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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 74 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: NIGHTWATCH/InSpectres playtest  (Read 2227 times)
hardcoremoose
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« on: May 07, 2001, 08:28:00 PM »

Something amazing happened tonight.

I got my grizzled gaming buddies together, as per usual on Monday nights.  They were expecting the next installment in their D&D campaign.  No doubt they were looking forward to throwing a few fireballs and rolling their d20s, killing some poor cannon fodder and rolling for its treasure.  This is the way it's been for...jeez, I can't tell you exactly how long it's been like that.

Instead, I suggested a radical idea.  I proposed that we play NIGHTWATCH, the game I designed as an expansion to Jared's InSpectres.  I expected hostile reactions, or at best disinterest.  I was prepared for that though, as I had purchased food and soft drinks to soften them up. And I appealed to them with a sincere plea - "I designed the damn thing", I told them, "I should at least play it before someone else does."  Amazingly, between bites of the pizza I paid for, they agreed.

And then we played the darned thing.

For those who don't know, NIGHTWATCH throws the players into the roles of investigative TV journalalists working for a syndicated cable news show.  Their job is to find and expose the truth about supernatural phenomena, earning good ratings without exploiting their subject matter in the process.  

So anyway, we played the game.  They created characters, which - with Jared's clever game structure - takes about five minutes and leads very naturally into the opening scenes of the adventure.  Almost immediately, and without having to have it explained to them, they made a leap to another of the cool InSpectres/NIGHTWATCH design features:  They seized control of the game  and told me what the adventure was going to be about.  Of course that's what I wanted - I was in playtest mode, and wanted to see how the game's design worked with real flesh&blood players - but I figured I would have to prod them a little, if not a lot.  Something about the game, the way it was structured I guess, intuitively conveyed to the players that they were in charge.  I almost cried, because here were my Gamist buddies (one with some slight Simulationist leanings) making the leap to Narrativism.  Am I using those terms correctly? Probably not...I'm not that familiar with the dialogue or verbiage.  What I do know is that the game tonight was different somehow, and not just because we were playing a new game with unusual rules.

For instance, they stayed in character and on topic the whole three hours we played.  Normally we play three to four hours, but I'd bet half that time is spent in side conversation and out of character.  Not so tonight.

Another good example comes by way of InSpectres' (and NIGHTWATCH's) Confessionals (Editorials) - frequent opportunities for characters to step up to the plate and soliloquize about the characters, events, and circumstances of the adventure.  With my group, there are a couple of players who have trouble stringing two sentences together in character - they're just too shy.  Tonight they were fighting over who got to speak to the "camera".

So what was so great about the game?  Afterall, it wasn't a deep immersion' session.  And yeah, the characters were caricatures of common stereotypes (the bubbly big-busted TV newswoman, a pot-head hacker, etc.).  But tonight - for the first time that I can recall - we told a story together.  The players chose their own objective.  They made up their own contacts and resources.  They told me what was going on, rather than the other way around.  Sure, I added a few things, but certainly no more so than any of the other players.

And the story they came up with was pretty cool too.  A brutal murder led them to a strange realization - that one particular paramedic unit in town was somehow able to arrive on accident scenes before any 911 calls were ever placed.  Sometimes the people at these scenes died, sometimes they were saved.  Their investigation took them on an ambulance chase through Detroit, culminating in the unusual discovery that the vehicle's driver was keeping company with an imp - a benevolent little creature who was clairovoyantly sensitive to the pain and suffering of others (which he tried to assuage by directing the paramedic team to the locations of trauma victims).

Three hours.  No combat.  No outside conversation. No D&D.  Only one character even got to check to see if her Skill improved.

They want to know if they can play again on Thursday.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2001, 05:14:00 AM »

Scott,

This is me, clutching my hands to my chest and looking wistfully upwards, with li'l angels singing from somewhere. This is me, doing a bunny dance with Jared Sorensen.

Your post speaks for itself, but I'll be happy to pinpoint a crucial detail that everyone should note well: what you accomplished was Author stance, NOT "immersion." Immersion (which can mean about four different things, I think) is ONE goal of role-playing, not some ultimate goal that we should all strive for.

And another thing ... I'm not terribly surprised that your Gamist-type players understood and took well to Author stance. This stance is commonly found among Gamist play, I think. But I am very impressed that they were able to divert their PRIORITIES of play so radically.

System Does Matter.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2001, 07:36:00 AM »

Hey Scott and Jared,

Help! I have been setting up an InSpectres run over the last few days. And you know what, I'm totally confused about the system.

What I need are examples. Say my team has a Gym Card at 3 points, and our agents, Kirk, Douglas, and Valerie have Athletics 2 each.

As I understand it, at the beginning of a session, they have to divvy up the 3 points across them. Say Kirk hogs them all, so he gets Athletics 6 for the whole run and the other two are stuck with their base 2 each. Or they split them evenly so that each now has Athletics 3 for the whole run.

Is that how it works? Does the bonus simply carry through the whole run, that simply? Or if Kirk uses Athletics 6 one time, do his 3 Gym points instantly revert, so that now they can be re-allocated?

Or is it in-between, so that between scenes of a run (when maybe a whole week goes by, or the locale changes drastically), they can re-allocate?

And if more than one agent can split the points on a card, then why is each one limited to only one card? Why can't I get a 1-die bonus from the Gym Card and a 2-die bonus from the Library Card at the same time? Or can I? The rules imply otherwise.

I have more questions, but these'll do to start.

Best,
Ron
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2001, 09:21:00 AM »

As I understand it, at the beginning of a session, they have to divvy up the 3 points across them. Say Kirk hogs them all, so he gets Athletics 6 for the whole run and the other two are stuck with their base 2 each. Or they split them evenly so that each now has Athletics 3 for the whole run.

The background on how cards are used is that there is a finite amount of time/money that the characters can spend.  So if Kirk hogs the Gym Membership card, he spends the day working out at the gym and gains an Athletics pool of 3.  This means that when he rolls his 2 Athletics dice, if he fails or gets a less-than-desired result, he can expend point from his Athletics pool to roll another die.  Because he has all 3 points from the Gym Card, he could add 3 extra dice to any one Athletics roll or spread them out across a number of Athletics rolls.

If Kirk, Val and Douglas all want to work out, they each might spend a few hours at the gym -- each gaining an Athletics pool of one points.

At the end of a mission, left-over pool points are rolled to see if they're lost, kept and/or if the agent's skills go up.

And if more than one agent can split the points on a card, then why is each one limited to only one card? Why can't I get a 1-die bonus from the Gym Card and a 2-die bonus from the Library Card at the same time? Or can I? The rules imply otherwise.

There's no real good "in-game" reason.  It's just that agents are assumed to have time to do "one thing" before a mission.  It is possible to have pool points left over, which could carry over into the next game.  But no, you can't grab some gym time, buy some cool gear with the credit card, spend time at the library AND get some PTO.

Oh and Scott, congrats on your game!!!  Sounds like you guys have entered another world. :smile:  Cool mission, too -- I'm glad to hear the it worked out.
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
hardcoremoose
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2001, 06:02:00 PM »

Ron,

I'm still new to the whole G/N/S debate, so I'm not always sure where the Player Stance, Author Stance, and Director Stance fit in.  I presumed that any Stance could be found among any of the syles of game (maybe not in Simulationist, I guess), but perhaps I'm wrong.  Whatever the vocabulary may be, I'm just happy to have been able to expose my jaded gaming friends to something different, and to have them respond so well was something I can not describe in words.  I've ran games before that I was pleased with - obviously, or else I would not have invested so much time and money in this hobby - but usually I've had to carry that burden on my own shoulders.  Or maybe, at the time, that was the way I wanted it.  Either way, it was freeing for everybody involved, and all agreed that it is a game they would eagerly play again.

One note when you run InSpectres: Make the players work to hang on to their Card Dice.  Remind them of every opportunity they have to spend them.  I had a player who managed to squirrel away two Guild Dice (the equivalent of Cards in Nightwatch).  She rolled both to see if her Skills increased and got a 5 and 6; her Skill went up two points and she got to keep one die for the next game!
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