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Independent Game Forums => Half Meme Press => Topic started by: Paul Czege on August 06, 2003, 12:51:42 PM

Title: yes, but I never inhaled
Post by: Paul Czege on August 06, 2003, 12:51:42 PM
So...we played Nicotine Girls on Monday night. It was a return to gaming for us, after four months of movie nights and me being too busy working on My Life with Master and the game display unit for GenCon to do any gaming. And other than feeling exactly like what it is, a precursor design to My Life with Master, covering similar thematic territory, it was awfully damn fun...

Tom was running on such high energy after GenCon that I offered him the option of GMing. But he turned it down. So he, Matt, Scott, and Danielle created characters.

And here's one significant variance from My Life with Master. A GM can pretty easily set that game on fire right from the outset by threatening Connections and having the Master issue some unpleasant commands. Getting things started in Nicotine Girls is harder. What I did was frame opening scenes for each character that could be interpreted as her Dreams might be passing her by. So, for Danielle's character Chastaine, whose Dream was to go to beauty school and become a hairdresser, I framed a scene where she was washing dishes while her younger sister Charla was out on the gravel drive talking to their Uncle Ray (not an uncle, but their mother's boyfriend); I had Charla burst enthusiastically into the kitchen to announce that Uncle Ray was going to pay her way through beauty school. So, unlike the immolating fire of dramatic significance delivered to minions in My Life with Master, this played out more like a bonfire nearby, with the potential to lure: "Hey experienced Narrativist, get your protagonism here!"

Another example: for Scott's 18-year-old character Donna, whose Dream was to sing and dance on Broadway, I framed an opening scene of her walking home from a shift at McDonald's. As she passed the high school, the girls who'd been practicing for the upcoming production of Grease waved to her. There was a little roleplay, which ended with some taunting from Tiffany about how if Donna hadn't dropped out of school, the lead in the play would have gone to her instead. So basically, Tiffany thanked Donna for dropping out.

Anyway, I don't think I even got twice around the room before it happened. Every scene was fun, but creatively pretty demanding. Cool-wise, there were lots of suggestions from the players, which I'd have been lost without. But I'd just done a second scene with Danielle, and for some reason I asked if she wanted to run the rest of the game. Unconsciously, I think I was keyed into her thinking I wasn't running the game right. From her suggestions during scenes probably. And there was no hesitation. "Yes." She stuffed her character sheet into my hand and took my binder.

And I guess I have to admit, she did totally run a great session. (Though I'd like to think I did a share of the hard work with my awesome setup scenes.) And now I have this notion. If you've introduced your girlfriend to gaming, and she's been a player for a while but never GMed, you might consider a game of Nicotine Girls. You know how when you see your doppelganger you must kill him? Your sincere, but somehow imperfect rendering of greaseball cruisers and inappropriate physicality from coworkers just might be too much for her to handle, and she'll have to take over. (You hearing this Matt Wilson?) Can you see it happening?

Anyway, Chastaine didn't get to go to beauty school. She ended up pregnant with Uncle Ray's child.

And a few more stray observations:[list=1]
  • No one put a 2 in the Money Method. I'm not sure what to make of it. Maybe nothing. Maybe I just need to explain in greater detail how "Money" in the game is more than money. It's selling your best CDs to buy your boyfriend's beater out of the police impound. It's sneaking him in to the movies through the "exit only" doors.
  • After going through character creation, and witnessing just one or two scenes, it becomes perfectly clear exactly how to game the system for the best odds at getting your Dreams:

During chargen, you assign a 5 in Hope and 1 in Fear. When gameplay begins, you immediately take something worth 4 or 5 from the Fear table, getting your Fear up to 5 or 6. You don't use Hope in your first scene, instead waiting until you've had a chance to request a Smoke scene with another player. Whether you like the advice or not, no big deal; just don't use Hope for the subsequent conflict roll if you don't like the advice. Request Smoke scenes as necessary until you get advice you can live with. Then use Hope. And only use Hope that one time the whole game session. Even if you botch, you still get to roll 5 dice if it comes down to a consensus on ending the game and seeing who gets their Dreams.

I can't decide if this means the game is broke'd.

  • If you want a single-session game, allow an increase of Hope equal to each successful Hope roll that kicks in just prior to everyone rolling for their Dreams.
  • Best scene in our game was Scott's roleplay of Donna attempting to seduce Mr. Kinson, the high school drama teacher's husband, hoping he'd then influence his wife to put her in the play...even though she wasn't a student. This entirely bizarre course of action was suggested to Donna by Tom's character during a Smoke scene. And a great deal of the fun was Danielle's creation and handling of Mr. Kinson as an unattractive life-insurance salesman with a comb-over, and plaid sport coat, and all of our crazy suggestions for him.
  • We did the "shared environment" for the girls thing that was suggested by Flower of December in a playtest report on They had all their girls working at the same Dairy Queen. We had ours all living at the same trailer park. And there were some great Smoke scenes of them tanning together out in the patchy front yard of one of the trailers. So when I do a revision of the game rules, this suggestion is going in. But it brings up a bit of a concern. It's a lot like the Demesne thing in My Life with Master. And basically, I could improve Nicotine Girls in a lot of ways by making it more like My Life with Master. I could have chargen produce important Connection-like NPCs that contribute bonus dice when a girl rolls to see if she gets her Dreams, which would fuel character protagonism the same way they do in My Life with Master, and make it less reliant on player skill. But cripes, maybe I should just leave the game's not like we didn't have a blast. If I'm going to twink with it, I need to find a different course of action than what I took with My Life with Master.[/list:o]Paul

Title: yes, but I never inhaled
Post by: hardcoremoose on August 06, 2003, 06:24:25 PM

We talked about this privately, but I'll say it again:  I don't think I'd change much, if anything.  It's totally playable and a lot of fun.

I will say this though:  It became easier when Danielle took over.  When you were in charge, there was an odd feel to it.  I mean, here I was, doing this potentially insulting caricature of a lower income teenage girl.  And you're there with me, so we're in cahoots.  And the only one who really knows how insulting we're being is Danielle, sitting in judgement of our portrayals.

So when she took over and got to play the greasy guys with one thing on their mind, she became an accomplice to it all.  It was much more revealing, much more relaxed, and ultimately more fun.

And her portrayals of the "greasy guys" were far more nuanced than my Nicotine Girl, I might add.

One thing's for sure though:  This game is playable.  Fantastically so.  It's not "just" art, and it's not "just" for reading.

So anyway, it's time for me to go and finish reading Sex & Sorcery.

- Scott

Title: yes, but I never inhaled
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 06, 2003, 08:53:05 PM
Hi Paul,

We talked about some of this already, and I'm a little time-constrained right now, so I'll just list a thing or two.

1. When one girl goes for her Dreams, is that it for her character? Succeed or fail, that's that, right? One chance? If so, then you might be looking at a game for which different players exit play at different times, which strikes me as kind of unusual.

What "aesthetic" do you think governs that moment of decision, essentially to remove oneself from play? Because no matter what, that's what's guaranteed to happen.

2. Do you think Kickers would serve the game well? As far as I can tell, you provided GM-originated Bangs to start things off. As you know, a Kicker is nothing more than a player-originated Bang that (in Sorcerer) factors into the reward mechanics.

3. I'm biased - I'd like to see the game developed more fully, and as it happens, without any particular need to see it parallel My Life with Master. As a start in that direction, it strikes me that the discovery of who's the appropriate GM for the game might actually be part of the rules, at least potentially. Such a decision might even be session by session. Vincent, Meg, and Emily Care seem like the best people to evaluate this notion, based on their play habits.

4. Finally, it also strikes me that the game is an exercise in a certain exploitative sadism if the girls' Dreams are utter pipe dreams. Did anyone introduce plot elements, NPCs or whatever, that actually validated a given girl's Dreams? I.e., actually provided a real chance for her to seize?


Title: yes, but I never inhaled
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 07, 2003, 11:12:25 AM
All rolls for Dreams are made at the end of the game, Ron. I envision them being like the epilogues in movies where the characters are all partying or something, and the scene freezes on that character, and then a little written statement of what will happen to them appears on the screen. IOW, as written it doesn't seem to be an extension of normal play, but something tacked on the end. As such, I think many of the Dreams might end up like, "Many years later, Sheila gets a part in a revival of Cats on Broadway, having left Townsville forever." That sort of thing.

I'm not saying that this is a good or bad way to do it. Just what I've gotten from the short rule set, and discussions from Paul.


Title: Re: yes, but I never inhaled
Post by: Paul's Girl on August 07, 2003, 12:51:01 PM
Quote from: Paul Czege

Anyway, I don't think I even got twice around the room before it happened. Every scene was fun, but creatively pretty demanding. Cool-wise, there were lots of suggestions from the players, which I'd have been lost without. But I'd just done a second scene with Danielle, and for some reason I asked if she wanted to run the rest of the game. Unconsciously, I think I was keyed into her thinking I wasn't running the game right. From her suggestions during scenes probably. And there was no hesitation. "Yes." She stuffed her character sheet into my hand and took my binder.

Jeez Paul,
I didn't realize how traumatic that was, referring to the situation as "IT".  I did want to take over earlier but I thought it might not be a good idea. Anyway, I actually like the shared environment idea; it seemed to work out real well. Not only did it give a PC for a player to take a smoke break with (and the advice was great) it was nice to have that common ground.  The option could be to have written connections with chargen so there is some help for the GM to frame some scenes.  

It was never my intent when Paul asked if I wanted to take over to complete the role reversal, even though now I realized it balanced it out nicely.  I do recall thinking before Paul offered that what he was doing seemed difficult for him.  I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Nicotine Girl, but I can say that I have seen and even been friends with some definite candidates.  Girls observe other girls in different ways then how guys observe girls (unless maybe theyíre gay), and I hate to say it, we take those kinds of characteristics and mold them into stereotypical examples of people. Well, at least I do. I can do a real good Valley Girl, and I am not from a Valley. Case in Point: my character in John Wicks Eldritch High game on Friday night in GenCon.

The idea of kickers is interesting. Maybe it could be an option if the game is only for one session. I think it really would have helped Paul in his beginning scene framing (and yes he did a great job and made it much easier for me).  Now, I do think that because I am a woman, I know how creepy guys talk (from experience) and how sister's react to each other more realistically than a man would in this particular situation.  This game is also more like life, more than MLwM, Sorcerer, Kill Puppies for Satan or whatever, nothing fantastical, magical, satanical or futuristic. Maybe because I am new at gaming, I donít know. I would encourage my fellow females out there to play it. In fact, itís kinda like one of those movies on Lifetime TV.  But without the happy ending.

Title: yes, but I never inhaled
Post by: Paul Czege on August 08, 2003, 12:26:32 PM
Hey Ron,

1. Mike describes it the way I had it envisioned. Basically, the group decides at the end of any given session if they want to resolve things for the characters. If so, then everybody rolls and the characters have epilogues. But the notion of some characters exiting early is interesting. The question to answer for this would be, how the player of a character who exited the game might continue to participate in play in a meaningful way?

2. I think Kickers would work. I think my Bangs worked. I think Connections would make coming up with Bangs easier. I guess I just can't see how any of these is particularly more well-suited to Nicotine Girls than the others, so actually none of them have crept into the rules. Maybe something like a "pay for your Fear" scene would be good. Gameplay could start with each of the characters in a scene inspired by the chart, which somehow "explains" their starting level of Fear. I dunno.

3. I like this idea. What guidelines might aid a group in making this determination? Anyone?

4. No one did, but I don't think this means the girls' Dreams were pipe dreams. Scott rolled one of the two successes he needed for his character to get her Dreams. Had we gone three sessions, with him playing as aggressively toward that goal as he did, he very well might have been rolling enough dice to get her Dreams. The lack of plot elements that might justify the happy outcome is irrelevant to whether the girl gets her Dreams or not. Had he rolled one more success at the end of our game, Scott would have narrated an epilogue for Donna that explained how she got to sing and dance on Broadway.