11 February 2005

Capes: Initial Look

Okay, so I caved and ordered Capes (and Conspiracy of Shadows and The Shadow of Yesterday). The author kindly allows you to download a pdf of the game once you've ordered, so I got to skim it already even though I expect it will take a fair while for the physical book to arrive.

It looks really good, capturing a lot of the bits of comics that don't quite make it into a more traditional rpg.

It's a very uncoventional type of game, and I can't envision how it will play. Like Scarlet Wake, there's no gamemaster and everyone takes turns controlling narration. However, Capes goes a bit further away from a normal game format. Similarly to Scarlet Wake, there's a fairly complex set of things you can do to attempt to control the narration, and I think you'd need to play it for a while before it clicks into place. Capes also has by default no ownership of characters. So the fact you play a hero or villain on one 'page' (pretty much a game round) doesn't mean you'll keep doing so on the next. This sounds to me like it will be fun, in a crazy way, but I suspect that most groups will end up making a house rule that you can claim certain favorite characters as your and yours alone. Then again, who can resist the fact that you will be able to play (and, indeed, invent) the villains as the story plays out?

There are a lot of good ideas to keep the feel right. One example is the group's 'Comics Code' - a list of rules for the game. So you might have that superheroes never die. This leads into a rule that if you try to do these (say a villain wants to kill Captain Zap) then they just can't succeed... instead there's a rule for 'gloating' which means that they don't succeed but the player gets to stock up on some of the game resource tokens.

So, the quick read through review is: it looks really good but you need to play it, not just read it. Specifically, I need to play it. It will probably be at least a few weeks before I can arrange it, too bad. On the other hand, that gives the main time to cross the Pacific.

Also, there's a character generation method where you basically pick two little cards that fit together - one is powers/skills and the other is personality. They're awesomely well done and I suspect that one of the fun parts of any game would be fitting those together to get new 'Neurotic High-tech Mooks' and so forth. Also fun to look for which pair would make favorite superheros. It is just cool.


hix said...

That's great that the character generation is so much fun. I remember a couple of months back Tony LB was freaking out that it was too complicated for a pick-up game.

'Capes' is another no-prep game, right? What's your take on how intuitive it'll be to turn those dice-pools into story?

The Gamester At Large said...

Yeah, no preparation would be necessary to run it. Probably it would benefit from a group discussion about how to run it, even if it ends up being "more like x-men, less like batman" or something.

In terms of how the rules translate to story... well, as I said it isn't obvious how it will run, so I don't actually know. However, I think that story will be the easy part. Where the difficulty would be liable to come up is the tactics you'd need to make sure the story goes how you want it to... the mechanics all basically come down to working out who gets to control narration of the events and goals in play. So if you lose out there, things might not go how you want.

This is probably a strength, as it will mean that the stories go off on crazy tangents all the time, which I think will be fun,