Yesterday afternoon I met with Jake, Nathan, and Tyler at Empire Games, down on SE Foster. I’d never been to this place before, nor did I even know it existed, as it has a pretty low street visibility (and I never find myself that far down in the SE, really). The game of the day was to be Cannibal Contagion, and I brought along a fresh print of the rules, a deck of playing cards, some tokens, some pre-cut blank NPC cards, and a fresh scenario idea involving planes, snakes, dingos, lost islands, velociraptors, reality-television cults, and infectious cyber-psychosis. The idea was to merge Lost, Snakes on a Plane, Fantasy Island, and Land of the Lost all into a comic survival-horror game.
The session began with character creation, followed by four complete scenes, and ran about two-and-a-half hours total. After seven (eight? I’ve lost count) of these sessions, I’ve still yet to find any personal issues with the character creation process, and am pretty happy with it in its entirety. The game itself flowed pretty smoothly, especially for it containing all players who had never touched it before. I don’t have much to report on the actual session itself, as it was pretty fun and explored a lot of the rules basics. All things considered, it was pretty successful and I had a great time. Thanks for helping me test this, guys! Do any of you mind if I use your characters as potential example characters in the stock scenarios of the book?
Goals for my Next Session:
I think for the next scenario, I’m going to return to the core “stock” scenario of the game: The Zombie Apocalypse Is Now. Characters will be random unaffiliated people in the city, and will not start together. I’d like to again try playing the game the way it was “meant” to be played: Us Against the Undead. One of my earliest playtests followed this premise and worked phenomenally well, and I want to return to that. Also, I want to try a scenario with pre-gen characters, perhaps even the four core characters who will be depicted in all of the book’s intended artwork.
An idea was proposed to use an initial round of blackjack to get everyone connected to the cards, and also to set the initial Awesome token pools of the players (and of course the Threat Pool of the CiC). I’d like to try this and see how it works out.
I need to get my mind out of “First Draft Rules” mode when running the game. I keep mentally reverting to the rules as they existed in the beginning, and forgetting all about some additional things. Note to self: don’t forget about the Tragic Flaws of the players, and don’t forget to press those Psychotriggers!
Post-Playtest Design Considerations:
There was a lot of good feedback from the testers, much of which I will address here. I’ll be making more changes to the playtest rules document and the character sheets, which I will update when the changes are complete.
Characteristic Clarifications: This has been noticed in several of the sessions: the characteristics aren’t obvious from looking at the character sheet. I’m adding a quick one-word descriptor to each of them for ease of reference. (done!)
Agsomafa and Tragic Flaws: There need to be more examples of these in the book, list-like collections of ideas the players can pull from if they have none of their own. I agree, and to solve this I’m going to stick with the “quick-chart” format I’ve been following for random idea generation, and create some quick-draw tables players can use to randomly pick Agsomafas and Tragic Flaws. To that extent, I’ll need to somehow come up with 52 of each. Hrmmmm… I welcome this challenge!
Reinforce the Default Scenario: This isn’t as much based on feedback as it is on my own observations. I need to take the effort to establish an actual predefined Core Scenario for the game. I’ve mostly done that with the favor of the rules text, but I’ve yet to come right out and say it in as many words. To that extent, I’m going to define the core scenario as being “The Zombie Apocalypse Is Now” with a Threat Factor set to “Doomsday.” Aside from the little blurbs on alternate example scenarios, I’m going to make sure all game text reinforces that default. I think I’m spending too much time exploring alternate scenarios that I’ve strayed too far from the core concepts upon which the game is built.
That being said, I do very badly want to run a Patocaust scenario…
– Nathanael Phillip Cole