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Messages - James Mullen

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Troublemakers Update

More changes to the rulebooks, besides some basic typographical corrections:
  • Adjusted some of the basic and peripheral moves, e.g. changed the wording of the outcomes and how many you get to pick when you tell a lie.
  • Expanded the chapter on creating your character to include a discussion about age, gender, ethnicity, ability and prosperity.
  • Expanded the chapter on trouble to make the function of this rule-set clearer.
  • Added a chapter about experience and advances.
  • Added a principle to the MC's advice.
  • Added a chapter describing how different groups of kids create different stories, and vice versa.

Also, added a picture to the front cover, because why not??

We played it in a 4 hour slot at Concrete Cow, but as stated, we skipped a bunch of procedures you might want to use, such as drawing up relationship-maps and such like, in order to get right to the action. As it happened, we then only played for 3 hours, because at that point we'd reached an appropriate juncture in the fiction to call it "End of Episode 1," and playing on would just have dragged out certain plot elements without really having the opportunity to resolve them satisfactorily.

My next proposal for the game is to play it over two sessions at Indiecon, probably using the Friday & Saturday mornings, with more emphasis on world burning in the first session (the first 30-45 minutes spent on this), a cliffhanger at the end of Part One, then a resolution at the end of Part Two. This should take up 7-8 hours in total across the two sessions.

If you adopt an episodic format, with the option for two-part adventures (I recommend The Sarah Jane Adventures), it can run indefinitely; a tighter plot-arc centred around a villain with clear goals might be more satisfying and provide a sense of closure at the end though (Archer's Goon, Century Falls, The Moondial and Dark Season are all good examples of BBC TV children's serials that do this.)

I'll be uploading another update to the main rules and playbooks this week, to incorporate more advice for creating characters, town planning (fronts), experience & advances and more in depth MC's guidance.

Another change log for Troublemakers

  • Expanded introduction into a basic rules & character creation chapter, choosing a name for your PC and their favourite food.
  • Added Will to the rules, a resource that can be spent for bonuses or to make a wish.
  • Re-edited the text of some basic moves.
  • Re-wrote the make a wish move, to include a redefined trigger, spending will on it, new outcomes on 10+ and 7-9, and extending the list of consequences from 3 to 5, with some re-editing of the existing consequences.
  • Added three new peripheral moves: chore, chow down and go to your room.
  • Added 'badge-making' guidelines to the Friends & Family chapter.
  • Edited Allowance and the Toy Catalogue into one chapter.
  • Added more analysis of the new version of making a wish to the Dreaming & Wishing chapter and edited charms to incorporate the changes.
These changes mean that some playsheets are currently broken, most notably The Newcomer, so they are next on the schedule to be re-written.?

I've had the morning and afternoon to make some changes to Troublemakers in the wake of yesterday's playtest:
  • Fixed missing circles in some of the Kid's Playbooks.
  • Uploaded a booklet version of the rules, which will be the main focus for all future updates.
  • Changed the tell a lie move and adjusted moves in some Kid's Playbooks accordingly.
  • Added the do as you're told move.
  • Added a new playbook, The Devil.

Satan's Sleepover

This was the first playtest of Troublemakers, which took place at Concrete Cow 15.5 on September 12th: the following AP report contains both details of the story and reflection on the mechanics.

There were 4 players, 2 male and 2 female, and we began by going through the playsheets to select characters, settling on a Brat, Kook, Shrimp and Mouth: rather than discuss the setting, we dived straight into character creation, with players wrting down their stats and choosing a toy each before we go to the Family & Friends choices. We did this by getting each player in turn to describe their character and then discussing their relationship with the other PCs, so at the end of this process, the Brat and Shrimp were sisters and all the other relationships were friendships.

I used a system for badges which I will soon add to the rules: each player had 3 pieces of card, writing their character's name on one side and the names of the other characters on the other side. In this, when the instruction is to 'give a badge to each other player', you give them your badges and they place it with your character's name face up; when the instruction is to 'take a badge with each other player', then you just turn the badges you have with them so that their name is face-up. This lead to an interesting situation where the Shrimp had no badges with the other PCs and they each had two badges with the Shrimp, but that seemed to be in-keeping with the characters of the Shrimp.

As part of this process, we also established that the Brat and the Shrimp moved around a lot, as their parents made their money by buying, renovating and selling old houses, so they had just moved into a coastal Californian town and only expected to be there for a few months: they were living in a large mansion which the local kids (the Kook and Mouth) knew to be haunted, according to local legend. I pushed for this a little, partly because I thought it might make things more interesting if the two pairings of characters were relatively new friends and were still establishing the ground rules for their relationships.

After some short introductory scenes, we moved towards a plot where the Brat invited the Kook and Mouth to a sleepover: the Brat was impressed by the Kook's claim of being a witch and wanted to hold a seance. The Mouth was too cool to be left out of things and of course the Brat's mother expected her to involve her little sister, the Shrimp, in order to keep the small and annoying child out of her hair while she dealt with the builders and decorators who were shaping the mansion to suit her vision of it.

Some moves got hit a lot: the Shrimp especially delighted in giving a hug but the Brat and Kook also had some success with this move when using it on their parents to get their way. In fact, three of the four characters had Feels+2, with only the Kook breaking ranks to have Dreams+2; they also almost all had Guts and Brains at 0 or -1, so I looked towards shaping the adventure to something touchy feely, with plenty of opportunity for wild stories but less action-adventure.

All the players used the sleepover situation to really get into character, with problems revolving around having a boy  (the Mouth) at an otherwise all female event, ordering pizza and the Kook wanting to bless the house against 'dark forces.' The Shrimp's player was particularly good at playing their role and hitting their moves hard & often, trying to milk maximum advantage from them: the only thing holding them back was their lack of badges, which restricted their ability to manipulate the other PCs, who weren't daring the Shrimp to do anything. I reminded everyone, especially the Brat, that they could scold another PC as well as dare them, from which point on the Shrimp started acting up even more and the Brat responded by scolding her little sister, such as by telling he she was too young to take part in the witchcraft initiation ritual that the Kook was going to take them through.

There were a few attempts to abuse the make a wish move: I see it as being a move that reflects the kids' strongest beliefs, which comes through for them when they really need it, but the players sometimes tried to make a wish for relatively trivial things they wanted, e.g. anchovies on the pizza despite not ordering any. This is probably down to a mismatch of expectations, so I'll make the description of the move more explicit in the next draft.

The story came to a head when the Brat was left alone in the attic after her friends decided to run away when a dark shadow appeared up there: the whole run away/stay put system worked just the way I wanted, it lead to the crux of the plot when the shadow started whispering to the Brat, 'helping her out' with special powers and 'good advice.' After a dare gone badly wrong in the utility room resulted in injuries all around, the Kook got a clue to realise that the Brat was possessed and needed a crucifix to drive the evil force out of her friend. Some more misadventures resulted in the Brat being lured to a spot where her little sister was hiding in the rafters and spat holy water on her to drive the evil out; this worked, but the Brat decided she liked having the shadow as her friend and invited it back in, telling her friends that the evil was gone and everything was fine now... we left it there, as it felt like we had reached the end of the first episode in a story that would lead to further misadventures and revelations.

We had a 15-minute post-game chat about the mechanics, from which I got a lot of positive feedback about the moves and the badge system: I got some suggestions for advances besides take +1 in a stat and take a move, such as doubling the effectiveness of badges with one other PC. Besides that addition, I'm also planning to change the tell a lie move, so that it has a more positive effect on gameplay, as the '+1 ongoing if they don't believe you' seemed a little too vague. I also realised I needed some moves for adults to use upon the PCs, most importantly do as you're told, which gives the kids the option to take or lose trouble when an adult tells them to stop or go away.

I've had some time to spruce up the Playbooks for this game, in preparation for a playtest at Concrete Cow '15.5 on September 12th, so expect an Actual Play report soon after then.

Sounds good: I'd strongly recommend writing at least one playbook early on in the process, as it's always helped me to focus on what the players and characters do in the game, which you will find feeds back into the setting.

Say for example you have an idea for a gunslinger or relic hunter playbook: by writing that up, you'll be surprised what it evokes about your concept of the setting and helps you to build upon your idea, even suggesting essential tweaks to the rules that will shape the game into what you want it to be.

I like it: it's easy to follow, though it could do with a lot more examples of traits, rolls, advantage, gaining story points, spending story points, etc but as a set of mechanics, it's a good distillation of AW. I particularly like the definition of soft and hard moves, that's a good model for thinking about those.

brainstorming & development / Re: Ordinary World, AK 'hood
« on: June 15, 2015, 08:30:57 AM »
It's been almost a year now since The 'Hood went on sale and I've been more than happy with the response: hearing about games played, having the game reviewed online by a couple of cool bloggers and seeing the book in people's photographs of their collections & gaming sessions.

Now is the time to retire it though... to make way for the new Director's Cut: some errors have been corrected, one move has been altered, some extra material has been added and there are nine new playbooks to choose from! The print & download versions should be available from Drivethru this month.

Seth Harris & Ariana Ramos, who were brave enough to try playing The Hood and appear to have emerged from the experience unscathed, expressed a desire to see an AW hack for playing childhood adventures, like The Goonies, The Monster Squad and Eerie, Indiana.

I can't wait too see what they've come up with... so much so that I've had a go at this myself: the MC's chapter needs more work on it, it' barely scratching the surface, but the Players' Section is more or less ready to play, supported by 14 playbooks. Follow this link if you're hankering to play a Knuckle, Kook, Shrimp, Punk or even a Dog, and please let me know what you think.

brainstorming & development / Re: Monster Force Terra
« on: November 29, 2014, 11:40:34 AM »
It should be two moves and one trigger for every playbook: I'll make the necessary corrections soon, along with adding a piece on damage.

The other errors, as far as as I can tell, must be to do with your download or printout and seem to occur where the last word of the sentence appears on the next line: my original doc and the pdf made from it have complete sentences for the moves you mention. I even opened the version uploaded to my Google drive and it doesn't have these errors, so possibly its the way you're viewing it.

Thanks again! :D

brainstorming & development / Re: Monster Force Terra
« on: November 26, 2014, 05:32:48 PM »
Ah, thanks for spotting that in the Avian playbook: I was undecided between the terms 'smash' and 'stomp' when I started writing, so this must have survived from a prior draft.

As to the other points, yes to both: there's an answer to the damage question I gave on the storygames forum that I might rewrite and add to the pdf, but I should also make it clear that the Mecha starts with 4 energy.

Hope you enjoy the game if you get a chance to play it :-)

brainstorming & development / Re: The 'Hood is Open for Business
« on: November 17, 2014, 08:08:14 AM »
We're still looking at the best way to publish the corrected version, as there are very few changes to be made, plus there will be some additional chapters of material collecting & expanding the blog posts I've made about the game. There are also 10 new playbooks, so we're looking at the either a deluxe edition of the original book and/or an expansion in the form of a book or pdf.

The idea with Weekend Promotion is that you actively push your business, drumming up customer from visitors, tourists and people just out for a night out; as a result, your hoes make more money so they get paid off, but all that extra activity draws more heat to you.

brainstorming & development / Re: [Just Heroes: Redrawn]
« on: October 30, 2014, 02:25:49 PM »
I see Just Sentinels got picked to appear in Story Games Weekly #56: good work, Siguson! :D

brainstorming & development / Re: Illuminatus! (or Illuminati)?
« on: July 16, 2014, 06:37:43 PM »
In deference to the Schrödinger's Cat trilogy, at the start of each session, the MC shuffles up the playbooks of the PCs and deals them out at random to the players.

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