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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 83 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Dust Devils: First Run  (Read 2711 times)
UnSub
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Posts: 15


« on: January 22, 2003, 12:38:49 AM »

Having managed to slot my game in between the five currently running in our group about a week ago, I finally managed to run a game of Dust Devils. Unfortunately I had about an hour of prep time to set-up due to late cancellations (of whose game it was going to be), so things were a bit rough at times. Oh well!

I ran "The Hanged Man". We had four players in the group, so all the suggested characters got used. At the start there was a bit of griping about doing a "Wild West" game, but at the end one of the players said he wanted to do it again, so I took that as a good sign.

In short: Gentleman Jim's player got most of the attention by virtue of cottoning on the quickest to the game's style (or at least how I was running it). He blew into town, made himself visible, constantly lied about who he was (invoking his devil to his detriment) and drew other npcs to him. Players made deals left right and centre. As Dealer, I had npcs go in and offer alternate deals, which the players also took. Which side would they be on? There was a big shoot-out at the end, the pcs decided that THEY would run the town and some of the dialogue was priceless.

Overall things went pretty smoothly, but after one conflict the players got a bit antsy about hurting their characters. None of them wanted to die / meet their devil. That slowed things down a bit.

One player did get left out a bit and when he won narration, he squandered it (ie he didn't narrate, he just tried to force a player to comply with his wishes.... it didn't really work). I'll try to stop that happening next time.

One question - damage. We had real trouble reconciling how much damage a player should take. We tried by the number of cards in the "win" (too much) and by the difference in ranks between winning and losing hands (too little). Any suggestions?

Overall, a really good and different session. My final point - the accents. Gentleman Jim's player launched into a Southern-lite accent early on that infected the entire group. It was very funny to hear a group of players all talking in bad accents! Comedy highlight of the night was when a player went from a Southern to an Irish to an Indian accent, all unintentionally. Any game that does that to players must be good! :-)
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2003, 07:07:19 AM »

Awesome, UnSub. Glad to hear you had a fun time playing the game!

Quote from: UnSub

One question - damage. We had real trouble reconciling how much damage a player should take. We tried by the number of cards in the "win" (too much) and by the difference in ranks between winning and losing hands (too little). Any suggestions?


I'm not quite certain whether you're asking if you did it right, or if there are "alternate" difficulty methods (there are).

According to the DD rulebook, "losers" receive a number of difficulty according to the number of cards played in the winner's COMBO. So, if the winner has just a Pair of Aces, then the loser(s) take 2 difficulty. But, if the winner has Four of a Kind, then the losers take 4 difficulty. Straights, Flushes and Full Houses are nasty, because that's 5 difficulty (the maximum possible). Flushes are particularly nasty because they allot difficulty to only one attribute -- whichever matches up with the suit of the Flush.

Now, one thing several people have asked about is whether or not Difficulty must be delivered in each and every conflict. The rulebook says yes. However, we've discussed alternate means here on the Forge. My favorite alternate rules says that Difficulty only accrues when any conflict participant's Devils is activated. Other means have been suggested, I believe. Check out various Dust Devils threads on the Chimera Creative forum.

Also, in way of explanation -- Dust Devils rules make difficulty in all conflicts because that helps the games (and its character) 'short-lived.' This is intentional, so as to emulate the punchy, powerful stories like those seen on film. The characters are supposed to reach the Road to Hell; sounds like your players didn't like that idea. That's ok, in one respect. They're probably not used to it, and doing what they did may help a Dust Devils "campaign" last a while (Gunsmoke, anyone?!?).

However, if you get the chance, you might make the observation that they're supposed to ride that Devil right into the ground! The game works best, in my experience, when people really let loose and the Devil comes knockin'. It supposed to challenge their notion of what role-playing a character is all about. I've had a couple discussions with people about this. My advice to them was to say "You need to 'step away' from your character. This game isn't about YOUR character, it's about EVERYONE's character."

This is precisely why the narration mechanic works the way it does -- it forces all players to narrate events for everyone's character, and become invested in what's going on outside just one player's "selfish" sphere.
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Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
rafial
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« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2003, 03:25:17 PM »

I too was a little alarmed about delivering difficulty to characters after running DD for the first time (actually Ronin in my case).  I came to a couple realizations though:

1) dealing cards is about *conflict* resolution, not *task* resolution.  Think about what the characters are trying to do.  If the result of them failing does not represent a real setback, or real danger, then don't draw those cards.  If the Dealer thinks a certain outcome will be more interesting, he can narrate that, otherwise let the player decide what happens.

2) when a conflict is necessary, but the risks are small, the Dealer should draw only three cards.  This greatly limits the amount of difficulty a character is likely to take.

3) Encourage the players to think up lots of creative justifications to use the recovery mechanics.  They may get knocked down, but they get up again!  (Ain't never gonna keep them down).

4) Finally, a little gamist strategy can be in order.  In play, we noticed a character that has taken a heavy hit often has the option to take that difficulty on an already weak characteristic, bringing it below zero, then bid for narration, and use the option to restore that characteristic to 1.  Rolling with the punches so to speak.   If the player has been engaging with the plot, they should have been getting stakes from the dealer as a reward, and have the necessary chips for this strategy.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2003, 04:18:52 PM »

Hi there,

We used that #4 at least once and were pleased to discover it wasn't a fudge at all. Otherwise, when the damage put characters down but not out, the narrator at the time tended to describe the damage in non-lethal terms, which meant a lot of bloodying, battering, and penalties, but not as much maiming.

Best,
Ron
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UnSub
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Posts: 15


« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2003, 04:35:33 PM »

Thanks all for the replies. Those are some good ideas.

Matt, you've answered my damage question. One player took an absolute pounding early on and scared all the other players from losing conflict which made some events a bit slow (everyone walking around the subject, rather than tackling it). You are right - they (and I) are not used to playing hard and fast games where the character has a chance of dying (too many GURPS "cinematic hero" style campaigns behind us, I'm afraid).

One other question - at one point a pvp conflict arose where Black Jack Kerrigan was trying to uncover Gentleman Jim's identity (the player had been lying about it). Gentleman Jim's player folded to avoid losing.

1) Who narrates the scene?

2) How can a player who technically didn't lose a conflict still lose the spirit of the conflict?

We had some debate about this - I fudged it and said that Black Jack saw a strong resemblence between the player's character and the Gentleman Jim wanted poster, but Black Jack's character wasn't really happy with that resolution. Any suggestions?
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2003, 08:10:18 PM »

Quote from: UnSub
Thanks all for the replies. Those are some good ideas.


1) Who narrates the scene?

2) How can a player who technically didn't lose a conflict still lose the spirit of the conflict?



1) Good question. The rules do not specify. Therefore, I default to recommendations the game does put forth -- that the players and Dealer simply agree how it goes down, perhaps offering suggestions for what this or that character does, or explanations of why / how the person folded.

2) Again, my "squishy" answer is simply that you as a group look at the event in context to come up with a narrative explanation. Keep in mind, the best narration is the one that emphasizes what the game's all about -- you might say a character shies from his Devil. When in doubt, consider the character's Devil, and you'll likely have good motivation for things "outside" the rules.

Finally, one last note. Player vs. Player conflict is quite common in my experience. There simply needs to be an understanding among the players that this isn't a traditional RPG -- it's not a cast of varying experts facing off against some dastardly situation presented by the GM. Instead, this is an attempt at emulating the roles of the Western, especially those portrayed in film. It's perfectly normal, for example, to have one player playing the equivalent of William Munney and another player portraying Li'l Bill!
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Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
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