Another session of the spies game last night. The mechanics are still present, just because they’re primarily in my head (or on the blog), so I’m trying to keep them transparent, but I think they’re holding up. Specifically, We’re been playing the 3d6 variant and it’s proving fairly robust.
Last night was the kind of session where things took a much more wiggly path than I anticipated, but I made a lot of unexpected discoveries. The sole downside is that the tempo system feels a little stretched in a close quarters gunfight – one that feels like it should be more dangerous than normal. While it’s easy to give one side or another an advantage, there’s no dial for making a specific fight nastier. I could probably tweak the margin of success in the background, but that seems a little ham-handed. Something to think about, but I don’t think it detracted from the game.
On the upside, I think I finally internalized the need for penalty dice as a difficulty gauge. As it’s a fixed-outcome roll (influenced by Apocalypse World, but it is definitely not an AW hack) the game has the frustrating habit of distributing outcomes independent of the fiction of the world. Tossing in a penalty die to say “This is harder than just doing the same thing in different circumstances” feels very natural, and since the impact of the penalty die is immediate and palpable, I get a lot of mileage out of just using a few. One means this is hard, two means this is really hard, and three means you’re really pushing it. Keeping it down to 3 possibilities keeps it easy to grasp.
I also made a realization which Fred verbalized. As in AW, there is a “Success with complications” outcome that is the most likely of outcomes, but unlike AW, the complication is not automatic – in this, the complication is at the GM’s option, and if he adds it, the player gets a fate point. This worked out very well in play, and added a few surprises to the game, but the real payoff was on the meta-level. As a GM, it allowed me to back off from a roll I shouldn’t have called for or which I was just using to test the breeze. For the players, Fred pointed out that it removed a lot of the hesitation of using lower skills, since those were the ones most likely to hit these results. That last in particular pleases me.
Didn’t get to test combat too much – two fights, the first one ending in rapid withdrawal (that was the close quarters gunfight), and the second ending under the weight of such an overwhelming opening roll that it couldn’t really be categorized as a fight.
As a GM, I was reminded that I have a weakness for NPCs who manage to pull off an escape in the face of overwhelming PC firepower, and I had to let myself get comfortable with letting the dice shape the follow up. I’ve also made a note to myself to see how the tempo rules fare in a chase.
Anyway, all in all a good game, and this may yet shape up into a full system.