Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Clash Playtests at Dreamation

(scheduled post - wrote this late last night. Sorry for the delay!)

I playtested Clash twice at Dreamation!

It was so scary, honestly. I am still learning, slowly, how to playtest and how to facilitate games. This was a huge step for me to run Clash in an environment like this and take feedback.

The first playtest was, I think, successful. I give you my confusing notes!

The story:
Two factions who fight each other lorded over by one occupying power called the Alliance. Players lived in a city that was once two cities, but is now one. There was a freedom fighter, an honest day laborer, a cheesemonger, a transport driver, a bodyguard, and a rogue cop. We had this awesome super mundane conversation between the cheesemonger (me) and the day laborer about how the laborer was working too much and not spending time with family. We also had an interrogation of the driver by the bodyguard. The freedom fighter blew up a bunch of outposts, one side hid a bomb in my cheese, and it was altogether pretty great.

Feedback included:
+ Unique stories.
+ World questions and character questions are effective.
+ Enough NPCs/components that it is clear but not overwhelming.
+ Visual presentation is great.
+ The mundane is possible.
+ Relationships on both sides.
+ Teams are great.
+ Signatures, stakes, and locations interacting is great.
+ Had scenes with this game that player didn't think would happen in other games.

- Starting scenes (team scenes) are a little weak.
- Scenes sometimes feel disconnected from the World/not enough World interaction.
- High cognitive load at start of session.
- This is a long term game so may need adjustment for cons.
- Compromise is penalizing.
- One player in particular didn't like the Avoidance mechanic.

A few notes:

Compromise is supposed to be penalizing. You can compromise, which gives you a narrative win, but there is a mechanical penalty because the World doesn't want peace.
I definitely intend to make adjustments for con vs. long play.
I need to rework the starting scenes or offer better guidelines.
I need to formalize the visual presentation.

The second playtest also went well! More confusing notes to follow.

The story:
The Technocrats party and the Libraritarians (yes, I spelled it right) were preparing for an election. We had a young upstart politician, an agendered honorable representative, two older and kind of crotchety politicians, and two young interns - the eager beaver and the reluctant resume-filler. We had the old politicians agree to run a clean campaign, but then both sides went behind their back and tried to do it dirty. One politician managed to dodge with Avoidance to keep another player from finding incriminating evidence against them, and another won over the media. The eager beaver got hit by a car after a date with the reluctant resume-filler, but the final scene was an adorkable awkward kiss between the two interns.

Feedback included:
+ Very different game from session to session. (One player observed session 1, but played session 2.)
+ Clear and simple, but not predictable.
+ Avoidance is really great. (Called "innovative" and "hot" - made my day.)
+ Compromise is really good.
+ Questions work well.
+ Script Change mechanic (Rewind, Fast Forward) is excellent.
+ Ritual of structure/physical layout is great.
+ World creation went smoothly with no GM or facilitator interference.

- Very quick movement through scenes (we had some really aggressive scene framers, which was both good and bad).
- Not sure what niche is filled with the game.
- Factions have no stats.
- NPCs are sometimes tangential - need more interaction.
- World is not pushing hard enough.

A few notes:

The factions do not have stats, and I don't think that will change. I do think that Stakes need to come into play more, which they didn't in this session at all.
In the text, NPCs are tied to players. In this session, I tried not having them tied to players. This was a mistake.
For con games, based on both playtests, I think the format should be two scenes, World table, one scene, epilogue/vignettes. I need to try this out.
I want to look at the World and see if there is something I can do to make it bite more - maybe have it rolled more often.
One problem that came up was how people were handling personal goals. I need to make it clear in the text that personal goals can be solved either player to player, or in narrative scenes where you pay the World, no other methods.
This session reminded me very sharply of why Avoidance is staying a mechanic and why I originally wrote it. It was used brilliantly and to great effect.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the sessions. I think I have some tweaking to do but I think the game is strong, and I got a lot of great feedback.

Yay!