Saturday, September 7, 2013

Demos For You and Me - Part 1 - The Setup

With the noises of interest coming off of the whole Convention RPG Selling (Found here in Part 1, 2, and 3) articles that I posted. Not to mention Lilian Cohen-Moore's article talking about a frustrating demo experience at PAX, and Ryan Macklin's following up with his own list of things not to do when doing a demo. With that in mind, I had this sitting in my drafts folder for a while so maybe it's time to come down and talk about what to do when running a demo game.

Why do this?

Well, I think running a demo for a game is one of those skills that people just kind of assume they have, and that they can do it just like running any other game. I seem to get that vibe when talking about it with other people. I've seen it in demo kits from larger publishers, and from being in demos for other games. Most of what I'm saying is applicable to RPG demos, but some of this stuff works for board game demos too, I'll try to point out when that's the case.

What's the most important thing to remember?

A game demo is another place where you will be selling your game. It's a sales moment.

In Part 1 of Selling RPGs I talked about how selling RPGs is the Used Car Salesmanship of the game industry. I'm going to use that metaphor again, because this is the test drive. This is where they take the system out for a spin, try it out, see if they like it. This means that it's another point where you have to make a good impression.

This is the same thing with boardgames. You're at the part where they want to see it before the buy. If you make a bad impression here, you've just discouraged them from buying your game and you both walk away disappointed. The player is disappointed because they were interested and the game didn't live up to their expectations, and you're disappointed because you lost a sale.

The Setup

If you are going to run a demo, the first thing you need to do is be prepared. Being prepared means a couple of things. It means that you're prepared to run the game right away. It means that you're prepared to talk about what makes the game awesome.

What Makes Your Game Awesome
This is all about knowing your product. Really, this should come first because if you know this then your demo adventure will be amazing. You should know how to run the game without referring to the book every few minutes. You need to know what makes your game amazing, and how to bring that into the adventure and how you run it. This leads into the next section which is ...

Be Prepared
This means that you have to have an adventure scenario set up. Now before you grab one off the shelf, or just come up with something you need to remember that this is a sales moment. You want a very specific adventure. You want one that's going to highlight what makes the game awesome, and showcase it right off the bat.

When I run Critical!: Go Westerly as a demo, we start with You All Meet in a Tavern. Why? Because the adventure is funny right from the get go, and that's what we're trying to show. Critical can be funny without getting in the way of doing stuff, in fact it's more funny when you're doing stuff. Having an adventurer's night where local adventurer's can meet and then have them go off on an adventure gets the people in the right framework for what's going to happen next.

This also means that you have to set things up so that the players have to interact with the system right away. Remember, this is the test drive, you need to show the players the awesome stuff about the system and why they're going to have fun playing your game. Roleplaying is great, and fun, but they don't need your system to sit around and talk in character for an hour. Have them do things! Have them do awesome things! Quickly!

More example time! When we run YAMIAT the first thing that happens is that we make them figure out what's going on, and then roll on the stairs so they get an idea of how the system works out. Then, usually something funny happens. If not, then we go straight into another encounter to make sure the few other parts of the system that aren't immediately covered by them walking down the stairs happen.

What else does this mean? It means you're going to need pre-generated characters. Unless character/setting creation is such an integral part of your game (think Fiasco, or Geasa) you're going to want to have characters waiting for your players to pick up and run with. This also means you're going to want to leave out a little bit on the character sheet so that the players have some choice. The easiest way is to come up with quick backgrounds and let the players decide on the name, looks, and gender of their character. If you have characters with genders, make sure that you've got an even number of them so that everyone at the table has a choice. Nothing is worse than when you feel like you're stuck with one or two options. 

Make your pregens diverse and interesting, and because you have control over what the characters are you can also make sure that there is something cool for them do to in the adventure. Nothing is worse than feeling like you're sitting on the sidelines doing nothing because you have a character that "doesn't fit" the scenario. If you have a "doesn't fit" pre-gen then that's a problem with your prep that you're going to need to fix.

Next, I'll talk about what to do during a demo. If you have any questions that you'd like to see answered about running a demo, then you can leave a comment or drop me a line and I'll try to include that in the next section.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Previously Generated - Monsterhearts - The Leech

This was in my head all day, and I wanted to get it out. A huge thanks to Mikael for the huge amount of input in a short amount of time. Anyway, let me know what you think about it in the comments, or on twitter, or facebook or wherever because feedback is always appreciated.

You woke up and didn’t know who you were anymore. Everyone seems so secure in themselves, so certain of what they want and what they can do. Not you, you just floated about wondering if you would ever find what you were meant to be.

Watching the others didn’t help. You just got to know them better than they ever could. They were destined to do important things.

Unless you do those things first. Unless you become them first.

Your Backstory
You’ve been watching someone intently for a while now. Gain two strings on them.

Someone’s caught on to your creepy little act. They gain one string on you.

Your Stats
Add +1 to one of these:
Hot 0, Cold -1, Volatile +1, Dark +1.

Sex Move
You get to study someone up close, to the point where you can take up to three strings they have on other people as your own. They also get a string on you and you take the condition “Not as good as they thought.”

You get the following moves

In Depth Study
When you spend enough time with someone, ROLL+Dark. On a 10+ gain a string on them. On a 7-9, Gain a string but choose 1:
-Someone else notices you studying, another player gains a string on you
-Your target notices you studying, and gains a string on you
-You get the condition “[the person I’m watching] is way better than me at [action they were taking]”

If you have a string on a player, you can take their shape. You can take any other shape you want too. If you do, ROLL+dark. On a 10+ no matter how oddly you act, other people will believe that you are that person. Any strings players get on you while in their shape are taken on the player whose shape you take. On a 7-9, you take the shape like above but choose 1:
-It hurt a lot, take 1 Harm
-It doesn't last, as soon as someone gains a string on you, you change back. That person gains a string on the person you had changed into, as well as you.
-You get the condition “I can’t do anything right”

Choose One More
Thoughts to Thoughts
You can spend a string to ask a player one question that they have to answer truthfully. It doesn’t have to be anything you would know, or even something reasonable. You’ve got a string on them, ask them a question that they have to answer.

You are Your Things
If you get a hold of something that belongs to another player, gain a string on them. You can have it given to you, or you can steal it but it has to be something that they value, even a little bit.

Darkest Self
When you trigger your Darkest Self, trade Skins with the player with whom you have the most strings with. If there is a tie, you decide which Skin to trade with. You become them, and you aren’t bound to anything that has gone on before. There is no switching back. You now have a purpose and whoever you took over becomes the uncertain, overwhelmed sad sack that you once were. The new leech player removes all their strings.

Add 1 to Hot (max+3)
Add 1 to Cold (max+3)
Add 1 to Volatile (max+3)
Add 1 to Dark (max+3)
You watch others, you can take this advancement as often as you’d like
Take a move from another skin if you have a string on that player.
Playing The Leech
You are every single bit of imposter syndrome, and not good enough feeling made flesh. You take everything from everyone else, you only have your basic moves. Any other skills you get in advancement are through not just others, but having some sort of knowledge on them. You aren’t as co-dependant as the mortal, but you’re a close second. You can take a lot of conditions when you do things, which just reinforces your feelings of inferiority.

That said, you’re all about strings. Everything you do is related to strings, either getting them or spending them to cause trouble. You can push towards your darkest self, or you can just constantly be the one who knows everything about everyone. You get a string just by being around someone long enough, it doesn't even have to be particularly focused. You’re there, you can make that move because this is what you do.

A leech tends to take control of the narrative not by inserting themselves, but by breaking down the walls that the other skins keep. No one can have secrets around the Leech, either you’ll discover them and use them against the others, or you’ll create them by playing the parts. You create all the drama and get to enjoy watching it go all around you.

Changing your skin is a dramatic darkest self, only because it changes the entire structure of the game. The Chosen that was lusting after the Vampire, now he’s interested in the Fae and the Vampire is left wondering what happened. You leave behind another husk, another shell that’s no longer confident in their ability to do anything but sit back and watch.

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