Actual Play – The Breakfast League (1/15/2011)

GM: Carl Rigney
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, Dennis Jordan and Regina Joyner
System: Smallville

So first off props to Carl for running the Breakfast Club. I was a little surprised we didn’t start off in detention, but the game was still quite reminiscent. I know it is the nostalgia factor, but I still love that movie.

The plot isn’t surprising at all but that didn’t make it less awesome. Smallville take place in a tiny little town where the protagonist Clark is raised by good people that teach him to be an exceedingly moral character. Franklin (Frankville?) on the other hand is a dumpy little Kansas town that everyone is trying desperately to get out of! In this it reminded me quite a bit of Rock n’ Roll Dreams, a DiTV game that Carl ran a few times in 2008. In that game we were all trying to get out of town, but only the winner of the drag race would make it. In Breakfast League, we’ll we had a bit more leeway.

I don’t want to go into to many details because I can see Carl running this game several more times, and even though we didn’t see ALL the reveals, the ones we did were plenty revealing

What I can talk about, because it was driven pretty much exclusively by the players was our interactions. Two boys, who ostensibly didn’t get along and two twin sisters who shared nothing but apathy for each other. Quickly however, events in the game catalyzed and explosive growth in both relationships. The boys became immersed in their own doubts and the wrongness of their lives, while the girls were having a blast experimenting with their powers and trying to figure out who else had them, and what they could do.

One particular interaction was captured in several mediums:

  • From a twitter account: “Let’s trick Jaime to stand in front of a train to see if he has super powers!” #minicon
  • From an email from Carl after the game: Also, if Chase asks “Hey, how invulnerable ARE you? Like, what would an atom bomb do?” do NOT go along with her plan. It will probably not end well.
  • From my memory of the game “Admit it Chase! You dumped me when I was UNDER A CAR THAT JUST HIT ME!”

All in all, we had a grand time.

What rocked

Dennis and I played the boys trying to muck through their messed up lives. Both of us got really “hurt” in the game (my stress levels were all over the place) because of the issues we tackled. Jamie (my character) went as far as trying to blow his brains out. It didn’t work, but it was a fun place to take the Lead.  Woot! Teen angst!

The girls were hilarious. The raced across town using their super powers and went from totally apathetic to giddy with excitement.

As always, Carl delivers all the right goods. Where my game required me to distill down a tome of information, Carl summed up his settings in about 30 seconds. Where I started the game with larger than life conflicts, Carl executed teenage drama that started with a party by the quarry and snowballed into a Thelma and Louise style vigilante escape from the law and from our old lives.

What could have improved

As with my game, I felt Smallville lacked good instructions for how to end conflicts with stress. Giving is easy to understand, taking stress isn’t clear. Do you just add a beat in a different scene and come back to the conflict? That seems really drawn out. I’d like some examples.

Honestly, I know Smallville is the story of a hero’s beginning, but I wonder if it doesn’t actually “work” better for more established characters. The characters in Duneville ALWAYS knew who they were fighting for. In the Breakfast League we hit a couple times where figuring out “who” something was done for was kind of difficult. For instance: calling my dad to get him to do me a favor that would help me get recognized by a basketball scout. Who was this for, or against? For me but that doesn’t count. Against my dad perhaps, but I didn’t have him as a relationship. Eventually I said it was about impressing the coach, but even that felt a little week.

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.