*Finally* got a group together to play a demo of Good Society
, the Jane Austen collaborative storytelling game. None of them had ever played a story game, much less a *diceless* game, but had all played D&D, so they were comfortable with the concepts of "roleplaying" and "game mechanics" (and, since they'd signed up for a diceless game, at the very least they were open to learning new things). I'd never played the game before, but had watched the Storybrewer YouTube
actual plays, and had some experience with diceless systems (eg Amber
We had only two hours, so I'd pre-generated main characters, supporting characters, and starting situation (in a full game, these would all be done collaboratively, in session zero). While this did mean we got started quickly (20 minutes of introduction to Regency England and the game system), it also meant that the players 1) struggled to identify with their supporting
characters, and really interacted with only 2 of them out of the eight that existed, and 2) didn't really hit any of their reputation tags. I had similar problems (see below for "things that didn't work").
The play itself went well, with the players diving into the opening situation (one character wanted another's forgiveness at any cost, a third character wanted to marry that same character, and a fourth looked for how to turn all of that drama to his own advantage). Good Society setups really aim the main characters at
each other, and so the players were gleefully trying to outmaneuver each other in the social sphere within about a half hour of play starting. Out-of-game bonds might have helped, though - two of the women were good friends, and the other man and woman were a married couple who also knew me quite well, so I'm not sure how four random strangers would have done in this almost-PvP environment without more prep.
Things that worked:
1) the character archetype, desire, and relationship cards gave information in discrete chunks that were easy to digest. Kudos to the game designers and layout artists. The players were able to grasp their motivations and start play almost immediately.
2) using D&D as a "language" to explain game concepts ("you spend a story token instead of rolling a die")
3) coaching the players, especially early on, with explicit suggestions ("you could spend a Monolog token on her right now - it'd be fun to find out what she really thinks about your proposal"), as they tried to accomplish goals without their usual tools of character class and equipment list.
4) Part of the setup is laying out and explaining the X-card
. I guess that I assumed that "everyone knows about the X-card" (thanks to the SG community!), but the concept was brand new to all 4 players. They all approved, though, with two commenting that it was a really good idea, and thanked me for it (for reference, it was never invoked, but I think they appreciated having it there).
Things that didn't work:
1) in my hurry to start play, I didn't have a chart of all the main and supporting characters in one place, so often struggled to remember who was related to whom, or who had which reputation. This proved to be a real handicap, and was my only source of stress during the game. The game does
comes with a Public Information Sheet to record this stuff, but I didn't start using it until we were nearly done. Next time I'll blow it up and mount it on a wall for everyone to use from the get-go.
Recruit for and run an actual full play of the game, over 3-4 game sessions, including a full-blown session zero.