Challenge: Make a dream based rpg.
On Friday night, Wahrk and I got together with a mutual friend, Tommy, to play a full session of the game. We had messed around with the rolling and giving each other scenarios to play through in our heads, but this was the first time that the game was played from start to finish AND the first time that someone who hadn't been thinking and breathing the lore/systems for several days played the game. It was awesome! Everything worked really well. Not perfectly, but really well. In our limited play testing nothing seem horribly broken and the playing helped us to fill out the holes that were there. Here are my observations from the session.
The lore can take a really long time to explain.
Even though Tommy was totally familiar with this type of fiction and the tropes involved, it still took about an hour and a half to explain. The lore is tied really heavily to the systems, including when and what you roll for and what you are trying to accomplish in the game. The lore has to be explained in full before you can play effectively. I am trying to figure out how to streamline this process.
The rolling is awesome.
I thought that we had something special when we were just batting around ideas between the 2 of us, but holy crap is it crazy in practice. Those other options can take you in some very different directions. Of all of the systems in the game, this is the star and I think that it will see many applications outside of this specific game.
We need to unify (and clarify) our terminology.
As I was explaining things, it became increasingly clear that when you haven't been talking about this stuff nonstop for several days with someone, you might be a little confused by some of the concepts that we just took to be understood. Getting our terminology in a place where it is consistent and clear is really important. Wahrk is working on a glossary of terms so that there will be a quick way to determine the difference between a branch and a limb, or the relationship between a Norn and the dreamer.
Communicating scope is important.
The game is still an rpg, but each playing has a very definite and closed narrative structure. The entire resource structure is centered around the antagonist and the role that they play in the game, so the shape of every game is determined by that narrative and mechanical device. Since it is so focused, that means that it doesn't have the typical open structure of most rpgs. Communicating this narrower scope is vital to a successful game.
Winning isn't everything.
We did "win" our session, but only because we twisted and warped the definition of the word. Our win conditions were not well defined going into the game and so we kind of had to make them up as we went along. They were meant to be more integrated into the setup process, but... we kind of forgot to do it. We are remedying this somewhat, but the important bit is that it did not matter. The fun of the game is the crazy narrative contortions that you have to perform, not if you win or lose. We won by a big ol' twist at the end, but it would have been just as satisfying if we had lost according to the rules that we made.
Refine, refine, refine.
Almost everything in the game works, it just doesn't do it quite as we expected. The narrative shifts especially happen to slowly. I was thinking that 5 1-rolls would give the dreamer enough time to develop the world a good bit before they had to pass it off. Boy was I wrong. It can potentially take so long to change the dreamer, that you might as well only have 1 for the whole game. That is what happened to us. We need to make the shifts happen faster so that we can take the world/antagonist narrative burden off of one player and spread it around a bit. There are lots of other little things in the game that just need little tweaks like this. They work, just not perfectly.
Refining is what we have been doing today. We are both building up a list of little things that we want to tweak and change and then tomorrow we will make one final big revision before we put it together in a finished package. Remember, I only get to work on each of these games for a week, so I don't have an incredible amount of time to tweak them toward perfection. It will be rough, but at the end of the week we are totally going to have a playable dream based rpg!