Companions: Some feedback after last night's session

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Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« on: July 04, 2012, 01:38:37 AM »
Hi Jeremy,

We started a new game of Companions last night. So far it's going well - they've arrived in London, discovered it near-abandoned and covered with mysterious energy and filled with Cybermen. There have been some ingenious ideas (keeping the TARDIS safe by moving it forward two hours in time, and building a homing beacon to attract it to a different location) and some fantastic failed moves (the Agent blowing his 'Oncoming Storm' role while trying to make friends with the Resistance was a classic cock-up).

We've been looking at the rules as we play, trying to note points where we were confused and had to invent our own interpretations. I thought you'd like to know about the following areas we found unclear:

For useability, you'll want to clarify the Bonds and History section. (I haven't played Dungeon World, so I'm not familiar with Bonds.)
- When you say 'it's better to fill in more than one', are you saying that you can write the name of a PC into more than one item?
- When you say 'the total number of bonds each character selected for you', are you talking about the totals of the numbers in parentheses or the number of lines/items
- Are the Hx rules the same as in Apocalypse World? If Hx goes to +4 (even when you're doing the initial History selections in character generation), do you mark experience and reset to +1?
- At the end of each session, do you say who you feel closer to and they mark +1 Hx with you?

When people are explaining their bonds, you might want to indicate to the MC to write down any questions that those Bonds provoke (for the MC to ask the character later).

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In the Warrior-Poet playbook, insert 'than' into the following bond: "---'s friendship is worth more to me THAN the way of the warrior."

It'd be good to add the Fate clock and Spark counter to the character sheet. (Under the Fate clock, you might want a comment like 'Using Armour doubles the value of the Fate points you spend'.) It's also be good to add five dots for marking down Experience.

For the Construct, you might want to add 'Clockwork' as an option in the 'Material' section.

Everyone's XP section mentions emotion keys, but we couldn't find a reference to those in the rules.

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The RUN! move was a little problematic. Let's say the Agent and the Whiz are together and they screw up an encounter with a band of resistance fighters. The Agent says "Let's run!" and the Whiz agrees.

The question is: do they both need to make the RUN! move?

The reason I ask is that one of the options in the RUN! move is 'One person of your choice who follows you is safe'. It seems this could apply to a PC Companion - meaning that they don't need to make the RUN! move. Is that option only supposed to apply to NPCs?

While playing, I felt like it had to be applicable to the other PC, so I didn't ask them to RUN!

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Possible MC moves:
- Reveal the past
- Hint at off-screen badness

At one point, the Agent wanted to do some research on the internet. Jenni wanted to know if there was a 'Research' move? As there wasn't, I just told her what she'd find out, which implied 'a Reveal the past' MC move.

Hinting at off-screen badness works well too. In this episode, we had two Companions being watching by video surveillance (which was later revealed to be a Cyberman's eyes).

The players in this session were: me, Jenni Dowsett, Svend Andersen, Celeste Mackintosh, Wayne Ulyate.

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2012, 03:00:13 AM »

Thanks for the feedback, as always :D

I'm a bit tired, so right now I am only going to go into the one question for which I have a clear answer in mind, and that's the one about RUN!

You're right, RUN! is problematic as written.  I need to write more text.  Here's what I've been doing, and it works pretty well:

If the person making the move (referred to from here on as the RUNner) chooses the option to pick someone to go with them, unless there's some reason not to, that person is GUARANTEED safety.  They do NOT have to tempt fate. 

If the selected person is a PC, and they choose to go along with the RUNner, they  just go with them and don't tempt fate.  If they choose to do anything else, such as make a move of their own or just not go, they don't get this guarantee.  I generally let the RUNner choose again in those instances, depending on situation.  The same goes if the selected person is an NPC, only that they cannot make a move themselves, naturally.  If there's some reason for them not to go (they're instrumental in another PC's move, or they don't want to go along, as the fiction demands), then they can't be the person guaranteed safety.

Anyone else other than the selected person *can* go along with the RUNner.  They are just not guaranteed safety.  If the RUNner chooses one pc, and a second one wants to go with them, then the second one rolls to help the RUNner.  if they get a partial hit, they can wind up wherever the RUNner does, but they generally tempt fate, as they exposed themselves do danger.  On a full hit, they don't have to tempt fate either, and the RUNner gets a +1.  I let the selected person roll to help too if they want. Other options are reading the situation or a person, or opening their mind; all things they can do while legging it.

Other NPCs (beyond the first chosen person) obviously make the help move, or any other.  What I do in that instance is look at what the RUNner rolled.  if it's high, I let most of them make it ok.  If it's a partial hit, ANYONE beyond the first person selected to be safe is in the crosshairs.

A good way to think about it is the person the RUNner selects is the one they take in hand and shout RUN! to. :)  I am going to write expanded text on each move for variations like this. Also, I'm going to answer more of your questions, just after I sleep a bit.

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2012, 01:38:18 AM »
That's interesting. To restate what you've just said:

* The person making the move can select someone to go with them.
* The selected person, and any other PC who decides to run can roll to help the RUNner.
* The selected person has the option of not helping but making another move that they can perform while running.

That all makes sense to me.

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In the next session, I’m going to pay more attention to what it feels like to have a ‘Dire Situation’ move followed by the Tempt Fate move. This is an instance where ‘Moves snowball’, but I’m not sure how I feel yet about Tempt Fate coming up automatically after dealing with a dire situation.

I think this is tied into something I realized during the last session: The MC needs to closely monitor whether something is really a Dire Situation or not. There were a couple of occasions (like when the companions ran into a home-built cyberman) where I made them make dire situation type moves – but where I later realized that they weren’t really in danger.

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Another suggestion for you to consider: do you think there's a place for Workspace type rules to guide the Companions when they make plans to deal with situations?

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Jenni indicated that there's a cool option in the official Dr Who RPG which is something like "When you willingly give yourself over to your enemies". Given that being captured by your enemies is a regular part of Dr Who, there might need to be an MC move ('Give the Companions a chance to explain themselves'?) or something else in the game to represent this.

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2012, 02:09:31 AM »
THe move the helper can make while running is limited; it has to be something that they could reasonably do while running.  Not controlling a dire situation, or engaging in conversation with the enemy to read them.  If they make a move that requires them to stay or would moot running, they can't run.


Yes, the MC has to know when a situation is Dire, but that should be a natural consequence of being engaged in the story. My general rule of thumb is "did something happen that might kill someone?"  If so, it's dire.  In the whoverse, that's a LOT of things.


Dang, I *like* that idea of 'giving yourself to your enemy'.  that's sparking stuff off!

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2012, 11:38:42 PM »
Nice! That all makes sense, Jeremy.

I just realised there's another MC move that's perfect for this genre:

- Separate them.

I'm going to do just that in the next session.

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2012, 05:00:47 PM »
Oh, and two more MC moves (I'll stop making separate posts on this soon!)

- Trust a companion.
A significant trope in Dr Who is that people instinctively trust him. Part of that is its usefulness as a TV convention, but it could also be that as he's touched by the vortex, people recognised him (and the companions) as being outside the situation. At any rate, the Companions aren't necessarily as trustworthy as the Doctor, so this is a move you can apply at your discretion.

- Reveal an NPC's hopes or fears

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2012, 09:03:52 PM »
I was just thinking about fundamental scarcities for creating fronts. One of the fronts you've got (I won't say which, to avoid spoilers) has a fundamental scarcity of 'Despair'.

I was wondering whether it might provoke anything if I phrased that as the opposite. For instance, 'Despair' becomes a fundamental scarcity of 'Hope'. Here's what that triggered for me:

- Hope
- Sanity
- Free will
- Safety
- Caution / Common-sense
- Co-existence / Tolerance

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2012, 09:18:38 PM »

here are the highlighted emotion keys.

They work like keys in lady blackbird or the shadow of yesterday.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2012, 05:54:54 AM »
Those look great. I love the 10XP for buying a key off.

How many emotion keys does a starting character get?

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2012, 09:17:22 AM »
As the player of the Construct, all of the negative emotion keys seem quite... visceral?  Or perhaps hot-blooded is what I mean? (Apart from guilt, possibly?)

What I mean is, perhaps having one or two that would fit with a cooler temperament might be appropriate -- Arrogance, for example?  Or Callousness/Heartless? But now I'm worried that I'm moving from your intention for this mechanism, since "Arrogance" isn't exactly an emotion... although I'm not sure whether "Nobility" is, either, so I dunno.

If I'm suggesting negative keys, I feel like I should suggest positive ones. "Empathy" seems like an obvious one, but all the implementations that I can think of overlap with either "Nobility" or "Trust".

I was thinking "Curiosity" (since that gives you the obvious "experience for a move that puts you in danger in return for knowledge"), but I'd be worried whether it would actually encourage fun/interesting play... "Wonder" feels like it should be one, since taking a moment to not just marvel at the universe, but to encourage others to marvel at it, even in the face of danger, even if they're your enemies -- that feels pretty Dr Who.  I have no idea how that might work mechanically, though.

Okay, this ended up a lot less helpful than I thought it would be, I'm afraid.

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2012, 06:53:16 PM »
Not at all.  I like curiosity and wonder, I am going to write those up.

Steve, to answer your question, each character starts with two keys.  One positive and one negative.  the only exception is the Warrior-Poet, who may take one of the ways of the warrior as one key, and any of the emotional keys as the other.

Re: Companions: Some feedback after last night's session
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2012, 02:35:26 AM »
Hi Jeremy,

We played Part 2 of our Companions game last night, using your Last of the Timeladies adventure.

I have quite a few thoughts, but only a little bit of time at the moment. So here are two things that came up.

First, I mentioned in a previous post I was going to pay more attention to what it feels like to have a ‘Dire Situation’ move followed by the Tempt Fate move.

What I found / felt was having these two moves always follow each other seemed to slow the game down a little bit and created a dynamic that felt … predictable.

I wondered what would happen if you included an option in the Control a Dire Situation move which was something like: “Spend 3 Fate right now, in order to avoid making the Tempt Fate move.

(Obviously, the right number for that option might not be 3 Fate – but that felt about right as something that would make the player seriously consider whether to choose that option rather than another.)

Anyway, that might be a solution in search of a problem. Hopefully you’ll consider that observation about the ‘Control a Dire Situation --> Tempt Fate’ dynamic as a data point.

I also wanted to get your thoughts on how I should have handled a situation where a Companion faced the possibility of getting seriously injured.

Lady Deliah blew her Use Unfamiliar Technology roll, destroying the device she was operating *and* someone gets hurt. As Lady Deliah was trying to use the Untempered Schism’s field to get a message to another Companion, I narrated a ball of dangerous schism-energy smashing into that Companion.

Now, as there’s no Harm in this game what would be your recommendation(s) about how to handle that? (I have some ideas but would rather hear your take.)

I have to dash now, but hopefully I can write more later (about emotion keys, and other stuff).