

Also, the comic code advice is also pretty neat, but I'd be careful with that until you know the game better. While we got some fun results with a custom comic code in our last campaign, experimentation in my first games wasn't all that successful.