Polishing Four Colors al Fresco

I just sent off an email to the person outside of the designers who best knows Four Colors al Fresco. I’m trying to polish a couple rough edges (Masterminds, character advancement, gaining Storypath cards), and hoping he can put together a playtest group and help me out. But if anyone else out there can do the same or has played before and discovered/invented a solution—or just has an idea from reading this—please feel free to chime in.

Following is the slightly-edited message I sent.

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Playtest of Giants

This is an old essay that never got posted. I’ve edited it slightly to fix the context and otherwise cleaned it up and polished it a bit.

Made it to Forge Midwest 2010, and had a delightful time. The first game of the day was giving Giants a run-through–something I’ve been trying to arrange to do since I got the ashcan at Gen Con 07.

Short, short version: the organization is horrible, and we’re not sold on having to devote an entire scene to feasting/healing, but otherwise I think the game is actually “all there”. It’s too bad that it appears to be abandoned.

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Ironing Out the Kinks in Four Colors al Fresco, pt 1

Yesterday I pulled together a semi-random group of people (random in that they had various experiences and backgrounds, and the only common denominator is I know them, not-so-random in that they were all acquaintances specifically chosen) to start up some new playtesting to smooth out the couple of remaining rough edges of Four Colors al Fresco. Here’s a quick summary of our discussion after playing the first session.

Did "comicbook order", rather than taking turns with simultaneous actions, during the game, and then discussed it with the players after.

The idea is to focus on one series of actions at a time, then rewind and cover the same time frame for another character’s actions, and so on, rather than doing round-robin everybody-takes-a-turn.

Initial feedback was: indifferent, and planning to pay more attention in the future, since I hadn’t told them ahead of time what I was doing.

My primary concern is that it could be too much uninvolved time waiting for one mini-scene to resolve, but I’m hoping that the use of Storypath cards by the other players keeps them engaged.

Discussed ideas for advancement.

Some discussion of tracking points of some sort, but most agreed with me that that added something unnecessary and cumbersome.

Most liked the idea of trading in N Storypath cards for a new trait, with no particular consensus on when you could do that, or what hte exchange rate would be.

There wasn’t consensus on whether character growth should mean increasing the number of traits, or only redefining the existing traits.

  • I’m leaning towards keeping the number of traits static, in part so that a character created at start or during play is the same.

I think everyone liked the idea of making Storypath cards more of a currency, handed out by the SG as a benny for good RPing, or whatever, in order to increase their use and cause them to move around more.

  • I’m thinking that this, combined with the "you get a card when the Mastermind uses his Traits" plus "you get a card when the SG screws you", will completely replace the Title Sheet. More on Title Sheets in a future session.

There was a suggestion to have different tiers of power in the use of Storypath cards: either that a "more experienced" character would get a greater effect (more Panels in duration?) out of the same card, or divvy the deck up into 2-4 "tiers" of cards, based on the degree of their overt influence on the story. So, "mote" and "twitch" might be in the lowest tier, while "uncovered plot" and "secret passage" might be in the highest. Then, the game starts with players only accessing the lowest tier, and the way in which characters become more advanced is to either shift to the "more powerful" decks, or add them in (also using the original cards).

  • My gut is that I don’t like that—it makes the cards themselves a little too focal, too much of a gimmick. But we’ll discuss some more, and maybe try.

It was suggested that the gaining of Traits could be tied to success in the game. So, lots of success at something, and a Trait gets better, or a new Trait or Power Stunt is acquired. Lots of failure, and a new Flaw is acquired. It wasn’t decided whether this would be based on die rolls, or Descriptor-based results, or both. Also, there was some talk of perhaps gaining Flaws to offset Traits, to a degree—not necessarily 1-for-1.

  • I pointed out that one of the premises of the game is that Flaws are by choice—that they’re not a negative for the player, only a negative for the character, which is why they mostly count the same as other Traits, so using them to "offset" other Traits doesn’t really work. But the rest of this might.
  • Also, Planet-based results are supposed to be external, while Traits are internal—But I suppose it could make sense that those external happenings could shape internal reactions, i.e., new Traits.

We discussed having the gaining of new Traits somehow tied to the passage of time (i.e., Issues or Miniseries), but nothing more concrete than that.

  • I’ll bring more of that up next time, and/or when we get around to dealing with Issues/Miniseries/Titles and Guest characters.

I mentioned Alpha (mastermind) mechanics, but we haven’t dealt with them yet, and no one had yet read the rules, so no player feedback on that.

Let me know your thoughts on any of this, or things we should specifically address next time around.

Dreamthieves, Take 2 (part 1)

A couple weeks ago at Con of the North I ran another playtest of Dreamthieves, a Dread scenario I first ran a couple months ago. Inspired by someone’s description of an Inception-inspired Dread game at Gen Con last year, I set out to see what it would take to make the two work together. I first ran the game a few months ago at a local game day, but with only 3 players (only one of which knew anything about Dread before then) and a shortage of time, it was really hard to tell whether or not it would work. This time, I had 5 players, 4 of whom had played Dread multiple times before, plenty of time, and some ideas from the 1st run-through. We also were able to discuss the game afterwards, so I could get some feedback this time.

In summary: It was awesome! It was also slightly broken. And I think I may be inventing a Dread variant, rather than just another scenario.
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