Monday, May 30, 2011

The 10 Die Limit

One of the things all three playtesters wound up begging for in unison pretty quickly when we got into discussing what worked and didn't in our playtest was a cap on The Pool. 10 dice, they said. 10 dice was a great number. Don't mess with it. Take away from it for injury if you like; that's okay, but please, dear G-d please, no more. Between endangering dreams, seeing your dreams in actual harm, and acting according to your ideals, you could wind up with a mountain of dice. Mountains of dice are nice in theory, because everyone loves powerful characters, but in actual play mountains of dice suck. They're too much to manage, and the game becomes more about moving dice around than playng the game.

Please, Cliff, they begged, keep a hard cap of 10 dice for The Pool, and find another use for all that other stuff.

A rough rule I've picked up for evaluating playtest feedback is that if one person says something needs to change, but the other two seem not to care, I'll make a note about it but won't necessarily do anything right away. If two people seem to think there's something wrong, however, it needs to change. When all three agree there's a problem, it's a big problem.

Thus, without any further hint of consideration, there's now a 10 die limit on The Pool. You don't add to it. Nothing grants bonus dice. Maybe some things can grant bonus successes, meaning it's still possible to score more than 10 successes in a single roll, but you will never have more than 10 dice in your pool. Ever.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Diceless NPCs, Done Better

In the last playtest report of Heroes of Destiny, I noted that the method by which I set up NPCs to not use dice wasn't effective. Upon reflection, I believe a large part of this is because while I did remove the physical act of rolling dice, I didn't substantively remove the need to manage resources enough from NPCs. In effect, I took out the time required to generate the resource, but the real work in running NPCs remained. Thus in play they weren't any easier to adjudicate.

So, in redesigning them, what I really need to do is take the work out of running the NPCs, not the dice. They're not the same thing. How to do that? Well, if my goal is to make combat roll just like non-combat actions, it means they need to work like any other obstacle. That is, NPCs aren't lists of stats, but target numbers that the PCs need to hit. An NPC's attack score is really just the TN the player needs to make on his defense roll, and his defense score is the difficulty for a PC's attack roll.

In theory, this removes the resource management problem from NPCs. Instead, the GM just needs to get the roll tallies from each player in turn, compare them to the target numbers that are the NPC's stats, and give back the information. Damage is based on how much the PC fails his defense roll.

What about special abilities? Well, I don't know yet. I'll get back to that. Not forgotten, but not for now. That's a little detailed given that there's a lot of basic system work that still needs rework.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Heroes of Destiny: Third Playtest

The third playtest of Heroes of Destiny was the first one that involved a multi-sessions campaign. Our very first test was a one shot run at the rules in a swashbuckling setting, and the second one was largely a character generation session. Now, we got to sit down with player-generated characters and have a full game session dedicated to gaming.

The rules are still rough, very rough, in places, but I'm happy to report that when this system works, it works.

The game picked up with our group of old west heroes on board a train headed out to Redemption Colorado from the east coast, each for reasons of his own. The three are brothers, and the ties of blood pull them together even though their pasts might otherwise drive them apart. One is a former law man, the other two of more shady occupations, all looking to set up life in the west through a shared stake in an area supposedly rich in gold.

Last game, one of the passengers went crazy, half ate two others, and then proceeded to fight the three of them. He lost to a small hail of gunfire that sent him tumbling off the roof of a train car, falling into the rushing darkness.

We picked up pretty much right there. The session that proceeded was very heavy on role playing and non-combat die resolution. The latter went amazingly smoothly. Despite the long hiatus between sessions, people picked up on the basic roll really quickly. That's not too surprising, as there's not a lot to it. Pick up some dice, roll them, and look for 5s. If that took a long time to figure out, we'd be neck deep in a whole other set of problems.

What was really exciting, however, was how talents and trainings affected play. Without any prompting from me, people would throw their dice, look at their sheet, and then alter their role playing so that they could leverage those bonuses that allowed them to manipulate the pool results. Characters really came to life early in the game, and while good players will always bring that kind of spark to their play (and this group had at least one such player), it happened early in the game, without much of a warm up period.

Even better still, I got to see first hand what it was like to watch a system fade into the background. We played for several hours without anyone stopping to puzzle something out. What questions there were became routine (mostly asking if a particular talent or training could apply to a situation/approach), which left the game wholly uninterrupted by the rules. We played, people occassionally tossed dice with complete confidence, read the results without any difficulty, and we proceeded with play.

One hang up we hit a little early was a question of cooperation, as in how to do it? The on the fly ruling I made was that the primary actor rolled his pool, but all participants could modify that roll with their talents, trainings, and gifts. However, if any participant wanted to include his Destiny dice, he could swap those out for any of the pool's Hope dice. That kept die rolling down while letting everyone participate. The group came up with the little flourish that you still rolled your own Destiny dice, which turned out to be a nice touch. This ruling went over big, and it's become part of the baseline rules from now on.

The play about erodiing Hope and burgeoning Destiny is also growing on people. One player lost almost all connection to his wife during play as he stood up and took over as lawman more and more throughout the session. He remarked at one point that it felt right, both in terms of his character and how it was coming off in play. His wife wanted him to put away the badge and live the simple life, but his ideals were calling him back to action, and he was consistently choosing them over her, and it was straining their relationship. He said there was a small story playing in his head about such things, even though we weren't playing them as part of the game, and that made the whole experience richer for him. I can't say that would happen to everyone, but it was really nice to hear about.

Then we closed in on the end of the adventure and hit combat. Combat hit back too. Even though they were supposed to sprout from a common root, combat was everything basic resolution wasn't: it was difficult, intrusive, slow, confusing, and ground play to a halt. No one was happy with it.

There were several large categories of problems when it came to combat:
  • Too Many Dice - Despite my assumption that the creation of multiple effort pools would make people die hungry, it turned out not to be the case, and all the various options that granted additional dice turned some people's pools into veritable seas. They had so many ways of drumming up more dice upon more dice that they literally had too many options and didn't know what to do with them all. This means that Dreams and Ideals need a complete overhaul, since playtesting showed they were important to play and populat as a concepts, but their mechanical implications need wholesale replacement.
  • Hope Limits on Potencies - The idea that only the extraordinary can really let rip with potencies is a good one. Representing this by placing a semi-flexible cap on the amount of Hope you can put into a potency is not. It created confusion and the need to perform a calculation every time someone wanted to roll a potency.
  • NPCs Are Hard - I'd designed NPCs to be diceless in order to speed and simplify their resolutions. I did this by listing the automatic successes they had toward several kinds of actions by way of assigning them gifts. Nice theory. In fact, it didn't work so well. The fact that NPCs have gifts means they still have resources that need management. Removing the dice meant that I didn't even have the physical tracking aid to use. I started using dice to help out halfway through, but it still was far more complicated than it was supposed to be.
  • Damage - Damage is all kinds of screwed up. People either miss or commit grievous wounds on their opponents. Each time a player took a hit he went from fine to half dead. I wanted injuries to matter in this game, but this is too deadly for the kind of experience I'm trying to create. It needs to be scaled WAY back.
  • Different Die Statuses - We've tried it several times now, and the whole fine/bloodied/bruised thing is just not working. Even though everyone gets how it works, people don't like them. The general consensus is that a die should be in play, or not. But having some that can do something when others can't, when they're otherwise identical, is unpopular. Wounding, and by extension recovery, needs new rules that simplify this.
Despite the rash of problems that came up, however, the game was seen in a positive light overall. People loved the basic resolution, and even those who were skeptical about dropping skills and using more descriptive traits like talents and trainings are 100% sold on the idea now. They love them, and they love using them. The goal is to make combat work much more like basic resolution, ideally to the point where combat is no different from any other kind of die rolling.

The ways I try to make this happen follow in later posts.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shadowitz 2e: First Playtest

Our regular group hosted a guest recently, and so we took a break from the regular game to give Shadowitz 2e a trial run. I used a Die Hard like scenario, where the players would be inside a tower that got taken over by terrorists, initially separated from their weapons and with all their cyberware locked down. The idea was to have them sneak to the security station at the base of the tower, recover their gear and unlock their ware, and then have a series of running gun battles with terrorist groups as they tried to diffuse a bomb set to blow the top 15 floors off the building.

Instead, they jumped the first guys they saw regardless of the fact they had no weapons and little in the way of augmentation. The scenario ended before it began, and we instead settled in for a 90 minute fight that ended with a whole lot of dead hostages and an exploded building. But hey, the combat system got a hell of a workout.

The first thing I noticed was that wounding hurts a lot more than it used to. A lot more than it used to. Maybe too much. I'm not sure. In a single fight it really slapped the group around, but it was a situation that was stacked with near impossible odds (in the hopes they'd decide to do something other than overtly rush the bad guys) with no down time with which to recover from even stun injuries, so I'm not sure it's a fair test of how the penalties impact regular play.

That said, getting hit really messes you up now. You can't blithely ignore the flying lead anymore. Defensive actions are really a must. So much so that I'm thinking that dice put toward yin shouldn't be eaten up by an attack. While I prefer to shade things in favor of offense to move the game along, wounds are simply too crippling to nail someone with without providing a hearty defensive option.

Raising seems pretty cool, but again, with wounds locking down your pool, once you take a big hit, you're not raising anymore. I'm actually fine with that.

The new shot clock works just fine. I didn't expect any problems with it. In fact, the multi-track approach was very well received by any who had a comment about it.

Physical mages are powerful. I had adjusted the rules from what I posted here to make the magic rules a little more forgiving, but with the right suite of powers they are monsters. Again, not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, since the group never unlocked their cyberware I can't fairly compare them to the samurai, who never got to cut loose. That's a comparison I'd really want to make before deciding what, if anything, needs to change with the physical mages.

With a flat target number of 4 and wound penalties changing way more dice into wound dice, I think my initial assessment of the knack list and pyramid is correct. Knacks need to be more specialized and more numerous. There's one other major revision I think I need to look at though, and that's the attempt to keep all pools at 10.

See, when the game judged the level of success based on the number of hits you rolled, having a massive pool just became cumbersome after a while, and once you exceeded a certain number of successes, you hit a point of rapidly diminishing returns in terms of how long it took you to sort your pool. For that reason, keeping the knack ratings capped at 10, and limiting them to 7 to start, was a good idea. But that's not the way the game works anymore.

Now, no matter the hits you roll, you only score a minimal success. If you want more, you have to raise, and to raise you have to drop dice fro your pool. Now, a massive score in a knack doesn't mean lots of sorting. You're looking for the task threshold and that's it. In fact, the new raise rules don't just mean that large pools aren't as cumbersome, but I think they require larger pools. If you want to really shine, you need spare dice you can throw away on raises. The existing knack pyramid needs a revision. While 7 dice to start is probably still okay, if lower powered than it used to be, I think there needs to be more slots for higher rating knacks, and maybe a higher ground floor. Knacks of 3 aren't very useful.

What surprised me most, however, was how many comments I got back immediately upon wrapping up the session about how people would readily return to this game to test it further. One big fight scene didn't give people opportunity to play with their demons, and that was something nearly everyone wanted to explore more. They saw a lot of potential in mucking about with questions of edge and punk and worldliness. I'm not sure when or if that'll happen, as this was a sort of design on a lark and one I wasn't planning on returning to, but hey, you never know.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Other Mechanical Changes

With that core engine in place, I can begin looking at the rest of the Shadowitz system and see what needs adjusting. The answer is a whole hell of a lot.

Remove Methods
First of all, it's now gone to a roll over vs a roll under system, and Punk and Demon have become the core character attributes. Methods don't mix into that well, and so I think they've got to go. Just straight out gone. A character now has knacks and a single target number he's looking for on all dice, regardless of his approach.

New Dice Rules
Speaking of which, impairment dice need an overhaul too. If higher dice are better, and the target number is 5, what do we do about injuries. I still think changing the pool composition to keep the possibility of action alive but  less likely is a solid mechanic. So let's change the target number to 4, make d6 the base die, d10 the edge die, and d4 the impairment die.

1s glitch instead of 6s.

Finally, I'd like to shift the degree of success away from luck and into the realm of player choice. So I'm going to take the raise mechanic I used in 7th Sea and introduce it here. Any roll gives you basic success, regardless of the margin by which you beat the target threshold. If you want to achieve more, you need to raise.

Remove 1 die from your pool for each raise; it doesn't matter if it's a d6 or a d10, but you can't remove d4s to raise. You're stuck with them. If you succeed in your roll, you can get additional levels of performance based on the raises you made. In combat, this means raising is the only way to deal additional damage. An attack deals base damage + raises.

Fewer Aspects
In the original game, you started with 5 aspects. That's a lot, and they didn't get used much because there was a lot else going on. Now, you get 2 plus your demon. If you want more you can get more later, but start with 2 and learn to work them both.

Likewise, starting karma (which used to be called Edge) now starts at 2 points, not 5. A smaller pool means you're more likely to work those compels more often to earn more karma.

Shot Clock Revision
I've rejiggered the shot clock to give it multiple tracks. Now, your initiative score doesn't reduce the number of shots an action takes, but tells you which track you're on. Higher tracks have more spaces, meaning you still proceed around the clock more slowly, and thus get to act more often than slower opponents. This lets everyone use the same list of shot costs without the need to do any calculations that might foul things up or slow them down.

Knack List Revision
Resources is gone as a knack, since it's now based on your Worldliness score. The knack pyramid remains, but with the loss of methods, I'm wondering if making knacks more specific and increasing their number is a good idea. When making a few NPCs, I ran out of knacks to take a few times. Food for thought.

Contacts Overhaul
With Fixer gone, there needs to be some other way of making contacts important to the characters. Fixer was a neat idea, but it always bothered me that contacts were still only capable of doing the things characters could do already.

So now, every character gets 5 contact aspects. They can use these to build their contacts, giving them access to knacks (probably different ones than the character has himself), as well as certain other abilities like resources and position. These are part of the character sheet though, and a character can spend money and experience to increase his contacts just like he can himself. While the GM might play the contact when the character speaks to him, the player is responsible for the mechanics, advancing the contact, and making all the necessary rolls.

The Inner Demon

Let's move on to the second aspect of the mission statement: the inner demon. This is the means by which the characters maintain their individuality. Characters in Neuromancer did it through drug addiction, death wishes, isolation, extreme body modification, and sheer insanity. There wasn't anyone in that book who was just a little quirky. They were either faceless and forgettable, or they had something really wrong with them. So we need something similar for this game, something to give players the power stay themselves, but to do so in a way that breaks them.
Okay, so there's clearly got to be some kind of disadvantage tied to a character's inner demon, but again, it needs to be mechanical. The 90s were strewn with RPGs that introduced disadvantages that you were just supposed to role play, and while they were a big step in the direction of thinking about your character's personality and not just his combat stats, too often these disadvantages were banks of points that you got for free and proceeded to ignore in actual play. A character's inner demon needs to inflict a mechanical penalty to the character, while at the same time it needs to provide some mechanism by which a character can increase his punk rating.
So, each character has a demon, defined along theme appropriate lines. This gets a variable rating (um... 1-5 maybe?) defined by the player at the start of each adventure (I'm still assuming this being a Shadowrun game, that it will be built around specific missions/jobs). The rating determines how hard the demon is kicking at that particular time. Sometimes it's nice and placid and behind the scenes, and sometimes it's a raging beast. Take for example the demon "drug addict." At a rating 1, the character might feel the occasional pang, but he can pretty much white knuckle his way through the job. At rating 5, he's jonsing for a fix constantly. Time that should be spent gathering intel on the team's target is spent instead scoring a fix and blissing out. He's walking into firefights high, and he's going through withdrawal when they need him driving the getaway car.
A character's Edge is equal to his Punk + Demon. Yes, this does mean that the more messed up a character is on any given run, the better he'll be performing, but we're going to chalk that up to him being less distracted by all the trivialities of the world. Demons are an aspect with only a downside. The GM can compel the aspect, just as any other, and you are free to resist if you like. However, it costs you a number of points equal to your demon rating to avoid succumbing. When it's really kicking, you're going to be spent just keeping it at bay, and if things get too rough, you are going to give in. 

That should make the "brokenness" of cyberpunk characters a more front a center thing in this game. With rare exception, players want their characters to be good at what they do. That means high edge. But that high edge comes with a price, and I'm willing to bet people will pay it, which hands the GM the tools necessary to help players explore the dark parts of their character's unique snowflake of a personality. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Core Mechanic

So, with a core "about" statement, let's move on to question 2. How is this game about that? First and foremost, if it's going to be about avoiding being a mindless drone, there needs to be some kind of identity score, an "individuality" stat, maybe we can call it "punk" in homage to the literary source. That stands for how far apart from being a mindless consumer you are, and how outside society you are. That, by extension means that being a part of society has to be bad, as in mechanically bad. Remember, it doesn't matter what the flavor text of your game is, if there's no rule for it, your players won't care. Thus if being acclimated into pop culture is a bad thing, there needs to be something in the rules themselves that make it bad. 

One of the terms you hear time and again in cyberpunk RPGs is "edge." It's something that you're always after, and even if you're on it one minute, you might slip and fall behind the next. It takes constant work to stay on the edge. I'm thinking the more you're into chasing down the latest Brittany or Justin Beiber video or voting for the newest round of American Idol or whatever, the less you're keeping your edge, so maybe your punk score has something to do with either setting your max skill rating or the threshold over which the cost for increasing a skill jumps dramatically. Or maybe, like tech, you need to work just to stay relevant (think computing speed, and what's considered average now vs, five years ago), so there's a maintenance cost for your skills just to keep them the same (as in relatively effective given a growing world), and your punk helps offset that maintenance cost by preventing you from sinking too much time into consumerism that doesn't promote personal growth.
Hmm... I'm going to flash forward briefly and look at question 3, which asks how that's fun. While the idea of maintaining your skills relative to a growing world is realistic, and there's a thematic resonance between that mechanic and the tech industry to which cyberpunk owes its existence, I don't think working to keep what you have makes for a fun game, so let's jettison that.
Okay, so we're back to punk vs pop culture. I'm a big believer in rewarding player choice rather than penalizing it, so I'd like to make this conflict one that gives the player a bonus of some kind, rather than takes something away. The loss can be the forfeiture of the potential bonus. It's easier to swallow. Since I'm on a dual die design kick these days, I'm going to make some assumptions for the moment just to put some ideas down and move on. Let's say this is a die pool system, and that 5s and better are successes. You roll a number of dice equal to your skill. Dice up to your punk rating are d10s, because that's your edge. Anything over that are d6s. This means that you won't lose your character if you fully acclimate into pop society, but you'll be soft by comparison to those living on the edge. There's a mechanical incentive to staying individualized.
Hmm... maybe we should split the edge and punk ratings. That is, make punk = edge in the beginning, but allow some method of growing edge beyond punk. Punk then creates some sort of insulation, but doesn't create a ceiling. Eh, it's a nebulous idea to let circulate in the idea cloud for now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Shadowitz: Mission Statement

So... what should Shadowitz really be about? Yeah, there's magic in a modern cyberpunk world gone wireless, and it needs good combat rules along with easy speed tracking and all that jazz, but none of that is what it's about. I remember reading Neuromancer only a few months ago and thinking how much Shadowrun wanted to be like this book, but shot well wide. Why? The why, the thing Shadowrun's missing is what I think Shadowitz should be about. 

The game should be about characters living in a world populated in large part by mindless consumer drones drifting through a shallow pop culture that robs people of any individuality. The thing that keeps these characters separate and individual, however, is an inner demon that compels self-destructive behavior. Characters struggle between losing themselves to the wider world and the end their inner punk pushes them toward.

In a nutshell, I think that means the game is about struggling to maintain your identity through the use of an inner demon that might kill you. Everything else, the plethora of guns, the magic, the wireless matrix, the cyberware, the sorcery, the metahuman races, all of it, are irrelevant to the core of the game. All of that stuff is in there, and there will ultimately be rules for it, but first and foremost there must be a mechanical system that represents that core mission statement, and it must be at the forefront of the game. Shadowitz doesn't have that, and that's why it's a failure.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shadowitz: Second Edition

A friend of mine introduced me to someone recently who shares an interest in game design, and we've been corresponding, talking shop, for a while now. He's scary smart, and perhaps because of this hasn't read as widely as I have in the area of game design, content to work on his own material without outside help. Thus, when I mentioned the three questions to him, it touched off a long discussion as to what they were really asking and what they meant. It was great.

In the course of this discussion, Shadowitz came up, and through the back and forth, I wound up hitting on the thing that I felt the original design was lacking. Namely, an answer to those questions. Looking back to the beginning of this blog, I see I asked and then chucked those questions almost immediately in the design process. The goal became modelling everything in Shadowrun with an alternate set of rules, but it wasn't about anything. My game ultimately didn't see characters any more true to the cyberpunk genre than I'd gotten before. It worked as a resolution engine, but as for creating a particular feel, it was a failure.

It was the conversations with this new friend that smacked me in the face with that, and then just as suddenly, the answer came to me. What followed was a flurry of ideas that lead to a new core of the old game. I never really finished Shadowitz; the initial draft retains plenty of rough patches, but I decided to go about revising it according to these new answers anyway in the hopes that what came out the other side was closer to what I'd been searching for all along. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Heroes of Destiny: Second Playtest

Our second playtest for Heroes of Destiny was rough. There were a bunch of scheduling snafus that lead some, but not all, of us to gather. Since this was supposed to be the beginning of a short campaign, and a test of the character creation system, I wanted everyone there at once. Not only did I want to avoid having to schedule a second time to walk those absent through the process, but I wanted everyone together to see if they could work out the rules amongst themselves. In that way it was a test of the text as much as the system.

Since we were a man down, I instead decided I'd take the opportunity to run another game from the menagerie of "I'd like to try this" titles I have. I took a few so we'd have options, and headed on over...

...only to learn that we were indeed going to have a full crew, just a hour later than normal.

Well, hell. I hadn't prepped anything. Sure, I had some story notes, but no numbers. That meant play was more than a little halting. But I'm getting ahead of myself, because we started with character generation.

As I noted earlier, the group decided on a fantasy western. One of them was looking for D&D in the wild west, but wasn't very clear about it. Someone else wanted Deadlands with different rules, which is what I trended toward. Our world is less Brisco County than Deadlands, but the idea is similar: rising sorcey and grim magic have made a mess of the United States.

The players all came in with some idea of what they wanted for their characters, some more detailed than others, so we sat down and got to work. Even though there's not many points to spend in character generation, I was astounded at the agony of expenditure. It took a loooooong time to get those points spent. Normally I'd be demoralized, but in this case it wasn't because the rules were too complicated or unclear; they simply gave a lot of thought to point distribution. Hey, some people put a lot of thought into that. It wasn't a failing of text or system, so we rolled with it.

Talents and trainings were a problem, or the concept of them was a problem. One of the players still kept going to skills as a reference, and kept coming up with terms that were too grounded in game mechanics as opposed to descriptive text, and were in general too limiting. However, over the course of about two hours, we had a good list among them all. Some stars of the bunch included:
  • Small Town Sheriff - you're used to being the law in small communities. This means you know how to dig up information, throw your weight around to get what you want, intimidate those under your authority, and gather up a posse when the need arises. However, you're totally lost in cities, where the red tape and "proper channels" just baffle you.
  • I Work Alone - running dusty trails solo to avoid authorities almost all your life has made you very comfortable with adapting your abilities to any situation. Whatever it is, you have a knack for bending your skills to the task, but your mind has no place for others; their presence tends to foul up your instincts.
  • I Used to Be a Bad Guy - you've come west to get away from your criminal past, but some of it still lingers. Despite your best efforts, there are going to be people who have heard of you, and while that can be a problem with bounty hunters, it gives you extra leverage when convincing folk they don't want to cross you. Plus, having plied the bandit trade yourself, you have insight into how they think and act.
One of the suggestions that John (the person for whom the game was written) had was "Lucky with the Order," from Unforgiven, in which Eddie Munny describes always hitting the most dangerous gunman in a fight first, just because he does. It's a great name, but getting lucky with the order doesn't fit with how talents and trainings work. Get the bonus when hitting the right guy? Get the bonus when determining which guy to hit? I couldn't find a way to make it work, but I really want to because the name sounds perfect.

The big suggestion that came out of this is that the game needs a standardized list of talents and trainings. I resisted this initially. If these are supposed to be bits of description that really display the core elements of the character, picking them from aa pregenerted list seemed counter to their purpose. My players insisted, however, and one pointed out that some people will just pick from the list and that'll be that, but others will eventually make their own, using the list as examples. And he's right. Given that I want to keep the rules themselves genre neutral though, what I'm likely to do is create a list of example talents and trainings that have emerged in our various playtests. People can  pick from them if the campaign's appropriate, and they should provide a solid guide to help people make their own.

Okay, so we got our crew together and then had to take a break as I got my hands on some files, and I began scribbling notes and making stats on the fly. As I said, play was kind of halting, and the initial session had a lot of role playing and not much die rolling. That's okay. I do like those kinds of sessions, and given that this game is ultimately about having to make deeply personal choices and scrifices in character, the heavy role play is just as essential as checking the dice.

What die rolling we did see showed that the basic resolution mechanics are fine. They were a little slow at first, mostly on the differences between potencies and everything else, and the idea that your talents, trainings, and gifts applied to your entire pool once per exhange, not to each effort made. The latter only took a couple to tosses of the dice to work out; I suspect potencies will take just a little longer.

As we didn't really get into much heavy stuff, I noticed people were leaving Destiny out of their rolls, which sat just fine with me. Determining if someone was cheating at cards isn't the kind of high stakes risk that calls for the risk of Destiny. All fine.

XP is a little problematic, as players are having a hard time remembering to write it down, and I've missed reminding them a few times. I still like the idea though, so I'm going to hang onto it and hope that we'll grow into that mechanic.

The one combat we had involved guns, brawling, and some dangerous athleticism (a gunfight moved to the roof of a moving train, where it changed to knives and guns). People called on Destiny, risked Dreams, and invoked ideals. It was pretty cool. Damage sounds high when you deal it out, but given that starting characters have so many Hope dice, they take it pretty well. We didn't get a chance to try out healing at all, so that'll be next time.

What did I learn about the mechanics? Not much, I'm afraid. I spent so much time making numbers up on the fly on my end becaus I hadn't statted anything out that I didn't pay much attention to analysis at the time. I know it felt like more work than I intended to run a fight, but NPCs already only have a few stats and don't roll dice, so I can't simplify it much more. We'll just have to try it again with more organized notes. After all, low prep doesn't mean no prep.