It’s Complicated: Log for playtest 4, pregen and scenes 1-3

6 12 2007

I’m going to test out this neat page-break thing, because it is a doozy. I’m also going to attempt to mix the OOC chatter into the IC flow (we use separate chat channels for the two), with cunning use of bold for IC. I’ve deleted a lot of the tangential chatter, but left in an amusing practical jokes. Playtesters: can’t live with ’em, can’t shoot them in the head, or else how would you find out where your game breaks?

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It’s Complicated playtest #3, part one

30 11 2007

We got most of an It’s Complicated playtest done last night, with tweaks to the last rules tweaks, and trying out a rough new shape of the board. While I was tweaking the board, I had people who’d played before explain the rules to people who hadn’t played, just to see if the game makes sense without me explaining it; other than getting some terminology swapped, that went really well. It took a little longer to unpack the rules due to the semantics issues, but once we got to playing, I think it went pretty well. I’m thinking this is going to be the playtest we take past one session, and see how it cooks.

Things we learned:

  • Char was spot on with her suggestion that everyone start having declared one stat, not two. (I chose Dysfunction, since that’s the outward manifestation of an inward issue; Oddities would make more sense from a metagame standpoint, but you kind of need to have the ability to manifest your internal issue in order to play.)
  • Having a more detailed setting is always better. This time we played quirky people spending the night in a haunted house in order to get a deceased man’s inheritance.
  • “Oddities” being internal and “Dysfunctions” being external is kind of confusing to some people. I can see where Dysfunctions being internal might make more sense on the surface, but a lot of what can be classified as Oddities are not dysfunctional per se; you wouldn’t call Superman’s X-Ray vision a dysfunction. It’s a weird secret; an oddity. Dysfunctions are outward things that people see and go “Oh, he’s kind of broken.”
  • JR realized that there’s a certain amount of tactical thinking to the game board; we moved his Oddity during his turn, because he said “Oh crap, I did not realize that this means someone is going to have to share the ‘Cursed’ Oddity just to declare a relationship with me!” I think having to keep that kind of thing in mind is sort of cool.

So there you go! I’ll probably write up the new rules sometime this weekend; my main focus right now is Retrospective, because I have to crank it out by the 6th. It’s hard not to keep poking at It’s Complicated, though, because I’m too excited that it’s fun and actually kinda playable.

EDIT: this recent “Overheard in New York” is a great example of the feel I think of, when I think of this game.

Cashier: How are you?
Customer: Do you want the honest answer?
Cashier: Yes.
Customer: I feel like the business end of a donkey. I am extremely hungover and did a mountain of cocaine last night. Now I have to make dinner for a 68-year-old gay artist who is trying to fuck me.
Cashier: I’m… sorry.
Customer: And the woman I love is in another state pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s baby, and I wish the baby was mine. And I’m sleeping with a dominatrix. And it’s all true.

–Whole Foods

It’s Complicated: Playtest #2

27 11 2007

I wanted to do a quick playtest of the new Complicated rules I’d been bandying about in my brain before I actually committed them to paper. (The only major change: a pre-round where you make lines, declare Oddities and Dysfunctions, but the lines don’t touch and you don’t have scenes about them.)

Fortunately, Char, Shreyas, and Jason P were up for helping me out last night. It was a pretty good game, although having started so late at night, everyone was pretty tired by the last scene (which was still full of mayhem and fun). It was nice to test the variety of settings It’s Complicated can handle, too; the first game had a very low Oddity threshhold, was set in modern-day, and revolved around assassins who were out of work due to their union being on strike. This game was about dysfunctional elves in a toy factory, so the Oddity threshhold was much higher. Everyone was so tired by the end of the game that we haven’t had a postmortem yet, but I wanted to get down my thoughts on the game before I forget them; I’ll probably post stuff from the game discussion later (or invite the playtesters to come comment).

  • Playtest #1 had more narrative interest because we established a situation– the assassins were on strike. We didn’t have any kind of “current event” context for the elves, which made it feel like there was no particular plot, which lessened the impact of the reveals. I guess this is one of those little details that seems like it should be obvious, but needs to go in the rules. (It’s not THAT obvious if even I forgot about it. :P)
  • Jason said that the game lost some of its shine when it got to the point where you HAD to cross two or three players every time you moved; I think that was a product of the new rule– starting with at least four lines on the board, you get to that point much more quickly. The good thing about playing out the establishing round in the first playtest was that, although the first scenes were slow, the slower build into complexity seemed a lot more engaging and less.. frenetic. There’s gotta be a happy medium..
  • The game took off in a much nicer, cleaner fashion by having everyone establish quirks and oddities before the start of the game. We seemed to have a better handle on who our characters were, which made it easier for them to interact; also, we didn’t really bother with declaring the nature of every relationship before a scene– we just let it unfold naturally, most of the time, and that worked really well.

The differences in Dysfunctions and Oddities between the two games was really interesting to me, as well. If you’re curious, the ending gameboards are here:

Playtest 1: Assassins on strike

Playtest 2: Dysfunctional elves

JiffyCon awesomeness

18 11 2007

So I got back from five days of awesomeness a few hours ago. Josh and Casey were phenomenal hosts, Shreyas was impossibly delightful (as one might imagine) as an adventuring companion, and JiffyCon was sublime.

The first game I played was Transantiago, which was as good as I thought it would be. I think the playtest pointed out some important things, and also showed that the game is really playable and full of vitality; I can’t wait to see its final incarnation.

Meg Baker saw me standing, hopeless and indecisive, by the signup sheets for the afternoon session, took pity on me, and squeezed me into her full game of 1001 Nights. I gushed at Meg at length about her game, and I believe most of the rest of the indie RPG world (you know, the people who played at least one indie RPG before.. yesterday, unlike myself) already knows that 1001 is fantastic, so I won’t gush too much. But I adore that you choose dice for beauty, that you tell stories within stories, and that the mechanics are so elegant and simple– there’s so much complexity with the individual stories and the meta-story, and playing characters which, in turn, play multiple characters, that it’s great that the dice are so simple. You get all of that dense, nuanced complexity with the plot and not the mechanics; the difference between 1001 Nights and D&D is the difference between baklava and a calculus textbook. Plus, the group was a blast to game with.

I was really excited that I got a chance to meet so many new people, and got to connect with so many online friends. Emily and Kat (I wish I knew her screenname, if any) really kind of encouraged me to dust off the wacky artsy Pygmalion concept I had a while ago, so a lot of ideas for that game started to come together during my layover in Cincinatti tonight. I’ll type those up either tonight or tomorrow. And I am now the proud owner of both Breaking the Ice and Shooting the Moon, not to mention the first three volumes of Scott Pilgrim! So I’m knee-deep in reading material for quite some time.

I feel energized and inspired!

Addict: First draft DONE!

11 11 2007

I’m completely psyched! All initial work on Addict is done. I’m sure it will need some fine-tuning once it gets playtested, but all the basics and the guts of the game are all there. Please check it out and let me know what you think; there’s the big shift in rules (from the three different point mechanics to the unified balancing thing, and new rules to encourage working together), and of course, lots of technical writing, which I’m not convinced is my strong suit.

My goal is to get either this or It’s Complicated playtested before Shreyas and I go on our monumental JiffyCon road trip on Wednesday. Will it happen? Time will tell! I’m really hoping so. Complicated is rough, because it takes a minimum of four players; Addict may be rough because chargen is so involved. Maybe we can do something like Shreyas did with Skyflower, and run a playtest of chargen only. We’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see.

Big ups to the fine folks of #indierpgs helping me talk through the endgame stuff, and everyone else I’ve bothered with this nonsense over the last two weeks. (Note to said people: you’re not out of the woods yet.)


5 11 2007

I got some great feedback on the PDF version of It’s Complicated, but apparently some people don’t like PDFs! I updated the downloadable version anyway, and now, the more-polished first draft has its own handy-dandy page on this blog as well; just look for the “It’s Complicated” tab at the top.

It’s got some scene examples, which I think were probably the most vital thing missing from the last draft. They were fun to write; if my game actually works the way it’s designed to work, I’ll be happy. Maybe I’ll get a playtest going on IRC this afternoon or evening; we’ll see.