It’s Complicated: first playtest

11 11 2007

Huge thanks to Shreyas, Tom, Dave, Charlotte, and Liam for helping me take this game out for a spin. It was.. totally indescribable to have people actually following rules I wrote! And frustrating when the rules’ failings became obvious. And amazing when things worked well! Here is what I learned:

  • The R-Map Twister chart was called “genius” three separate times. Everyone loves it. I’m psyched.
  • I thought the first scene might be boring due to exposition? Try almost every scene other than the last few. The first round of Oddity and Dysfunction placement needs to happen before the first scene is ever framed; probably without any lines touching or crossing.
  • I need to emphasise the flow of “Due to [Oddity], I [Dysfunction.]” The Dysfunction is a direct, external expression of an internalized Oddity.
  • Since the game creates¬† the framework for character development, the main thing the players really have to bring is the action in any given scene– coming up with a strong sense of what the backdrop is for the scene points is vital, otherwise it’s people standing around expositing.
  • Apparently people like the fact that you mold a scene around the different notes you have to hit.
  • Instead of declaring the nature of every Oddity/Dysfunction/Relationship being revealed in a scene before it happens, the player should be free to reveal as much or as little as they want, for surprise reveals if desired.
  • The key to a tight scene is not having more PCs in it than you need.
  • Some of the coolest scenes are when a PC declares their side of a relationship with another PC.. And the second PC is not in the scene.
  • Giving the first player a second turn at the end creates a neat little hook that makes you look forward to the next session.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton– the guys gave me amazing feedback. I hope we can do it again at some point, so I can see if a non-establishing session really cooks!

Balancing Act

6 11 2007

So I think I have a more unified mechanic for Addict. Having three separate systems for resolution wasn’t very elegant, so I’ve been trying to think for the last few days about a system which could take care of all three. My daughter woke me up insanely early this morning and did not want to hang out in my room, so I got my spiral notebook and a mechanical pencil and hashed this out analogue-style.

Sure, addiction is about filling a void– but that’s the addiction itself. Trying to kick the addiction, which is what the game is about, is a careful balancing act. You need things to lean on until you’re strong enough to not need crutches; you have to be dependent on something, but if you’re too dependent, it will be impossible to ever walk on your own.

You start with 8 Obsession Points, 4 Resolve Points, and 4 Dependency Points. Assign those Dependency Points to between 2-4 Dependencies. This creates balance! If you ever have more Obsession Points than you have in combined Resolve and Dependency Points, you relapse.

When you relapse, your Dependency Points go away; the only way to get back to balance is by burning off Obsession Points by injuring your relationships and resisting recovery.

When you face a Trigger, you gain a point of Obsession. You then call on a Dependency to restore balance; roll a d10. If the result is 1 or 2, you lose a point of Dependency and gain a point of Obsession. (Since you are able to have more points in your Dependency/Resolve pool than Obsession, this will not always send you into relapse.) If the result is 3-6, you neither gain nor lose, and must try again. If you get 7-10, you successfully get another Dependency point.

However! If you ever gain points in a single Dependency which are equal to your Obsession Points, that Dependency becomes another Obsession. Those points are removed from the game, which may send you into relapse.

This seems more complicated but perhaps less confusing; I don’t know. I have a niggling sensation that it might not be a great idea to write crunch at 7 AM.

I also had a weird idea last night/this morning for a paper-doll based Pygmalion game inspired by Lucky Boys Confusion and Mike Errico.¬† It is probably too nuts to ever possibly publically explain without embarrassment. And also, man, it would be nice to have ideas which do not revolve around dysfunctional relationships; why are functional relationships so boring for exploration with roleplaying? I’d like to think it’s because functional relationships are ground which is richly covered by real life, but that might be naivete.

Relationship Twister

3 11 2007

I wasn’t going to post about this until after I got a playtestable draft of Addict up, but Shreyas challenged me to write the Pushing Daisies game (which I’d already been thinking about), and then some folks asked me about it, so I thought I’d give you a preview of the guts under the dysfunctional relationship game I plan to make after Addict. (Note: I’m not separating out the relationship dynamics from Addict, I’ve decided– they’re a huge part of what makes the game compelling to me, personally. This is just something a little more lighthearted and convoluted.)

Thanks to Alex from #indierpgs, this game is tentatively titled “Perfectly Dysfunctional,” however, I like to call this social engine..

Relationship-Map Twister

There are spots on a board in two lines. These represent the two main traits: Dysfunction and Oddity. Dysfunctions are social issues– things which affect how the person interacts with the people around them– whereas Oddities are personal issues and secrets. The sky is the limit when it comes to how odd of an Oddity you can have, but I’d encourage players to keep a good social contract and discuss the type of game you want to play beforehand.


The first person goes. Since one of the big inspirations for this game is the uniformly excellent TV show Pushing Daisies, and that is what Shreyas wants to play with this, we’ll be using examples from the show. Chuck goes first! Her Dysfunction is “Sheltered,” and her Oddity is “Used to be dead.”


Ned goes next. His Dysfunction is “Fear of intimacy,” and his Oddity is “Brings dead people back to life.” He has two choices; he can either touch Chuck– share one of her two traits– or he can cross Chuck. When you cross someone, you declare a relationship with that person. You can only declare your side of the relationship! How the other person feels about you can be explored in play. Ned chooses to cross Chuck, and declares that he is in love with her.


Olive goes next. Her Oddity is “Bursts into song when emotional,” and her Dysfunction is “Wants what she can’t have.” She chooses to cross Ned, and declares that she is in love with him.


Emerson goes last. His Oddity is that he loves to knit; his Dysfunction is that he, too, has a fear of intimacy. He decides not to cross anyone, since he is sharing a Dysfunction with Ned.


So yes. R-maps aren’t very revolutionary, I realize, but I like how this bases everything off of one-sided emotion and shared issues, which seems to be the hallmark of dramedy entertainment these days.