I’d given some thought to this playtesting group, including how it had inadvertently stress-tested the lower limit of player number. Difficult as that was, because I do not like stress-testing, it wasn’t the main thing on my mind. I was worried that the actual editor of the game and its interiors artist were still not quite in tune with how the game itself was played. Given the goodwill, creativity, and aesthetic sensibilities at the table, all would seem well, but I’d realized – the problem was all this cooperation, collaboration, amiability, and passivity.
I needed to meet the GM on the road and kill him.
Warily, but with necessity, we talked about the system for a while before playing. Rather than explaining anything with tedious terms and claims, I asked the players to avoid specific behaviors or ways of interacting. Among these were:
- Announcing actions like “see what might happen,” “find out what he wants,” “look out for trouble,” “try to figure out what that means,” or anything of the sort
- Pitching one another or me softballs and set-ups, like announcing something mild as a way for someone to make it suddenly significant
- Checking with me to approve or disapprove of intended actions, situations, or content
Working on The Plot Thickens had heightened my perception of what was happening with these: they are ways for players to cooperate with the intuitive continuity technique so that the plot can be invented into place by the person who’s controlling it. Even those players who consider themselves alternative and collaborative are usually doing it, only among one another rather pitched to a single person – in other words, not different at all.
I claimed that this game was optimized to remove any such power from anyone in play, and to permit minimal contributions to blossom through multiple hands in transferred use, with no need for workshopping or explicit collaboration/permission. They were not sure, at this point – both Juan and Ian said they understood the words, but couldn’t “see” it in their minds regarding play.
I also suggested that they could focus the game’s genre as they wished, since they set the locations and situations for their characters, not me, and provided a few examples. That’s why you’ll see the Blue Streak looking much more like a superhero this session.
We played for a relatively short time, but you will see that the discussion hit home regarding the Blue Streak’s infringement upon reality, in that his alternate, possibly-evil self was invented, used, transferred, used, et cetera, basically, played across the two players with no problem at all.
Juan also brought up the point that he didn’t have a clear idea of the system’s consequences, i.e., what happened to characters due to the contests’ outcomes. I acknowledged that as of this session, I was just finalizing my thoughts on that, and that play itself hadn’t managed to lock it down hard enough. You can see it easily in the previous session when Juan’s character received a Complete Defeat which should have hammered much harder, in mechanics terms. I’ve worked it out better now, in text.
I’m slowly upping my game with my videos, in this case splitting it into parts and making it a playlist. So the video displayed below is only Part 1, which is supposed to lead straight into Part 2 when it’s done. Let me know how that works out for you.