Thursday, October 10, 2013

Avatar World: The First Three Playtests

Been enjoying The Eevee EP. Especially this song.

Well, I'm aware I've been very light on the posting these past couple weeks. Sorry. about that. Figured I kinda owed you an explanation.

1) First and foremost, I'm in school again. It is managing to devour my time.
2) I'm convention-going for past little bit. I did PAX, and I was just at Technicolor Dreams, and I had the Gamerati Game Day two weeks before that. Those dominate my weekends, and my weekends are when I actually have a chance to do good work. It's been doing a good job supplying Actual Play fuel, but I've been having trouble bringing myself to actually write it.
3) I, you know, finished Avatar World for the moment.  I've been playing, but not much to talk about here aside from what I'm bringing with me today.
4) The Old World, which has not been officially discussed here, will continue to not be discussed here until I have more.
5) Superlite Heroes! got a PDF on S-G but it's still kind of a flawed game. It's also just a side-thing, not working on it heavily.
6) I don't even know if I've mentioned the Mass Effect ApW hack work. Inspired directly by JasonT's S-G thread and half-built as just a pile of inspiration material, it's made a fun distraction. I should talk about that some time. If you're interested right now, I post about it on Twitter regularly. I've written, uh, all but one of the basic moves, and I'll probably make a real post when I have the last one.
7) I've been playing some video games, but nothing that has been at all worth talking about at length. I have more game design philosophizing half-done, but no complete thoughts.
Heck, that's the real trend here: lots of thoughts, none of them complete. Hopefully I can finish something up soon.

Alright, to Avatar World. If you read S-G, you saw this already.
I haven't written new material as I wanted to do a couple of playtests to see how things were working, what I liked, what I didn't. I've now played three games with this ruleset. The first game, at PAX, I detailed above, and it exposed a number of things I didn't feel great about, but that was tempered by an unease with how I was running it as well. We had all four benders played.
I wasn't able to play on the day I released it, but the following week I played in a game that someone else ran. I was The Aristocrat, and we also had a Waterbender and a Scholar (who was fairly monkish). It was excellent. Lots of really cool scenery and drama. I would totally watch this show.
I played again at Technicolor Dreams on Saturday. I ran the game for two people; fewer than I recommend, but it worked better than I would have expected. For this game, I ran the con scenario in the love letters, The Red Mountain. It was awesome. I know I set up The Red Mountain to highlight what I like personally, but I think they felt it pretty excellent too. This one was more movie-style, and definitely ended concretely. We had a Scholar and an Earthbender, and the Scholar basically ended up becoming the Owl from the episode The Library (library included!), and the Earthbender was given the power of dragons to forever watch over the gate, with Sel banished. It was cool with some great encounters, and some definite dramatic stuff. I would totally run the game with the scenario again. I also felt much better about the way we ran the game. It's easier to bind two characters together in a group than four, but I think it wouldn't have been too hard even with more.

So what did I learn about the rules? Well, here's the biggest things: Managing Chi feels a tad fiddly, especially any MC chi. Tags are significantly uncommon and only keying the Chi off of them makes it a rare thing. Reorganizing that system is top priority. An idea tossed around after the first game and tossed around to a much larger degree after the second game (they shared a person, Robert was a player in the first and ran the second) was the idea of bringing in a larger role for the Chakras. Specifically, people were interested in the idea of the Chakras in play butting up against each other, not in an antagonistic way but in that bickering way, were people get upset with each other and stay angry for a bit but then reconcile, which was more or less a constant thing in the show.
I need to re-write oaths. The general system feels decent; but the specific oaths need fine-tuning to more properly set-up a dramatic situation with good relations. Some parts need more structure, some just need more focused stuff.
So far, the most popular playbooks are the Scholar (2 games, both times the reading type), the Waterbender, and the Earthbender.
The Waterbender was generally fine, but I think I ought to redraw the actual playbook layout a bit on the moves sheet to make the Water pool very clear.
The Scholar was also generally fine, with both players choosing the Large Book For Bludgeoning and being really creative with it, which is awesome. I'd make it the only option, but it can add some silliness to the game, and not necessarily everyone who wants to play a scholar wants to be silly. (plus the inventor-type wouldn't have as obvious a reason for the book). The thing that popped out at me about the Scholar was that I had to manually explain the idea of "Always Prepared" to both people, so I'm gonna go in and see if I can't streamline the phrasing any.
The Earthbender worked great, with the existing issue that Earthbending (the move) isn't always a great supporter of the player in returning the result to the fiction, mostly because Earthbending is so broad in scope. I'm considering narrowing it, and leaning hard on the idea that bending moves don't always trigger when you just bend element, sometimes the thing you're doing is more like one of the basic moves. That's a potential direction, we'll see if I actually make anything of that.

All in all, I'm unbelievably happy so far. Nothing has mechanically cracked and shattered in play, I don't seem to have any gaping holes, and play is fun and exciting. Robert seemed to not have any obvious trouble running it, or at least none he brought up, but he's also a very experienced MC. I'm just really excited about how everything has been going. If anyone is interested in doing a game over G+ or something, I'd be up for running a round sometime. Otherwise, let me know if you play it yourself, or find me at cons - I can't say no to running the game

End Recording,

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