This was the first playtest of Troublemakers
, which took place at Concrete Cow 15.5 on September 12th: the following AP report contains both details of the story and reflection on the mechanics.
There were 4 players, 2 male and 2 female, and we began by going through the playsheets to select characters, settling on a Brat, Kook, Shrimp and Mouth: rather than discuss the setting, we dived straight into character creation, with players wrting down their stats and choosing a toy each before we go to theFamily & Friends
choices. We did this by getting each player in turn to describe their character and then discussing their relationship with the other PCs, so at the end of this process, the Brat and Shrimp were sisters and all the other relationships were friendships.
I used a system for badges which I will soon add to the rules: each player had 3 pieces of card, writing their character's name on one side and the names of the other characters on the other side. In this, when the instruction is to 'give a badge to each other player'
, you give them your badges and they place it with your character's name face up; when the instruction is to 'take a badge with each other player'
, then you just turn the badges you have with them so that their name is face-up. This lead to an interesting situation where the Shrimp had no badges with the other PCs and they each had two badges with the Shrimp, but that seemed to be in-keeping with the characters of the Shrimp.
As part of this process, we also established that the Brat and the Shrimp moved around a lot, as their parents made their money by buying, renovating and selling old houses, so they had just moved into a coastal Californian town and only expected to be there for a few months: they were living in a large mansion which the local kids (the Kook and Mouth) knew to be haunted, according to local legend. I pushed for this a little, partly because I thought it might make things more interesting if the two pairings of characters were relatively new friends and were still establishing the ground rules for their relationships.
After some short introductory scenes, we moved towards a plot where the Brat invited the Kook and Mouth to a sleepover: the Brat was impressed by the Kook's claim of being a witch and wanted to hold a seance. The Mouth was too cool to be left out of things and of course the Brat's mother expected her to involve her little sister, the Shrimp, in order to keep the small and annoying child out of her hair while she dealt with the builders and decorators who were shaping the mansion to suit her vision of it.
Some moves got hit a lot: the Shrimp especially delighted in giving a hug
but the Brat and Kook also had some success with this move when using it on their parents to get their way. In fact, three of the four characters had Feels+2
, with only the Kook breaking ranks to have Dreams+2
; they also almost all had Guts
and [b]Brains[/b] at 0 or -1, so I looked towards shaping the adventure to something touchy feely, with plenty of opportunity for wild stories but less action-adventure.
All the players used the sleepover situation to really get into character, with problems revolving around having a boy (the Mouth) at an otherwise all female event, ordering pizza and the Kook wanting to bless the house against 'dark forces.' The Shrimp's player was particularly good at playing their role and hitting their moves hard & often, trying to milk maximum advantage from them: the only thing holding them back was their lack of badges, which restricted their ability to manipulate the other PCs, who weren't daring the Shrimp to do anything. I reminded everyone, especially the Brat, that they could scold another PC as well as dare them, from which point on the Shrimp started acting up even more and the Brat responded by scolding her little sister, such as by telling he she was too young to take part in the witchcraft initiation ritual that the Kook was going to take them through.
There were a few attempts to abuse the make a wish
move: I see it as being a move that reflects the kids' strongest beliefs, which comes through for them when they really need it, but the players sometimes tried to make a wish for relatively trivial things they wanted, e.g. anchovies on the pizza despite not ordering any. This is probably down to a mismatch of expectations, so I'll make the description of the move more explicit in the next draft.
The story came to a head when the Brat was left alone in the attic after her friends decided to run away
when a dark shadow appeared up there: the whole run away/stay put
system worked just
the way I wanted, it lead to the crux of the plot when the shadow started whispering to the Brat, 'helping her out' with special powers and 'good advice.' After a dare gone badly wrong in the utility room resulted in injuries all around, the Kook got a clue
to realise that the Brat was possessed and needed a crucifix to drive the evil force out of her friend. Some more misadventures resulted in the Brat being lured to a spot where her little sister was hiding in the rafters and spat holy water on her to drive the evil out; this worked, but the Brat decided she liked having the shadow as her friend and invited it back in, telling her friends that the evil was gone and everything was fine now... we left it there, as it felt like we had reached the end of the first episode in a story that would lead to further misadventures and revelations.
We had a 15-minute post-game chat about the mechanics, from which I got a lot of positive feedback about the moves and the badge system: I got some suggestions for advances besides take +1 in a stat and take a move, such as doubling the effectiveness of badges with one other PC. Besides that addition, I'm also planning to change the tell a lie
move, so that it has a more positive effect on gameplay, as the '+1 ongoing if they don't believe you' seemed a little too vague. I also realised I needed some moves for adults to use upon the PCs, most importantly do as you're told
, which gives the kids the option to take or lose trouble when an adult tells them to stop or go away.