Playtest: Cassandra and the ugly smushed-up ghosts.

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Playtest: Cassandra and the ugly smushed-up ghosts.
« on: October 04, 2011, 03:01:10 PM »
Played it with my girlfriend just now. She gets spooked easily. Unfortunately, this didn't do it for her - but that was mostly my clumsiness, and we're both eager to try again. I GMed, she played, and she's willing to do it the other way around, though normally she doesn't like GMing.

This went very slow, very awkward. I can't say there were very many navigation problems: we both understood to draw, to turn to things. It took her a little bit to remember she could discard her hand before drawing, but then she was using that to her advantage like a boss. I have no doubt that going into it next time, when we know what's up, it'll go smoother.

We got to a point where we were looping around a lot, a lot of interacting with ghosts but they didn't really do much towards her, so we were drawing cards and hopping pages but not really anything was happening. The idea I had was a couple who used to work in an old factory back in the thirties, they were a couple because the woman was cheating on her husband with this guy, and this guy was in a position of power and tried to burn the place down, and he hunted them down in the halls and bashed them over and over with a big sledgehammer. I couldn't really think of much evidence to show for it - threw some skeletons down there, showed the place in supreme disrepair. But I couldn't think of a way for it to be really transparent - there were just some ghosts here, and I couldn't think of any logical way to convey what kind of crime had transpired to them to the player.

Instead, she was really just trying to get out and get away from the ghosts. She met one, a male ghost, all smashed and distorted, trying to do his job, repairs around the big open room she was in. She ended up leaving this room because the ghost started calling her by name, and screw that. The next room featured a woman ghost - the pacing felt weird, not dramatic or tense, just "get to the point", I was keeping the game's timeframe in mind - and this woman was trying to escape, and in her hellish ghost world of the past, the place was burning and she was trapped. The player attempted to leave, only to find a big set of locked doors barring her way. The ghost noticed her and tried to get her to help her escape, but the player couldn't figure out how: she wanted to leave through those double doors, but there's no way to open them! Locked, rusted shut, something. So eventually the ghost gets pissed and threatens her for not cooperating, and pulls off a layer of sheet metal from the wall and all its nasty, rusty nails, and throws it at the player. She leaps out of the way and returns to the room she just came from - no other way out!

This room was empty now, so she headed up to an office on the second floor. She goes inside to investigate and the male ghost from before enters, muttering about people being after him, saying he's got to leave. The ghost notices the player and attacks her, she gets strangled and dies. The end.

Afterwards, the player noted how dismal most all of the endings were. Appropriate, given the story we're telling. I don't feel comfortable saying the game didn't go well since it was awkward and our first time with a new system, especially one as weird as this (in a good way: my girlfriend asked, "Why doesn't he just make a goddamn d20 game like everyone else?", in jest).

We weren't aware at first if the player was supposed to read aloud the section they turned to. Like, it tells you on 2 to pick what you hope the ghost doesn't do, and the way her hand went, she told me that and what the ghost did instead. At this point, we weren't telling each other what our sections said, so when I started having ghosts do other things that were on the list, we had to stop for a moment and figure out how transparent this information is supposed to be. We went with her telling me everything from the player's book, and me being kind of secretive about my information. Not sure how it was supposed to be handled.

The repetition got kind of bad, because it turned into, "I can't think of a logical reason why these ghosts would do this, so they're going to stay to their own devices." Even after we did the back and forth and figured things out, I guess I just made some piss-poor ghosts. It was a little frustrating, letting the pace of things be dictated by the jumps and card draws, because we felt like it was trying to get us to do one thing but we wanted our characters, NPCs to do another.

Next time, at least, we're going to draw a map.

Also, first time around, we didn't realize how much prompting and improv would be required of us. It was jarring, and led to some bare-bones description. It didn't feel cohesive. There were a lot of instances where we read things and thought about the consequences, but it led to some weak narration. We didn't have any idea where we were headed or what was expected of us. I know it's just a playtest document, and it's without any glitz or glamour, no introductions or supporting information really, but as per request, I'm playing it as if it were a complete game.

We liked it though. We're eager to try it again. Probably some of the issues we had can be tidied up with a bit more experience under our belts as well as a deeper narrative, knowing now what's expected of us. However, I'm worried that there's only four, five games tops to be had out of this, that even though it all loops around to help craft a ghost story, that it's a very limited tale, and not one I'd want to revisit that often. But it's really neat.

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lumpley

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Re: Playtest: Cassandra and the ugly smushed-up ghosts.
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2011, 03:22:30 PM »
Thank you, Keith!

I'm curious about a thing, not just from your game, which is: ghosts that aren't naturally inclined to murder the PC. Were those the loops you fell into? I mean, times when you went from 7 to 10, but then chose to have the ghost lose interest in the PC so you went back to 7, repeat indefinitely?

Re: Playtest: Cassandra and the ugly smushed-up ghosts.
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2011, 05:02:53 PM »
They were. I read the email you recently sent out: is the idea to make all ghosts violent and evil? Yeah, I know the game is called Murderous Ghosts, hint hint, but I hate making assumptions, no matter how obvious.

Also, aside from informing my own aesthetic, does it even matter what happened to the ghosts? Or is it all just a test to see if the player survives, backstory be damned?

But to answer you a little more: neither one of my ghosts were really naturally inclined to hurt the PC. I forced it in all circumstances. I didn't know what the rules were going to have me do, and sort of assumed at some point they might throw in an evil being or some sort of motivation. Again, the introduction was nebulous. So my ghosts just sort of noodled around, not my intention but they did, and when they wanted something or tried to get something, they just looped repeatedly, and the player adapted. It changed the circumstances ever so slightly the next time the loop started: ghost wants help, PC doesn't help, so next time the ghost wants help, but also is agitated. Or maybe next time the PC does help, and we start a brand new cycle.

I look at the list of options and choose what makes sense. If I try again and make a really mean, awful ghost, or one that wants to hurt the PC for some reason, I imagine it'll flow a bit different. But right out of the gate, I really don't know what to do - the set up at the beginning has me making these boring ghosts, the ghosts I made, not the murderous ones the rules seem to want.

I also feel that sometimes the choices to make regarding what the ghosts do and what they want aren't so clear. Taking pity, being curious about them. It's all really vague, like how far deep inside these ghosts head should I go? The ones I made, the man just wanted to get out of there, get his lady and go, and the woman wanted to escape from being hurt. They seem like they'd be pretty much on an endless loop, regardless.

I guess what I'm saying is I don't know how to play the ghosts, at all.

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lumpley

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Re: Playtest: Cassandra and the ugly smushed-up ghosts.
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2011, 05:52:33 PM »
Excellent, thank you. I'll be able to build the answers to those questions more concretely into the rules.

Not satisfying now, I know, but you've helped me a lot!

-Vincent