Post-Playtest Report 5/1/2008: Fantasy Snakes on a Plane of the Lost

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

4 thoughts on “Post-Playtest Report 5/1/2008: Fantasy Snakes on a Plane of the Lost

  1. Hey dude! here is a bit more feedback if ya like.

    numbers stuff
    I really like the function of the cards and the way they relate to the stats. given that i don’t seen too many huge problems with the game my feed back will focus on a few ways you could improve or change how the numbers work.

    Relative numbers
    If my core stats start at 1,2,3,4 that means my strongest stat is 4 times stronger my weakest stat. An easy way to change this is to simply give players a higher set of stats at the start and then increase the difficulty of everything else. i think 3,4,5,6 may be a good set of starting stats. One nice thing about a deck of cards is that it psychically functions faster then a set of dice, don’t be worried to give resolution a bunch of cards.

    Also the higher you make the core stats the more room you have to adjust the benefit of special actions or gear. This also gives you tools to deal with abusive items like a lucky hat, if it just gives one card each time it’s not really a big deal if one card means less.

    Combat resolution
    I love it! I think the best way to teach it to new players is to have the scenario start with two npc’s fighting each other.

    I also think it could be expanded ever so slightly, maybe designate a card that could reset the current pile to zero allowing more card play (the ace would work well) or perhaps end the current pile and start a new one (that way both sides could take damage in a combat if one side won and lost a pile each).

    i may write more latter ,now i have to get back to work.

  2. I think the best way to teach it to new players is to have the scenario start with two npc’s fighting each other.

    This is a damn fabulous idea. I will try it out at once!

    I also think it could be expanded ever so slightly, maybe designate a card that could reset the current pile to zero allowing more card play (the ace would work well) or perhaps end the current pile and start a new one (that way both sides could take damage in a combat if one side won and lost a pile each).

    Hrm, sounds intriguing, but I’m not picturing it. Can you think of an example?

    As for the numbers and the Gear bonuses, I guess I’m not seeing it as being all that bad. The numbers are currently kept as low as they are to keep the potential deadliness of the action as a constant threat. I think with too many cards, the presences of higher face cards is guaranteed, and there’s little need to burn tokens to get more. I want the token churn high – possibly higher, in fact. I’m going to try another session in a few days with a higher Threat Factor, possibly using the Doomsday rule. I’ll give this bit more thought after I return to a scenario with a lot more ever-present danger.

    I’m also looking forward to trying out that Blackjack idea of yours.

  3. I love it! I think the best way to teach it to new players is to have the scenario start with two npc’s fighting each other.

    Actually… why not just two PCs fighting each other? Or a PC against some bad guys, and then another PC joins in, and the mechanics are thus showcased?

  4. well this is your game so you will need to filter this along with any other feedback to make your game what you want, so this is all served up with with a bowl of salt, take as many grains as you need

    >As for the numbers and the Gear bonuses, I guess I’m >not seeing it as being all that bad. The numbers are >currently kept as low as they are to keep the potential >deadliness of the action as a constant threat.

    Well so long as everyone (including threats) has more cards, it’s given that there is more potential damage, and so i think it will work out roughly even.

    >I think with too many cards, the presences of higher >face cards is guaranteed,

    This is true, however if you included a mechanic that would let players “reset the pile” and allowed them to play lower cards on top of higher cards then having more cards would still be an advantage and you would not run into players all ways starting with their high card if they wanted to keep the stack low.

    lets say combat worked like this, you can play any card on top of the pile so long as it’s a higher card or the same suite as the card currently at the top of the pile.

    example:
    the GM has placed a jack of harts ontop of the pile, i can place any Ace, King, Queen, or ranking jack on top of it OR i could place any card showing a Hart on top of it, even if it shows a lower face value.

    >and there’s little need to burn tokens to get more. I >want the token churn high – possibly higher, in fact.

    well if you used the above example I think this would not be a problem, in fact token churn could even be higher as you would be looking for more then just high cards but at least one card of each suite.

    >Actually… why not just two PCs fighting each other? Or >a PC against some bad guys, and then another PC joins >in, and the mechanics are thus showcased?

    It really has to do with the scenario at hand, however i suggested NPC’s (they could have full player sheets) because you could have both of them play open handed on the table and talk about what each character was thinking about how to play their cards.

    At the same time your teaching the rules you would also be introducing the first seen and after one round combat you could include the players in the next round after they have decided what side of the fight they are on and after they would actually know what the hell they are doing.

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