Summary: We had fun, but giving the MC playbook to the less confident player was a problem. Her determination not to make a mistake, and our general level of tiredness, slowed the pace of the game down too much to sustain the proper emotional mood. The game went for 90 minutes, with the player escaping from the ghosts on card 7. We both agreed that things would improve with subsequent play.
So the players are me (John) and my wife (Jennie). I'm a long time player and MC, with plenty experience and an interest in experimenting. She's been roleplaying for a long time, but has very little experience running games. She likes roleplaying, but mostly does it because she's supportive. (She loves Apocalypse World, btw.)
For starters, we're new parents and both just returned to work. We're adjusting to a new schedule that includes a lot more than it used to. So imagine a certain amount of bleariness and shellshock. The scene opens on us having recently put our daughter to sleep. We're tired, but desperately trying to include some play time in our day before falling unconscious.
For playtesting purposes I gave Jennie the MC book. This intimidated her right off the bat, but I reassured her and we both examined the opening sections of our books. We had a little discussion, but mostly were able to parse out the intro stuff. We didn't have context yet, but it was a start (for example, I was assuming I'd want her to draw face down cards, but didn't know what they did). Before we started she seemed to take a while to "prep". That was a bit of dead time for me, but I was okay with it.
The early descriptions went well, although it took Jennie a minute to get her bearings. She needed to be reminded about the "underbasement" detail, but it was a minor hiccup.
Play began with my character (Roger) finding a room containing a well decomposed body shackled to a wall. A series of unpleasant tools lay nearby, with bloodstains and rust a plenty. Furthermore, I had reasonable suspicions that a child's body was in a pile of rubble in the corner. I was initially frightened, but reassured myself that this was old news. I decided that the worst thing (and most likely) that this suggested was Cruelty. I then related a story of my near-death experience of falling through a rotten floor in an abandoned building. I had broken my leg and was trapped for some time before freeing myself and crawling out.
I had no desire to disturb evidence of a crime, which I intended to report to the police, so I continued on my way. The next room, however was not empty. It contained a gaunt looking old man, apparently a Factory Worker. He had a circular saw and appeared to be trying to use it to finish some carpentry, but it wasn't plugged in and he was just running it back and forth over the wood. Despite a fairly non-menacing demeanor, I was sufficiently freaked out to back away toward where I came from. (High hand got me out safe)
Attempting to retrace my steps to the sewer, I encountered a hideously mutilated child in the next room. This ghost was playing on a couple of conveyor belts and took immediate notice of me. Her expression was one of pure hatred, and she appeared to start searching around the belts for something. I noticed a knife not too far away and decided to flee before she found it. (I believe this was another high hand.)
There was a brief question about whether I should know which doorway led back toward the sewer, and I quoted the Start text, and she seemed to be happy with that. We also discussed the MC draw mechanic for a couple minutes. We eventually agreed that this was the third card pull. 1) Game Start, 2) into the room with the Factory Worker, and 3) passing the Child. Backtracking to the start room, and then going into the room with the Child were just avoiding the Factory Worker, so passing the Child represented the next new progress.
As I left the room with the Child, she lost interest in me and returned to play.
The next room contained a Crying Woman putting a teddy bear into a box, with other similar boxes in the vicinity. She immediately rounded on me and accused me of murdering her child. I tried to talk her down and get past her, (bust) but she (bust again) backed me into a corner and charged me. I realized at the last second that she was forcing me back toward a sharp spike protruding from the wall. I responded by dropping to the floor (a move we're both familiar with from martial arts) which allowed me to escape the threat. Unfortunately (low hand) the tussle and fall banged up my weak knee and left me dragging a badly hurt leg. Luckily, however, the Crying Woman became distracted by picking up her dropped teddy bear. I kicked it away to buy time and space and (low hand) was rewarded when she chased after it. That was enough breathing room to reach the next door. I didn't look back and was happy when she did not follow.
The doorway opened into a tunnel. On one side of the tunnel were piles of aging womens clothing and on the other side were piles of human bones. In the middle was an awful Smelling Man with smooth hands picking through the clothes. Dragging my bum leg, and breathing heavily, I proceeded through. The Smelling Man stopped still (low hand? I must have busted somewhere in there, but I remember this was low.) evidently listening for something, but I paused and he lost interest. I progressed past and on into the next room.
The next room was deathly quiet, even though I fully expected ambient noises. It contained two wide open hallways leading away, one lit and one dark. I was able to continue to the dark one (high hand) which I thought was the way back to the sewer.
The dark path lead me back to the Factory Worker's room, through an entrance I missed the first time. I had no interest in that path though so I doubled back and tried the light path. (no draws required)
Of course the lighted hallway was lighted because it contained a stairway right up and out. (seventh MC card) So I was home free, just a little worse for wear.
As you can see, the fiction was good. I've left out plenty of flavor detail, but I was into it. The above doesn't reflect the silences though. Each page turn for Jennie seemed to leave her with a couple minutes of reading/thinking. The Player side was simple, so I often was kicking the ball back to her in 30 seconds, and then waiting 2 minutes before play continued. Tiredness was definitely a factor. Jennie's discomfort with being on the spot (she usually won't play games that put the spotlight on her when she hasn't requested it, for example anything with rotating scene-setting like Primetime Adventures.) didn't help, but she was a champ about that. She didn't complain, she just hesitated a bit, and over analyzed instead of making quick decisions to keep things moving. Anyways, the 90 minute run time speaks for itself.
Jennie mentioned some feedback and I wish I could remember it better, since her stuff was more tricky. She found herself describing the scenes and the ghosts at the same time, only to be informed to describe the ghosts later, which I didn't notice as a problem, but stumbled her a bit. She had trouble limiting herself to the given reaction on 15(b). I specified "stops still", after which she wanted to "approach directly now", but that seemed to conflict with "stops still" as opposed to "looks at her" and "reaches out to her". She also expressed some confusion with page 11. She said she wanted to "Say what the ghost is doing" and then follow it with "The ghost reacts", but those two were mutually exclusive. In general, I know Jennie would have liked to have read the whole book before play started, just to get some familiarity, but acknowledges that she really needed the context of play for it all to make sense. She also said things got more comfortable toward the end as she started seeing pages for the third time.
Jennie did walk away excited about the process, although she was selfconscious of her performance as a GM. She immediately wanted to talk about ways to improve and things to try next time, but was scared about actually having a next time. :)
I hope we get another opportunity to test this out in the next couple days. If we do I'll post that up as well. I suspect that Jennie will do much better given another chance. Or she might just have me run for her, we'll see.