Author Topic: Actual Play/Test  (Read 2635 times)

Mikael

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Actual Play/Test
« on: June 29, 2014, 09:11:59 PM »
Here's some notes from our Friday playtest.

Overall setting was a group of five, four of which are playing a long-running AW game, and one who had not even roleplayed before, but did have basic familiarity with cyberpunk concepts. MC + two of the players had read through the rules, which definitely helped the game, in my opinion. We played with the 0.2 rules, with revised Basic Moves and the Infiltrator.

Starting time was not as early as intended, and overall the energy level was probably not quite where it should have been. I was the MC, it had been about a month from my last read-through of the rules, and I certainly was not on my best game - I could not find the energy to keep asking, especially when we got to the actual mission.

We were using the playbooks that some kind person on the Apocalypse forums created, but they were quite buggy and did not of course match the latest revisions of the Basic Moves or the Infiltrator. For ease of playtesting, it would sure be excellent to have the Playbooks in the book contain at least the rudimentary places for stats, cyberware, creds etc., in line with latest rule revisions, and to have each Playbook fill an even number of pages (for double-sided printing).

I have not really read through all the feedback for 0.2 on the forums, and some of the following may be repeating some of that - sorry.

Character Creation:

* Character creation took longer than expected, more than 3 hours all told, I think. This was a big chunk of the available playing time, which led us to conclude that this is not really a one-shot game.

* Overall, we felt that the character creation worked to make the world come alive a bit and to make the players invested.

* Megacorp creation was relatively painless, here's what we came up with:
** MTV - Metatelevision - Always on, everywhere mega and miniscreens
** GPS - Generic PharmaSeuticals - Sells cheaper medicine right after competitor comes up with a new product
** General Systems - Household machinery - elevators, fridges, security systems, pick & pack robots
** Assurity - Skillsofts, latest hit - worldview filters
** DiapAll - Diaper for children and elderly - One diaper will last a lifetime!

* One player would have liked to play a stereotypical Face, i.e. the suave and social Stylish and Cool mouthpiece of the team, but could not find a suitable Playbook. This we felt is a gap worth filling.

* In advance, if there was a character I could not see fitting into a team going on a mission, that is Reporter. Of course, the first Playbook picked was that of the Reporter, and it worked fine during the limited playtime.

* Otherwise, it did not seem as though the players felt very strongly about the Playbooks they picked, but that is probably not a fault of the Playbooks or their descriptions. For the record, we ended up with a Reporter, an Infiltrator, a Killer and a Hunter.

* Players commented that there were a lot more choices to be made than in AW.

* Jobs against the corps were entertaining and quick, with the limiting factor being more my typing speed than the players' imagination.

* Jobs seemed to very quickly fill the Corporate clock, especially as GPS got two missions against it. The text is a bit open for interpretation here, but I ruled that being taken as the target does NOT advance the clock, only the other characters joining in on the raid. If I would have made the other interpretation, the two missions would have easily maxed the GPS clock, which did not seem right in terms of pacing.

* Cyberware selection and how the characters got them worked really well, and I think delivered on the intended result. Players made interesting and varying choices all around. After the game I thought that the hunted and owned cyberware options could have some tags as well, e.g. around the traceability, profile and uniqueness of the items - maybe you could get something really good this way, while becoming "hunted x2"?

* One player especially commented that the gear packages felt like an artificial "hard choice" on top of all the other hard choices already made, and that the approach did not really fit the stated vibe of "characters are professionals, and have the necessary gear". Maybe "pick 5 out of the following long list + colorful paraphernalia" could work better, not sure.

* Personal directives, while clear in intent, were not easy for most of the players, probably because they did not know their characters' personalities well enough yet. Also, it was a bit of a mixture between picking from the list and rolling their own, and when rolling their own there was uncertainty on what exactly is appropriate and how to word things. Note that this is a group with not that much direct experience of the Keys from... I forget the name of that game.

* Overall, the first-time roleplayer required only a minimal guidance in the concept, and was able to follow on and create a sensible - even inspired - character for himself (the Hunter).

First Mission:

* The first-time roleplayer had to bail out at the start of the mission proper. He did claim to have enjoyed himself.

* We only got as far as Getting the Job, and maybe first half of the Legwork, before the late hour forced us to pack it in for the night.

* Especially the Legwork was a bit of struggle, with the players maybe looking too hard at the moves to see what they could do, rather than going with the fiction first. Partly this could have been the fact that we know the AW moves and now they seemed effortless compared to trying to work with this similar but different set.

* I would say only one of the players was awake and trying to hit his directives, while the others seemed to promptly forget about them, and I was not also very effective in bringing them into play. Given their major role in getting to mark experience, I felt they are somehow too tacked on and a bit disconnected from the overall Moves mechanic.

* Player of the Reporter really enjoyed his character, especially when he really read through and realized the concept of the Story and Noise clocks. He felt he was having the priviledge of playing a private game on the side with those. Also, he had no problem being a part of the team (at least as long as we got on the Legwork phase).

After game discussion:

* We wondered whether the goal for the players is to not get the corps annoyed with them - many successful missions with the characters being the professionals they are - or whether the basic assumption is that things will go wrong, corp clocks will quickly fill up, and the point is playing a story where the first mission already is a bust and the focus of the play is more on the aftermath than on the missions.

* Actual game was very much the team working as a team to reach the common goal. There was virtually no real interplay between the characters. This may and probably will change in longer play, with varying pressures from the corps and directives, but it still felt too mission-focused to match our expectations of the cyberpunk genre, where the discussions, varying backgrounds and real goals of the characters seen a big part of the stories. We were thinking that maybe there should be some mechanic that would specifically make it so that the players or characters would need something from each other, in order to be effective. I say "players or characters" deliberately, because we did not even iron out whether this something would be some kind of a meta currency or more in-fiction things, or both.

Looks like we will be getting back to this game. Many thanks for making the playtest copy available.

Mikael

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Re: Actual Play/Test
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2014, 09:30:08 PM »
One more thing:

When setting the scene, so to say, we thought that after years of Shadowrun and such, we would have a pretty clear shared understanding of what a cyberpunk world would be like. We did set the tech level "not to be ridiculous" by today's standards, but by the end of the game noted that for a more solid baseline, we should have had more discussion on "what is normal".

E.g. from the viewpoints of 1) a wage slave, 2) man out on the street and 3) the hip upper class, some statements like the following:

- On the street: You hear gunfire every day, but rarely do you see anything, really
- Wage slave: If someone talks to you on the street, they are either insane, dangerous, or both
- Wage slave: Corporations can do immoral things, but my corporation is really fighting the good fight, as part of the system
- On the street: Cyberware is scary
- Hipster: Visible cyberware is so passť
- Wage slave: You need to be careful with the latest fashions, but last year's drugs are just fine
- Hipster: You cannot survive in this profession/you cannot be cool without the edge from the latest chems

Kuzco

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Re: Actual Play/Test
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2014, 10:22:29 PM »
Thank you for sharing all that, 'twas a good read.

Anarchangel

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Re: Actual Play/Test
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2014, 07:25:30 AM »
Thanks for the feedback, Mikael!

We were using the playbooks that some kind person on the Apocalypse forums created...

Yes, updated playbooks are definitely a priority for the next revision.

Quote from: Mikael
* Character creation took longer than expected, more than 3 hours all told, I think. This was a big chunk of the available playing time, which led us to conclude that this is not really a one-shot game.
...
* Jobs against the corps were entertaining and quick, with the limiting factor being more my typing speed than the players' imagination.

Interesting that it took so long. I run it as a one shot regularly and it usually takes me an hour. Of course, I know the procedures pretty well! But from the comment about typing, were you playing online or something?

The next version will have an extended chargen example and I'm thinking of recording a character generation session that might provide some additional guidance.

Quote
* One player would have liked to play a stereotypical Face, i.e. the suave and social Stylish and Cool mouthpiece of the team, but could not find a suitable Playbook. This we felt is a gap worth filling.

Depending on the angle the player wants, the Fixer or the Pusher should fill this role. What did the player want to do that couldn't be handled by those playbooks?

Quote
Jobs seemed to very quickly fill the Corporate clock, especially as GPS got two missions against it. The text is a bit open for interpretation here, but I ruled that being taken as the target does NOT advance the clock, only the other characters joining in on the raid. If I would have made the other interpretation, the two missions would have easily maxed the GPS clock, which did not seem right in terms of pacing.

The first character to define a mission against a certain corporation starts the clock, but doesn't advance it. If a second character defines a mission against the same corporation, that advances the clock. This will be clearer with a play example, I'm sure.

But, yes, if two players choose to make a run against the same corporation and everyone piles on, then the clock will max out. That gives the players the option of setting up the game with a corporation out to get them from the get go. I'll add a note for the GM to make that clear in the Links phase.

Quote
One player especially commented that the gear packages felt like an artificial "hard choice" on top of all the other hard choices already made, and that the approach did not really fit the stated vibe of "characters are professionals, and have the necessary gear". Maybe "pick 5 out of the following long list + colorful paraphernalia" could work better, not sure.

Yes, those are going to change to be a bit more flexible on that front. I'd be willing to be that the "hard choice" comment was from the Infiltrator? Their choice is pretty hard.

Quote
Personal directives, while clear in intent, were not easy for most of the players, probably because they did not know their characters' personalities well enough yet. Also, it was a bit of a mixture between picking from the list and rolling their own, and when rolling their own there was uncertainty on what exactly is appropriate and how to word things. Note that this is a group with not that much direct experience of the Keys from... I forget the name of that game.

They're currently a bit unwieldy, I agree. They'll be better integrated in the next version.

Quote
We wondered whether the goal for the players is to not get the corps annoyed with them - many successful missions with the characters being the professionals they are - or whether the basic assumption is that things will go wrong, corp clocks will quickly fill up, and the point is playing a story where the first mission already is a bust and the focus of the play is more on the aftermath than on the missions.

* Actual game was very much the team working as a team to reach the common goal. There was virtually no real interplay between the characters. This may and probably will change in longer play, with varying pressures from the corps and directives, but it still felt too mission-focused to match our expectations of the cyberpunk genre, where the discussions, varying backgrounds and real goals of the characters seen a big part of the stories. We were thinking that maybe there should be some mechanic that would specifically make it so that the players or characters would need something from each other, in order to be effective. I say "players or characters" deliberately, because we did not even iron out whether this something would be some kind of a meta currency or more in-fiction things, or both.

The goal for the players is to play to find out in a certain kind of cyberpunk setting. To paraphrase the "Why Play the Sprawl" section in Chapter 1, the goal is to create a story about badass professionals living outside the law and struggling against the corporate status quo in an environment coloured by treachery and double-crosses.

The Sprawl is intentionally mission focused, so there's a natural focus on the team. Friction between the characters lies in the directives and in the GM's moves. Corps should make demands on characters they own that make those characters make hard choices. Corps that are hunting characters should show up at the worst time and threaten to blow the current mission. Corps should offer money, cyberware and survival to get their hooks into characters and make them dance to their tune. All of those things add friction that threatens the team dynamic.

Thanks again for this feedback, Mikael, I can see lots of places where I will need good examples to clarify things and where I will need good procedures to help the game run smoothly.

Mikael

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Re: Actual Play/Test
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2014, 07:49:30 PM »
Quote
Depending on the angle the player wants, the Fixer or the Pusher should fill this role. What did the player want to do that couldn't be handled by those playbooks?

Unfortunately not. Even though they are based on Style and Edge, the Fixer is about gigs and selling and the Pusher very focused on ideology, so their moves are not supporting a concept we were looking for: the Social Infiltrator, the Face of the group, the Actor Gone Bad, Master Fast Talker, able to enter any company, talk through all obstacles.

Quote
Yes, those are going to change to be a bit more flexible on that front. I'd be willing to be that the "hard choice" comment was from the Infiltrator? Their choice is pretty hard.

Spot on! Although, I think the player pointed out this contradiction even before picking out the Infiltrator. And then again when hitting that point in the playbook.

Anarchangel

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Re: Actual Play/Test
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2014, 12:27:02 AM »
Quote
Depending on the angle the player wants, the Fixer or the Pusher should fill this role. What did the player want to do that couldn't be handled by those playbooks?

Unfortunately not. Even though they are based on Style and Edge, the Fixer is about gigs and selling and the Pusher very focused on ideology, so their moves are not supporting a concept we were looking for: the Social Infiltrator, the Face of the group, the Actor Gone Bad, Master Fast Talker, able to enter any company, talk through all obstacles.

I see your point. I wonder if that could be an angle I could play up in the Hunter... I'll think about that. Thanks!