Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Playing in Stages

I am the Warden!!

With all the Kickstarter prep out of the way, it's time to get back to the real work and make playtest revisions to Killshot. Last Friday's run-through of the Drug Dealer Job went very well and resulted in a crack pusher lying on the front steps of his apartment building with his brains for a pillow. Suggestions were made to fix a couple of glitches/discrepancies and after a review of all my notes, I'm looking forward to getting my hands dirty again.

(On that note, I've started up an advice column on the Broken Ruler site called The Director's Chair suggesting how to read the dice for descriptions on successful or failed dice rolls. Highly recommended for those running playtests at the moment.)

As I write this, I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room for a follow-up appointment regarding my accident thinking about how players have learned about the game. Simply put, do new players really need to learn the entire game in one fell swoop?

By this, I mean players new to Killshot or the Optional System as a whole, not inexperienced with roleplaying. For example, only one player of the three on Friday took a trait and that was only due to my heavy-handed suggestion. Otherwise, everyone centered their characters on focus dice, skills, gear, and weapons. While it's entirely plausible features like traits were too expensive for new characters (starting assassins only have 20 training points and the average trait is 4 TPs), I've wondered if players should be introduced to elements of the game in stages.

Step One: The Essentials
Choosing stats, a Focus or two, options, and skills are what all players turn to in testing so far; these elements cover the basics of both Killshot and RPGs in general. While I've thought about moving skills to Stage Two, experienced players understand and appreciate skills and tend them spend TPs on them before they look at additional options. Presenting these fundamentals to players in the beginning gives everyone a solid foundation of experience.

Step Two: Traits
Once they have a couple of jobs under their belt, players begin to comprehend how the mechanics and their character work together and can start incorporating traits as cheats. Gaining more actions per Team, bonus hits, re-rolls, and more gives them greater flexibility with characters, which should be more endearing and important to players at this stage.

Stage Three: Reactions
Beating the shit out of opponent and blowing their heads off should be the first priority of assassins in the game. It makes sense; why would need to spend TPs on tripping or stunning them when you can just drop them down to 0 Health? In time, assassins take on more complex jobs requiring more than just death dealing - interrogation, for example, requires a precise hand.

Reactions offer the tools for pulling off more than killing blows, they're measurements of true skill and dedication to the craft. So it makes sense for characters to skip them in the early stages of their career.

Reaching Stages Through Achievements
And now we come to the crux of these stages. While I could easily leave it to the Director to determine when players should access to traits and reactions, why not have players unlock them like a video game?

A question was asked on Friday: where are the achievements used in the precious Optional: Fantasy games? Uh, they weren't forgotten, that's for sure. I've just been waiting for the right moment to unveil them... like now. Yeah, that's the ticket.

As players complete jobs, they gain rewards such as cash (for their characters, you greedy bastards), training points, and additional focus dice. But they can also unlock achievements to gain access to these stages, more powerful options, skills, and more. By unlocking these achievements, they do not automatically learn these features, but can increase the size of their shopping list between games.

At this phase of the idea, there's only rough notes, but in-game achievements can also be unlocked as a Team or individually (I'm going with the assumption that stages are achieved as a Team). Gaining contacts, bonuses to Black Market rolls, discounts, and anything else our devious little minds can come up with are all likely possibilities. And the only way to gain them is to keep playing the game.

OK, I'm ready to see the doctor now.