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.

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