Actual Play-ish – Dresden Lives (7/10/2014)

Dresden-LivesGM: Devon Apple
Players: Jarys Maragopoulos, Sean Nittner, Brian Williams, Teresa Loesch, and Cy Myers
System: Dresden Lives

On a lonely Thursday eve, I meandered down the Nimitz to the city named after American explorer John Charles Frémont, “the Great Pathfinder.” I arrived just past seven, greeted by our host and Storyteller Devon, and shortly after was joined by our fellow players.

The plan was to play Dresden Lives but in our three and a half hours, we spent the first three talking about the rules, their intentions, where they make sense, where they don’t, and where they speak to a different culture of live action gamer. In the last 30 minutes we set up a scene and watched as our wizard enchanted a glass of liquid to glow so that we’d have light as we explored under the 16th Street BART station in Fog City.

Feedback from the Game

I left the game with three questions and some comments

1. Do story-tellers get fate points? If so, how many?
2. Is the stunts cost a fate point a recent change to the game because much of the text still seems to reflect the stunts are 1/session (see advancement option #2)
3. Are there different “types” of conflict, like social vs. physical vs. mental? I ask this specifically (and this was an issue in the tabletop game as well) because actions like White Court Vamp feeding seems very appropriate in a social conflict, but not a physical one. More to the players point can they use provoke as an attack to feed, and if so do they first need to use it to create an advantage to incite that emotion?

Gaming culture/aesthetics: The game, in order to represent the fiction of the Dresden Files has some default assumptions that people will endanger their characters for the good of the story (their own personal story and the overall plot). While that is my gaming preference that does not match with the WW Minds Eye LARP mentality which encourages PvP play, secrecy, and advancing your own power at all cost. I encourage moving away from the Mind’s Eye mentality (I think it is a toxic one) but since that is the closest touchstone most LARPers will have, that needs to be made explicit. Here’s a few examples of places I think this style of play need to be clarified and possibly even justified (for the skeptical player).

Bonds – I love the idea of rewarding people for sharing information about their character, but you’ve got to give players (and ST) the tools to do that. Do they fist bump and go out of character to show someone an aspect on their sheet. Do they say “OOC”. We talked about this quite a bit at the table and from the rules alone the ST didn’t know what they were supposed to do.

Advancement – Here’s another instance of characters becoming vulnerable, but you’ve got to show how being marked makes your character more interesting. Right now it just looks like you’re being penalized. Also, the math is off in advancement. Advance #5 is presumably less powerful than #7, or #9 but it forces you to mark a card that will come up more often than those. In terms of scaling the “bruises” #5 should have you mark 3 (least likely to come up), #7 should mark 2, and #9 should have you mark 1 (most likely to come up).

Immersion vs. Meta-play – There is a meta game going on the whole time where everyone (players and ST) are asking themselves “what makes for the best game experience” but their aren’t clear guidelines on how to discuss that in play. In tabletop, if a player does something that detracts from the game, another player can ask them about it, suggest alternatives, or X-card it if it’s really problematic. In LARP though there is a strong sentiment that immersion only works if you stay “in character”. The rules need to tell people how to talk about their objectives in the game (“wouldn’t it be cool if…” or “I don’t think that really fits…”) in play.

Thoughts on the Game

Well, that’s pretty much it. Devon was doing his darnedest to both deliver a fun game and play-test the rules but it felt at times like those were mutually exclusive goals.