Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Trail of Cthulhu: First Adventure

We wrapped up our first Armitage Files adventure last night, and I think the game is going well so far, with a few hiccups.  The investigative style of game is a bit different from the largely action based games that we've been playing lately, and I think there may be a little adjustment going on with the players, but most of the feedback I've been getting has been positive.

I'm still getting used to running the point based mechanics of the system.  It feels as if I'm not giving them enough opportunities to spend points, but that may just be me.  It's not something they've brought up, so it may not be a problem.

The more I play with how the investigative skills work, the more I realize how effective a tool they can be to keep players on track.  Core clues, the ones the players have to have to solve the mystery, don't require point spends to get.  Clues that aren't key to solving the mystery do require point spends.  This means that if a player is chasing down a lead and they don't get any information without spending points, then they know that they're off on a tangent.

I'm fine with this, because I sometimes get frustrated when players are off chasing down inconsequential stuff at the expense of the main plot, but I don't want them to feel as if the point spend system is railroading them towards the inevitable outcome of the investigation.  In the long run, I think their attitude towards this mechanic is what is going to determine the viability of a campaign using this system.  As long as they don't feel railroaded by it, then it should hold up.  So far, the players haven't expressed any concerns over this, but it's something I'm keeping an eye on.

If anything, they seem to want me to provide more immediate direction when they try to decide what to do next, rather than letting them spend too much time going over what they know and trying to pick a next course of action.  I'm going to continue to work on the balance between letting them control the direction of the investigation and keeping the story moving.

If you are curious about how the adventure itself played out, you can check out the Adventure Log for the campaign on Obsidian Portal.

Now that the first adventure is over, we're going to take a short break to try out Dungeon World before continuing with the Armitage Files.


Jabbott said...

I actually have to say this may be my least favorite thing we have done for Magpie so far. I like who my character is and enjoyed a few character RP moments but that was about it.

I felt that the entire game was very directionless and that we spent much more time sitting around baffled and spinning our wheels uselessly than we did actually playing or accomplishing anything. I was very frustrated with the lack of guidance. I want to see some NPCs stepping up and saying "Go here" or "Do this" or "This thing just happened that leads us to believe you should follow this up". Either that or have events and situations lead us to where we need to go. Yes I want to be able to make my own decisions on some level; but that is more like "okay once we have been told to go to X location then I want to be able to decide how to proceed and handle things on location and then I want to be given strong direction on where to go or what to do next and then once again be able to decide what to do on the ground once we get there"

I also do not like the system. For one thing you are at a basic level all equally good at anything. No matter what you are playing you all roll a d6 unmodified on any given skill roll in general. So if I want to make myself better at something I spent points on it in character creation to raise my skill at it. Okay, that makes sense; but then the execution of using that investment is something I do not like at all. I feel that as I use my investment to make myself good at the things I want to be good at I am also constantly making myself WORSE at those things because I am using up a limited resource. So the more I do the thing I want to be doing all the time the worse I get at it. That is just not good design in my opinion. If I am going to invest points in something at character creation I want to be good at it and then stay good at it. I want to get special powers or abilities or options or something that makes me super cool when I am using that ability. This system does the opposite of that.

I also feel very frustrated that my character has been designed to do cool science stuff and has put most of his points in Physics, Mechanical Repair, and Electrical Repair; yet up to the final part of that last session NOTHING has popped up as a situation where I could use the various skills I have focused on. I have been roleplaying the character but I do not feel that I have had any real opportunity to actually PLAY the character.

I also frustrated that I haven't been able to stick around and talk through this with the group at the end of sessions. Stupid work. I don't know, maybe it would all work out better in Ashen Stars; maybe its the Cthulhu/Armitage elements that are frustrating me. But I don't really have a high opinion of the Gumshoe mechanics in general so that might not be the case. I'm just hoping Dungeon World is fun.

Fulminata said...

It does suck that you haven't been able to hang around after the sessions. Hopefully we can talk about it if you come over to play board games later. I agree with some of your criticisms, but am a bit lost on others.

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