Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures

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Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« on: March 13, 2015, 09:28:00 AM »
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.

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2015, 01:53:44 PM »
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.

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2015, 06:49:23 AM »
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.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2015, 07:02:46 AM by James Mullen »

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2015, 09:58:58 AM »
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.

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2015, 11:50:46 AM »
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.?

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2015, 04:46:03 PM »
Currently looking for a new game to start running in a couple weeks for my regular group, and I think this is going to end up being one of the options for them. It's caught my eye (I'll be honest, seeing a move called "Give a Hug" was the first hook).

What length of game would you say this is best suited for as it is? More of a short form thing?

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2015, 06:06:03 PM »
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.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2015, 06:12:03 PM by James Mullen »

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2015, 11:42:45 AM »
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??

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2016, 03:36:23 AM »
Field Trip to the Museum

Last night I ran my first game via Hangouts, playing Troublemakers with Adam Goldberg, Ben Cole, Elina Gouliou and Helen Garvey as Twins, Goth, Royal and Kook respectively; they divided into two families and two school years, so they all links to each other.

The plot centered around a field trip to the Natural History Museum: the Twins and Royal got cake in their lunchboxes after pleading with their father (a 'professional' online poker player); the Goth lost his toy spider mascot on the bus to the museum and had to be helped out from under the seats by the Twins, whilst the Goth gave the Royal half of her lucky stick...

After getting separated from the rest of their school, the kids made it into the museum in time to be caught in a heist; the Twins ran out to get help and organise an evacuation, but their little sister the Royal almost got taken hostage by the crooks. Luckily, one crook's gun somehow got twisted around in his hand after the Kook stared at him (she couldn't have..? Nah, no way!)

After all getting safely out, they then planned to get back in again so that they could get medals (well, that was the Royal's plan), so with the Twins helping them climb some trellis work, they found the crooks trying to move a big heavy crate down the stairwell; some marbles from the Royal's backpack slowed them down, but the crate dropped, smashed & released an ancient mummy!

The Goth ran for it down the stairs, reaching the basement, where a more well-dressed crook nailed him into a crate; meanwhile, the Royal persuaded the mummy that she was a princess and got him to attack the other crooks, unfortunately, the mummy's presence was starting to Egyptify the museum, with sand appearing everywhere and signs being replaced with hieroglyphs!

One Twin and the Kook rode down to the basement to find the Goth, while the other Twin and the Royal rode the lid of a sarcophagus down the sandy stairwell, losing control at the bottom and crashing through the museum doors into a police cordon! They told their story to the cops quickly, while down in the basement, one Twin humiliated the crook-in-the-suit over how crap his whole plan was and how badly he was carrying it out; this give the kids enough breathing space to allow the cops to come in and arrest all the crooks!

After sending the mummy back home to Egypt (along with a lucky stick!), the kids all later attended a ceremony at the museum at which the were given medals and the Twins gave a speech that saved the museum from closure!

All in all, that was a pretty good game, though I was a bit rough in places: I found it a big adjustment from face-to-face gaming, but I'm getting there. I made one adjustment to The Twins playbook in the wake of this after agreeing that there were too many moves on it that covered more or less the same ground, so I took out the most confusing one (about the twins physically switching places) and replaced it with something inspired by a moment in the game.?
« Last Edit: June 16, 2016, 03:41:41 AM by James Mullen »

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2016, 07:12:00 AM »
Past Bedtime at the Haunted Roller Disco!

This was the second of my online playtests of my PbtA hack for childhood adventures, testing not only the game but my online GMing skills: I'm happy to say that both have improved!

For this game, we first agreed to a British 80s setting, settling on a Cornish town during the summer holidays: from this, Declan & Robin played brothers, a Goth & Kook respectively, while Lloyd was an Australian All-Star who had been moved to Britian when his mother married the father of Symon's Shrimp.

We opened with a quick scene around the local newsagents, which was also where the Goth got all his comics from, but a crazy shoplifting stunt got him barred in front of his brother & friends; they finally got the comics they wanted with the All-Star's help, scoring a vintage EC 'Vault of Horror' to go with the Argos catalogue covered in weird ramblings left to the Kook by his uncle. The Kook persuaded/dared the others to come with him to the Haunted Roller Disco that night, where he intended to catch real footage of a ghost on his Super 8 camera, so they all made arrangements to sneak out of their houses after dinner and meet at the seafront for an adventure!

Come 9pm at the Roller Disco, the Kook consulted his divinatory Argos catalogue for guidance (Robin was going for a bit of a Gravity Falls vibe here, but more British & understated, obviously) when a freak sea breeze blew the book out of his hands and through an open window of the Roller Disco building; while the other kids argued a little about getting it back, the Shrimp just slipped through the small window after it, whereupon he was confronted with a 7' tall, gaunt figure swathed in a black robe. His screams brought the Kook & All-Star in after him, while the Goth went around the back to where he knew of another way in.

The Phantom of the Store Cupboard was chased off in short order, disappearing into the shadows: a search revealed a locked service panel in one wall, but they knew from a prior encounter that the Roller Disco manager, Mr. Grimthorpe, had a jangling ring of keys on his belt. The Goth made his way in from the back of the building, entering the Roller Disco Arena to see that all the patrons were wearing black robes as part of a themed evening: everyone was due to disrobe at midnight (which due to licensing issues was 11pm for the Roller Disco).

Mr. Grimthorpe returned to the cupboard, so to divert his attention, the Kook surprised the All-Star with a kiss (also a good use of daring another kid to get her to play along); while she gulped like a fish, the Shrimp effortlessly lifted the ring of keys from the manager's belt (well, with the help of the distraction provided by the other tow kids: a good use of giving badges to give support there) but then all the kids were taken out of the cupboard to the roller rink to find their parents...

The Goth had been busy at the DJ's mixing desk and had discovered that it really was haunted: the gaunt figure was actually the Phantom of the Roller Disco and was using the spinning records to weave a spell upon the disco's patrons. As Mr. Grimthorpe arrived to make a lost child announcement with the Shrimp firmly in tow, the All-Star and the Kook hatched a cunning plan: hiring getting skates & a robe, they got on one another's shoulders to disguise themselves as an adult! Their plan worked beautifully and the Shrimp was given into their custody, so the Goth used the distraction to grab the microphone and announce that 'midnight' was now! There was bedlam on the arena floor as a hundred patrons tried to remove their robes whilst moving around on skates, so the Shrimp, All-Star and Kook booked it back to the store cupboard, where they used the keys to free the disco's real DJ from behind the service panel!

As order was restored in the roller disco, the Goth was witness to the Phantom taking control of the robed roller-skaters, commanding them to circle the floor forever, giving him more power with each circuit! When the other kids returned with the real DJ, the Kook started reading selected items from the Argos catalogue aloud, interfering with the words of the Phantom's spell, so a horde of possessed skaters were directed towards them! The Goth grabbed the abandoned turn-table and started spinning the record backwards, unwinding the Phantom's magic! The Shrimp then charged the Phantom with his inflatable pool-noodle... and passed right through the spectre, causing the lighting rig to topple over; a heroic effort from the Kook saved the Shrimp from being crushed underneath, so it was down to the All-Star to tackle the phantom! This was their last shot, but she blew it! Somehow though, the Phantom vanished when she struck it, so they called that a victory and snuck back home sort-of triumphantly!

As codas, we found out that the Kook had footage of his kiss with the All-Star on his Super 8 camera, along with his ghost footage of blurry shadows and flashing lights, so he showed it to everyone he knew; the All-Star had other problems though, in the form of a never ending loop of 80s disco tunes going around & around in her head... but that's a story for another time.

I really enjoyed this session, I had much more energy than in the previous one, and I got some good ideas for additional material and a few tweaks to some of the existing rules and playbooks: more work for me to do, but at least I'm enjoying it.

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2016, 09:11:29 PM »
Looking good, James!

I'm reading through the materials, and I like the various changes you've made.

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2016, 08:20:47 AM »
Thanks Paul: still WiP, but I now have a mental roadmap for the way ahead.

  • I've started a piece that i think will now evolve into advice for creating fronts or their equivalent, by using the playbooks chosen by the players to assign points to various themes.
  • There will be a stealth/sneak move as a peripheral move, that uses a roll+trouble and looks for a low result to avoid being caught/seen.
  • I've got a template for creating MC moves that I can apply to a number of responses the MC can choose to make, which I've taken directly from my experience of running the game.

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2016, 11:34:02 AM »
That sounds very cool, James. Looking forward to seeing more of this!

How did you fix your issues with "make a wish", in the end?

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2016, 03:22:55 PM »
The tighter definition of make a wish in the current version, along with the extended guidance on that move in particular and the presence of the magical & wondrous in the game in general seem to have done the trick. The Will rules also seem to have made a difference, but I'm wondering if they need a small tweak: most players seem to spend their Will quite quickly on turning misses into near misses, so when it comes time that they are desperate enough to make a wish, they sometimes have no Will left to spend to trigger the move. On the other hand, that matches nicely with the idea of make a wish being a rarely used move and there are a few methods to get a point of Will quickly when in dire need.

Re: Troublemakers: A Game of Childhood Adventures
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2016, 04:17:09 PM »
Perhaps consider an option where Will can be spent only to improve partial hits - not to avoid a miss?