Friday, February 15, 2013

Ghost Stories

Precognition (Philip Atherton)
My editor is working her way through Cybernetic abilities. After that, Fast Company--then the two, uh, big chapters. Let's hope she holds out: Innate Abilities was "pretty big" and it was, I hear, taxing. Still: I'm VERY pleased with the results.

Something We Learned
When creating characters for the new game we learned that for TAP abilities with a large additional cost where the cost is something like [.33]+11 meaning 1/3rd of your Total Archetype Point Abilities +11 AP on top, the listed cost is, maybe, wrong: the cost in some places is listed as .33 + 6 (meaning that for a 32 AP character the cost is listed as 11 + 6 = 17). However, the computation ought to be 11 + 8 = 19 since the TAP multiplier is applied to the cost as well.

Fortunately this changes only a very small handful of powers in the game.

Ghost Stories
I have not seen the new Scooby Doo cartoons--but one of our players did--and the GM has a son who has watched a little of it. When the suggestion for paranormal investigators came up we were all interested. I'd watched Supernatural with their goofy--but doomed--Ghost Facers guys. We had Ghost Busters to draw from--and decided that high school kids driving around in a van solving mysteries dealing with the paranormal could be fun.

So What Do You Do With That?
There are two key things to keep in mind: First, we do want to play-test something in the game--this is our last chance to find problems before we go to press ... Secondly, we want to refine what we think of as "best practices" in approaching the game and one of those is to solicit feedback from the group as to what they think is a good idea.

Maybe some of you have tried this: Go to your group and make suggestions and talk about what you want.

If your experience is anything like ours, the result is probably dead silence.

BUT WE ARE UNDETERRED (and by WE I mean the GM, myself, and one other guy).

The Parameters
We wanted to test Equipment and Gear Modification so we gave everyone 8 Mod Points with which to upgrade "normal" gear. We decided to play-test the non-combat GATS like Sense Danger and so on. We also discussed how we'd set up the game in order to make it work: how realistic can a game be with high school characters solving mysteries? Probably not very. We wanted to play on relatively low points so that the characters would be fewer than "normal" but still pretty competent.

Best Practices
Here are some things we determined as best-practices for this sort of game:

  • Investigation and play can never come to a stand-still because someone blew a research roll or missed a clue. This isn't to say you can't get bogged down--but the best practice is NOT to have a clear and necessary next-step hinge on going to the old library and making a roll. If that's the deal, just hand out the clue (or better yet, don't structure the game that way). Try to make these things optional.
  • The investigators had to have some authority. This is a biggie: we didn't want the characters to be cops or secret agents or anything--but discussions--and I credit Vincent Baker's Dogs in the Vineyard for this--around coming into town and shaking things up--go much better if the characters are credentialed. Sure, it can work the other way--but there's a big hill to climb every time if that's the case.
  • Characters are easier to play when they are component: this was somewhat at odds with the high school theme (although the characters in the cartoon are pretty competent).
  • We wanted our characters made "in public" before the game started with enough knowledge about what was going on to point them in the right direction.
  • Hand-outs are great. Even a list of characters (Dramatis Personae) is good to have. Giving it to the players seems to create excitement (and I kinda wish I had one for this game--although what we got was very good).
Call of Cthulhu is about the most archetypal investigator game I can think of. It does (IME) suffer from the "you blew a roll" problem and it certainly does NOT over empower the PCs (the death-spiral of SAN-loss, the relative immunity of monsters, and so on). In our opinion it is both brilliant--and not what we were going for here exactly. However, it DOES capture the mood of doom and it does present a good model for investigation (the idea that there are books of knowledge, that you slowly acquire a skill as a method of "going up in level," and so on)

Supernatural (the TV show) is the one I was familiar with. An examination of it suggested that (a) the characters--the brothers are pretty competent even up against many nominally immune or very hard to kill opponents (it later turns out they are basically literally immortal--but whatever). The show's universe is VERY deadly: almost all monsters represent with a murder. The show makes extensive use of camera-view to set the mystery up: the viewer is more in the dark than the brothers sometimes are as they show up and go "Oh, it's Ghouls."

Scooby Doo Apparently the new cartoon is (a) pretty good for adults with in-jokes and continuing story lines and (b) still enough like the old show to be recognizable. The characters, although young, are pretty good at what they do. I don't know the show--but I don't think there are real ghosts (or, at least, not many). I am reminded of Chris Carter talking about the X-Files and saying that there were originally going to be Scully Episodes where the incident turned out to be normal: Discovery ... they were BORING. I think this might be the case for our game. If the investigation turns out to be counterfeiters in the old light house that might be a let down.

The Game Itself
Want To See Something Really Scary?
In this world it was determined that contact with the paranormal changed you (sometimes). Our characters are Fast Company Level 1 (bad-asses in hth combat--we were not allowed gun skills). Our characters had encountered ghosts and were now being recruited by an insurance company to be insurance company investigators of events they thought were caused ... by ghosts!

This covers the authority and Fast Company covers the PC-empowerment angles! It turns out that insurance investigators (and I doubt a juvenile can be one--but we were part of a pilot program so we're stretching things here only a little) have a lot of rights to investigate claims: and if we're kicked off? The claimants claim is denied! Brilliant.

What's Really Scary Is: All That Is Real. Boo.
You can see our letter of acceptance there along with a bunch of interesting real-world stats about ghosts!

I Ain't Afraid Of No Ghost

Real Stuff!
It turns out there is lots of real ghost-hunting stuff available on line. The GM picked some of it out for us (above). I made some initial rules for ghosts in JAGS (which I will discuss later if anyone is interested) and we took off!

The game opened with our orientation and we got like 7 "claims" to investigate in any order we chose. If we strike out on one, we can just move to another.

This looks to me like a well put together game--and the material for that the GM made is first rate!

1 comment:

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