Friday, July 16, 2010

Third Playtest

The first session went well, but it's when the honeymoon phase ends and you need to get down to work when problems start to crop up. So I've been looking forward to picking up with my group again for some time (we don't play nearly as often as we'd like, being adults with weekend responsibilities and all that). Last time we left off mid-run, so I figured we'd be on pace to finish things this time. In anticipation of putting a few more parts of the system into testing, I tried to guide the session to certain situations, and for good measure added a milk run to the end of it to ensure I'd be able to test vehicle combat.

As is ever true in gaming, it didn't go as planned.

Most of the session was pure role-playing. This is excellent. As in, really, really excellent. It did mean that I didn't get nearly as much testing as I anticipated though. So while I anticipated action in the Matrix, in gun and sorcery battles, and maybe a car chase at the end, what I got instead was the team arguing with itself over whether it was okay to try to seduce the simsense star they were currently holding, with one gun/sorcery battle, and a little Matrix work in there. They did do a little bit to earn their money, eventually.

So how'd it go? Well, the rules stuck with everyone, which is nice. No one asked any "how do I roll" questions. Spellcasting and drain continues to be quick. Combat was a tad slow, but I'm hoping that was due to my lack of sleep and disorganization than any breakdown of the system. Once I got myself together, things were flowing well enough.

I have some concerns about how much the system seems to favor offense, given that a sam with a flechette firing shotgun seems to be the end of anyone he shoots at. One shot, one kill. On the other hand, the opposition had a low threat level, so right now it looks like it's doing what I want it to. Low threat level opposition should drop quickly. It's what they're there for.

Matrix is working great now. Maybe not perfectly; there's a little talk about tweaking programs, but overall I'm very happy with it. Adding System dice to your pool regardless of interface level seems to really shore things up, and I see a significant difference between hacking on the fly and probing the target. Previously, my hacker would never bother probing because he'd be able to barge into anything on the fly reprecussion free, even when the system security was tight. Now, he prefers to probe when possible, and is selective and smart about picking his on the fly hacks. I really like that.

Counterspelling works. It actually works very well. It's a powerful option, and I'd be tempted to say that it's a bit too good, except that it's a holding action that prevented the mage from doing much else aside from waiting for the enemy spellcaster to strike. For a long number of phases, he had nothing to do but wait. When it was his time to shine, however, he hit hard. I don't know that it will be a regular go to action, but it's a viable one.

Vehicles need a little work, and on two fronts. First, everyone always wants to shoot the driver. Always. They want to cap that poor bastard as soon as they see him, or don't for that matter. This time I had the driver stay inside the vehicle. He drove. He didn't drive and shoot. He didn't drive and throw spells. He drove, with the ballistically rated window up and his seat belt on. It took the party two shots to kill him, even when he was wearing armor, the vehicle had armor, and the damage got downgraded because he was in a vehicle. And you know what? Capping the driver is a really quick way of ending a chase. That'll need some looking into.

There's also an ongoing debate over how methods and vehicular actions should relate. I'm flexible on this, and our rigger seems to have given things a lot of thought, so it looks like we'll see some changes soon. What they are yet, however, is hard to say. Our rigger is making a case that vehicles should intersect with knacks more like non-combat knacks rather than knacks like firearms or unarmed combat. Early discussions seem to be leading us somewhere good.

On the plus side, aspects and vehicles are awesome. Aspects are a fantastic way of dealing with the bane of vehicular combat: the called shot. Anyone who's played any game with vehicles has fielded calls to shoot out the tire, the windshield, the mirrors, etc. Short of putting a separate hit location and damage meter for all this stuff, you're left with handwaving it, or just saying it has no mechanical effect. Aspects proved to be a fantastically rules lite way of giving the players what they want without creating a massive mechanical headache.

Yes, they shot out the tire. Took less than a round for that declaration. So I had them make a combat roll as normal, and then let them tag the vehicle with the "blown tire" aspect. Later, when someone else killed the driver and another person inside tried to wrestle control of the van before it crashed, they invoked that tag and ruined the driver's roll.

Everyone liked this idea. They can cause all kinds of structural mayhem on their enemies' cars, and it causes damage they can exploit. No more detail required.

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