Xavid (kihou) wrote,

Halloween Tabletopping

So, I just played the Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-granting Engine RPG Halloween Special, as a marathon one-shot. (We only got through one-third of the quest space.) It was a lot of fun; people got really into their characters and there was lots of laughter and silliness. Mechanically, it seemed like there was a big much to keep track of but it worked well overall.

In particular, Issues were hard for me to keep in mind. (There’s a list of issues like “It Never Stops!” or “Mystery” or “Sickness” that the GM hands out between chapters based on what’s happened in play.) They seemed like a lot of fiddliness for an eventual reward of 4 XP. (They also grant bonus MP, but the characters didn’t have any MP-based abilities.) They’d probably work better in a longer/more ongoing campaign with miraculous characters, but they also seem to cover a similar area to quests in a less compelling way.

Quests were great. (You’ve got an XP target per quest and you can do various major or minor things to get bonus XP for that quest.) Having specific goals to have happen in play really encouraged players to drive the plot instead of just reacting to the GM all the time, and they also did a good job of setting genre. (Challenging a giant monster to a game of Connect Four is the sort of thing that seems unlikely to happen without prompting but was great in play.) I think they also helped give players not on-screen something to do, because you could look at your quest and plan scenes you wanted to have later. I think they were at their best when they were like writing prompts, serving as starting points for creativity rather than something complete in themselves.

I feel like the quests actually did a really good job in encouraging characterization and showing character development. The comparison that came to mind for me was Fate aspects. In Fate, you’ve got a high concept and various other aspects for your character, but you mostly only play them up if you need a bonus to win a roll or if one would get you into trouble, so they mostly end up as afterthoughts, not driving scenes, and it’s easy for someone to have an aspect that they later notice is totally not in line with how they’ve been playing their character. In this, quest goals were much more a part of driving scenes, and it seemed like the progression of completing a quest and moving to the next was natural for character development and avoiding the same sorts of things being brought into play for too long.

Intentions were a bit fiddly, mainly in that it was hard for me to adjudicate them. (Instead of using dice, you have fixed skills and you have 8 will per chapter you can spend to boost them.) I feel like the intention ladder (target numbers for things like “impress people”, “move closer to your goals”, or “make your life better”) might work a bit better in Pastoral games with intentions like “I want to make a living fishing” or whatever, but for intentions like “defeat this monster in a sword fight” it becomes confusing. I think I should’ve ignored the ladder more and treated things as contests with edge and obstacles as necessary. (It does make me miss Apocalypse World’s lack of needing to set difficulties for things, though.) In practice, I did a lot of saying yes, which worked well for fun but probably made things feel too easy for the proper Fairy Tale genre feel. (Bonds felt a bit redundant, given the frequent will refreshes and the focus on quests, though they might’ve been more useful with more intention-based challenges.)

Emotion XP worked surprisingly well. (There’s an emotional reaction for each character, like “face-palm” or “aww!”, that, if provoked in another character or player, gets them an XP.) Sometimes it flowed much more easily than others, but it did end up encouraging characters to play up aspects of their characters in an over-the-top way, sort of like the basic quests. I think by the end of the session (as Kendra pointed out) the barrier for earning emotion XP had gotten higher, as the same person playing up the same emotion started to seem a bit repetitive.

XP actions to mark time and ensure everyone got focus were cool. (Each chapter, each PC can take two actions from a list of in-genre and out-of-genre actions that earn XP for the group.) In practice, there was a lot of focus on the plot and rigid chapter breaks didn’t necessarily make sense (say, if everyone’s used their XP actions in the middle of a scene), but like the quest bonus stuff they did provide guidance for how to move things forward in a player-directed way. I feel like the specific Fairy Tale genre XP actions were a bit at odds with how people ended up wanting to play their characters. Focusing on being overmatched and suffering trauma and changes definitely encouraged playing up those sorts of things at time, but I think it was hard to know where to go with the trauma/triggers in some cases as an ongoing plot. It definitely lead to some reaching for XP actions when people were focusing more on mystery-solving and heroism. I think that was fine, though, and I’m glad I had the out-of-genre XP actions on the cheat sheet. I’ll definitely try with a different genre next time.

All in all, people had fun and I’m definitely glad I played it. It’s definitely having an impact on how I think of games, and I’ll be interested to see it from another perspective later.
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