Dead... and Back is a survival horror Role Playing Game. The Anarchy Zones is its official setting - aliens, reanimates, and the ruins of 2055 America.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Playtest Breakdown

Back in June 2010 my youngest sister tried to be nice, and get a couple of her friends to play my game. This gesture did not go as well as any participating would have hoped. However the questions raised still helped give direction to a game I had been neglecting for a while, and have provided the inspiration for a number of the posts on this blog.

Blame where its due, I was at fault for a number of the problems. My GMing skills were out of practice, and followed a rather different style then the players were used to. The scenario didn't really allow for much freedom - basically just some plot hooks to get them to explore ruins and try fighting some reanimates. Really, all I wanted was a test of how quickly characters could be made, and how fast combat involving multiple people might go along.

Still, I can maintain at least some indignation when looking at player behavior. Notable elements:
  • A white panel van shows up near where the players are staying. Although the driver is friendly, one player insists on removing his head with a shotgun and stealing the van. This in turn roused reaction from the guy's friend in the back, who had a power armor, though that was kind of a moot point, as a grenade thrown under a van full of explosives pretty much ended up with a TPK in the parking lot where the session started. Note to self: Never, Ever, try to offer player's weapons as an incentive.
  •  Resetting to a more normal contents of the van - an old Highway worker's vehicle - they found road-salt, cigarette cartons, and a jack hammer. They decided to return to where they came from and sell the contents for stuff. (I thought I had already allowed them a considerable arsenal just starting - gauss rifles, shotguns, and pistols, plus some grenades. It seems these people presumed "Doom" rather than "Resident Evil".)
  • Upon acquisition of the van - they turn around and head right back to the NEST that gave them their original assignment. Arriving at a giant building at 2 am, the guards are reluctant to let them in.  Upon being stymied as such, two of them start looking for alternate ways in, one tries to bribe the guard with a pack of cigarettes, and the last tries to ask where they can find the black market. (This then explains that each entrance is either welded shut, or guarded with snipers, and the guard asks for two packs to let them in.)
  • Upon meeting the groggy guy who handles trade negotiations, they keep demanding prices. when those are not forthcoming (gee - a chance to you know - role play bargaining) someone asks about how to find the black market - not realizing this is the black market. The first player to ask for a bullet proof vest got one because they were the only one who actually tried to deal. 
I really should be more charitable about this. I certainly did pick up on elements that were needed. From a game play standpoint:
  • A player was mystified about the difference between special abilities and skills - and wondering why a military character couldn't have two SAs has lead to a current drive to clarify that element. 
  • Complaints about how hard certain creatures are to kill has lead to my consideration of either upping the chance of a weapon's power (ie top two numbers rather than maximum roll, to bring it in line with all the the other dice pools).or going up to seven. This also cuts down on derived stats being so similar.
  • Comments that hand to hand and melee weapons seem too powerful lead to the current idea that human SID should be boosted up a point. (This also helps close the instant kill rifles problem. Yes, the next stuf up is lethal - but the next step up is 30mm cannons which are rather less common.)
  • Complaints about the "contrived" nature of the setting lead to a new introduction about the genre and how the game is emulating video games and movies, not a real life simulation. 
On the upside, I did learn about some of the simpler overhauls needed. A number of the earlier posts have been direct answers to questions the players asked including:
  • Why humans have not gone genocidal on the aliens
  • What its like inside a NEST, how hard it is to break into one, and a better sense of size.
  • The aliens are not completely evil, and more pieces telling their side. (Everyone seems to assume arthropod like aliens with demonic power armor are evil. I blame television for these hurtful stereotypes!)
  • Notes about trading, way of life, and setting up your own settlements.
  • Ideas for quick "how to GM" chapters.
Overall, it was a much needed impetus to get back to work, and I probably wouldn't have started this blog if I hadn't uncovered so many problems.

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