Monday, July 7, 2008

Dynamo/Fluffy: Lily and Will

Last weekend, S. and I tried out Dynamo, which is a mechanic I've been working on for co-GMing. It's still rather tenuous at the moment, but we tried alpha testing it anyway.

For the gaming system, we used Fluffy, which also needs some testing.

Dynamo (pre-game): On Saturday, while strolling around town, we hashed out the general setting, which was basically film noir, but with slightly updated fashion and Hong Kong action style gunfights and vaguely Lovecraft-like occult powers at work in the background.

On Sunday, we came up with a list of motifs: scenes and elements that captured our desired genre and tone. Our list:

-obscure dying last words
-"damsel" in distress
-all a lie?
-PI gets roughed up
-PI gets dragged in by the cops
-PI offered a bribe
+a dusty, ominous tome
-connection to the decadent element and/or seedier part of town
-tangible evidence of evil (but evidence lost by end of tale)
+a disturbing figurine
+a shoot out
-the good bad guy
-no penalty for shooting a pistol in each hand
-an extra gun somewhere

The +s are those motifs we've used so far (see below). The last couple are almost aspect-like--an idea I want to work on more. It'd be nice to have "themes": general/story aspects you could invoke for a plot point. So, here, any character could spend a plot point to fire two guns without a penalty or to whip out another gun.

Fluffy (char creation): +6 attribute points to spend across 8 attributes. 1 attribute point can be traded in for 4 skill points. A skill or attribute can be reduced to raise another. Later, once the game has started, you can spend a plot point to add a rank in an unbought skill (+1) or to add quirk/hook and invoke it. (We haven't used this last rule yet though.)

LILY McNESSA (S.'s character)
Combat +2
Health: +1
STR: +0
DEX: +1
PERC: +0
KNOW: +0
APPL: +2
SOC: +0
[S.'s didn't bother buying specific skills.]

--Honor (sees things through)
--Doesn't smoke or drink, but has a Tootsie-Pop addiction.
--Weirdness/occult magnet.

Equipment: Beretta, boots, switch-blade, pentacle.

Background: Boxing gym father (died of heart-attack). Catholic maternal grandmother. Apprenticed to a detective, who was bumped off and she had to solve the case of his murder. Owns her own agency now.

WILL STANTON (my character)
Combat: +1 (Guns +3, Brawling -1, Defense +1)
Health: +1
STR: +0
DEX: +0
PERC: +0 (Taste/smell +1)
KNOW: +2 (Occult +4, Languages +3)
APPLIED: +0 (Forgery/docs +1)
SOCIAL: +0 (Disguise +2, Read Person +1)
[1 extra skill point left, which converts to an extra plot point.]

--Not respected in occult field (too young; methods too hands-on)
--Needs glasses to read
--Protector of innocent

Equipment: pistol (auto) in shoulder holster, derringer.

Background: Works as office clerk for Lily, both to pay the bills and because occult occurrences seem to follow her.

Dynamo (the game): We then came up with an initial conflict/inciting incident: a job to recover a strange box. This quickly turned into the first scene, with S. taking the lead in narration.

We didn't pause to do the story sketching phase of Dynamo: determine possible conclusion(s) and map out a few NPCs and waypoint scenes along the way. It seemed obvious at first: the story ends when we solve the case. But, though it seems like it might have taken some of the mystery out of things, having a few waypoints added to the motif and character hooks list probably would have helped. Doing so still would have left all the specific details that need to be adlibbed.

We then traded the limelight/narrative control (represented by a large silver coin) after each scene. Scenes seemed to be naturally delimit themselves, and generally corresponded with locations (as I suspected they would).

Here's how the story progressed:

Stolen item job: box, with gold corners and inlay. [S]
--Client: officious/fastidious business man, paying 3x normal rate
--Stolen by hood/crime lord: Citizen Frank Valenti
--Lily knows one of Frank's men from father's gym: Rocko.
Go see Rocko [Z]
--Uncooperative; knows nothing of Frank's "ivory" interests
--Fresh pink scars on hands
--Suggests we talk to Richard Ontario, Frank's art dealer
Break into R.O.'s office [Z]
--Past the lobby security guard by using fire escape
--Odd shrunken head in desk drawer
--Frank's file of purchased: mummified infant+cat, cabinet of curiosities, grotesque Venus-like statue, death-mask of Mata Hari.
--Current file: large cargo (6'x6'x4') coming in from Ivory Coast.
--Invite to Frank's party.

About this point, we took a break. This was tiring work coming up with the whole story on the fly.

Dynamo discoveries: GMs probably won't want to keep the limelight, as I first thought--it's a lot of pressure. And so it should probably regularly pass back and forth in turn (unless someone wants to pay to keep it).

Also, there's probably no need to spend plot points to contribute to the story as a player. The narrating GM should still be able to deny a contribution, but we found that any input was welcome, as the narrating GM was usually willing to grasp at any straw. S. did a great job of contribution, producing most of the items in Frank's file of purchased artifacts. She also was always conscious of placing a good solid lead into the next scene, providing both the connection to Rocko and the party invite. Overall, we largely ignored the exchange of plot point chips in relation to narration control.

The incorporation mechanic worked well. For example, in the Rocko scene, I threw in the "ivory" comment and Rocko's scars in the hopes that this would come to mean something later. "ivory" became "Ivory Coast" in the next scene, and S. built on it again later (see below). This is now becoming a clear thread.

The original idea was to work in a motif whenever possible in order to earn a plot point. However, S. suggested placing the motifs into a hat and drawing one out each scene and then having to work it in. We ended up rolling a die to pick randomly--but with the same result. This was a good idea, as the added constraint actually made scene construction easier, rather than harder.

After our break, we returned to the game:

To Frank's party [S]
--Check out his museum, seeing most of his artifacts.
--See box... but Frank walks in with Rocko [betrayed!]
--Escorted out, back to party
Rival gang arrives (Oscar Calzone) and start shooting up the place [shoot out] [Z]
--Dash back to museum room in confusion [S.'s contribution]
Museum room again [S]
--Box is gone... but do find a [dusty tome]
--Will recognizes it as containing African hieroglyphs, from Ivory Coast region.
--Slip out the French windows with book while shootout rages and alarms blare.

Fluffy discoveries: We never actually rolled the dice during the whole session. I almost asked for a roll to pick the lock of R.O.'s office, but I wasn't really prepared to handle a failure, and in any case, a Good Applied(lockpicking) skill should have been sufficient for Lily to just check (Take 0) on the roll anyway. This suggests that Dynamo might work best with diceless games (though rolling is certainly possible for those who miss it).

Overall, a very fun session with some good design feedback.