Token Fiddliness

gongfermor-tableWe playtest to make games better. You accept feedback to allow that process to progress and allow a game to grow. I have been running games of 214 for that very reason – and I hope to run more. I have games at Seven Hills and UK Games Expo over the next couple of months, and I really should pop the old Hangout cherry and run a few games online (but, overwhelming introversion and general shyness continue to plague my good intentions in this regard).

Anyway, one piece of feedback from the games at Concrete Cow came from professional Angel Summoner, Steve Ellis:

Good fun, reasonable system with a bit of token fiddliness (and no real use for Penance).

I’m happy to break that sentence down, as it holds considerable feedback for such a scant array of words.

Good Fun: On the very plus side, the adventure itself provided enough entertainment to keep five players engaged for a 3-hour slot. I have now run The Holy Wax Infant of Prague on two occasions, and I’ve touched on it before – a nice little sandbox where the actions of the player characters determine the course of the adventure.

Reasonable System: I like any feedback on the system that doesn’t entirely slate it! I know that it needs work, so if I can get from A to B without too many slips, I can say “Good.” I have been listening to all the feedback, although it will always take time for me to take it onboard and do something constructive with it.

I want to find a better system, for example, to handle occasional combat. The game isn’t about fights, but they will happen – and right now the system really doesn’t do anything. The focus on narrative means that I can tell you how or why things go for or against you, but the outcome can get a bit fuzzy. I’m inclined to opt for some kind of vaguely realistic injury system. But, I did say, “occasional combat” – and the fact it doesn’t happen often means I’m inclined to work on it later when I’m trying to fill out the gaps.

A Bit of Token Fiddliness: I used narrow character sheets for this event, rather than whole pages. The counters pooled above the line, the character cards below. I’m increasingly feeling that I can find a better way to handle the counters. I think I may experiment with both a team pool mechanic or something finite and personal, but singular. By that, I mean one pool of tokens per character, rather than the current three.

Right now, we have Power, Prestige, and Penance for The Dee Sanction. These represent your ability to drive toward success through personal ability, association with influential organisations, and engaging in beneficent teamwork, respectively. You draw on the first two pools to directly tweak dice rolls, while the third pool starts with tokens and loses them whenever you selflessly help someone else.

Adjusting other people’s rolls costs 2-for-1 on Prestige, 1-for-1 on Power – because it’s easier to assist with success yourself than expect your contacts to help others.

Adjusting your own roll costs 2-for-1 on Power and 1-for-1 on Prestige – because the roll represents your best effort, so applying more personal expertise proves a lot harder than drawing on the good will and influence of your contacts and associations.

The tokens represent a resource to allow you to drive success when it matters, help team members when they need it, and allow you to look good helping them out. It could well work with a single pool, but, in a way, I wanted to stay away from something that just looked like another Fate / Hero / Force / Whatever mechanic. The single pool of tokens to be heroic when it matters has been done – a lot. I wanted something a little different.

I will have to ponder on this one.

No Real Use for Penance: Well, there is – but some games it comes across strong and others it doesn’t. Penance gives you a reason to help the team. Oddly enough, some groups of players require a carrot on a stick to get them to work co-operatively. In Penance, the characters have cause to assist their companions both to drive success and to look good in the face of critical outsiders. They can redeem their sins and show a willingness to improve in pursuit of a goal of personal freedom.

Possibly, a dozen tokens of three different colours might be overkill. It could be resolved by doing away with the tokens and just have markers on a character sheet to cross out. On the other hand, I might find resolution in a revelation over the pool mechanic.

I might need to take a shower

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