Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Neon Burn: Alpha Test One

I've been getting a bit behind on my session reports lately, mostly because I've been spending all of my spare time working on the alpha draft of Neon Burn. I just about have enough of it together to start playtesting, so tonight John and I had a bit of a go to see if there were any obvious issues. The following is a bit of a rambling analysis of that initial playtest, most of which probably assumes you're familiar with some of the game terms. Apologies for that; this is just a stream of consciousness as I process the experience.

Since there were only two of us we each picked one Primary and two Secondary roles. I went with a Mechanic/Pit-Crew-Coach, and John chose a Security/Driver-Gunner. I'm not going to post a blow-by-blow account of the session, but in summary:

We spent maybe half an hour coming up with the League (a single-event demolition derby race), the Team, and the Vehicle (good Speed and Integrity; low Handling and Lift). We only had half an hour for the Build-Up before the Event started, but managed to cram in a number of scenes and get some things done. The time limit definitely did build a sense of tension, which was good! I think the number of Complications we had to cram into a short time was a bit much though, so I may look at either revising the points you need to winnow down based on the time you have to play, or else try to come up with a different way to motivate the Referee to introduce complications.

In the end, the race went badly due to several factors and we ended up coming dead last. Without a Primary Driver Role, John was missing out on rolling a d8 in his pool. Our Vehicle also ended up with pretty flat tuning, mostly punctuated by poor Lift (I'd corrected its Handling problems at the expense of Speed). We didn't gain very many Sparks during the Build-Up, and spent a lot more of them before the Event than I'd anticipated, so neither of us could affect the outcome very much.

I think half an hour for the Build-Up was not quite enough time. We could have benefited from some additional scenes to establish more motivations for the Event. Mind you, some of the scene goals still need to be written up, so we were a bit limited in what we could choose to do. I also think another player or two would make it easier to share the load.

Maybe it was because we didn't have much time, but I didn't feel that the Passions were really being played out well. We pretty much used the same ones all the time - "The Vehicle is my baby" and "I need to win the Event." I need to consider how Sparks are assessed and awarded. Since we didn't have many other characters to interact with, our descriptions were pretty sparse. The post-justification of some of our Passion usage felt a bit tacked on, and I also noticed the conflict of interest in the Referee being the arbiter of what constitutes a "good enough" use of a Passion, with their desire for the team to do well. I think I either need to come up with clearer guidelines for how Passions must be worded, or how they have to come into play, or else I may need to strip out and revise the entire method of generating Sparks. Maybe it just requires a deliberate call-out in dialogue or description during the scene, rather than just "OK, I roll for this... Oh yeah, and I totally bought this gear so I can Win The Event." However, I'll reserve judgment until I've both played it with a larger group, and with a bit more time to play out the scenes.

So, it was interesting to see a whole session in motion, and gave me some food for thought. I'll keep filling in the blanks in the document, and reviewing what's already there to see if it needs any changes in the light of this test. I'm eager to try again with some more players, but I'm not sure when I'll get the opportunity.

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, please feel free to let me know either in the comments here, or in the Google Doc. Just highlight the relevant text and right-click to leave a comment. Thanks for reading!