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[Hell for Leather] Vietnam -> I'm glad I didn't play this one

Started by Sebastian K. Hickey, April 06, 2010, 06:53:03 PM

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Sebastian K. Hickey

While I was off doing other things, Pooka, Malcolm Craig and an unknown fella (sorry, I didn't get to meet you), playtested Hell for Leather. As I understood it, they were playing the roles of three war journalists escaping imprisonment during the Vietnam War.

When the game finished, Malcolm came over to me with a cheeky grin on his face. I knew there'd been gore. But how much? How far had they gone? Tonight I got some feedback, which I'd like to share with you guys.

Quote from: Malcolm CraigSo, over the weekend of Conpulsion, I got to play exactly one game. Luckily enough, that game was a playtest of Hell For Leather. The Game They Tried To Ban (and succeeded, to a certain extent), The Game Most Likely To Make Daily Mail Readers Have An Aneurysm.

One of the great things about the game was the way it provoked acts of sheer gruesomeness. I'm not sure if this is actually 'good', but it was certainly entertaining. Having my irredeemably awful TV journalist Clyde Bumstead emasculated by an enraged thirteen year old Vietnamese boy was a moment of pathos, drama, and a man getting his cock cut off. And deservedly so. Bumstead was a dick. But he did carry his severed penis around in the pocket of his safari suit until he was blown apart by a T-34 tank. Dignity in death, that's what HFL is all about.

Then again, with Bumstead dying pretty quickly I was left hanging around with nothing to do in the game. I suggested to Sebastian that giving players whose characters die some scene framing abilities would be cool and help to keep interest. The game needs to do something about that eventuality.

And there was the tower of dice. I really like the tower of dice. Flicking dice at the tower and watching it wobble created moments of supreme tension. Great stuff.

Hang on. Severed cocks, 'towers', tanks? Subconscious phallic imagery, perhaps? Hell For Leather: The Game With More Genitalia Than An H R Giger Exhibition?

An extraordinary piece of awesome. Here's Pooka's response:

Quote from: PookaAt Conpulsion 2010 I had the privilege of facilitating a game of Hell For Leather. I wasn't overly familiar with the system, but I had so enjoyed the playtest I joined in the day before, I decided to (ineptly) run a game of it to infect others with my enthusiasm. There were no survivors.

In our session I really enjoyed the frustration that a character's unwillingness to resort to murder caused for me, as a player. Having participated in a game the day before with players perfectly willing to commit mass slaughter to reach their goals, having this one holdout that refused to cross that line was refreshing, annoying, and interesting, especially when seen in contrast to Bumstead, Malcolm's blustering pigfucker of an American News Anchor. Never has a character so deserved his emasculation as Bumstead, and never has a character deserved a happy ending as much as our little pacifist Lance Spanner. He got hacked apart with a machete.

The only snag we really hit with the game came to distribution of Story Pips. If players aren't free with distributing them and willing to be generous, the game can go slower than intended or sieze up. My advice: make sure you hand them out constantly.

And, as much as everyone says it, the tower of dice is fucking superb. Over the weekend I became somewhat talented at throwing that d10, but still when that thing taps a stack of eight dice, and the whole tower wobbles? It's breathtaking, literally.

And so there's gore, and castration, and people being hacked apart, shot up, and bludgeoned to death, and you cheer, and laugh, and clench your hands into fists at every wobble, having a great time. You sick fuck, you.

I'm really happy I wasn't involved in this one. I'm finally reassured that the game makes you do horrible shit.

Sebastian K. Hickey

In response to Malcom's suggestion (thanks a million!), I've added some new text to the Appendix.

Dying Early
You can avoid killing characters by sharing out Traumas (see Multiple Traumas on P.47), healing people after Checkpoints (P.48), and going for two Passes instead of one if you've got the extra dice (P.39). Nevertheless, sometimes luck is not on your side and someone dies before the End Game.

Players of dead characters may still contribute to the story by presenting Challenges as normal. Furthermore, they may also compose Backdrops. Instead of taking a Story Pip for themselves, however, they donate it to the player of their choice. A player of a dead character must be nominated for a Backdrop after a Pass.

Dying Early Example:
Eoin, Joe and Pooka are playing a game of Hell for Leather. Pooka has just suffered his third Trauma and his character is now dead. As per the Aftermath rules of a Fail, Pooka must make a Challenge.

P: While you watch my body twitch in final the throes of death, you hear the rush of a hundred footfalls. The doors burst in with a flash, and several grenades tinkle off the concrete floor. Now there's the hiss of escaping gas. How do you deal with that, Joe? [
Now Pooka slides a Story Pip over to Joe]

Assuming that Joe thwarts the Challenge—rolling a Pass—he
must now nominate Pooka to describe the next backdrop.

P: Now you're in the stairwell, descending into a stinking labyrinth of pipes and rumbling vents. You begin to hear the chatter of gunfire up ahead. [After describing the Backdrop, Pooka gets to donate a Story Pip to one of the other (alive) players. He slides a Story Pip to Eoin.]