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[Kapcon] The Farm
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netwomble



Joined: 22 May 2007
Posts: 17
Location: Wellington

PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I should really add some serious comments on the game (in list form)
    The mechanics feel about a quarter done. For example, there was a lot of confusion over the Skill Debt rules (which were never used). This is my major issue and I'll probably deal with it more in a later post.


    The tone of the game is pretty hard to nail down. I kept wondering throughout play "Exactly how likely are we to escape?". In my mind I wasn't expecting any plan we came up with to succeed, unless it was absolutely bloody brilliant. To assume anything less seemed like an insult to The Farm (the installation, not the game). If you can beat up a few guards and run under a through the Tesla fence with a tinfoil hat on, then it just feels like Shadowrun to me.


    There is nothing that really enforces the mistrust among the characters that the game seems to be striving for. There have been a number of cool suggestions (both mechanically and as part of the setting) that would help this a lot.


My criticisms aside, Steve did an awesome job holding the game together, and keeping us on track. I'm really impressed with all the other players too, this could have been easily derailed, and although I don't think the game "worked", we definitely saw its potential shine though.
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Last edited by netwomble on Sat Feb 05, 2011 9:04 am; edited 1 time in total
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hix



Joined: 25 Jan 2006
Posts: 406
Location: Poison'd

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another note before I start talking about the escape attempt: this is a game of scarce resources. Every scrap of information or stolen goods that the residents manage to scrape together needs to be fought or contested for.

On the whiteboard, I started writing out a list of the things that they had managed to assemble. These were items, people, or information that I could not take away from them without a skill roll or major dramatic development. As an example of a "major dramatic development", the first time that the residents met one of the Headmasters (the people who run the Farm), it was an surprise inspection tour that ended up focusing on Antonia. This stemmed from one of the other residents (Mark 3-3) having informed the authorities about her successful attempts to gather material for an escape. I asked Antonia which of the three items she had contributed to the List she wanted to have been discovered, and we removed that after role-playing out the conversation between her and the Headmaster.

My philosophy as GM was to play as fairly as possible. I gave them time (in-character) to talk and act freely, I re-rolled dice when I hadn't specified what number I was looking for. I'm sure there are other examples I can't think of now -- when you are controlling the side of "the Farm", you have a huge number of resources at your disposal, including the ability to be arbitrarily mean. I felt there was no need to hammer that home 100% of the time.

That reminds me: I found that Minders were absolutely crap at spotting sneaky stuff that the residents were trying to get away with. They only have two dice to roll in Psyche, compared to most players' four dice.

On the other hand, when players were describing their characters trying to determine the weaknesses in the Farm's security, I had them rolling against an arbitrarily determined six or seven dice of Psyche, to represent the presumably awesome skills of the people who had designed the Farm.

One final note -- I found keeping track of NPCs to be extremely tough. Not only are there all the staff, there are also 216 residents whose numbers keep changing on a weekly basis. Not only do you have to keep reducing everyone's group numbers, you have to kill the members of group 1 and introduce new group sixes. Maybe it's the obsessive compulsive in me, but I really wanted to make the NPCs I was keeping track of, consistent. It's just the paperwork that defied me.
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hix



Joined: 25 Jan 2006
Posts: 406
Location: Poison'd

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hadn't read these rules in years. As I mentioned earlier, everyone was extremely accommodating to me/us figuring out the game as we played it.

One thing that struck me: at the beginning of the game, I gave a general description of what the PCs noticed about the other groups. Alex (I think) asked if there was any correlation between the group numbers and their attitudes. I said yes and described how groups four and three seemed to be bruised and injured, while groups two and one seemed to be quieter and more hunched over. As the game proceeded, I noticed that that initial description mapped onto the behaviour of 'our' residents almost perfectly.

About halfway through, once I had started to get my head around the rules and how they worked, I started adding in Bangs (tough decisions for the characters to make) and consequences to their previous actions. These included Mark 3-3 (the above-mentioned mole), a resident from another group who was attracted to Alex's character, and a Minder who started to take a particular interest in bullying Aaron's character.

All of this helped flesh out the world of the farm. I believe they would have all emerged naturally if we had been playing it over six weeks rather than three hours. It's these sort of nuances that, for me, would have helped add to the psychological horror of the game. Due to time constraints, I wasn't happy with how little I dwelt on each one of them but I was happy that they hinted at the scope of activities that were possible (and not permitted) on the Farm.

Also about halfway through, I started adding Strain checks (which I had just noticed in the rules). These are like Stress cheeks in InSpectres - a way for the GM to keep reducing player effectiveness, increased tension, and force the players to make choices about where to allocate their resources (healing vs gathering stuff that will help them escape). Strain checks are made for physical exhaustion, torture, prolonged periods without food or sleep, etc. As weeks three and four passed by I decided that the staff would be forcing Jamas' character to exercise (as he had been deliberately trying to gain weight), there was the previously mentioned bullying, and I had the opportunity to torture Antonia's and Alex's characters when they beat the crap out of Mark 3-3.

Another thing I noticed at around this point was that the game was not as grim as I thought it would be. A gallows humour had started to emerge between all the players as they joked about being eaten, being forced to exercise, and (in one case) their own real-life weight.
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hix



Joined: 25 Jan 2006
Posts: 406
Location: Poison'd

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something that other players have mentioned already was the confusion over how (and why) to to apply some of the rules for making skill rolls.

After thinking about it, I reckon the most important decision that needs to be made right upfront is whether what the PC is attempting falls under the responsibility of the Leader of the group or whether it's an individual effort.

(I don't have any clear guidelines or decision criteria about this. In play it seemed reasonably obvious in most cases which category an action fell into.)

I wonder whether skill debt should be applied only if it's an individual action? If you haven't read the rules, skill debt involves one PC helping another PC by rolling dice and lending relevant successes, which then reduces the helping PC's skill levels.

Using skill debt would encourage using rules for becoming "the pig" (stealing dice from the rest of the group in order to recover your skill levels). I suspect that skill debt would come into play more and more if players did not trust the leader of the group.

One other observation -- a couple of times, I felt like it would be appropriate to have carry-over successes from a previous skill roll ( la Sorcerer). This struck me as especially relevant in the last scene of the game -- the escape attempt -- when the successes from a KNOW roll to break through the security fence could then have been applied to an ATHLETICS roll to resist the fence's effect.
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thad



Joined: 21 Jan 2008
Posts: 84
Location: Wellingtonian

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hix wrote:

Also about halfway through, I started adding Strain checks (which I had just noticed in the rules). These are like Stress cheeks in InSpectres - a way for the GM to keep reducing player effectiveness, increased tension, and force the players to make choices about where to allocate their resources (healing vs gathering stuff that will help them escape). Strain checks are made for physical exhaustion, torture, prolonged periods without food or sleep, etc.


However, we could easily fix the impact of Strain checks with Tokens (a Token allows for various things), which we would have had less to play with in a full week.
Conversely, in a full week it looks to be not that hard to erase strain damage (lessens skill dice) at regular points in the week anyway.

hix wrote:

Another thing I noticed at around this point was that the game was not as grim as I thought it would be. A gallows humour had started to emerge between all the players as they joked about being eaten, being forced to exercise, and (in one case) their own real-life weight.


Possibly because some of us aren't that good at roleplaying. Smile But, ultimately, I think one important measure is that, irrespective of fitting the mood, did we have fun? I say, yes, yes we did. And that's what matters.
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thad



Joined: 21 Jan 2008
Posts: 84
Location: Wellingtonian

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hix wrote:

Using skill debt would encourage using rules for becoming "the pig" (stealing dice from the rest of the group in order to recover your skill levels).


I did realise a potential way to "cheat" the system to get around some of the skill debt problem. If you need a number that no-one else needs, force a role of that ability and Pig the numbers. So no-one else gets screwed, and you get to erase skill debt. Everyone wins!
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netwomble



Joined: 22 May 2007
Posts: 17
Location: Wellington

PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think, Hix, what you did with the "one roll a day" thing was good, and it would be how I would play the game if I were going to run it. (though I'll probably change the number of rolls a day to suit the pacing of the game)

That way, everyone declares what they are doing for that day (or exercise + freetime period, or however the rolls are split up) and then everyone rolls together. Followers can roll with the leader, loners can use the skill debt rules.

I know this was what we were doing, but it wasn't formalised, and a couple of times I missed out on being a follower because the group just up and rolled before I'd planned my action.

However, even with the imposed structure on rolls, the mechanics still don't seem to gel for me. There needs to be some incentive to go alone (other than someone who is doing something more important has
"baggsed" your number), the skill debt rules seem horribly broken (though I can't really say how, other than it seems likely they would rarely be used) and there should be some repercussions for being the leader, or some incentive to not give people what they want.

Maybe just giving people different and conflicting goals would be enough. We, as a group, all wanted to escape, but I think the game loses a lot of it's weight if it focuses on that. If you only have one guy who's hell bent on leaving, mixed in with a group who's trying to stay under the radar (because two of them are in a relationship, one is trying to be "recruited" as a minder, and one is working on a way of notifying the outside world and letting them know what's going on) then you'll get a lot more drama and infighting.

Basically it's needs a way to ramp up player conflict.
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thad



Joined: 21 Jan 2008
Posts: 84
Location: Wellingtonian

PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A thought occurred to me about something that should happen when considering how this would play out in "real life".

We have two stats, strength ("physical") and psyche ("mental"). At the start, 8 points are distributed over these two stats. Given the nature of the Farm, when playing the full version of this, it might reflect life better to have that, say every two weeks, a point is moved from psyche to strength. The Farm is about get people well-tuned physically and bashing them mentally, so as time goes on it suits that you'd be better able to do physical things while you're going out of your mind...

Just an idea.
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morgue



Joined: 24 Jan 2006
Posts: 556
Location: Lower Hutt

PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thad wrote:
A thought occurred to me about something that should happen when considering how this would play out in "real life".

We have two stats, strength ("physical") and psyche ("mental"). At the start, 8 points are distributed over these two stats. Given the nature of the Farm, when playing the full version of this, it might reflect life better to have that, say every two weeks, a point is moved from psyche to strength. The Farm is about get people well-tuned physically and bashing them mentally, so as time goes on it suits that you'd be better able to do physical things while you're going out of your mind...

Just an idea.


This idea? This idea is *hot*.
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thad



Joined: 21 Jan 2008
Posts: 84
Location: Wellingtonian

PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thad wrote:

Given the nature of the Farm, when playing the full version of this, it might reflect life better to have that, say every two weeks, a point is moved from psyche to strength.


A variant to not kill people who start with str/psy 6/2, 7/1:

At the end of week 5/start of week 4: if str is less than 4, move a point.
At the end of week 3/start of week 2: if str is less than 5, move a point.

(If you're already over fit, then this wouldn't impact you that much...)

I started 3/5, so by the end I would have been 5/3. Antonia was 5/3 (which is why she could sneak so well!), so she would have been the same at the end.
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