On Monday, the regular group suffered me to run them through a first draft of Badass Space Marines. It went well in terms of being a bunch of fun.
It also showed that the initial rules draft required some major changes, which are the topic of this post.
I was surprised by my fairly handwavey calculations balancing gamemaster and player Fuel buildup working pretty much exactly on target. I expected that tweaking that would be my main change after the test. In fact, I did change it on the fly in play, but I think I may revert back to my original values. The change was made because the gamemaster seemed to be running out of Fuel and would be unable to stop the marines winning. However, post-game discussions have led me to realize that the way the gamemaster spends Fuel makes a big difference to how effective it is. The next draft will include advice for the gamemaster along the lines of "If the marines are doing too well, allocate your damage to ruthlessly kill extras. If the marines are doing too badly, then allocate it spread over the player marines and extras without killing anyone."
The bits that really fell down were the cinematic action scene side of it and the inventing the story side.
For the action, it simply became too easy for the marine players to mention a couple of facts for bonuses, invoke their specialty, roll the dice and then count dead aliens. We had a few good stunt descriptions but not really enough. I'm going to fix this by changing how the combat results work. Currently, for every three points a marine player scores, they kill an alien. The new rule will be:
- For every 3 points you score, you may describe an alien-killing stunt
- Each alien-killing stunt must be original within the session (i.e. if someone has already said "I shoot an alien in the face" then you can't "Shoot it in the face". But you could "Shoot it in the face with a grenade launcher" or maybe "Swing round a door frame, shoot it in the face, and swing back"). This should give the action-movie style of focus on the heroes kills in combat but always adding gimmicks or twists to the moves.
- After you describe your new alien-killing stunt, an alien dies.
- If you can't think of a stunt, you get no kill.
The other big problem was with the mission template - the 'fill-in-the-blanks' description of what's going on. I think that the one I had was too open, so that play drifted a little and it was hard to focus on it. This will need to be revised by rewriting the template. I think I'll set up some mini-templates for the gamemaster, probably one for the beginning of each phase. These will allow them to say some details that should give the players a starting point without tying down the results too much. I'll reduce the number of optional facts per phase (maybe to none) and I would like to restrict the blanks a bit more. In general, the facts and phase structure worked very well and helped pace the game as intended.
A couple of little things that will be dropped are:
- Marines will no longer have separate close combat and firefight ratings. These added nothing. The rules for changing range were annoying.
- Marines will no longer list any gear except their main weapon.
- Each marine will have the same basic stats plus one of: specialty, a better weapon, more hit points.
- Gamemaster and players will no longer be setting facts from the same list.
Good stuff. I look forward to the next game, which will be in the last round of Wellington's Kapcon games convention in one and a half weeks.