Sunday, 19 January 2014

Bandit Country: First Playtest

Last night I ran the first Playtest of Bandit Country with testers Joe and Ciaran.
We ran through a brief introduction scenario - `The Interview' last night. It incorporated an interview for Risk :: Reward (character creation) and a single objective (recruit a banker). I have included a link to the right. Check it out, it wont make much sense right now because I haven't blogged the key resolution rules of the game but don't let that stop you. It is a living document and I will be updating it with more material as I refine it. `The Interview' will be the introductory scenario for Bandit Country.
As my first playtest I was really pleased with the result. I had been pushed for time in the lead up and my prep was not the best. My PTs didn't get much preamble and the character sheet docs were fairly poor but they jumped in with gusto.
We played over Google Hangouts and that was a positive experience, especially considering that online / remote play is one of my design goals.
Some comments from the PTs about Character creation and the character system as a whole were:

Positives

  • Once the `Specialty chain' mini game was figured out it was quick and intuitive.
  • It quickly conveyed a sense of just how highly capable the characters are.
  • Nine Specialties still allow for variety.
  • Assets are neat.

Challenges
  • Assets don't make sense until you are using them in-game. They need more definition. I have some ideas about this.

Following the Interview I raised their first Objective: recruit a banker. We then launched into the Risk Management System.
I haven't outlined RMS yet on the blog because I was waiting to see how it worked in actual play. I will be writing more about it soon.
The short version is that whenever players want to do something that has inherent risk they plan it through a basic flowchart that results in them executing their plan and dealing with the consequences. 
It is designed to emulate a fiction where contractors are meticulous and deliberate. They plan, have contingencies and consider the risks leading into acting and then review the results. This is the same whether they are in an immediate situation like an ambush or it is an extended situation such as recruiting a target. The only difference is time and scope of action.

Wins

  • Within minutes of setting the Objective the PTs were plotting and planning. They looked up Bahraini laws for foreign property investment, checked out his apartment building and sorted out locations for intercepts. They got into the Bandit Country Groove. I was very happy about this. They described this sense of brainstorming as a highlight although it also posed challenges (see below).
  • They liked the RMS and Recruitment mechanics.
  • The entire play session came down to resolving one Key Objective that nested a couple of sub Objectives and one Recruitment encounter. It is a mechanically light game whilst being structurally heavy. 
  • The session played out pretty much how I imagined the game should play. This was really satisfying because you never know until you throw it to the wolves.
Challenges
  • Explaining the RMS to players is hard. I should have prepared better for that. 
  • The PTs advised that a better way of presenting a first Objective within the Risk Management System would be to structure it like a `choose your own adventure' rather than the open structure that I used. I agree with this.
  • I focused more on the structure of play than the story of the session. This is partly due to minimal preparation and also because I was keeping tabs on the RMS structures and teaching them to the players more than I suspect I will need to in future sessions. 
Outcome
I am very pleased with where BC is right now. I know what I need to do next (Blog about the RMS and Recruitment) and also some GM support tools.