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Author Topic: [InSpectres] More Gaming with the Kids  (Read 3710 times)
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« on: June 23, 2007, 07:50:56 PM »

After hearing about the other InSpectres game played with kids, I thought I'd give it a go as well, so last Saturday night for family night we played through a session with the kids. I sold it to the kids as a game that was like Special Unit 2, which they love. They suggested it was also like Scooby Doo. So, yep, they got it.

I GM'ed, and my son (10), oldest daughter (Cool, and wife played. This was my first experience with InSpectres, and I wasn't sure what to expect or how things were supposed to run, which led to good deal of flipping through the rulebook looking for clarifications. I ran into a couple of things that I had to guess on or that were hinted about without being spelled out, but everything seemed to work out.

Character creation took a while, because the kids couldn't really think up any characters they wanted to play and weren't even really sure how to go about it. My daughter asked if we had to play ourselves and my son wanted to play "a guy called the Dark Knight" (or "the Black Knight", I forget). Eventually we managed to explain to their satisfaction what it meant that we were playing real people with real names and not fantasy people...at least until the idea of Weird characters came up!

After some arguing from my son, we convinced the kids to let my wife play the Weird character, since Weird characters had special rules and it would be easier if they played normal characters the first time around.

  • My wife came up with an ageless sorceress with an unknown birth date, and we ran into one of the first hitches: Weird Abilities. How many do you get? Eventually my wife just decided on "Magic Spells" as a good catch-all. Otherwise, high Academics, decent Athletics, low Tech, three Cool and no Contact (which bit her in the butt later on).
  • My son came up with an angry 30-year old sword-and-gun-wielding moron with Secret Ninja Training, whom he based on (and named after) a fairly dense friend of ours. Low Academics, god-like Athletics, decent Tech, and low Contact.
  • My daughter decided to play herself. A precocious 8-year old with a disturbing interest in and Knowledge of Horror Movies, and the owner of the franchise. She took decent scores across the board.

The franchise itself was a New franchise with 7 dice. At first, it was going to be run out of the back room at a local gas station, but then we decided it was based in some dingy offices in the old steam tunnels under the local "mutant-fish producing lake" in our hometown (serious), and was connected to the utility/steam plant. We came up with the idea that the franchise had ties to the local government and then decided, no, it was an actual department of the local city government -- "The Mesabi Office of Creepy Affairs" (because everything around here is "The/Of Mesabi") -- created as a way to keep the precocious 8-year old too buy to keep disrupting city council meetings with her constant reports of weird paranormal activity in the city!

Then we rolled for some stuff: my son had his cool sword, but not his gun (it was a slingshot and some rocks, instead), and they each had their own small office and a central office area. My daughter had a huge collection of horror movies and associated movie paraphernalia. For transportation, the team (somehow) ended up with a limo! (though they tried for a jet, and my wife ended up with a Flying Broom currently impounded by the Witches' Council for failure to pay fines).

My son, having been stymied regarding the Weird character and gun, wanted to be the team leader, so they let him and he was named CEO (even though my daughter actually owns the franchise and, given his character's scores no one is going to listen to HIM anyways). My daughter took CTO and my wife took CFO and responsibility for the franchise sheet.

Unfortunately, my wife was extremely tired throughout the game, and my son would not stop trying to make jokes and "be" funny -- which has a tendency to get on everyone's nerves, as he interrupts constantly and tends to believe "funny" is making gross/nonsense statements and jumping around. We had to stop the game a couple of times to talk to him about his behavior being disruptive -- and I feared at one point we were going to have an emotional blow-out that was going to put an end to the game for the night -- but he was finally able to control himself. I don't know that he ever really grasped the playing a character/telling a story idea, however.

My daughter, on the other hand, was in super-role-playing mode. Just dropped right into character, and figured out fairly quickly what she was supposed to be doing when we prompted her to come up with goals for the scene and such.

Now, I had a problem starting the game, because I wasn't sure how things were supposed to progress or develop. I had rolled on the "client" chart and come up with a haunting at a restaurant that a horny government official wanted cleaned up, but that frustratingly didn't provide much in the way of instruction. I ended up feeling like I just sort of stumbled through the game barely hanging on.

We settled on 10-franchise dice to solve the mystery, given it was so late when we started playing, and at the end of the game, the franchise broke even. Five dice handed out to decrease stress, and the other five to replace two Cool, and the Bank and Card dice that had been used in play. No one gained any Cool during play, though I threw one-and-two die Stress at them left-and-right. My son's character gained five Stress and my daughter only gained two temporary penalties.

The game lasted around two hours, and the supernatural surprisingly never entered into the narrative. It ended up being a pretty-straightforward mystery situation involving disappearing/dead cats and our local Chinese restaurant (out-of-game: this was highly amusing to us all, as we've been told the local Chinese place was severely fined a number of years ago for keeping a basement absolutely full of of caged dogs and cats for, um, unspecified reasons).

Highlights of the game:
"Get out of my restaurant!" "Can I have a to-go box?"
Cheesy crab, EVERYWHERE.
The bloodhound going absolutely nuts around the agents: EVERYONE rolled ONES!! (so, because THEY SMELL LIKE CHEESY CRAB!).
"Wait, you ATE the cheesy crab, didn't you?" {dawning horror} "Oh, ewwww! No!! Nononono! It's not true!"
Jeff, the crazy knife-wielding limo-driver: "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids and your dog!" (actual quote)

Oh, and the best moment ever...

...an 8-year old girl trying to convince the police she really does run a city department and needs to borrow their bloodhound for an investigation.

-----

The game itself ran ok, but a little roughly. To start, I ended up describing a bewildered employee of the utility company coming into the offices after having wandered around lost in the steam tunnels, having been sent by the mayor to get the team to come investigate the disappearing cat problem, and we did some straight-up role-playing/acting.

My daughter bossed the other two around, and said she was going to stay at the office and "think" about the crime while the other two pounded the pavement. This led to a stress roll for my son's violent hero: the CEO being bossed around by an 8-year old girl! Annoying!

So those two left to check out the restaurant, trailed by the utility man. After he hit on her, the sorceress used a spell to tie the utility man's tongue into a literal knot and he fled into the steam tunnels, using a point of Cool to cast the spell. The sorceress walked to the restaurant, as it is only a few blocks from the steam plant, while the violent hero decided to take the limo.

Obviously, the sorceress beat him there, and he had to roll stress for doing something as dumb as taking a limo four blocks: there was taking it out of the garage, hitting every stop light on the way, and then trying to park, all while realizing the sorceress beat him there. Another annoyance!

Meanwhile, back at the office, my daughter is rolling her Academics to see if she can figure out anything about this crime. No luck, but (she tells us) the office door bursts open and a crazy man with a huge knife rushes in to attack her! Nooo! But, she says and rolls, the crazy man is distracted by the horror paraphernalia long enough for her to sneak out the door and run. He chases her to the street, then disappears. Stress? Nah, man, she's good. What an 8-year old!

The sorceress tries to chat up the owner of the Chinese place, but having no Contact isn't very good at it. She rolls, fails, and there goes the Bank die. And she's kicked out of the restaurant forever for asking if there is cat in the food! But she takes some cheesy crab and lobster to go ("Go ahead! Take it, but then you get out! Don't come back, ever!") because she spots a cat's eye in the lobster.

On the way out, she (literally) runs into the violent hero, and her Athletics roll to hang on to the to-go boxes fails, sending the evidence flying everywhere onto everyone. More stress for the violent hero. Then the 8-year old shows up and tells them about the crazy man she last saw hiding in the bushes by the lake entrance to the office.

They investigate and find dismembered cat parts plus a butcher knife stamped with the name of the Chinese restaurant. The 8-year old goes to the police station to request the use of a bloodhound. The violent hero decides to go it alone and break into the Chinese place to hunt for clues, and the sorceress hides to see if anyone comes back to the crime scene for the knife.

The violent hero picks the lock on the back door of the Chinese restaurant and sees Jeff, their own limo driver moonlighting as a cook at the restaurant, and chopping up a cat to fry up! The horror! He runs back to get the rest of the team.

After the 8-year old convinces the police to finally talk to the mayor, the team gets the dog, but it hates them and tries to bite all of them. Apparently, they smell way-too-much like lunch. But with the violent hero's report, the team confronts the crazy limo driver in the kitchen and then the police arrest him. He was attacked by cats as a child and had become certain they were out to get him, and he tried to scare/kill the 8-year old because, hey, who wants to be outwitted by the 8-year old who signs your paycheck?

They had gathered ten franchise dice at this point, so I thought we had to close up. I later read one could keep playing things out, and realized the franchise dice as a pacing mechanic are a minimum, not a maximum, though I wonder how that affects the total at the end of play. We were all pretty tired, so we assigned the franchise dice won and called it a night. I still wasn't certain I had run things right, though, and I felt for most of the game as though I was flying by the seat of my pants.

-----

We've decided to play again, as the kids are really excited about it, though I'm nervous as heck because I'm still not exactly sure what I'm doing. I like more obvious structure in play, or clearer directions, and rather wish there were an introductory scenario available written to runs a person carefully through a session, or a line-by-line example of what play should look and sound like I could peruse to model a few sessions after.

On a tangent: mechanically, I also realized something that isn't spelled out at all in the rules: that while Weird characters can't get franchise dice, seemingly limiting them, they are best used to throw dice to the Normal characters by using Teamwork, which can be quite helpful. They're sidekicks, after a fashion.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2007, 11:33:49 AM »

A question about how the dice work/are used arose at the start of our second game this past Saturday (though the game was aborted for various reasons and will be picked up again another night). See, I can tell Jen isn't quite sure what to do with the dice, that is, when to roll them and what to do with the roll afterwards, and I realize I am not really certain either. We winged it last time, but what I started to see was two different systems.

The rules state your roll determines your success, the roll decides if you get what you want. The rules also state the game is driven by the rolls and whatever the players add to the game with them, and that "what you want" is a property of the player making the roll. I've been taking this to mean the players state outright what they want a roll to accomplish/mean, and that means the players state during the game they "have an idea" and are going to roll to see how true/false it is.

As an example, the aborted game opened with a client call about an apartment with some weather problems: namely, it was raining (and occasionally snowing) inside the apartment. The team arrived at the apartment to check things out and discovered nothing unusual happening at all. Then we kind of stared at each other for a bit because we weren't sure whose "turn" it was mechanically-speaking.

If my wife decides to have her character investigate, then she can decide what sorts of clues she finds in the apartment, or rather, she needs to declare what she's looking for -- what her idea is -- and then roll, instead of waiting for me to call for an investigation roll. But the rules also seem to show the GM asking for tests, which means I would decide there's something they're looking for or reacting to and ask for a straightforward roll of one of the stats.

This seems like making the system pull double-duty as both a narrative-advancement mechanic and separately as a conflict-resolution mechanic, and not at the same time. I can tell this is really tripping us up because we aren't certain how the game is supposed to work, and when to use which side of the system, or for what. Anyone have any advice?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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xenopulse
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« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2007, 12:28:55 PM »

When Jake Boone ran the game for us at Gamestorm (the only time I've played it so far, though I'm also planning to rope in wife and kids), we didn't roll for whether we would find something or not, or whether our ideas were accurate or not. I think those kinds of things are player input rather than character success.

I don't think Jake ever asked us for a specific roll, only stress rolls, unless we already announced an action. That is, he'd say "What do you do," we'd say, "I do x," and then he'd say, "Sounds like a technology roll to me."

Failure of a roll didn't necessarily mean failure. It just meant that something bad happened during our action, and we didn't get closer to getting rid of the ghost. So if you do a technology roll to find the heart of the haunting with your scanner, on a bad roll you might still find it, but it knows you're there and has already set up a trap (or it sliiiiiiimes you!).

I think equally important to the smooth flow of the game was this: we did the media interview beforehand. You know, it's the interview your characters give <after the haunting! So my character, during the interview, already apologized for blowing up the house across the street, and so during the game we knew that some of my actions would eventually lead to that result.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2007, 11:14:42 AM »

As the father of a three-year-old girl, I just wanted to say your daughter sounds awesome. Your son is probably also awesome, but maybe he needs to run around in the yard for 45 minutes before playing to burn some of that energy off.
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2007, 07:35:55 PM »

Your son is probably also awesome, but maybe he needs to run around in the yard for 45 minutes before playing to burn some of that energy off.

He is. But YES.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


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« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2007, 07:39:27 PM »

I don't think Jake ever asked us for a specific roll, only stress rolls, unless we already announced an action. That is, he'd say "What do you do," we'd say, "I do x," and then he'd say, "Sounds like a technology roll to me."

Hrm. Ok. I guess I can see that. Anyone else know if that how it is done? Can anyone explain the reasoning to me better?

A big part of the problem is that I'm not grokking how this thing is supposed to run or what the dice are supposed to be doing. I get they're a pacing mechanic and an improv tool, but beyond that...
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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LandonSuffered
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Posts: 92


« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2007, 08:29:37 PM »


I took my cue for the system from reading the posts on the game here at the forge.  Here's how I used the game system:

First I'd roll randomly for the adventure plot.  Then I'd introduce the client and the client's problem.  Then I'd ask, "what do you want to do about it?"  The responses might range from:

- let's go check out the [site] and question the [clients/employees] for info
- let's invent [some gadget] that will [be used to help get clues]
- let's go read [books on subject] in the library
- let's kit-bash a flying fan that can hold all our high-tech gear so we can fly around town in a cool way (this last idea doesn't really further the "plot," but since the game's about fun anyway, why not?

Depending on what they want to do I call for an appropriate roll (I'm the referee, so I make the call).  The statements listed above would be assigned as Contacts, Tech, Academics, or Tech respectively.  The player rolls and then if they succeed I say, "okay tell me what happens/what you find out."

Very easy on the GM.  My main concern was trying to keep things a little focused and coherent.  I did this if they failed in some roll...then I got to narrate, either steering things "back on course," or (more often) simply narrating new conflicts for the players to deal with. And by "deal with" I mean, asking them "what do you do?" and repeating the cycle from the top.

InSpectres doesn't fall in the "traditional" RPG spectrum, because it is Narrative-centric...you're creating a story, jointly, about how your team achieves its goal (solves the mystery or whatnot).  In a D&D game, for example, there may be a story to tell at the end of an adventure, but it may be "everyone died except, Bob, who retired from the adventure rather than face certain death."  In InSpectres no one dies and, eventually, the team collects enough franchise dice to succeed.  It's pretty much a forgone conclusion.  The fun is in narrating how you got there.  The dice determine who gets to drive the car to the destination.

The "pacing mechanic" of the game is the GM. 

The Interview Chair mechanic also adds to the "forgone conclusion" part, as Xenopulse wrote about blowing up the house, for example.  And the dice allow the players to explore the hows and whys of the conclusion.  In my game (with a 12 and 9 year old, as well as my wife) I did not use the Interview Chair...it was just too tricky a concept for kids that don't watch shows like Big Brother.  Did you use this in your game with your children?

The other thing I didn't use was Weird characters.  There were two reasons I left 'em out:

- the game seems to suggest they are more of an advanced technique (special powers, etc.); I wanted to play with basics first (this was all our first time)
- I didn't want the kids fighting over who got to be the werewolf, demon whatever (limit of one per team andall that).  When I suggested we might use them the next time we played, they both immediately started talking about which special character they wanted. Trouble a-brewing!

SInce I didn't use them in my game, I can't speak to your experience of them acting well as sidekicks.  Could this have been a product of your wife playing the Weird character rather than the Weird character itself? Would your kids have used the weird character in the same way?

Okay, gotta' go...the Haunted Mansion is on TV!  Inspiration!
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Jonathan
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2007, 11:10:13 AM »

First I'd roll randomly for the adventure plot.  Then I'd introduce the client and the client's problem.  Then I'd ask, "what do you want to do about it?"

Interesting. But how does one use the "helping out" rules with that?

I ask because the examples in the book seem to indicate a more conflict-based approach to resolution and play instead of a scene-based resolution (I'm thinking especially of the "must read the ritual from the ancient book"/"shoot the zombies" example from the rulebook).

Quote
Did you use this in your game with your children?

Nope. They've never seen those shows and I've never seen nor ever had any interest in watching them, so it wasn't used because I'm fairly certain the purpose of doing so would have just been another stumbling block to fun.

Quote
SInce I didn't use them in my game, I can't speak to your experience of them acting well as sidekicks.  Could this have been a product of your wife playing the Weird character rather than the Weird character itself? Would your kids have used the weird character in the same way?

Clarification: my wife didn't use the weird character as a side-kick. That was my reflection about them, given that they can't earn franchise dice and are thus only important mechanically from the standpoint of being able to contribute to rolls by other members of the team.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
LandonSuffered
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« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2007, 11:20:45 PM »

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Jonathan
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2007, 08:20:53 AM »

Ok. Thanks for the help, Jonathan!
I'm trying to mush it all around inside my head and hope it gels.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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