I love this. It's a beautiful refinement of [i]Dogs[/i], not just a setting hack.
In particular, I love the sophistication of stakes, in that (a) the generic "let's negotiate possible outcomes, then roll between them" is forbidden, (b) it's entirely possible that you change your mind about what you want to do with the stakes between declaring them and winning them, thanks to the back-and-forth of conflict (this is rather a strong point of [i]Capes[/i], in my experience), and (c) specific changes in characters' internal and external states are marked "you must make a conflict to change this" (something [i]Capes[/i] does very little and that I've missed in it).
you can name the stakes implicitly by only speculating how you might resolve them. "If I win, he chops your head off with his axe," for instance - what I'm really saying is that your head is at stake.
Also: "the monster has made the slave a promise that she's not going to fulfill. Name it. The monster has given the slave something that the slave does not want. Name it." That's beautiful.
Make a little stand for each player, with the four Circumstances listed. Stick paper clips on the true ones, so everybody can see at a glance what Circumstances everyone's in. (Those triangular plastic clips so they're easy to see.)
WMW go "Needs some polish yet"*
SF go "Wow! Don't polish much!"*
AD go "Ourobouros!!"
BL go "His Bliss Stage sheet is orgasmically good"
JC go "Wow."*
WMW go "FYI, NPCs and Monsters are up now"*
3. Any attached or entangled characters, the GM says, "okay, here's the victim. Do you: love her for her patience? Love her despite her patience? See her every day? Depend on her for hope, strength or happiness? etc."
Any investigator characters, the GM says, "okay, here's the victim. What's your professional interest in her?"
There'll be a similar thing for veteran characters, but about human breakdown not about this first victim, but the required underlying text didn't make it into the playtest docs.
With the first aid conflicts and nonhuman opponents thing, I'm kind of wondering whether you see First Aid conflicts escalating more than once --- totally you can start out doing medical (physical) stuff, and escalate to talking, or vice versa, but I'm not sure how the other arenas come in there.
Also, presumably there's a whole web of other NPCs involved in the situation --- do they get made up as part of inventing the victim before the players get in on the action at all (the whole 'someone loves the victim' stuff), or slotted in to fill only those slots in the victim creation process that don't get filled by PCs (so somewhere between your step 3 and 4 above), or made up by the GM on the fly?
Awesome game! I have 3 groups primed and interested in playing. Now I just have to get my ass into gear! Working on Monster, Victims, Slave, and Acolytes now. I have a few questions:
1. What is the mechanical effect of the "In Trouble" circumstance? How are you at a disadvantage? Does it restrict the conflict's stakes? For example, your survival can only be at stake if you "In Trouble".
2. Can the GM or Player forcibly apply, change, or remove a trait, relationship, and/or bond via their stakes? Similar to how you can alter circumstances via stakes.
1. The real purpose of in trouble is so that you the GM can say things like this: "Okay, new scene for Charlotte. Charlotte, you're pressing yourself face-first into the wall of the subway tunnel. The train's roaring just inches from your back, it's deafening, but it's the only thing between you and the hellhounds. You're screaming but you haven't really noticed that yet. What do you do?"
And Charlotte's player's like, "subway? Hellhounds? CRAP."
You aren't allowed to frame the character into an impossible situation if she's not in trouble, but if she is, you are.
2. No. Maybe. Probably not. If you try it out for me, tell me how it goes.
AG go "Relationship to earlier narrative"*
AG: Are you encouraging GMs to skip over intervening narrative? If Charlotte wasn't anywhere near subway or hellhounds last scene, who's job is it to stitch the two scenes together?
Not encouraging, insisting. The intervening narrative is as unnecessary here as it would be in a movie.
That's the hardline answer. Just do it, stop screwing around with where the character walks and what subway stop and how many tokens did she buy.
But that's not the whole answer.
The hellhounds will be written on the GM's monster writeup, of course. The GM can totally spring them on the players without any warning at all, whenever she likes; maybe she's even been saving them for just this "in trouble" opportunity. But they'll never be extemporaneous.
And reread what the text says about being lost:
When you frame a scene, ask the character's player where the character goes. If the character's not lost, frame the scene there or in transit; if the character is lost, frame the scene accordingly.
So being in trouble, it'll never be without context. Lost and in trouble or not lost but in trouble, right? The character's in the subway because she's lost and wound up in the subway, or because she's not lost and wound up in the subway. Either way, you've established a relationship with the earlier narrative.
Is it OK to frame a scene so that an Unprepared character lacks access to equipment listed on her character sheet? ("Uh oh, the string's snapped on your big excellent crossbow!") I figure it should be, since an Alone character lacks access to Relationships.
As GM, I see it as a duty to keep things as off-balance for the PCs as possible, and a lot of this is keeping circumstances true. The way I see it (an no, I haven't tested it yet) a sort of "circumstance creep" is in the rules: less true circumstances>more dice at hand for characters>better chance of experience fallout/winning circumstance-removing stakes>removal of true circumstances; OR more true circumstances>less dice at hand for characters>better chance of long-term+ fallout>addition of circumstances. Both sort of positive feedback cycles.
If I'm not seeing this right (likely) what am I missing? I know that players/GMs can use discretion when adding/removing circumstances, but. . .
If I am seeing this right, is this how it's supposed to be? Some PCs creep down to death (reflection fallout's great!) and some PCs rise to heroics leading to the ability to disempower/kill the monster/cronies? I can see this--it's pretty much how a horror movie goes. At the same time, as a GM I want to keep the PCs in trouble. Can there be GM-only experience fallout allowing me to add a circumstance (or something to keep it more of a negative feedback cycle)?