Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leftovers: Playtest Debriefing

Really great playtest yesterday at DiceHouse. Desmond, Brian, and Becky came out, which made for a good-sized group -- I don't think I'd want to run a game of Leftovers for more than, say, four or five players. (Then again, I think most games run best with groups of that size.)

The story involves the PCs being drafted by the Trench Authority on a mission to provide additional security for the Trench. After a number of particularly brutal Horror attacks, the Trench Authority Troopers find themselves short on both the munitions and manpower they need to do their job. The PCs' task: Make contact with a Grafter gang out in the Wasteland and negotiate a contract with them.

This is potentially a suicide mission, since Grafters are crazy cannibals, but the players are smart and think to bring a gift: a tentacle, suitable for Grafting. It was a great idea, but it required a little mechanical improvisation: I  made it a Resourceful roll, with the quality of the gift (a one-use Tool) dependent on the roll. As it turns out, they did quite well, and ended up with a d10 Tentacle. I don't know that this deserves its own subsystem, since it's a pretty specific circumstance, but I really liked what we came up with on the fly.

On the way out to the Grafter gang -- which, having forgotten to come up with a name for beforehand, I end up calling the Jets -- the group runs afoul of a Horror known as a gut-ripper, which basically looks like this:


True to form, one of the PCs has a vehicle -- in this case, a beat-up old Hummer -- which she uses as a weapon against the thing. Vehicular combat! What a fortuitous opportunity to use my new vehicular combat rules. They make short work of the gut-ripper, which was kinda disappointing because it's one of the bigger Horrors, but no big deal. They find the Jets in a surviving portion of the LA River Basin (which is just a big stretch of concrete, for those of you not familiar with the Mighty Los Angeles River), and, after dispatching of a Grafter thug sent out to test them (Becky got 'im in his big Horror eye with a slingshot and killed him dead!), meet with DJ Beastly, the gang's chief.

He listens to their spiel and agrees to help (partly thanks to the tentacle they give him) on two conditions. One, the Jets get to keep and/or eat everything they kill. Two, the PCs go kill and bring back a squidhead that's been eluding the gang for some time. The PCs accept, and before long they're bombing down the remains of the 405 headed for the remains of the oil refinery that once graced the city of Carson. These days, the refinery's a ruin, but it's in that ruin that the squidhead lives.

This ended up being quite a fight. By the end of it, we'd done two chases, killed off a PC, and nearly killed another. It was good to see that the squidhead was a real challenge for them; after the gut-ripper, I was afraid he'd go down like a punk. Instead, he crushed Brian's head to a pulp and nearly did the same with Becky. Miraculously, the d4 Strong Becky managed to slip away from the grasp of the d12 Strong squidhead -- it was an awesome bit of luck, and clutch, to boot. One more round and she would've been a goner.

Also awesome: Brian was brought back from the brink of death (or... well, he was dead, technically) with a Lesser Graft. It was his sixth Graft, and he was already Human Nature d6/Horrific Nature d10, so when he rolled those six dice we were all sure he'd lose some Human Nature. Out of all those d6s and d8s, he only had to roll a 4 or above. As it turned out, all his dice came up 2s and 3s! It was pretty funny.

The new Wound/Shock dice rules were great in play, and definitely increased the fun factor. The new way of handling Bonds turned out to be more intuitive and easier to use, plus most of the NPCs they came up with ended up being used on a roll or two. Really pleased with both of those.

I'd had an idea for "combat maneuvers," although that sounds awfully fancy. Basically, if you want to do something in combat besides just kill the opposition, you can trade in a Hit to do it. I think I may have mentioned this before. In any event, it got used quite a bit in play, usually by the players, which tells me that it was intuitive, easy, and fun. So that's in.

I also have an idea for character advancement that I actually like, because it centers completely on Bonds and Grafts instead of Traits.

It looks like Leftovers is a shoo-in for Hyphen-Con, so that'll probably be the next playtest I'll do, unless another opportunity presents itself. I know Larry Harala's running Leftovers for his group this coming weekend, so that'll be another valuable data point to harvest.

In the interest of making use of the Hyphen-Con game, I'm pushing back my target date for a PDF/POD release to the end of April. Still ambitious, but I feel pretty close to getting this finished, so full steam ahead, I say.


  1. Good writeup!

    Oh: Erol Otus, for the win!

  2. Agreed ... Good writeup! I'll be sure to send you a detailed report after the game.

  3. Thanks! Larry, I don't know if you already have something in mind, but this scenario was pretty good for an intro. It involved some investigation, some talking, and three combats, each of them a bit different.

    I'll be posting v1.2 in the next day or so, so keep an eye out. I'll blog about it here.