Master Mines

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A successful playtest

Last night I rounded up a few people who weren’t interested in the Superbowl and ran what I thought was the most successful playtest so far. I took all the feedback I got from Dreamation and various forums and tried to work it in, and it actually started working together. First off I changed the system over to coins. It needs some mathematical tweaking, but for the most part it really simplified things a lot. Also, I made it so that when a player wrote down a secret, they had to write what trait on the character sheet was based on. For instance, one of the characters had the burden of “Weak/Skinny.” A player wrote down the secret: “Your mother pushed you to become a beauty queen and would starve you in order to keep your weight down (weak/skinny)” I built in a kicker…a “what supernatural thing just happened to you,” and for those of you who took place in the earlier playtests, the longing is replaced with a “Light at the End of the Tunnel,” some driving motivation for why you don’t want to be homeless anymore.The first scene is called a survival scene. It’s a short scene that uses one of the locations and conflicts the characters came up with in the beginning and introduces them into the game world. It also introduces Plot Coins. Players get plot coins for the following:

  • Having their burden add a complication to the scene
  • Introducing a new element into the game world, like a new NPC or Location. There has to be some kind of conflict that goes along with it.
  • Having a character’s echo act
  • Giving another player a Realization

Realizations were the most successful thing I introduced last night. Essentially they’re hints that players can give each other. Anything from “You realize that you’ve held a gun before…only last time it was a hunting rifle,” or something that spurs them to act, like “you feel the need to get back to your truck.”The player with the most plot points at the end of the survival scene is the subject of a Revelation scene. Revelation scenes are designed to build up to a conflict that deals directly with one aspect of the character’s sheet, and ends with the revelation of the secret that stems from that aspect. There are two conflicts, one that builds the tension of the scene and one that pushes the character to a revelation. The subject of the revelation scene is the only one rolling the dice. Even if there are other, bigger things going on in the conflict, the scene is focused on the main characters role in it.Going back to the weak/skinny secret, the scene took place in a factory. The characters were looking around, when all of a sudden on of the characters’ sleeves got caught on a conveyor belt, and the thing started up. The weak/skinny girl was the only one close enough to the lever to pull it, but it was massive and rusted. Before the conflict, the girl has a flashback to her playing outside as a child and her mother angrily pulling her in, telling her that she doesn’t want her to become some butch tomboy. She has to stay inside and work on feminine things, like music. She flashes forward a bit, and her mother is punishing her for overeating. We go back to the scene at hand, and she rolls for the conflict. If she succeeds, she gets a hope. If she fails, she takes a burden. Either way, she now has the knowledge of what happened to her. All the while, players were chiming in with Realizations, which were increasing their odds of having their scene next and helping the main character get to their secret. Everyone was pretty pumped by the end of the session.


February 4, 2008 - Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing


  1. Jeff, sounds great. Glad that the coin mechanic was working out and that player driven secrets are still involved. The Realization mechanic sounds like a great tool. How loose is it? Is it only the one player that is “in charge” of your background that offers up those realizations, or does any player?

    also sounds like this will be a faster game, if realizations are flying back and forth across the table. how many secrets/flashbacks do you expect to “reveal” per session in a campaign game?

    Comment by jasonlor | February 5, 2008 | Reply

  2. yeah, realizations worked out really well. It was an emergent play thing that I just solidified into a rule. Basically there was one secret in play during every revelation scene. All the players at the table (including the GM) was able to throw realizations out. Clyde was hitting on this in his comments to my last post…I was getting caught up in who had the authority in revealing secrets and it didn’t matter. Here everyone had a hand in it.

    Though they are fairly loose, I’ve found that the majority of story control has to stay in the GMs control. One of the players (who usually enjoys GMing more than playing) began narrating a scene beyond the scope of what realizations allow (I’d OKed it). She began dropping in a lot of hints that I didn’t pick up on, so I didn’t know where the story was going. Giving realizations gives enough authority to the players to push the player toward their goal, without having a bunch of players dropping symbols and metaphors that the other players can’t pick up on.

    The games are going to be pretty short at this point. We were doing two conflicts per revelation, and it seemed pretty natural. I want the player to be able to pretty much guess what’s going on based on the hints by the time they get to the flashback. We did three revelations in the one game. I could see it getting frustrating if a player goes an entire game with no revelation.

    Comment by jhimmelman | February 5, 2008 | Reply

  3. Do you have any guidelines for what a rewardable “complication” is?

    The realization thing sounds really hot. I don’t think I know of anything like that in another game.

    Comment by robertbohl | February 5, 2008 | Reply

  4. Not as of yet, and that’s probably why no one was using them much in the playtest. That’s the next thing I need to set in stone

    Comment by jhimmelman | February 5, 2008 | Reply

  5. Man, realizations sound hot. They sound like a really good way to get tension into the game. After you solidify some of this and do a new draft, if you could get me a hard copy, I’d love to go through and send you a crapload of comments. Only reason I haven’t done it with the pdf is my printer bit the dust, and I do all my reading via hard copy. If I was smarter I would have asked for one at Dreamation.

    Comment by iamclyde | February 6, 2008 | Reply

  6. sure thing!

    Comment by jhimmelman | February 6, 2008 | Reply

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