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Author Topic: The Pool, on the Fly  (Read 3222 times)
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 1121

student, second edition

« on: May 02, 2003, 08:21:45 AM »

We were short a member last night at the last minute, and Clinton, madman that he is, offered to run the Pool ( I'm not so sure he meant to say it out loud, but we pressed him into service).

It was my first game of the Pool. We took about five minutes to brainstorm a vague setting concept (post apocalypse Mexico), and James and I made characters while CRN pieced together a situation for us.

What's great about the chargen is that it already is kind of "on the fly" playing. What James and I came up with in our stories were easily matching thirds of the setting, with Clinton rounding it out with his notes.

Regarding which: I played an outrider for a local village who scouted around on a giant gecko (ridden something like a tauntaun). Taking a cue from TROS and Trollbabe, which I'd played before, I had two traits based on relationships: Father is chief constable, and in love with a wine merchant. I did get to use both traits in rolls

James was a mutant with big horns, who sold handkerchiefs that transferred the memories of people who had previously wiped their brows with them.

Overall, I think the story worked out pretty well. We all seemed to gradually move toward a sort of compromise in character and situation, as I changed my character's attitudes a bit to fit Clinton's ideas, and he shifted the NPCs a bit to go along with my character. I think that might be kind of a big deal for that kind of play. A character in this kind of game shouldn't be any more detailed than the setting at the start.

I have one minor criticism of the system, which may or may not have been discussed previously. And I think I only notice it in contrast to Trollbabe, which I think fixes it. Player influence on story is an all-or-nothing bid in this game. If I roll and fail, I get nothing.

Note that I might not have cared, had I made more than one successful roll all night. Or maybe it was two, but the dice were unkind to me. And I think it ended up frustrating more than just me, and that didn't seem right. James, on the other hand, had the mojo and rolled like a fiend. I think he only missed one roll.

I think Trollbabe "fixes" this for me because not succeeding on a roll is actually pretty fun. Cool! I get to tell the story. But if I do succeed on the roll, well, the trollbabe succeeded at her goal, and that's cool too. Either way, I'm exerting an influence.

However, there was a cool and timely payoff to the all-or-nothing, where James and I both rolled a 1 in the climactic scene, and stumbled over each other describing the happy ending and reunited family. I'm not sure that was enough of a payoff for me, but I can see the appeal.

Clinton R. Nixon

Posts: 2624

« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2003, 11:37:45 AM »

I found it interesting how easy the Pool is to prep. I've never run a game with no prep time at all before, and was thoroughly intimidated.

Stories are stories, though. As soon as I decided the following:
- The primary NPCs would be a family: one father, one mother, two brothers.
- The family would have been broken apart by the father's violent past.
- The mother would have run away from the violence and sought revenge.
- One brother would try to usurp his father's violent power by somehow symbolically killing his father and taking his place.
- The other brother made his way by leaving to use his own violent power, but had a sweet heart underneath.

After I decided that, all I did was listen to what the two players were creating for characters and riffing off that. James' character's hometown was built out of Aztec ruins? Easy - make the usurping brother a neo-Aztec priest that literally would sacrifice his own father. There's mutants? The mother is a leopard-lady that eats the hearts of men for power. Matt's character is an outrider? Then the other brother would be a bandito, attacking caravans in the desert.

Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 10459

« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2003, 11:38:01 AM »

Have you heard of the Anti-Pool, Matt...

Maybe you should mention it for the next time you play.

Bwa-hahahahahahahaha! :-)


Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Posts: 20

« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2003, 04:29:40 PM »

One thing that I appreciated about the Pool is how it seemed to support playing the eccentric PCs that I tend to come up with.  Somehow, after we decided on post-apocalyptic Mexico, I went off the magical realism deep end (with the traits as Matt mentioned above, plus: trumpet playing makes women weep).  Once we started playing, I became concerned about my selection of traits -- that perhaps I created an unplayable character -- but I found that I was able to bring them all into play in a way that contributed to the story and I was using some of the more unlikely traits multiple times.

My favorite moment was when I used the "trumpet playing makes women weep" trait.  "El Diablo" played his trumpet as he walked out into the jungle in search of La Tigra, the fearsome jaguar woman.  He knew that he found her when he heard sad mewing from behind a tree.

Clinton mentioned afterwards that he sometimes finds it hard to give my PCs the chance to do what they were created to do.  I think Matt is also dealing with that in his Peregrine campaign.  I think there's probably a slight discordance between the play style in our Thursday night games and whatever kind of gaming I'm looking for, but I'm still having fun and learning a lot from our weekly experience.  Even if my PCs often find themselves in situations where I don't have a clue how to react, they frequently end up providing comic relief and I occasionally have the chance to pull something astonishing from out of left field, which is worthwhile in itself.

My chief concern with the Pool is that it rewards relinquishing narration to the GM.  I probably could use some positive reinforcement in the opposite direction, for participating more in the story creation.  With all of my good rolls, I found myself being lazy and letting my pool grow rather than determining the outcome of my character's actions.  Clinton at one point expressed his frustration that he was just sitting there telling the story, after which I think I tried a little harder to be a Monologuist of Victory, perhaps steamrollering a little over Matt when we shared a monologue of victory at the climactic moment.

Yasha "James" Cunningham

James "Yasha" Cunningham
Chutneymaker... Mystery Chef... Abe Lincoln Biographer...
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