The Score @ Indiecon '14

edited November 2014 in Actual Play
I got a chance for a face-to-face playtest of my quickstart playset for The 'Hood, when one of my fellow convention attendees at Indiecon specifically requested I run it. Rather than go through a blow-by-blow account of the session, I'll just highlight the noteworthy bits, in terms of changes I'd make before I next play it.

1. The Map: This didn't fill up as much as I thought it would, for a pretty obvious reason I didn't consider: most of the prep the PCs made was taking place in their own 'hood, not the target one. They found out some things about the target, but these were often not tied to any location, e.g. what uniforms the drivers wear, how to disable the tracker in the van and so on.
Change: Make two maps, one for the target as they find out more about it, but one for their own 'hood as they go about getting what they need. This would have benefited the game right from the start, as they began holding their meetings in the basement of the Waterman brothers' mum's house, which became the hub for a lot of what took place later.

2. Character Competence: The PCs were good; really good. There wasn't a single miss by any player for the first 1-2 hours of play, partly because I had picked the 'You get +1 [stat]' move from all the playbooks which had such an option when designing the PCs. This wasn't bad in practice, but it meant there was almost no heat being given out, which is an aspect of the game I feel it is important to feature even in an introductory game like this.
Change: This might not need changing: the players were getting some good rolls, so another group might find they generate more heat, but it is something I will keep an eye on.

3. Character Growth: Over the 3-4 hours of the game, only one character earned an experience advance, one earned a debt advance and one got burned, which isn't a bad rate overall, but it's nice to get rewards more quickly in a one-shot.
Change: I'll start all the PCs off with 2 or 3 experience next time, to ensure that everyone earns at least one advance and can do so without immediately getting burned.

4. Hard Moves: Even though it's my own advice, it's still surprising how often turning the heat up is the most appropriate response to a miss, especially early in the game when PCs don't have heat or anyone marked for payback. The payback system worked nicely though, with the worst possible things happening at the worst possible time: not a constant parade of NPCs looking for payback, just one or two popping up in time to make a bad situation worse.
Change: Just keep repeating to myself "That's how it's supposed to work." The hard moves aren't all meant to get equal screen time and turning up the heat is actually a round-about reward for the PCs.

5. Explaining the rules: Everyone at the table knew about AW, but that doesn't translate into getting The 'Hood automatically, so there was some puzzlement over how Debt worked or which stat to use for which move.
Change: I'll prepare a playset-specific crib sheet for next time which explains what the PCs' options are and how to do them, but for the most part the rules embedded in the playsheets were enough.

6. Inevitable Betrayal: When it got to actually carrying out the heist, all was going smoothly until the getaway driver drove off alone in the van with almost all the cash! I thought this was just a bit of renegade opportunity-grabbing at first, until it became apparent that this was part of a plan arranged by two of the players at the table, who were trying to grab the whole haul for themselves. They must have arranged this during one of the refreshment breaks we had and it completely surprised everyone else at the table. An excellent bit of play, even though I'm usually in favour of open games with all character plans discussed frankly in front of the whole table, it was worth it for maintaining authenticity.
Change: Nothing to change, just a point to keep in mind: the characters can lie and the players can hide things.

The final scenes of the game were a tense showdown, with both Penny & Seth appealing to local gang boss Max for his fair judgement over who got the money, which provided "the Magpie" with enough distraction to re-steal the van! Unfortunately, with lots of heat on him, he drove right into "the Scarecrow's" ambush and was burned up in the van, leaving only the one final cash box that the Watermans' had secreted at their mum's house.

As a piece of theatre, I prepared 5 index cards during the game, writing a different number on each one and folding them in half before gluing them down along one edge. During the heist, they collected these cashboxes one by one, so we always knew who had which ones. At the end of the game, we opened the four lost boxes one by one, then they tried to open the last one without setting off the dyepacks: a 7-9 result halved the dough they got from it, but as it was 5, the highest value I'd marked, they brothers got 1 dough each from it and gave the remainder to their mum!

There are a few other changes I'm planning to make to the playset, like writing an intro script to get through all the set-up tasks smoothly and changing the base of Seth's playbook from Schemer to Go-Between, to better reflect what he does in the gang. You can find the current version of The Score here, but expect to see an updated version very soon.

Edit: The new version of The Score is posted up now, so when you follow the link, you'll get the Post-Indiecon revision instead of the one used in the playtest above.
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