Monday, September 7, 2009

Playtest Draft submission

As part of my effort to win the Sept 7th Medal, here is my submission:
Steampunk Crescendo Playtest Edition
Please send comments, critiques, suggestions, questions to: dindenver at


  1. Dave,
    I read through your draft. I think there's some interesting stuff going on in here. What excited me most was the idea of exploring the nature of "rules" as applied to life and morality, which you've got resonating in a lot of your setting stuff. Victorian morality, obviously, is very focused on rules, expectations, and appearances. In vampire fiction having "rules" for the vampires is always something the author has to do, so you've got definite thematic stuff going on there (especially since your vampires don't always follow the same rules) and you also have the appearances thing, since the vampires are presumably trying to "pass" as normal humans. At first I thought the steampunk stuff was tacked on, until I saw you describe it as "enhancing the natural laws", which hooked into that rules thing I was picking up on.

    At first I was hoping that the "rules" stuff would have more mechanical punch in the game, but maybe this is one of those "fruitful void"/"design what doesn't matter" kind of things?

    One thing I'm not clear on is play structure, and whether it's assumed that the players are all supposed to be "good guys" who are working together. As I was reading through the character creation rules I was mentally building a character and thought that "acquire great wealth" would be a good goal (I was envisioning an immoral con man who would use mystical stuff to be more effective), but your rules seem to require that there's a conflict between goals and selfishness.

    On a more minor point, have you considered adding any kind of randomizer to the "thirst for blood" mechanic? Right now it's very rigid and seems to be more about bookkeeping in terms of what kinds of scenes you frame. It might make things a bit more tense if the need to feed sometimes came up on characters suddenly and changed the nature of a scene.

  2. Another minor comment that I forgot the first time... Is "superhuman sight" really supposed to be priced at the same level as "immortality"?

  3. Dan,
    OK, there are a lot of questions going in there, I will try and hit them all.
    OK, well, the "rules" are part of the purity/corruption mechanic. Which can be very powerful in the limited scale of the mechanics. The idea is that players that use/work on Purity/Corruption are rewarded mechanically (be being able to add a big number to one pool during a conflict). And players that aren't interested in that aren't overly penalized.

    Also, any fruitful void I end up creating will be by accident. I don't understand it well enough to nurture it (though I do get it and appreciate it).

    Well, the idea is the game is trying to latch on to the punk in steampunk. Meaning the setting is pushing the characters to do the wrong thing for the right reason (in other words toppling governments, military forces, corporations, religions, etc. through the use of violence while trying to still be the good guys). In the end, you can easily use this system (including setting, eet al.) to play a bad guy, but it would have to be one with some kind of internal conflict. So, for a villain, you would have a goal of Make a ton of money and a drawback of Gambling (or loaning money to family members, or something that could theoretically help the character but will definitely hinder their progress towards their Goal). I see what you mean about Selfishness, you are talking about the wording for +1Goal/+1 Drawback scenes. I'll work on that.

    RE: Thirst for Blood, Hm, I dunno, I want to test this mechanic (none of my players have gone vampire yet, they made a Mage and a Superscientist). In their defense, I never showed them how to manifest powers. The Manifest Action Type is new to that list (before Monday morning I somehow assumed players knew how to do that, lol).

    Thanks for the awesome feedback, you rock in stereo!
    Dave M

  4. Dan,
    Ah, Cost. I generated Costs using 4 measures each with a limited range of answers (you can see the spreadsheet on google docs if you are interested). Theoretically, Super Sight has more applications in a conflict than immortality does. It has other benefits outside of conflict, yes, but that is not factored into the cost.
    Thanks again!
    Dave M

  5. "Well, the idea is the game is trying to latch on to the punk in steampunk."

    I hadn't made that connection before, but that's awesome. Kind of "How can you fight the system without breaking the rules?"? I'm getting pretty enthusiastic about your game (though that enthusiasm is manifesting in ideas for where I think you ought to take the design, and I don't want to impose too many of my ideas on you if you don't want them :) ).

    One thing that might focus the characters into the kind of mindset you're shooting for is to put a question like "how have you been victimized by the system?" before the character's initial Goal is defined. That would prime the player to come up with a character concept that's on the downtrodden end of the spectrum, and also provides an initial target for the Goal and gives the GM hooks for creating scenarios.

  6. Dan,
    The part I "think" will push this in the right direction is, the little bit (I guess I need to emphasize it more) where the GM describes what their antagonist is doing before chargen. Then the players make the characters and play begins after that...
    Dave M