Friday, 9 March 2012

Dice Conquers Love (Or The Other Way Round)

I am the Warden!!

I've been holding off on posting this since Tuesday afternoon when a particular playtest wrapped up for the day and it was time to get back to work. If you've been following me on Twitter, I've been teasing it and while it's likely not that hard to guess, the temptation to hold off on going public with it (or as far as posting for 20 people to read can be considered "going public") has been great... but not enough.

Tuesday morning, as I prepared to find my ass groove in my office chair, I was approached with a counteroffer by my fiancee, Chelsea. "If I were to play your game, could I be Mystique?" It's hard to remember every nuance of your reaction when you're in shock, but I'm sure I stopped, blinked several times as if I had an eyelash in my eye, and turned towards her with my tongue hanging out of my mouth.

"Uhh, yeah. Why, were you... thinking of playing?"

"Sure, but only if I get to play Mystique."

A quick background for those of you who only know me and my life as text: Chelsea is not a roleplayer. In the 4+ years we've been together, she's grown to understand how RPGs are my passion and future and adapted from rolling her eyes to finding it cute. As much as I've often thought about being one of those gaming couples, it's never been something I pictured unless it was a birthday gift and for some stupid reason I had a choice between sex and rolling dice. (For the record, there's only so much dice can do for a man if his future wife's standing before him in a frilly nightgown. I don't plan to spend my married life in the same manner as my high school years.)

So when she made this offer out of the blue, I had to reconfirm it a couple of times with the addendum "you better not be pulling my leg, cause now I'm getting eager to play!" She was committed and wanted to see what all the fuss was about and seeing as we had just finished the original X-Men trilogy on DVD over the weekend, she had an idea and wanted to run with it.

The beauty of it was that Mystique was probably the best character of all the X-Men to run in a mutant version of Killshot - she's an infiltrator and has a sly grin on her face when she snaps a human's neck. As we were playing a solo game and the player was a noob to the game and RPGs in general, I thought it best to give her the benefit of a higher training point total to start with and we sat down for half-an-hour creating her character as she learned the ins and outs of the mechanics.

Focus: Burglar, Grifter... Mutant!
This version of Mystique is the one from the movies and we agreed on having the events of this game take place between the first and second films, meaning her mission was to locate Magneto's prison and help rescue him. With this character in mind, I recommended the Burglar and Grifter focus: being a Burglar would allow her to move around in shadows and pick locks when needed, while the Grifter would augment her mutant ability to assume the form of other people.

On that note, I had to come up with a quick and simple means of adapting Killshot for mutants. Easy, I made Mutant a focus and gave it a Class number similar to the system used in X-Men: The Last Stand. As a Class 3 Mutant, Mystique gained a mutant option called Polymorph with +3d8 option dice (+1d8 per Class rating) whenever she assumed the form of another person. This required an active Sense roll against Normal difficulty to create a number of hits required by any person interacting with her character to obtain before noticing there was something out of place. If Chelsea rolled 3 hits with her Polymorph option, anyone directly talking with Mystique would need a total of 3 hits from their own active Sense or Mind rolls to realize they were being duped.

Experience, Scho-schmeirience
This is not the first time a noob has played the Optional System. One of the early playtests using the D&D-derived rules had a newcomer to the RPG genre and he did quite well, though without the benefit of understanding why things happen the way they do. Chelsea is the second noob to try this system, though she does have a cheat: she's been listening to me babble on about the mechanics for over a year.

All in all, it went very well. The mission was to infiltrate Homeland Security's Seattle office to learn the location of the Department of Mutant Security's central office. We ran through two objectives in three hours; I walked her through most of the first objective as a step-by-step guide to learning the game and she called the shots all the way through the second objective, even going so far as to come up with ideas not provided in any of the text. By the time we wrapped up around 2PM, she was asking how she could spend the 3 training points she earned (two of them stemming from natural 20s and 1 as a remainder from her character creation).

To say it was a success is an understatement. At this very moment, Chelsea's itching to play again and I'm more than happy to accommodate. Plus, I'm not skipping on work because playtesting IS work when it comes to game design and development. Now it's work and quality time. Is it enough that she'll join in on the next Killshot game with the guys in two weeks? Perhaps. If there's one thing I've learned in these 4+ years, she's full of surprises. My plan is to just play it cool. "Sure, whatever, you can join in if you like. Doesn't matter to me."