Tuesday, June 27, 2017

First Blood - Blood Dark Thirst playtest

I had a "working lunch" with a couple of my friends and gaming buddies today.  I'm so strapped for face-to-face roleplaying time that I decided to combine roleplaying with having an extra long lunch at a nearby restaurant.

TL;DR:  Still early nights (see what I did there?), but in general the playtest went well and we all had an awesome time!

Though the Vampire: the Masquerade bones are evident, it takes many twists and turns, ultimately going in a totally different direction.

A few people have mentioned, including one of today's players, that my d6 system (used in Crimson Dragon Slayer, The Outer Presence, and Alpha Blue) might be the way to go.  After all, it's an established, awesome system that has worked perfectly thus far.

While I wholeheartedly agree, there's something about the d6 that works for those genres / games, but I've got a kind of mental block when it comes to transferring d6s to a game about vampires.  I'm going to suggest something that probably sounds like pseudoscience - the d10 has formed neural pathways in my brain from years and years of playing V:tM in the 90's.  It just feels more right than any other die type.

Where d6 has a fun, free-wheeling, super rules-lite, pulpy gonzo feel, the d10 seems a bit more sophisticated, intricate, mysterious, and... dark, for lack of a better word.  That probably sounds crazy to non-gamers, but hopefully you guys in the gaming community understand where I'm coming from.

So, regardless of the sense it would make, I'm going to stick with the d10 system (VSd10?).

Keeping track of blood and willpower with glass beads worked great.  I was worried about all the bookkeeping.  As you many know about my design goals/aesthetics, I'm not a fan of crunch or accounting.  Blood Dark Thirst has a little bit of both, but not too much.  And I think having markers/tokens makes things easier - the playtesters agreed.  Plus, the GM can see at a glance how much blood and willpower a vampire has remaining.

In no particular order, let me list some of the things that came up during the session...

  • The spicy cheesebread was amazing!  Actually, the entire meal was great.  And the gaming space was better than average.
  • While driving to the restaurant I thought of something - a way to emulate that scene in several vampire movies where the vamp sees blood spilled and has to resist his instincts taking over.  Didn't get to use that in the playtest, but wrote it down once I was at the table.
  • Explaining the origin of vampires to the players, +Tim Virnig and +Jacob Nelson, felt satisfying.  It could probably use some flair, but it got the message across (you'll have to wait to find out).
  • I came up with 20 skills, but think I can reduce those down to 10 or 12.
  • Since this was a 90 minute playtest, we left a few details blank.
  • Attaching blood lust dice to a vampire's blood supply worked out well.  Though, it wouldn't make sense for mental actions to trigger frenzy.  Hmm, let me do an occular pat-down on this guy coming into the bar [rolls dice, gets a red 1] DEAR GOD THE BEAST!!!  So, I'm going to reserve blood lust dice for physical and social actions only, at the GM's discretion, of course.
  • The mental ability score deals with noticing things, as well as, knowledge.  Pretty much anything that's not squarely physical or social will be mental, I suppose.
  • Combat seemed to work well.  Didn't notice any glaring deficiencies.  That's one of the downfalls of V:tM, in my view.
  • The red glass beads represent vampire blood and the larger black beads represent willpower. They worked better than expected.  It made both of those stats more... tangible, more real.  I can't remember doing that back in the day with V:tM, but it seems like a no-brainer.  Shading circles, erasing circles, and shading them in again was tedious and lacked immersion.
  • The adventure?  Not a lot happened - the PCs interrupted a bar fight and things got ugly.  Then another vampire appeared while the PCs were making their way back to their apartment with a couple of soon-to-be victims.  This new vampire watched them for awhile and attempted to intimidate them.
  • Overall, it felt like I was playing a vampire RPG in the early 90's, but in some alternate dimension or surreal dreamland where the rules were vaguely reminiscent of what I'd known but completely different.  
  • By the end of our session, even the waiter had to ask what we were doing and told us he wished he could have joined in.  

I'll be posting details about open playtesting of the beta this Friday.


p.s.  Both Tim and Jacob were vampire RPG virgins, so popping that particular cherry (twice!) was an unexpected treat.  ;)

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