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My dream in your probability, your probability in my dream

I got over a mental block and managed to say "this game's done!" in design terms at least, so it was time to introduce Cosmic Zap to some intrigued people at Spelens Hus.

I've decided to collect the characters used in playtest so far, made up by me or by others, as well as a couple more by me, as pick-up-and-play for the game. Original character design is an option for later in the text. That's not because people can't do it - to the contrary, the player-authored characters are generally spectacular - but because I'm trying to cut down on the learning and prep curve drastically for this game especially, and I've observed players to adopt pre-generated characters for it unusually quickly.

So in this case, I brought nine player-character sheets for them to choose from, some of which were altered slightly from forms you've seen already, such as Sweet Jane, Azimuth, and Blue Streak. We began with three players in addition to me, but then Peter joined us. Unfortunately we'd already staged the camera, and due to certain hassles couldn’t re-do it, so he's only partly in-shot throughout.

The learning curve was really steady for this group, beginning with almost complete uncertainty (but willingness) and proceeding to user-interface with each new rules option, because I intentionally introduced them step by step. You can see that we wear out almost entirely near the end, taking a brief break but pretty tapped out, but the system itself was in full blast.

A couple of my mistakes are significant. I mis-handled the ties in the first couple of exchanges, giving the marginal victory to the wrong person.The order of player roles is set up so that no one can be both Featured and Interesting before everyone gets to be Featured, but I screwed it up. I don't know how I managed to think that the Featured Player role proceeds to the left in turn, like a card game, instead of the right way, but that's why William ended up having to wait to long before taking that part. The other errors are minor (if annoying to me), like forgetting that augmented abilities aren't eligible for increases.

The player dialogue was very good, some of which I cut out because it was too mixed up with snacks and other topics to include. People immediately grasped that they could be adverse as the Interesting Player without griefing, and they liked the notion that anyone could choose to play a genuinely adversarial player-character role if they felt like it, but also that no one had to if no one wanted to. I thought their collective grasp of the aesthetic and potential themes was fantastic; it really was like the OMG open for some of the better comics and animated films of this kind.

I'd really like to continue with this group, but my current scattershot, even bonkers play-this-play-that practice isn't helping. It might be time to settle into something for a while as a dedicated group, and this game with these folks would be a top choice.

Department: 
Actual Play
Games: 
Cosmic Zap

Comments

I imagine it is quite a relief to reach this stage of 'done'. I am quite curious about this project, so I am looking forward to viewing the session~

Ron Edwards's picture

My only frustration with the session is that it necessarily devotes so much time to introducing and teaching the game, instead of showcasing it through play alone. The HeroQuest system, originally for Hero Wars, is genuinely fascinating and powerful, but (like Circle of Hands combat) seems fiddly because the effort is in unusual positions. It's not actually any more effort than other RPGs and provides more bang per buck than most, in the depth of imagined outcomes, but while you're learning it it seems strange and full of "now subtract this, now compare that" steps.

One of my goals in this session was to introduce the system piece by piece, showing foundational procedures in the first contest situation, then adding a couple of the options in the next, then adding pieces as needed as we go along. We got pretty far - all the way through, I think, with the exception of the Extended Contest mechanic which is very much not for first-session use anyway. My hope is that it was fun enough for these players to want to continue, at which point we'd see things like new abilities popping up all over, which means much more intense setting-and-situation, and a lot of familiarity with one another's sheets as a collective resource.

I would particularly like to see the moment when a player realizes the potential for the Personal keyword content for the Internality of All Realities. I just attached that sheet to the main post, so check it out.

Gordon C's picture

In between the rest of life and gaming, I've been thinking about how to a run a "this-or-something-like-it" game quite a bit. I'm also glad that rules-clarity is evolving - the gap between my personal fiction-joy and rules-joy in the back-then playtest lingers as an annoying memory.

Ron Edwards's picture

Seriously. For our game especially, in which whole sections changed between sessions.

On the plus side, the histories of all my games, and many good or better ones, are littered with the corpses of teeth-grinding playtest. I maintain that real playtesting is about finding what works in the current design, with the photo-negative presence of what doesn't being all too much more present in our vision. This is exactly the opposite of most playtesting, which presumes excellence and is stress-testing for minor flaws - and for role-playing games, results in absurd or useless engines with plenty of logistically-tight but meaningless parts.

I'm really happy with the current version and I'm pretty sure no actual rules are going to change from here.

Ron Edwards's picture

This is how it was supposed to go. The order of Personal keyword values was Sweet Jane at 20, Azimuth at 17 (but with the tie-breaker score at 1w, or 21), the Internality at 17 (with the tie-breaker score at 18), and the Blue Streak at 13. So that's the order of the Featured player role; position at the table has nothing to do with it.

The Interesting player role begins with the holder of the character with the highest Cosmic keyword value, which in this case was unequivocally the Internality.

So we were correct to begin with Odin (with Sweet Jane) as Featured and Peter (with the Internality) as Interesting. But then the Featured role should have shifted to William, then to Peter, and finally to Nate, with the former Featured becoming Interesting at each step.

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