mrteapot (mrteapot) wrote,
mrteapot
mrteapot

[Playtest] Death takes a holiday: The hills are Alive… with the sounds of vengeance!

The second playtest had six players, which really changes the dynamic of the game.



With two players, it was easy for the game to stall out or to feel uncertain what to do. In a six player game, we constantly had much more action, since somebody always had an idea where to push the game.

It also made the game much more gonzo and over-the-top. In the first game, we had a relatively little mystery involving a priest who was formerly a spy. The priest's secretary (whom he was having an affair with) died.

In the second playtest, we had dozens of deaths, human trafficking, two different car bombs, dueling psychics, family soap opera squabbles, a fairy vampire, an angry mountain trying to destroy a theater and ultimately the sheriff being outed as some sort of mystic fairy peacekeeper. Lots more going on, and lots more crazy, over the top stuff.

It certainly seems like having a larger group caused a lot more one-upmanship in narration and a tendency for the game to spiral more toward the crazy. This isn't a problem, because this game was hilarious and a lot of fun. But it is an emergent dynamic that is good to note. Some other GMless games exhibit similar behaviors.


Players indicated that the game felt a little bit unstructured. The plot wound up tying itself together fairly nicely in the end, but sometimes it felt like we were just running all over the place with narration without any clear end goal in sight. Sort of a similar problem as in the first playtest, so I'll have to give some thought to how that could work. I had originally intended for the pool of responses and "That's a Funny Story" to provide some guidance in play. But that doesn't seem to be quite doing the job. I'll have to look at it and figure out if there's something else that can be done.

Speaking of which, we sort of abandoned the rules as such for "That's a Funny Story" and used it mostly as a "here's an unexpected turn of events when you do that" card. This was mostly because of my failure to explain the card, and once we were going I wanted to see how the variant would play out (and didn't want to dampen the enthusiasm of the game.) This may have added to the unstructured feel of play. It definitely meant that I wasn't feeling "This would be better as a campaign" like I did the first time.



Good things:

The Boxmuller questionairre produced some nicely varied characters, from a sociopathic salesman to a surly teenager to a Eurotrash fake psychic (turned real psychic, sorta) to a girl who spent most of her childhood in a coma. The checklist also created some juicy family drama in the game, via the "cares about the Boxmuller to your left" statement. One PC was the illegitimate son of another PC, raised by a third (and a fourth suspected something else entirely going on). This generated some interesting character interactions and plot developments during the game.

Everyone seemed to like the Response cards. Once we got going, everyone keyed in on the "strong, definitive statements needed to make it work" pretty well. When someone would occasionally make a weak, "try" statement, then another player would ask it to be rephrased in stronger terms, which usually worked.

Some attention was paid to the moral ambiguity of the entire setup. The climax involved two camps of PCs: one who wanted to save the entire theatre full of people, another which wanted to save 4-6 people and let the rest die. (Not enough attention was paid to repercussions for our actions to really address this point. That's because the game was barreling along too fast to stop and introduce more consequences for our actions. If we were to play a second session with the same group, I could see it having consequences catch up with us.)

Lots of black humor. The ending felt to me like the ending of a Venture Brother episode (We focus on the psychic on stage while the audience heads to the theatre lobby during intermission. We hear mayhem and bloodshed outside as the fairy vampire exsanguinates 34 people, then cut to black).



The Boxmuller family:

Ichabod, age 76 - grandfather of most of the family

-Has few social ties back to the mainland.

Yes, but…
that is because all my friends are old or in nursing homes.

Cares deeply about the Boxmuller to his/her left (Lillian)

Yes, and…
I want her to stay here on the island with me, even after Death returns.

Can see the cause of death of a person just by looking at them.

No, and…
Death specifically passed over me when handing out mystic gifts, for unknown reasons.

Can see ghosts and spirits

That's a funny story…
I've always been able to see spirits and ghosts.

Has fond memories of the island.

Try it a different way…
I was planning to retire to Perdido Island with Hopewell Boxmuller.

Did something shameful in the past

No, but…
I was wrongly accused of malfeasance and kicked out of the military.



Gene, age 30 - sociopathic salesman

-Has few social ties back to the mainland.

That's a funny story…
My friendships never seem to last.


Cares deeply about the Boxmuller to his/her left (Ichabod)

No, but…
I can't get over the feeling that I'm really supposed to.

Can see the cause of death of a person just by looking at them.

Yes, and…
I often find it kind of hilarious.

Can see ghosts and spirits

Yes, but…
I think they're fairies for some reason.

Has fond memories of the island.

No, and…
I don't really have childhood memories at all.

Did something shameful in the past

Try it a different way…
I am a salesman for a company that makes shoddy defective medical supplies. I'm very good at it.



Gregory, age 16 - surly teenager, illicit love child

-Has few social ties back to the mainland.

No, and…
if I never set foot there again I'd be happy. This island is lame, my dead uncle was lame. Being dead is lame.

Cares deeply about the Boxmuller to his/her left (Gene)

Yes, and…
I idolize him because he's doing good work, but doesn't care what the 'government' says about it.

Can see the cause of death of a person just by looking at them.

Yes, but…
I get two versions. One is their true death, one will be mistaken.

Can see ghosts and spirits

Try it a different way…
I can, but I can't distinguish them from ordinary people.

Has fond memories of the island.

No, but…
I was always fascinated by the girl with green hair who lived out in the forest. she always wanted me to come with her into the woods, but never did.

Did something shameful in the past

That's a funny story…
I stole a holy relic from a church (the hand of St. Ignatius). I felt bad and tried to return it, but the church burned down. now I don't know where to return it, so I brought it with me to the island.


Elise, age 38 - imaginative coma patient, adoptive mother

-Has few social ties back to the mainland.

No, and…
I have few social ties on the island - too afraid of what's in the forest (my son likes it too much!)

Cares deeply about the Boxmuller to his/her left (my son Gregory)

Yes, but…
he's not really my son but my nephew.

Can see the cause of death of a person just by looking at them.

Yes, and…
I can alter one aspect of it.

Can see ghosts and spirits

Try it a different way…
I can hear them but not see them.

Has fond memories of the island.

Funny story…
All of my meories are fabricated. I spent part of my youth in a come but 'remember' many fantasies of living out those years on the island.

Did something shameful in the past

No, but…
I did something valorous but still I must hide it. I pretended that my sister's illegitimate baby was my own to save my sister of the shame.



constantine Vincentez, age 39 - in-law, former child psychic, morally questionable

-Has few social ties back to the mainland.

no and…
the criminal syndicate i work for is expecting regular updates.

Cares deeply about the Boxmuller to his/her left (Elise)

No, but…
I do feel bitterly indebted to her for taking care of my illegitimate son.


Can see the cause of death of a person just by looking at them.

Yes, but…
the knowledge is especially, frustratingly metaphorical.

Can see ghosts and spirits

Yes, and…
they will carry out his commands as well.

Has fond memories of the island.

Try it a different way…
The island has fond memories of his childhood. I was a minor childhood celebrity who could bend spoons with my mind and such.

Did something shameful in the past

That's a funny story…
I'm responsible for the wreck that killed the family. I was smuggling some illicit cargo and put it where it started a fire.


(I assume the player took Lillian's sheet with her.)


Two postcard were generated during the game:

"Wow! you guys are hard at work already. Take a walk on Pier 3 today at 6:00pm for a break. -Never liked Kit-Kats"

(Which led to an action sequence involving a crane and a shipping container full of human trafficking victims. It turns out the system makes for some fairly exciting action sequences. After that sequence ended with many casulties, we received the following.)

"I checked with Headquarters, and they have not authorized all the "overtime" you've put in. You'll have to pay back the extra. 6 people should come home tonight from the Morris theatre who weren't supposed to; make sure of it. -Delegating Damage Control"




Overall, I'm happy with how the game went, and would like to play again some time. Still needs more playtesting and there's still some design work to be done to get everything working right. But it's off to a good start.
Tags: absurdity, black humor, death, death takes a holiday, fairies, family drama, game design, meteor, playtest report, roleplaying, roleplaying games, rpgs
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