Actual Play – Duneville (1/8/2011)

Watchtower: Sean Nittner
Leads: Tracy Pinklton, Travis Lindquist, Chris Vincenti, and Steven Dunn
System: Smallville, hacked to Dune.

This was my play test game for the upcoming Endgame Minicon. I find it a little strange that I prep more for the one day minicons than I sometimes do for the big con events. I think it is because I know the people that will be there and that will be in the game, and I really want to make sure it’s good for them. Also, because the games are in the open (rather than in a room) I have a bit more opportunity to show off for minicon games.

So, too little surprise, I took the time to playtest my mini-con game and I’m glad I did. It was my first time either running or playing in the Smallville system and I was glad to give it a test drive.

Usually I don’t reveal “plot” in a play test but the plot of this game can be summed up in three words: Jamis wins. Go! If that doesn’t mean anything to you then perhaps your not a hard core Dune fan. But worry not, all will be explained before the game starts.

What rocked

  • The importance was focused on the player interactions with each other.
  • Value and Relationship statements were helpful guides to playing the character.
  • Being able to choose why you were doing something and for who was very powerful.
  • Challenging values and relationships was awesome.
  • The props worked well. Spice pills, my Duke Leto uniform and the character sheets were all quite nice.
  • Each situation really came alive; they all moved the Leads towards either conflict or resolution with each other.
  • The one upping each other conflict system was killer.
  • Stress in the game worked great, it really allowed the characters to go all out and keep hammering each other hard and harder.
  • Using spice (read: plot points) to create useful details and relationships was awesome.
  • The Leads all started off in a position of power, able to do awesome things.
  • All the challenges Travis (someone very familiar with Dune) wanted to see were there (Sardauker, Harokonnens, Sandworms, etc)
  • The introduction to the game summed up the world of Dune well, as well as offering an explanation for my alternative history setting.
  • Assets were flexible and fun, they really gave the characters directions and tools.

What could have improved

  • Need to find my dice! And possibly get some more of them.
  • To give Gurney a place in the story, have the game open with him. He was the only character that had a hard time being integrated into the story.
  • I need to make cheat sheets for the game system including: how to earn and spend spice (plot points), assets and triggers (note that using an asset and using a trigger are separate), and stress.
  • I need to make an intro to Dune and to the characters (making this and keeping it short may prove very difficult)
  • I had too many reveals and some of them were forced. The list needs to be paired down into the essential and the optional list.
  • Dune tangents. We could have spent four hours just talking about Dune . Must kill the tangents. Maybe I’ll threaten to take their water!
  • The Triggers and special effects were impossible to read on the character sheets. I will redo them in the format of: Condition – Pro – Con
  • Gurney is losing some glory and power for love.
  • We need a who is who sheet, and what is what. A glossary with things like Thumpers, Bene Gesserit, Leto, etc.
  • I will have to be careful with the player that plays Jamis. He need to be willing to push hard without being an ass.
  • Stilgar’s justice statement is changing to “I obey the spirit of the law”. He needs to shake things up.

After the game, I’m going to do a full write up of character sheets, relationship maps, conflicts, wedges, and reveals.

9 thoughts on “Actual Play – Duneville (1/8/2011)”

  1. Smallville and Dune. Oooooooooh, nice matchup. 🙂

    I would agree about a “who’s who” sheet. When Ryan ran Jediville for us in November, my character had relationships with a number of characters beyond the PCs, but I the player didn’t know anything about them other than the one-liner. Depending on whether you get Dune grognards, you’ll want to make sure people at least have a few sentences about everyone.

    Beyond that, the one thing I’d encourage is for the players to act out their decisions: that is, the relationships and values they’ve chosen, the challenges they’ve made, and so on. Smallville is interesting, but there’s enough mechanical overhead that it isn’t too difficult to fall into ‘mechanics speak’ without a lot of roleplaying. Encouraging people to act things out also takes care of the other thing I noticed, which is that players somethings see challenging a value as a purely mechanical benefit to get more dice on a roll. Players invested in their character are less likely to do that.

    Looking forward to seeing the after action report on this one.

    1. Hey Tim, glad you like the idea. I didn’t run into any mechanics driven play when I ran it, in fact I had to keep dragging people back to the dice “hey, you want him to do something, start rolling some dice”. Then again, the situation that I am starting the game in is extremely explosive so they were ready to start tearing each apart before I even finished explaining the rules.

  2. The Dice Must Flow!

    You’re welcome to borrow and adapt my Smallville Reference Sheet.

    In Duneville does Insecure stress get replaced with Thirsty?

    1. Thanks Carl, definitely will do.

      I was going to replace exhausted with thirsty, but no matter how many fonts I download I can’t get Adobe to edit the character sheet text without totally messing up the formatting.

      As is, I am quite disappointed at how small the triggers end up being to fit them on the sheet, even if I use multiple lines.

      1. I’m unimpressed with the character sheet included in the Smallville RPG; I think it would be easier to fit things on creating one from scratch, for a pregen, so you’re not wasting precious page on empty areas.

        Also, will you be creating a black box Gom Jabbar to reach in for a bonus die?

        1. Yes, I don’t even want to think of the hours I’ve spent hacking the Smallville Character sheet. The sheets in the book of the canon characters look great. The Lead sheet is horrible. I didn’t start from scratch but I did some serious hacking. I’d love to show you them at the con.

  3. ARRRGGGG!!!

    I really wanted to play in this game, but my life conspired against me, as I won’t be able to get to the mini-con as well….

    le sigh…

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