I love the smell of a OneOff? in the evening. It smells like BarelyControlledChaos?.
GM session plan
Explain character creation
Have players introduce each others realms
Run intro (death of void)
Player free potting (short)
What was the agenda for this?
First test - pagoda poetry?
Devolve to player free poetry^W PLOTTING. Sheesh, I have poetry on the mind. I'm going potty.
At some point a second council
Agenda ?? There was something important - ruling of house majorness?
Second test - Fighting challenge
Something for the other players to do at the same time, unless they are happy to plot
For simplicity, remove the 'cool thing'. Probably want to ditch the whole moon-dragon subplot unless the players are completely idle and I feel I can wing its recreation on the fly.
I guess I'll need to encourage the players to create their elemental planes and houses - do it /SeaSlip inverse stylee.
Bring along the EverWay cards. They're good for sparking ideas, if nothing more.
Run something short, early on (in the intro) to really hammer home to the players that their avatars are godlike beings of fearsome power. A good time to do this would be whilst they bring their 'free' plot to its climax.
Ran again at CURS squash, with the following tweaks:
Ditched bidding for cahrgen, just assign 7 points.
Randomly handed out the advantages and disadvantages.
Ditched the senechals.
The results were a lot of fun. The artifacts changed hands very frequently, and one dragon got killed just at the end. Dragons to write up include the dragon of twilight, and "Thunder and lightening" who, being played jiontly by two players who rarely conferred, was extremely unpredictable and fun.
Things that need further tweaking:
Pastel sparklies need to have a predefined effect. Perhaps replace endurance with them? (Which will have the effect of more direct conflict, I expect.)
For the record, they once again destroyed the world - this time through fire and flood and a poisoned channel to hell (which also flooded)
Well, all my planning went, as usual, out of the window. Three players ended up playing (another played magic. Grrr.) Everyone said they enjoyed it, and that it was nicely different from what they are used to. One player did pick up rather easily on the bits I'd stolen from Exalted and Amber. Another liked the Myst link books and went in for that.
Things were slow at first - getting them to think up plots and elements was like picking teeth. If I ever run this again, I think I really want the polished up 'attract mode' leaflets to get people into the vibe quickly.
The attribute auction ran ok, after a few hiccups. I seem to have a LOT more rules to explain than I thought. One player took first in psyche, the other took first in endurance and warfare - leaving the third with solid seconds across the board.
Warfare and strength then proceeded to power up militarily, whilst second place (who had taken the weakest disadvantages and thus ended up with the nastiest goals) started a plot to impersonate the remaining player.
The first vote went interestingly - those two argued, loudly (losing many pastels) whilst the military player snuck an aliance with the NPC house, voting them back in from exile.
The battle was then between the pyshce winner and his copy - the second place adding in support to cost him his 'extra life' advantage. He then made good use of his second lair and hid.
After a lot of spy network action, and some political horse trading - eventually they ganged up on the military player to stop him befouling the scrying pool with his mortal mages. (He was searching for an extra artifact, having secured the NPC houses co-operation) SOMEHOW, and this remains a mystery even to those involved, he got them BOTH to agree to leave his mortals alone, in exchange for him not doing something that he wasn't going to do anyway. He also managed to wangle his way out of the second minor-vote boon disadvantage.
At the next voting, psyche got in his retaliation by voting FOR second places house exile. Which surprised even warfare, who thought the motion would drop.
Much more bickering and fighting later, and second started trying to find psyche's lair, in order to destroy it (destroying a lair being one of his goals) - but his spy network was directly opposed. So he took advantage of warfare being distracted by his (now successful) artifact hunt - and trashed his lair. Narrowly avoiding retaliation, he then attacked the NPC house, almost bumping off warfare again! The poetry competition passed almost unnoticed. Some pastels were won. Psyche then threw in his lot to defend second, despite his best shot warfare was pinned into his realm and not present for the final vote. Psyche has also found a good way of getting back his houses vote, and so won the regency handily.
An interesting turn-around.
Next time, I need fewer rules, more notes for some NPCs (though they didn't seem to mind there being few and flavourless ones) and more examples.
Things that worked well:
Plot cards. Once people got the hang of noting down an ongoing action ("Recruit more mages", say) and that they would have to wait at least long enough for anothe rplayer to have a chance to foil them befroe they could cash it in - this worked well as an activity driver. To improve it, work on demonstrating the power of plots earlier on.
Advantages. Everyone got good use out of them, and they really helped define their (quickly created) characters. We had "Strong kingdom" versus "World Artist" for quite a while.
The timing was fine. We started late, got through rules and explanations slowly, and still came in on time. Twenty minutes per player FreeAction? slot is just fine for a 3 player to 1 GM ratio.
Player input was good. Need to solicit a lot more of it.
Things that didn't work so well:
A lot of confusion arose over when and how to cash plots in. The concept of 'instead of rolling dice' was kinda missed out, since (thankfully) these people were happy with freeform as a base form of play.
The haiku thingy was daft. Need a better 'psyche' competition. Then again, it may have just been that more exciting things were going on.
Whee! They liked it! They really liked it! Two people have asked me to run it again. I'll get the cheatsheets and such ready for electronic distribution ... uh, let's be realistic here ... by the end of the year? But you'll have 'em soon :)
Enthusiastic players loved it. I used the pregen family descriptions - they seemed decent enough, though I need to add senechals to them. It sped things up.
Plots need to be tradeable. Explicitly, in the initial handout. One player felt very annoyed that his plots which he hoarded carefully were, basically, worthless in the end.
Memo to self - two packets of pastels per three players. I had more players than I expected.
The 'kill someone' goal is NOT a good thing.
One volunteered to do art for me! Yayage!
Using 'negotiate to avoid foiling' rather than direct conflict worked well - but direct conflict should have been an option.
The players wanted the ability to JOINTLY start up (or foil) a plot. This was entirely unexpected (and invisible in the three player game) - so I probably need rules here.
The simplified auction improved things. Adding a 'politics' stat was useful with this many players - but I think keep it out for fewer.
Instead of the dragon of void entering a nice calm reincarnation, I set it up that he is the 100-year evil as standard in all CRPGs and was being reborn onto the earth. This set the tone of imminent destruction NICELY as the players all decided to set practically all of their plots there. By the end, creation was well and truly wrecked (and the new dominiant species was penguin-cats) MemoToSelf: Put more details about heaven in the hand-out. Keep the 'reborn evil, so heaven needs a regent' thing.
Need to sanitise the 'out of game' references. Two apparant FlashGordon references in the hand-outs, and one to Myst.
I need something to do if players get knocked out of the game.
The luna sub-plot is handy to have. It worked well enough.
Add a counter-haiku for the GM if they get snarky at the poetry contest. Your haiku is weak / Poetry wins sparklies / Dogg-rel only shame.
Drafting for advantages disads is pointless - random hand-out works, though allowing "Trade in for.. a mystery" works too.
On the handouts, stress the importance of artifacts. No-one went for them. (But then, the votes were all of a 4-1 nature, anyway.)
Got to write this up fully. It really seems to play well.
Does this mean we actually get to see how your mechanics work, and such like; rather than just reading tantalising things about plots and pastels? --CH, mildly eager
Heh heh :) Well pointed out that person. I thought I'd already done so, but am apparantly wrong. I am intending to release this as a pretty pdf, but no harm in putting up what I've got now. --Vitenka
Some players handle cosmic power better than others.
The 'public recap' system worked WONDERFULLY. Standardise it.
One player stayed just long enough to initiate a first plot, and was replaced with a second - who, to be fair, is always pretty quiet. But stayed fairly uninvolved and seems to have an over-eagerness for penguins.
They went off and plotted. They traded political favours in exchange for 'please do not foil my plot' - on the first vote they penunanimously voted a player down - much to the surprise of all the minor dragons (me).
My senechals were rapidly thought up on the spot and comedy. This worked well enough.
The 'cairn and poetry' contest was not, sadly, BagOfBlocks? - and was (I think) hampered by direct magical attacks. Many pastels were eaten. Maybe I squashed the magic a bit too hard?
One player flattenned all mountains. Another decided to call down the moon to raise them back up. She did so, slapped them both and went to her room to sulk and eat pizza.
Some pastels were earnt.
Then came more plotting - two full rounds. At this point some of the foils started to get crossed (and the GM cheat sheet proved a great aid) and people were positively glowing to be told "Ah yes, that's a perfect plot. Go tell him that you're doing it and see what he'll pay you not to."
Players started using IC and OOC spy networks. This was a good thing. One hid his involvement with the moon.
Around this point I did a second recap and commenced another round of plotting.
Another player made a crown for the moon - which a third had the sun steal. The favour of luna earned pastels.
I was reminded that we hadn't had a 'make a house major' vote yet. It was again penunanimous to instate the previously minor PC house - Jade replacing earth as a power of creation.
A quick round of plotting and we got to the duel. Fire decided to kill earth. (Earth being slightly picked on, methinks.) Fire drew and vowed vengence, or something.
Later we had a three-way plot-clash of wonderfulness, and I sent fire into "You've found them in a secret meeting" and stood back. Belatedly reminded of one players 'spirit dragon advisor' (sub-plot unexecuted) I gave him a bad french accent hint that he actually stood a good chance at the regency.
Last quick round of plotting and the final vote. Fire chased Earth out of the council chamber, and Air had the minor houses on side and the support of Jade (who had most sparklies) for the win.
Artifact pledge (he didn't get them all) and wrapup.
As a note, plots are now recorded this way: Element Plot Counterplot Cross it out if counter works, circle plot if it is live. Give player a card when the initiate a plot, give it a plus if the plot goes live, take it back if not. Try to get one plot per player on the sheet that has not been countered. Then keep countering and getting new plots at about the same rate until everyone has had two - then close down the sheet by setting off last chance coutners. Get everyone back to the table by wrapping up "Did he agree to withdraw his counter? Any plots that need giving a plus mark?" and then run a quick recap of hilarity - by reading straight off the GM sheet those few plots that were uncountered, and some of the funnier counters.
Here is the player handout for the second PlayTest?. It is not complete, but combined with my notes above should be sufficient.
Note that this is an anime inspired game (think Chinese heavens) and magic is 'pastel sparklies' in description and I am following the basic law of game design:
Should you game require tokens, they shall be edible.
Rowntrees were thereby purchased.
Far above creation, in the kingdoms of heaven lie the elemental realms and the courts of the celestial dragons. Across the centuries they sit as absolute rulers of the universe. A peaceful rule of immortal harmony and truth. Most of the time.
You are an elemental dragon. Your kingdom is the finest jewel of creation. Mortals pray to you for divine guidance and you answer or not as you choose. Your family (insanely powerful dragons in their own right) obeys your whims, as do the less powerful inhabitants of your plane.
Nemesis, the dragon of void has passed away to the next stage of his eternal reincarnation cycle. And while you pass the dull centuries waiting for his egg to hatch, heaven needs a regent.
If you want to do something, and it won't take long - you do it. You're a celestial dragon - one of the few true rulers of heaven. Who the heck is going to tell you no?
Well - your fellow dragons might. If you get into a contest with a fellow dragon, then whoever has the highest rank in the appropriate attribute wins. If you like, you can turn in a plot card (the plot must be tangentially related to the struggle) to temporarily add to your rank for this contest. (This is what you do in this system, where in most systems you would roll dice.) If you have equal ranks, then you struggle mightily, and both lose a rank of endurance. You can either keep up the struggle (until one of you needs to go to sleep), or come to some arrangement.
Pastel sparklies. These represent stylish magic, and are also quite tasty. You gain pastels by being over-polite, and for answering (player or character) questions so that the GM doesn't have to. You can also trade them. You USE them to power your magic. If you are doing something sufficiently impressive then the GM may arbitrarily tell you to eat a pastel. If you don't like them, give them to the GM - which brings up the issue of bribery...
Plot cards, long contests: To get a plot card, you have to bring a plot to fruition. Describe the plot, and then the GM gets a chance to 'encourage' another player to foil it. Once you've persuaded them not to, you get to keep the plot card. Once a plot has been created, it stays valid until someone foils it. You should foil any plots that get aimed at you - to stop them being used again and again.
Aim of the game: Become regent. This requires a vote in the council (trade for favours!) and will be ratifies by artefacts pledged to your rule. An additional vote is available by collecting the most pastel-sparklies. You will have some goals given to you that are specific to you. These are extra bonuses to aim for.
You get to pick an advantage card and a disadvantage card (If there are few players, you might get more than one). You get given an artefact.
Then you bid for your attributes. The four attributes are: Magic. Physical. Political Clout. Endurance.
Bidding proceeds as follows: You have 100 points to spend in total. (So, 25 points is 'average') The GM asks who is spending 5 points, 10 points, 15 points etc. If you end up spending the MOST points in an attribute then you have first rank. No matter how many points behind they are, the next person has rank 2 - and so on. Points are ONLY useful for creation. Any spare points can be turned in for sparklies at 5 points for each extra one. You get two free sparklies. You also need to describe the makeup of your family of dragons and your elemental realm.
Ran it again-again. Did the world-building variant. It worked well. Players came up with, in no particular order, a race of cats who like to read books and mine, psychic orangutans and monkeys from space. And a giant doom crystal laser - mounted on a gimbal. (Pronounce 'gimbal' to rhyme with 'doooooom')
Explicit stake setting seemed to do nothing rules-wise (stakes never varied from "abort your plan" / "Shan't") but it did encourage compromise. Making conflict only do damage at 5 and damage all participants at 10 worked. Letting players just buy 8 boxes worked.
The system was odd in that a single high stat is the mark of a defence build - the opposite of most games. This is probably abusable in a longer game.
Handing out two advantages and disadvantages per player due to few players worked.
Handing out LOTS of semi-conflicting goals (things to rule) worked.