Danger Patrol: Martian Collisions

edited April 2010 in Actual Play
Ah, Mars, why can't I quit you?

Yeah, we played DP and there was a pyramid/space ship screaming down through the Martian atmo, threatening to impact with Rocket City. The collision was stopped through a combination of kung-fu, magic, and daredevil piloting,

Yes, Jack Geist found time in the midst of it all to make a move on the hot Crimson Republic assassin who killed him in the first place (and yeah, she shot him again..."Dames....").

So, there are phases of DP play and I haven't read the rules in a bit so bare with me. I just want to pick at them:

Last Time On...

In which the players get to let the GM know the crazy, gonzo shit that interests them about this crazy, gonzo setting and the cliffhandger situation at hand.

Action Scene

In which a train filled with mutant monkeys is about to run over a puppy and then hit a zeppelin filled with nuns...you have to use your powers and dice and such to stop it.

interlude

This is a tricksy one and probably the most often overlooked but most important. This is where you find the part of all this madness that you actually have some kind of emotional attachment to and role-play with it, thus healing wounds or checks and setting the stage for future Action Scenes.

This is Indie and Marylin in the steamer, him telling her the few places he doesn't hurt. This is Tony Stark asking his secretary to help him change his heart battery. This is Frankenstien's monster playing with the girl in town.

This is a quiet moment. In order for DP to be great, these scenes have to really be solid.

investigation

In which the players answer questions, fail to answer questions, generate danger and set up the next action scene. These questions can very easily be drawn from the interludes. My favorite moment from tonight was Jack Geist rampaging through spy cells of CR sleeper cells in order to find out if Natasha Lennin was actually in love with him or was just programmed to be in love with him.

Investigation scenes have a huge capability for GM Dick Moves. Those questions need to be answered if they are successfully attacked.

We had a really nice post-game talk and lots of this stuff came out from that.

Another fun night of Danger...

Comments

  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: JuddThis is Indie and Marylin in the steamer, him telling her the few places he doesn't hurt. This is Tony Stark asking his secretary to help him change his heart battery. This is Frankenstein's monster playing with the girl in town.
    Man, all three of those are really titanium standard when it comes to what I'd want out of a DP interlude. Maybe those could even be referenced in the game's text.

    I'm going to think about how I describe interludes a lot more carefully before I next run DP. I don't know that I've really gotten one quite right yet, to the extent that I framed or drove them. The second and third time I ran DP I tried to have the interludes be more lengthy/meaty than the "Previously On" length suggested by the game text. They still weren't ideal, but I put that down to some other vagaries of play and I think it was a step in the right direction, at least for the groups I'd been running DP for.

    One thing I'm going to do to make the first, (and probably the only in the context of a one-shot), interlude larger is reduce the Threat opposition in the first Action scene so that it ends more quickly; maybe then the following scene feels like it wants more investment/deliberation.

    But then that might exacerbate an issue I'm already seeing - I think either the number of bonus dice is too many or the refresh is too generous - or both. A shorter less threatening action scene sets the whole trajectory of the episode, but it might as well have not happened in terms of the resource management part of the game if I lessen the potency and number of threats.

    What I've seen/done in the context of running DP for a group which has one or more new players: lengthy/difficult first action scene as we go through procedures of the action scenes for the first time. I'm not *trying* to make the first action scene super-difficult, but unfamiliarity combined with non-optimal tactical choices in how the threats are tackled makes the first action scene pretty long. Me, aware of wanting to finish a one episode arc of Action/Interlude/Suspense/Action on a climactic Action scene perhaps giving short shrift to the Interlude and Suspense scenes not getting the full potential out of them, followed by a second action scene that needs to be rushed through a bit anyway. I think I can now get this all down for the arc I want even with new players, but I think new GMs will want to be aware of this possible tendency and time their plot and game explanations accordingly. I'm expecting a game of DP played with 3 players who've all played the game before to shine pretty consistently but I think it needs a few more tweaks to deliver consistently for new players and I think that good, well-emphasized Interludes will be a big part of that success.
    Posted By: JuddInvestigation scenes have a huge capability for GMDick Moves. Those questions need to be answered if they are successfully attacked.
    I agree. Do you have some textual recommendations towards diminishing GMDM likelihood? edit: I agree that the questions need to be answered. I'm less certain about GMDM dangers.

    With the Pulp genre and the strength of the action arena elements, it's perhaps easy to view DP as an effective but shallow beat-em-up with great power-to-dream facilitation towards the physical action and set scenery parts of the game. But I think fully half of the strength of DP and similar Pulp games is the inherent permission granted its participants to get seriously melodramatic/zealous towards (R)omantic objects, be they NPCs or ideals. We approach as modern era cynics, gear ourselves up and shoot for 40s Camp and sometimes our rocket packs put us some place in the middle, a territory that feels very real and rewarding.

    Nice post.
  • Posted By: nemomemeBut then that might exacerbate an issue I'm already seeing - I think either the number of bonus dice is too many or the refresh is too generous - or both. A shorter less threatening action scene sets the whole trajectory of the episode, but it might as well have not happened in terms of the resource management part of the game if I lessen the potency and number of threats.
    It feels like we are mowing through threats in the games we have been playing with only a trickle of danger to Pete towards amping things up. I know this is a big change from the week when I wasn't there, when the danger was flowing at Pete and he kept the action scene going the whole night. It could be that we are getting better at playing towards our stronger dice and using what is on our sheets to our advantage.

    We generally have our main die, a die or two form the sheet (d10 and a d8) and anywhere from 3-6 Danger dice when we make an average roll.
    Posted By: nemomemeDo you have some textual recommendations towards diminishing GMDM likelihood?
    Let me think about that for a bit, while I digest the rest of your dense and juicy response. Thanks.
  • Posted By: JuddIt feels like we are mowing through threats in the games we have been playing with only a trickle of danger to Pete towards amping things up. I know this is a big change from the week when I wasn't there, when the danger was flowing at Pete and he kept the action scene going the whole night. It could be that we are getting better at playing towards our stronger dice and using what is on our sheets to our advantage.

    We generally have our main die, a die or two form the sheet (d10 and a d8) and anywhere from 3-6 Danger dice when we make an average roll.
    (interlude thoughtfulness hat off, mechanics monkey hat on)

    Brendan mentioned elsewhere an updated Interlude-refresh rule that JH told him about at Gamestorm where the players have the choice of either refreshing three [+]s or reducing their Danger meter by 5. That might do it, or it might still not go quite far enough for my tastes.

    Something else I've noticed is that no one ever takes a 3rd Bonus die because it's indistinguishable in potency from a Danger die and it's pretty dang easy to get 5 Danger dice already. The only time I could see that happening is on a huge gamble at stopping a countdown or overcoming a resistant threat and even then you're really risking a full hit and a spawning new major threat via Disaster, so it's not a great idea. (actually it is a cool idea to do right out of the gate to really get the scene amped up, but in practice the large die quantities tend to get thrown around right at the end of a countdown in the middle of the action scene, risking an extension of the scene when it really should be on the precipice of winding down)

    One possibility is making all Bonus dice d8s. Easy to remember and it makes that third die more tempting, giving the players more nova capability if they want to end the first action scene more quickly at the risk of not having the dice they need later. That or a d12, d10, d8 progression?

    Currently, even if the 1st action scene goes on five complete rounds (fifteen turns with 3 players!) and all of the the PCs all use 2 bonus dice every single time, they're still going to have 5 bonus dice each coming into the final action scene. The more likely scenario with an experienced DP GM calibrating the threats well and having the initial action scene of only 3-4 rounds? Well there the bonus die pool is so big it feels as though it might as well be unlimited.

    Listing 3-5 dangers as a group and incorporating 1-3 bonus items into every single narration might cause some color/narration fatigue for some players. Has anyone seen this? It feels just about right but it might be a close thing. If the bonus dice were limited more then most of the color of the scene might necessarily come from the Danger dice. Possibly a good thing.

    I'm just going to incorporate JH's either or refresh next playtest but I'm also really leaning towards a total of 10 bonus dice instead of 12 right now.
  • I like Danger Patrol quite a bit.

    But last night, I dunno, it felt a bit flat. Interludes felt jarring to me. Like all of sudden; i felt like I was on the spot and time to ROLEPLAY! Judd had his Jack Geist character want to have a scene with my Damian Dagger to talk about the taint from the mystical Mars pyramid that he had acquired. I wanted to interrogate his adversary, love interest... Nikita Lennin, who we had captured.

    And in the beginning, it felt like pulling teeth. I felt like I was in molasses. In my head, I was like, "who the frak is Damian Dagger...quick! I need something to hang my hat on." I never got that. Judd was a bit better than I. Jack Geist had some slang in his voice, I remember "dames!". Honestly, it could have been an off night for me. But. But I feel like we were trying to MAKE an interlude and we didn't really have the guidelines to do so. How long does an Interlude last? What can we and can't we attempt? I just wasn't sure.

    Whereas in a normal RPG session, sliding out of combat and into interludes is a seamless, easy process for me. Now, instead of thinking of what does my character want/do/think/feel... I was concerned about setting up the Suspense and Action scenes to come...trying too hard to pump that well. And I wasn't listening, reacting and providing.

    I think I saved it in the end, because it was I who suggested that Nikita might have been programmed to love Jack.... and that he should find out which is which. He got a good Suspense scene out of it.

    My Suspense scene was a cool idea.. trying to track down a couple of the mystically potent bones of my partner, Jack Geist, at a black market auction. But it fell flat for me. The dice came out very quickly. I didn't get a chance to roleplay (granted, it was a bit late), I didn't get a chance to bid against a neat NPC or two... I rolled, failed getting my "question" answered by 1. And the failure was cool and I was cool with it. Outbidded by a mystery party. Neat. Now we have an conflict for the Action scene. But I didn't do anything, I didn't get to be a Detective, I just rolled some dice and my turn was over..and since mine was the last turn, the Suspense round was over. It felt really choppy to me. And what do danger dice mean in a Suspense scene? Why grab for them? I've got an idea, (keep reading).

    My one suggestion is to connect reward ala Shadows of Yesterday in Suspense and Interlude rounds. By doing "stuff", you recharge your powers and such. How to do it is very vague in my head.... but maybe by investigating into the black market auction, I get certain amount of recharge.

    Off the top of my head, getting Answers in pulp is dangerous stuff. Maybe we need to do a switcheroo? Here is my half-assed vague notion example:

    I rolled 4 Success and 3 Failure in my Detective Investigation of the Black Market Auction.

    I can count the Successes towards the recharging of Powers... for the sake of argument, lets say costs 2 successes to recharge a power, costs 1 success to move the Danger Track back one. I will get 1 roll for an Interlude, 1 roll for Suspense. Now there is some drama, will I be able to recharge everything? Will have to make choices to what I recharge.

    Now the Failures. Failures go to getting your Question answered. The Black Market Auction had a level of 5, so I failed. Obviously, getting team-ups on Questions is going to get them answered easier.

    I don't know what Failures for an Interlude scene could be.
  • This is really good feedback, thanks.

    I think it's a good idea to reduce the total bonus dice to 10 and use the either/or refresh method. This should make resource use a little more interesting. I'm gonna post a few play test tweaks on my blog, and this will be included for sure.

    Matt, you and Storn have both talked about how the strict scene structure can feel forced sometimes, and I'm definitely taking that feedback to heart. A more fluid approach may be called for.
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: John Harper
    Matt, you and Storn have both talked about how the strict scene structure can feel forced sometimes, and I'm definitely taking that feedback to heart. A more fluid approach may be called for.
    I really like the strict scene structure and wouldn't change a thang on that front.

    Something needs tweaking but I'm just not exactly sure what.

    Also, I need to re-read the text. I am not sure I have read beta through just yet.
  • Judd, how would you feel about choosing which scene type was next rather that sticking to a strict order of Action, Interlude, Suspense? I've had a few cases in my own games where two back-to-back Action scenes were called for, for example.
  • edited April 2010
    (smile) Oh the hazards of differing playtester groups' feedback to the designer...

    To be precise I think I'm also mostly okay with the scene structure as well; it was one of the players who's (twice now) chaffed a bit at it, the first time owing maybe mostly to my ham-handed technique. I'm hoping he (Maedhros) will drop by and provide some clarifications on the exact chaffing.

    In one sense there are basically two kinds of scenes - ones with Threats and ones without. Suspense and Action are very different in tone and narration but they both have PCs making Trait rolls against something with "pacing hit points" towards an end. Many games have a similar division. Combat/Non-combat. Free-play until a conflict roll is warranted. I think it's possible that all of this can be handled through a proscriptive "default" mode/structure and then more examples and "Other Ways To Run Scenes" section. I dunno.
  • I'll try and describe my discomfort with the scene progression scheme. I'm finding it very hard to articulate why it bugs me.

    My first thought was that it feels like a game of PTA interrupting a game of Capes :) Since I really like both games, you'd think that would be a plus.

    My second thought was that the scene progression feels a bit railroady - you will have a fight NOW, and then you will come up with unsolved questions that each of you WILL investigate, which inevitably leads to ANOTHER fight at the end. I understand the intent is to recapitulate the pulp science fiction serial, and I like pulp science fiction serials and applaud the effort to reinforce the tropes, but the scene progression misses my sweet spot for whatever reason.

    My third thought was that the problem maybe wasn't the scene progression but the time constraint of trying to cram it all into one session.

    I hope that helps.
  • I just had an epiphany!

    The Roles and Styles are all about mechanics. Maybe putting in something like Beliefs or Keys would help drive the Interludes?
  • Thanks, David.

    I have a mechanic in my back pocket that is a kind of Key-like thing for DP. I've been holding off on adding stuff to the game, but I'm really tempted to give it a try in the next draft. We'll see.
  • Posted By: JuddPosted By: John Harper
    Matt, you and Storn have both talked about how the strict scene structure can feel forced sometimes, and I'm definitely taking that feedback to heart. A more fluid approach may be called for.
    I really like the strict scene structure and wouldn't change a thang on that front.

    Something needs tweaking but I'm just not exactly sure what.

    Also, I need to re-read the text. I am not sure I have read beta through just yet.

    I like the idea of Interludes and Suspense rounds. It does focus very tightly on the idea of pulpy cliffhanger retro scifi. But I think our table is falling into a trap of trying to make those rounds almost as quick as "Previously On". Despite Pete saying, "oh, Interludes can be more meaty than Previously On..."... we still were trying to shoehorn mechanics into the Interlude... as in pick a PC(s) or NPC(s) to have a scene with, roll some dice. Move on.

    I felt by the act of picking... I want Damian Dagger in this scene, I want Max Mercury in that scene and they are doing x or y and WHY... I felt like we were playing before playing... like, boom, we distilled to what the conflict was to be... and we went to the dice too fast. There wasn't any room for the usual, organic roleplaying that I see in other games at this table.

    I'm not explaining myself well... this is really vague and I'm wrestling with what I don't ken. I like the game a lot. But I haven't felt like I have had the chance to explore my character and have scenes that do that. What I feel is that we are serving the next scene or plot.
  • Ah ha! That makes perfect sense to me, Storn. I've had the play-before-play feeling, too.

    Thanks. I think I know how to address that.
  • Its interesting to read Judd and Storn's posts, considering we're all at the same table...

    but I almost don't see any reason to have the interludes and investigation.

    The meat of the game is the action sequences. Almost every power does something in the action sequences. The action sequences are breathless, dizzying and enormously fun.

    Everything else feels... tacked on is to strong a word, but whenever we're in an interlude or investigation, I want to get back to kicking ass.

    I realize that makes me sound like some sort of power gamer, but really, I'm not. I almost always play an intellectual in a game, and my character (An Atomic Flyboy) is anything but, and he's enormously fun, and the first games "Tell us something about your character" made me give him more background than I ever could have hoped for based on one quick off the cuff idea - that Max launched the final salvo that destroyed the Earth.

    But when everything in the game seems based around the action scenes, and the action scenes work so deliciously well, I almost wonder why we're doing anything else.

    Of course, we've also played 3 DP sessions in a row, and I also feel like that might be 2 to many (I called DP a "pickup game" earlier) - if it is a pickup game, designed to be picked up and played with little prep, then maybe the amazing strong action sequences are all that's needed. Certainly, the action sequence is pretty much enough to satisfy a one-night gaming need.

    Of course, that makes it a fairly limited game without much depth. And I'm okay with that. But maybe others aren't.
  • That makes sense to me, John. That's great feedback. My goal is for Suspense scenes to be as exciting and fun as action scenes. I think it's an achievable goal, even if the game isn't quite there yet.
  • I am thinking about the Interludes and folks not being sure what to do with them. In BW you'd look at your Beliefs. In TSoY you'd look at your Keys.

    In DP, as written now, what I try to do is look at the pieces of paper on the table during the Action Scenes, other player characters very much included.

    Have a martini in a bar with the mystic on the team. Talk to the spy who has captured your heart, caught by the team in the last scene. Go have tea with Ming the Merciless (you can punch him in the nads later, during the Action Scene).

    These are the quiet little moments before the storm and as the game is now, you have to find things to connect with outside of your character sheet because the sheet itself does not offer any clues as to your characters motivations or feelings.

    I'm not sure this is a bad thing. There are plenty of other techniques the game uses to clue the GM in on what the players find interesting

    I like the specific cycle of scenes but I need to look over the rules again before I make more comments about 'em.
  • My favorite jack Geist moment of the game. Taiwan Tony drives his Hawk 5000 into a Martian Monster, killing it, impaling it on the front of the flying car.

    "You Ming'ed him. Move's so old it has whiskers. *blows smoke* Nice one."

    My favorite Judd moment was a danger die I offered to Anthony. He was jumping from the falling space pyramid to a flying car that was out of control.

    I offered him a danger die that was a flashback, in which he was sparring with his brother on a rooftop and was beaten handily. His father asks him why his brother beat him, "I know that you are a better fighter than him."

    "I'm afraid of heights."

    Anthony took the die and thus accepted this flashback as fact.

    The way our table uses danger dice offerings to create new elements of the fiction is really interesting and deserves some further posting.
  • Apologies for jumping in when I wasn't at this game, but I kinda suspect that Judd might be right about interludes being explorations of stuff that isn't on the sheets. The lack of keys or other formal guidelines for the interior of characters is an interesting characteristic of Danger Patrol, at least as it exists now. Sure, you could attach such a system to it and it would work just fine. But there's something nice about having that stuff not be formalized, which I think you can see in Apocalypse World or The Mountain Witch. That said, both AW and TMW have mechanics that do push the players to consider "what is this character about?" (Psychic Maelstrom, Trust / Dark Fate, etc.), so you might need something that points directly at that stuff without getting players to track it on their sheet.

    I've been thinking a bit about Interludes and Investigations in the context of the Nextwave game I want to run using Danger Patrol, which is perhaps an extreme example of DP pacing: each Interlude or Flashback is usually no more than a single page and each Investigation scene really is building towards the next crazy battle sequence. Indeed, Investigation inevitably leads to the team discovering things they have to fight. Taken to that extreme, I'm not sure I would have the same issues that Judd / Storn and co. seem to be experiencing, but I do worry that it would get stale after a while unless there were surprises or ways to adjust the cycle. That said... maybe Nextwave is not really meant to be sustained over the long term. Not sure.
  • edited April 2010
    Well, all this stuff about interludes working or not working, making my head swim. Here is what I do know, this game is great for conjuring visuals. [tongue firmly in cheek here]

    The next 4 pics are from our Danger Patrol game. The last two sessions, over the last 3 weeks.


    First up is the "Carniforous Rex", the terrible pun given vicious life by our GM, Pete.

    image

    I drew Max Mercury in an early game, but I thought he was a robot... he ain't. He be a cyborg with a toothy smile. So, its a redux sketch time!

    image

    The Thorn Samurai were definetly a thorn in our side 2 eps ago. Trying to sacrifice a few of members in the jungles of Venus.

    image

    Lastly, was definitely a "gal with guns" night... as both Nikita and Princess Alura had impact on the ep. I also noodled the kumite opponent for Singapore Sam, Ivan Ivanovitch, the Sultan of Sambo, the Crimson Terror. And i did a quick noodle-doodle of one of the 3 Pyramids of Mars, the runic, mystical starships that were causing so much trouble.

    image


    These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.
    Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Generic
  • Storn, every time I see some of your art with a DP logo in it, my heart flutters a little.
  • edited April 2010
    Haven't played the game yet but I've been following all the Danger Patrol threads closely.
    So John, throwing out a random guess here...does the idea in your back pocket involve "Keys" that refresh bonus dice and/or reduce Danger during interludes?
    Kind of like how Conan is ready for the next adventure after swigging some wine and bedding a woman. Or, more in line with the setting, John Carter is emboldened after persuing his romantic interest with Dejah Thoris.
  • Posted By: John HarperStorn, every time I see some of your art with a DP logo in it, my heart flutters a little.
    Hopefully in a good way. sounds like it could be palpitations and I don't want to be responsible for giving some one a heart attack.

    But, awww... thanks. Nice to hear. Thank you for writing an exciting game!
Sign In or Register to comment.