So Per, Pooka and I played a few scenes of Psi Run.
We played through three or four scenes at most. They were enjoyable enough, but the conversation turned to issues with the game, and suggestions for improvements. That's not to say that Psi Run isn't fun as is, it's more that we immediately started seeing other ways to run the mechanics. And there was some wine and pastries and we were in more a sociable mood than gaming mood.
Character generation is a lot of fun, and the questions are golden. Knowing we wanted a short session, we figured three questions each would be enough. Per ran through the system quickly and said he'd GM. The game is very, very pick-up-and-play, which I really like. No numbers to balance, no maths, and the system is right there on the sheet.
(Three questions is probably too few for even a short session - it looked like you could get through a reveal a scene).
(When I chose questions, I had an idea of possible answers - because potential cool is a good way to guage a good question. One question was 'why do clocks stop around me?' 'Coz I can stop time' was the answer I had in mind. I'd have been happy to have another answer reveal itself. But as I narrated scenes, that picture of who my character was became more concrete. If I'd distanced myself, I would not have been as engaged with her).
We opened with a helicopter above city streets, spinning out of control. Strapped into their seats were four women, dressed as a mechanic, cheerleader, in an Armani suit, and in form-fitting grey armor. Pooka's character called thin shadows to pop her straps, then mine. Then my character leaped out of the helicopter, dragging Armani and Pooka's character along.
(Pooka rolled high on his first roll and Revealed. The reveal itself was thematically interesting, but way too early to have any impact. We wondered whether opening scenes should have different mechanics entirely. Or were a color scene, with requirements of 'how do you escape' and 'how do you show off your power?)
(It wasn't clear how far our narration as players could go. Could we narrate amazing powers as color or did powers have to be part of resolution?)
Time stopped, lightning paused in the stormy sky above the city. The three women fell through air thick as molasses to the ground as my character's power slowed time. As we touched the ground and the power clicked off, lightning flickered out and struck my character, stopping her heart (I took an Injury).
Pooka's character revived me though my heart didn't resume beating - same as those clocks! The Armani girl ran off, freaked. The two of us realised we were beside Central Park, and clambered over the fence and headed for the zoo.
In the Reptile House, we took stock. We had a fun argument, with the eerie glow of IR lamps and unusually active snakes making us jumpy. A security guard approached and Pooka's shadows hid the two of us. We argued again, and Pooka teleported away to safety. My character had a Matrix moment and stole the guard's gun, wallet and radio.
(We had a little misunderstanding there, where I described a bunch of kung fu, and taking the gun and radio. Per took this to be intention, I took
it to be execution, because I'd not been challenged. Whoops! That was more an interesting mistake than a problem with Psi Run. But I don't think we were entirely clear how scenes are framed and by whom)
Per, I think, described the Chasers coming to the burning wreck of the helicopter. And that's where we stopped.
(The system seems too easy. Though Bliss Stage has a similar mechanic, BS has a more pronounced sense of risk. On an average roll, your situation changes. On a bad roll, you lose relationships. In Psi Run, an average roll didn't change much.
Rolling X dice, discarding one, was too easy. Our few rolls came off pretty succesfully. Though we weren't clear on how injuries and scars (?) worked, so injuries didn't have a lot of punch. Do they reduce your dice or something...?
What if you rolled fewer dice in some situations? And so had to allocate 'empties' to certain categories. How bad is a zero?
If you kept the existing system, I'd consider making all the categories harsher. Instead of 1-3 (fine), 4,5 (sucks), 6 (ouch!), I'd change it to 1-2. (fine), 3,4 (sucks), 5 (ouch!), 6 (really ouch!) or something.
Pooka suggested that psi should be a mandatory allocation. Thus, powers must be controlled or they go nuts.
A little clever design could add clarity to the six categories. For example, you could group Harm+Chase, Psi+Goal and Reveal+Capture. You always have to pick at least one one from Harm+Chase.You always have to pick both of Psi+Goal. You always have to allocate to
Reveal+Capture, but they're often under the jurisdiction of the other players.
There's no unity of theme to the characters. I wondered if, say, Pooka's character would reveal he got his powers from magitech experiments and mine got her's from mutant powers, if it'd all go a bit vague and generically superheroic. You could have shared questions that answer origins, power sources, the past.
Pooka suggested the final question be about the Chaser.
We discussed a possibility where the Chasers got their own questions, and a sheet of their own. Who are these guys? How do they operate? Why do they want us back? Why did he leave a rose at the graveside? Why don't we see their eyes?
Here's a big one. Adversity. There's no way for the GM to make a situation more difficult. That makes GMing tricky. Not impossible. But tricky. You could certainly have a system where he got to knock off a player's dice with tokens or some such.
Is the Chase category relevant in the first scene?
I vaguely wondered if it would be useful to have a re-introduction mechanic, where previously-answered questions became traits of some kind.
Or rerolls. Or cancelled GM tokens)
Psi Run has a huge amount of potential, but it's not quite there yet. I really liked the way the Chasers followed on a 'board' formed from our scenes. I'd like to see the scenes where they follow our subtle clues or trail of devastation. And I liked our characters, how they were constructed, reveals and powers.
Pooka and Per?