Monday, November 3, 2008

The Big Day

I have to apologize for the lateness of my posting here. The hotel had a firewall that made it difficult to access the Fifth World, so I had to wait till this evening to upload the latest rules.

We ran the first public playtest at GASPcon 9. We ran the first pre-generated region yet; I hoped to cut the time down by removing the initiation process and jumping straight to the game. Against a stark white background with some professional printing, Dani Kaulakis' art simply arrests you visually. I had the region with the questions and inhabitants printed, high-resolution and full color on a full poster-sized map, along with character sheets printed out with the full relationships and blessings, a text introduction and even a family tree. I think in visual presentation if nothing else, I had nothing to hang my head over.

My estimation that the number of players would determine the length of the game proved true. With six players, we might still have made it all the way through, but when combined with the necessary rules explanations that a setting like this requires, we only got through the end of the second act. We had a strong story emerging, though: the intrigues of a boss and his ambitious younger nephew, a false-flag operation intended to start a war, and even a young child coming to grips with the truth about her sainted ancestor, and her own capacity for evil.

We also learned some things:

  • Particularly in a convention context, a one-page quick reference guide to the rules could help a lot. The Fifth World departs from the norm for role playing games to such a degree that players can't fill in the gaps with their usual expectations. That can make things difficult.

  • So far, everyone has agreed that the game has a lot of potential, works well, plays fun, and so on, all of which I've compared to calling a woman "handsome." Nobody's gotten very excited about it, which had me rather disturbed, but I agree with what Mike told me, that excitement about a game has to follow from exciting options for characters and stories. The Land of the Three Rivers already has a few: the Buzzard's Undertakers, the Hinneray's secrets, the Ordo Arcanum, to some degree even the blessings offered by Iron. But the game really offers only a small number of these. In the beta phase, we'll need to focus on designing really interesting and exciting blessings, curses and spirits.

  • Traditional role playing games sell adventures. Story games typically do not, because they typically involve so much "play now", at-the-table input to create the story that such a thing would not contribute, and in fact would undermine the whole point. The Fifth World won't ever offer packaged "adventures" like these, but it certainly can offer pre-defined regions, which I plan to include in the Land books. Just imagine what you could do with, say, a region based on Centralia.

Version 0.4.1 now sits on the wiki. I wouldn't call it a great text, but it has enough to start playing. So, for the first time in years, The Fifth World exists as a publicly available game worth playing!


Willem said...

I agree with your brother; in fact, I think a Planescape-type approach with loads of cool art, sample denizens, and attributed quotes will liven it up.

In all honesty, most Story Games look "handsome" until I play them, something that I always have to overcome. And most that look gorgeous play like shit, for my money.

So buck the trend, I say. Make it look HOT to back up the already extant coolness!

Giulianna Maria Lamanna said...

I'M excited, dag nabbit!!!

Willem said...

You know, it just hit me, that your game (to use Forge jargon) has both a simulationist and narrativist approach.

It seeks to simulate the feel of living inside an animist world.

It seeks to tell cool stories inspired by an oral tradition aesthetic.

I like the ambitiousness. :) I'll playtest the new version with Jana as soon as I get the chance.

Now, seriously, Planescape that mamma jamma!

You know, my good friend, Jake Richmond, author of Panty Explosion, does great afterculturalish art. Maybe you could commission some stuff from him? Check out his webcomic, "Rivius Obscura".

pontifexofpunk said...

Walking by the table and seeing the 'map' there, I couldn't help but stop and say, "Oooohhhh... pretty..."

Really, anything in a convention context is better served with crap ready and done beforehand so all the people have to do is sit, look at a little info, and go. I am curious how the pregen map worked in terms of character/place relationship allocation...

Glad to hear it went well!