Thanks to Jake Richmond, Ben Lehman, Mike Sugarbaker, and Joe Streckert for participating in the first-run playtest of Project H66, aka the Motorcycle Samurai game. Last night I got to see the First Founding and the character generation rules in action, and initial thoughts are mostly positive. Definite Success!
Initial player-established War details were wicked awesome: The war is an “undeclared foreign war” against “massive hordes of unwashed primitives.” Despite their side’s use of “rolling dreadnought tanks with massive 100+-member crews,” the war was ultimately lost, the home economy across the sea ravaged, and the soldiers were all stranded there with “nothing to go home to.” The locals are usually known by their derogative nickname, “the shitweeds.”
The First Founding featured four soldiers in a moment of crisis: The war is lost – do we follow the suicide charge orders, or do we retreat to live and fight another day? The Sergeant tried to convince everyone that this charge was their destiny, their duty as soldiers. The Recruit dissented, having a family back home, but was quickly insulted by the Sapper. This provoked the Recruit into lashing out, which spawned a vicious explosion-heavy fight between him and the Sapper. The Recruit ultimately took the Sapper’s head, but the fight was so traumatic that he then simply fell to his knees and wept as The Enemy ran him down. The Sergeant and the Veteran, meanwhile, finally agreed that this was indeed a waste of their lives, and they rode off into the night, retreating from the charge.
This resulted in their Pack’s First Founding being colored by the following three grabs: Desertion, Regicide, and Survivors. Ouch.
Character creation was next. Sarge and the Veteran remain in the pack today as Den Mother and Trail Blazer respectively, along with a new Leader (the Road Captain) and a Masked member from the local populace (The Enforcer). A nice variety of Bikes and Fighting Styles were chosen, although the group’s off-road capability is very, very limited.
Following that the players laid out the actual details of the Pack itself. Calling themselves the War Pigs, they all wear masks styled after demonic boars, which are required attire when astride their bikes. The leader’s command icon is an old bleached skull from a massive pig-monster which once almost wiped out the entire Pack. Called The Boar by the pack, each member has also secretly given it its own name that no one else knows. This skull is mounted as a standard on the leader’s chopper, and frequently adorned with trophies from fallen enemies. Attaching these trophies is called “feeding the Boar” and one of the Pack’s taboos is that the Boar must be regularly fed, or bad things happen to them. They ritually partake in copious amounts of drugs, frequently going on peyote-like spirit quests, guided by the Boar. They don’t care about hairstyles, as long as their facial hair is curled into Boar Tusks (one of them even has similar facial tattoos). Finally, they have a taboo against sleeping in the same bed twice, unless they are “on furlough.”
Their prospect-initiation ritual is rather gruesome. Upon being first allowed to ride as prospect, the newcomer must wear a mask made from an actual boar’s face, tanned and stinking. This mask must be worn until he makes his first solo kill of a marked enemy of the Pack. There was also discussion of the Prospect having to eventually stew and eat the mask, but I’m not sure if those details got hammered out and committed to Pack law.
I look forward to seeing The War Pigs in action in the coming sessions.
The default “suicide charge” First Founding scene seems to work well enough, but I’m thinking it might not be fully apparent that committing to the charge doesn’t necessarily mean the characters are doomed to die. Believing that they are might factor into their decision.
The basic conflict mechanic worked out well, but needs some in-the-face clarification. I need to make a cheat sheet and print it on the character sheet itself, just a quick bullet list of things to consider (like the two ways in which Ki can be spent for bonus cards).
Some dragging aspects of the Pack Creation system were very immediately apparent. Sacrifices were too many, and took too long to come up with and then write down. Going forward, I’m changing it to a stripped-down, more group-inclusive process: define one sacrifice for yourself, and one each for the guys to your left and right.
There are too many initial Grabs. Revision: First Founding survivors get two free Grabs (those they inherited from the first scene). All characters get one free grab attached to each of their three Trappings (Role, Style, and Bike). The Pack as an entity itself has three Grabs as well, established at the end of the First Founding. Undecided if players can then nominate one last bonus Grab for the player next to them.
Also, the Rank bidding system is confusing and ultimately unnecessary. I’m stripping it out and replacing it with simple group discussion.