Thursday, April 9, 2015

Playtest Diaries

Hey everyone. Im back again with another update from our playtests. I did definitely want to do these blogs more often, I'll be better about that(sorry).

Game has been going great so far. We havnt missed a week but we have been without Amy for 2 of the past 3 games. We had the normal problem with missing a player(math on encounters doenst add up right, things planned for that character dont get to happen or get moved), but it was a good thing to look at, "balance-wise, how does missing a player affect the game."

Most games have some sort of specialization. Bill is good at X tasks and Jane is good at Y tasks. If Bill is missing but we have an encounter the requires someone skilled in X, we have a problem. Usually this is handled one of two ways from a GM standpoint. Either the group is guided away from the task meant for Bill or it becomes a time of stress and growth, where someone else must step up to fill Bill's shoes. I think use both strategies in different degrees is the best way to go. However, in many games there is a character who seems almost necessary(oftentimes the healer) and things get very complicated if they arent around. With Hero's Journey focus on the party and everyone having powers that help the group, this might get more difficult. Amy's character was a hunter and the group suffered through longer travel episodes from her absence. But what if Anne had to miss game? How bad would it be without a focused lover for the party?

I think it is mostly solved because everyone should have a little of things. So everyone would save their inspiration if the lover was gone so they could make it through, but its something Im going to be keeping an eye on.

I want to give a little background on the characters and story so far before I go further so I can refer back to it.

Bernard Fitzroy X - Chosen of Thoth: In the UNC Chapel Hill Doctorate program for archaeology. His ancestors graffitied the pyramids long during the Suez Canal building period. His family sees it as a mark of pride, but Bernard is embarrassed by it and seeks to study archaeology as a form of penance/sorrow. The Ibis that informed him of his sacred duty also hinted at a prophecy in which Bernard dies in a horrible explosion. He is mostly a sage type character who uses Creator to heal and fix things. He has some hunter for naturalism and other animal/outdoorsy stuff.

Athanasios Prokopis (Nate) - Son of Hermes: Nate is a young New Jersey dude who does "deliveries" for organized crime and other unsavory folks. His introduction to his biological father was very recent and involved Hermes framing him for terrorism, you know, as a test. He keeps trying to just get back home and back to his life, but he keeps getting entangled in legal troubles. He is a Rebel/Explorer

Emelia Vinter - Chosen of Skadi: Emelia moved to Greensboro, NC not too long ago from Colorado. Shes an outdoors type and she works at the local Zipline/lazertag/halloweencornfield farm. Shes not very well off and struggles to make her weekly rent. When Skadi visited her, she told her it was her destiny to stop the great winter. She hasnt quite figured out what that means yet, and being a hero seems to only get in the way(although shes been eating better recently). She is an Explorer/Citizen

Ananda Harper (Annie) - Chosen of Sarasvati: Annie is currently an artist in residence(fake professor) at the local college. She has traveled all over the world with her Jazz trio and has been awarded the presidential medal of the arts for a song she wrote to raise money for victims of hurricane Katrina. She has spent most of her adult life traveling and performing while residing in New Orleans and Nyc, but she took this job in a small city to settle down with her wife. She is a Artisan/Jester

Jennifer - Chosen of Athena: Jennifer has come to be known as "action lawyer." She is the only true combat person in the group and shes also a smart lawyer. She does a lot of running and jumping and saving people all while in a power suit with heels. She lives in the shadow of her deceased mother, a very influential lawyer(I think in california). Upon her visitation Athena set up Jennifer's mother as a spirit guide for her. Speaking to her in moving pictures in an old law text.

Some of the stuff is missing(like Jennifer's last name and some archetypes) cause I just realized that Stewart and Katie take their characters home each week. Its not a problem at all, but something I only just noticed(Im used to having every character sheet in our giant character sheet rolodex).

I'll try to blitz through the story up to this point.

Nate is making a delivery when hermes shows up, frames him for terrorism as a joke and then says he needs to make a delivery for him. Bernard is traveling on the same highway to class and is stopped by an Ibis who takes him to Nate who is coincidentally going to the same place. Jennifer is close on a case and needs to interview a key witness who is at a downtown bar. Emelia and Annie end up there too, I dont remember why.
They get some food but Jennifer smells that the food is rotten. They order new food. The guys arrive, bernard senses the new food is also rotten and slaps a burger out of emelia's hand. This starts a "everyone hates bernard the crazy person" trope. Stewart is not a fan of this trope.

Some shit goes down at the bar, they find out that the witness is working at the place poisoning the food. They go to debrief at Annie's house cause its closest and there is a freak blizzard. On the way, Bernard sees a snow elf and makes everyone investigate it. Jennifer can see the elf but doesnt make a big deal of it. Everyone else thinks the elf is a normal college kid who doesnt wanna be bothered by Bernard. "Cue Trope"

But the elf mentions its work here is done and theres a new blizzard it has to start in West Virginia. As it leaves it opens a portal in the sky. Action lawyer leaps into the sky to follow it. Everyone else stares dumbfounded, including me. Bernard is able to scry on her to see where she is and they all plan a roadtrip to go get Jennifer. The story had nothing actually to do with this elf or west virginia, I was just trying to get him out of here so they could refocus on the main plot. But that failed horribly, cause action lawyer.

This is my first new note. Travel Episodes and a split group: Although for the arc of the story it makes sense for them to go on a heroic journey full of adventures to find her, thats a large portion of the game Katie isnt involved in. So I came up with stuff for her to do with her new elf pal, but it was difficult jumping back and forth between travel episode crew and normal adventure episodes with Jennifer. I think it turned out fine, but I want to probably add a sidebar about it in the travel ep section because I dont think it necessarily something that is intuitive.

This brings me to another of my notes. Our playtest games are much shorter than our normal games, but I think more in line with how long an average player would play. This has been an astounding challenge for me. The economies of the game(labors, etc) are based upon a session that would be longer, but obviously people will have differing lengths of game. I was especially realizing that god characters in a 3.5 hour game would have an almost unbalanced amount of chapter labors available to them per hour of play. It wont make it into the main book, but a future supplement will probably include some help for GMs on how to raise or lower the amount of chapter labors based on the length of the session.

In that same vein, it has been a real challenge to stay on task. With only 3.5 hours we have to get stuff DONE! But our group is very used to slowly getting into the game while discussing the events of the week, gossip, news etc. It would definitely be a challenge for me to always game like this. Just as with chapter episodes above, in shorter games its tough to change episodes as much as you probably should. So when we talk about session length we'll probably talk about that as well.

At a gas station they're attacked by some frost giants. Bernard suggests starting a gasoline to deal with them because they lack action lawyer. It is super effective. "cue trope".
They eventually meet up with Jennifer while she is fighting off some createurs. They're doing poorly in the battle and Nate uses the trickster Gambit to get them out of there. He rolls very well. When he was a kid he used to go camping in the woods near here. He planted a seed there one summer and now he sees it has grown into a gorgeous tree of pulsing life energy. (these are plague creatures so the beacon of life energy is more tempting to them than the heros). Nate saves the day, everyone is bleeding and dieing.

I love gambits. Since Anne came up with them after we both struggled on what the trickster could be doing as a story vehicle, they have been my favorite mechanic in the game. Its incredibly difficult for a player to prepare the amazing plans a trickster should be pulling off. But gambits do the work for them. Their character still put in all the time, but the player doesnt have to be a mastermind anymore to play a trickster type character. You spend a reserve, roll on the table, and the trickster and the ST figure out how he could have done things in the past to make the outcome work. It still requires imagination on both their parts, but its smooth and elegant and awesome. Ok, done tooting own horn, but really annes horn.

While he is lying in a pool of his own blood, Bernard sees the truth in the world around him. He learns that things are getting worse in Greensboro and that this elf thing was a fools errand. The rest of the group wont be happy to hear about this....and they probably wont even believe him. "cue trope"

The sages job is hard. I definitely get that. You know things others dont know and see/hear things others dont hear. It can definitely be really frustrating for the player when others dont believe him/her or dont take his/her ideas seriously. Stewart has been having a rough time with it, but doing it like a champ. Some sage powers werent helping the sage with their role in the story insomuch as if people dont believe you at all, you cant sage much. One of the powers we've been working hard to retool is one of these and Cameron will be giving a sneak peak of it tomorrow. So I wont spoil it here. And Bernard and Jennifer will be playtesting with it tonight if you wanna see if they mention any of it on the twitter.

I had some more to say....but Ive run out of time... I'll split this into two parts and get the next one out early next week. I know this one wasnt as discussion filled as the last one, but I think itll be easier to talk about the characters now that you know them a little.


  1. A "listen to me, damnit!" power for Sages is definitely appropriate. While Cassandra is a viable mythic figure, it was a curse. And while ignoring intelligent advice in favor of charismatic idiots is a real thing, in mythology, people do listen to Sages. Often to the point of seeking them out for their counsel.

    As such, I'd say it's totally appropriate to have a Sage Blessing that gives them an aura of respectability or lets them make a decree that cannot be dismissed. It ties into Sages as teachers and advisors of heroes. Leader and Lover still run circles around Sages even if they have this power, since they specialize in charm of one sort or another.

    I have had a LOT of experience in this field, both in games and in life.

  2. I agree with the Creator power Cam discussed a couple of last week, there are definitely places where an Aspect needs to step on another Aspect's toes to truly live up to itself. I'd argue that the Weaponry Blessing preview we got ages ago in John's Aspect series is another example.

    As an aside, I'm curious if Ananda has met her Patron yet, since her write-up has zero mentions of how she became a Hero, in pretty stark contrast to the other four. Was this a casualty of the character sheets?

    1. Ha, I don't know why he skipped that part for her. She did in fact - she teaches music at a small local college, and was led one morning by a mysterious white bird to the college's deserted auditorium, where a beautiful woman played such lovely music that she couldn't help but try to play along... although she felt a lot like she was sort of ruining it with her fumbling around. She knows who her patron is and, while not quite sure what she's supposed to do, is pretty happy about the situation.

    2. I also love Gambits...I get the feeling Hindu Gods and Heroes alike will love the ability to to say 'I totally meant to do that' that it provides...I can just see Shiva running from Bhasmasura and spending a reserve to make sure Mohini is just around the corner :)

      By the way, what Talent is used to play music? One of the videos gave the impression that it was Beauty, a Cam post posited that it might be Vision, even Art feels like it might be a which is it?

    3. Just like in real life, music isn't a single skill, and you might have several different ones involved depending on what you're doing. Singing, for example, would need Beauty (it's about your personal beauty in your voice), but improvising music would need Vision to be creative on the spot, and there are other possibilities as well.

      A lot depends on what you are trying to do with your musical performance. :)