Saturday, 23 February 2013

High Plains Samurai, Act One Recap [Optional Core]

I am the Warden!!

On Friday night, the Development Team got down to business and we started up Act One of High Plains Samurai, our playtest campaign for Optional Core. Quick summary? It was excellent right up until the end when the players cashed in all their qi to defeat 2 villains in one fell swoop. While I'm sure it felt awesome for the players, it demonstrated a major flaw in combat design.

There's plenty more to talk about, but first let's get started with some videos. You can catch the first four hours of our exploits (and now we know there is a four-hour time limit on all Hangout broadcasts) here on YouTube.

And for a clearer version of the HPS intro movie...

Ironically enough, the majority of problems happened after the broadcast cut out. The fight between Spider (a wanted fugitive sought out by Fraser's hero, Maoser) and Black Scorpion/Kiki were drastically different. While there's still loads of review and recapping ahead before I can create a concrete list of revisions and new material for next month's game, here's what I have so far. 

Qi Points

On the whole, I really love the idea of simply using a point system to activate powers and enhance abilities. It's a lot simpler than rolling dice for everything as often as players already do and demonstrates the clarity and strength of qi powers when they never truly fail. 

That being said, the biggest flaw in using qi points was treating them as if they were points from any other standard pool. Any other time a hero gains points from any particular focus, they can be spent for bonus hits to augment existing rolls in which the points apply. For example, an Enforcer can use points to create bonus hits to attack and defence rolls because kicking ass in the physical sense is what they do. Qi points don't operate under the same principles because heroes were collecting them without having to roll for them: roleplaying awards, rolling natural 20s, and more. In other words, I literally handed them to secret to defeating Achilles without knowing it. 

Fight Management

I've been toying around with a fight management system for Optional Core to help conceive of fight scenes of a certain complexity, meaning a certain number of series. Initial estimates have been a bit tricky due to the very nature of the Optional System (anything with opposed dice rolls tends to do that), but trends have developed over time. Those trends must now construct a basic fight management chart. 

For example, how many thugs would offer up enough of a fight to last at least three series? How much Health should they have? Does it make a difference for thugs to have more than 1 Health apiece? All of these will be reviewed as I go over the above YouTube video and put to ink a rudimentary fight chart. 


I never thought I'd say this because the entire purpose of the Tracker was to avoid rolling for initiative in the Optional System, but I think it may be time to try out an initiative mechanic. Starting off the scene with the Edge can be a major factor and in many cases, Directors are simply handing over the fight scene to their players. That needs to change or at least have the option for Directors to mix things up by including initiative rolls for particular fights.

Perhaps only villains can roll against heroes? Or Teams have to compete for first crack by spending Qi points? Whatever presents itself, I'd like to avoid simple initiative rolls as they exist in so many other games. (I'm considering a thorough read-through of Corey Reid's CC release of Initiative! to see if there anything in there to strike me. The concept of rolling first to determine which traits apply to your roll has some commonalities with the Optional System's active vs. opposed rolls.)

Filling In The Gaps

As the day's gone on, the list is getting filled in rather than larger. Once I have a chance to go through the session's video and make more detailed notes, there will be more to develop before we take on the challenge of HPS' Act Two. And, of course, after I find out how to fix this major snafu from the last fight scene and have my core villains still available to participate in the campaign without completely subverted their efforts. If there's one thing I adhere to in all circumstances, it's learning to work with my past mistakes rather than erase them. 

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