By The Stars — An Unexpected Party — Week Thirty-Three

03Apr07

This past Saturday, I went to Policon, a small, annual, private convention run by Don Corcoran. This year it was at Don’s home in Philly. Kat and I were only able to attend for one day, so I had planned to run With Great Power… and she had planned to run Serial. On Thursday, Don announced that it looked like he would have more attendees than he’d have games being run. So, prompted by my muse-in-wife’s-clothing, I volunteered to run By The Stars again. Don asked that I pare the scenario down to 6 players, due to space constraints. So Friday night was spent implementing the rules tweaks we had discovered after the first playtest.

On Saturday, there were but five of us, but a great five it was. A big “Thank You” to Kat, Don, Matt Talli, and Scott Lesher for helping to test my game. The game was, once again, fun. Most of the rules changes worked well and did what they were intended to do.

After two playtests with slightly different groups, I can begin to see the strengths and weaknesses of the design. On the positive, it does give people both a mechanical and story-based agenda. Players are kept engaged and active throughout the play time. The mechanics encourage players to create detail and engage in conflicts that they might not on their own.

On the negative side, the multiple-conflicts-at-once aspects means that each person is paying attention only to their own story, and usually missing out on everyone else’s. The disjointed nature of the narrative means that the story doesn’t build, it just sort of happens, happens, happens, and then ends. Plus, while characters are extremely active, they’re not really developed all that much.

This is all very good. The positives give me fuel to continue development. The negatives give me goals to work towards–thorny problems to fix.

In passing, for those of you keeping track of these things, the young Singularity Pilot won the day, convincing his father, the Singularity Overlord of Illyria, to leave the planet in his hands. The Prince proved his courage and, IIRC, stayed on as an advisor to the Pilot. The Pirate gave up his criminal ways to woo the Cyborg Princess, who was also sought by the Pilot. We joked that this would be the kick-off of a romantic comedy in space.

I’ve got three weeks until the next playtest and a huge list of things to think about. Maybe I’ll sign up to run it at Camp Nerdly at the beginning of May.

In any case, I’ve got a game. The game’s got legs. But the race is far from over…

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