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Before | After

Stormfront is basically written. I'll be going over and cleaning up, tweaking, etc, but it could run as it stands.

Though I am currently considering a technical issue.

The game is made up of three distinct groups, the townsfolk, and the two groups of visitors. The first group of visitors have been there for about half an hour to an hour or so, so they've had the time to find out at least the very basics of who is who. The second group however, will be arriving about 2 minutes after the game starts, so they won't know anyone already there, and no one already there will know anything about them. However, with a small amount of social interaction, individuals will be able to find out bits and pieces about each other.

As a result, I haven't included either side in the other side's "who you know" list, as they don't know them from a bar of soap at the start. So, how do I include the information that won't be said, but will be worked out?

My thought currently is to include with each character the collection of what those others will be able to get about you on separate pieces of paper (sealed, of course). When a character interacts socially with them, they hand over the appropriate slip, so the player then knows what they are able to work out from them.

The issues I see with this is that it will mean the "Travellers from the East" will have to keep track of an additional 13 pieces of paper. At the start of the game, they are other peoples pieces of paper, but by then end, they will be their own. The other characters don't have it as bad, they will have 5.

One possible solution to this has occurred to me. I will be having my laptop and portable printer with me, so have the ability to print on demand. As a result, if a player finds the addition pieces of paper too much (which I expect most will), then they can come to me and I can re-print them as a single document, rather than multiple pages. This should mean that by about half way through most of the players will have their original character sheet, plus one page.

Thoughts? Observations? Questions? Comments?


Mar. 23rd, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)

It depends on the game, but if this is a case when the information is of a "first impressions" nature and supposed to be obtained by the characters very quickly, it usually isn't worth having special mechanics to keep the players from getting the information too early. Holding off on the "first impressions" until the characters first meet just means a lot of stopping the interaction while pieces of paper are exchanged and read, with very little change to the interaction when it finally occurs.

In By a Dark River, I inserted a number of pieces of paper into characters' name badges. Those were to be pulled out and read after certain forms of interaction - basically, when players find a certain icon (on another player's badge or a prop's tag) or hear a certain word (often somebody's actual name) they get extra clues. You played that, you saw how it works, and it generally seemed to work quite well (once I re-emphasised that you only ever touch your own inserts, not steal other people's). That was a bit different, though, in that it was not "first impressions" stuff. It was all information that the characters could remember a few minutes after a conversation with someone and still have it make sense: "Why does that name sound familiar? Oh, yeah, I remember an old story about someone with that name, years ago."

Also, the first time that game ran, one character had a dozen or so pieces of paper, and it proved to be too much to handle. The second time, this was reworked, to put all that info on a single page to be read at the start of the session.

Whatever you do, though, I strongly recommend a mechanic that allows each player to manage their own information and handouts, not rely on others. Players are more likely to get it right when it is their own info, and if they do get it wrong they have only themselves to blame if it causes problems. Issues can be isolated better that way, so that one player's off day doesn't become everybody's off day quite so easily.

Mar. 23rd, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)
The issue isn't just the first impressions, it's a lot of the this character knows who that character is, but will need to interact with them a bit to find out who they are.

I don't want to give those characters a full list of who everyone is, because that's what the meet-and-greet aspect is supposed to be.

In that way, it's very similar to what was in By A Dark River.

Edited at 2010-03-23 03:01 am (UTC)
Mar. 23rd, 2010 03:40 am (UTC)

In By a Dark River, the fact that certain information was hidden was important. Some of the characters were specifically searching for other characters. Laying out the info in a handout made available at the start of the session kills the objective for such a character. It was supposed to be possible for characters to never meet the people they sought and get those extra clues. (Not an outcome I necessarily wanted to occur, but possible.) I'm pretty sure that at least a few of those clues were never read.

So you have to assess the importance of this information being hidden - not the importance of the information, specifically what hiding it will do to the game.

I have to question whether you have 13 pieces of information for any single character that has to be hidden from the start of play, though. Don't give a player 2 significant hidden clues and 11 decoys just so they don't know who to talk to first. That sort of thing doesn't add to the game. You'll wind up with players walking out saying, "Random messed too much with mechanics again," not "It was really good that a few clues were hidden."

If it is important that certain pieces of information be hidden, use my icon-and-insert mechanics. Give that traveller from the East two inserts to match with letters on badges, and don't bother him with decoys that just interrupt the game.

But if it isn't significant to the experience to keep the info hidden, if it is supposed to be discovered within the first five minutes or so, give it on the character sheet. It doesn't closely simulate what actually happens, but you usually don't need to. Doing that doesn't improve the experience of the game for the players, and players are capable of managing a small difference between what players know and what characters know when the difference is clearly marked.

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