Sunday, October 09, 2005

Cat and Caedmon: Breaking the Ice

I popped by Joe's place Saturday night to hit our favorite restaurant and hang for a while, and we test drove Breaking The Ice.

This was the first time I'd actually played through 3 full dates (a proper game), and it was cool.

Our "switch," since we're both male, was preferred creative outlet: he played an artist and I played a musician. He played Catilin, a geek girl and sculptor and jewelery designer obsessed with Lord of the Rings, and I played Caedmon, a pastry chef who was deeply into blues singing and blues harmonica. (In the back of my mind, I had a specific person as the model for Caedmon; to me it's fun to do that in BtI.)

Cat's conflict was a stalking nerd ex-boyfriend named Tom. Caedmon's conflict was that he gets really clumsy around people he's trying to impress. They both worked out OK, but neither was really optimal. The clumsy thing was easy to bring into scenes -- when I needed some extra dice, Caedmon knocked something over at just the wrong moment. Tom was much harder to bring into scenes, and didn't get used that much, but was more interesting.

An awesome moment was when we managed to bring both of them into a scene -- Caedmon whacked Cat with his elbow, giving her a bloody nose, in the middle of a museum expedition (their second date), and very soon after that Tom showed up, and concluded that Caedmon must have (intentionally) hit Cat... and in the between-dates rolls for attraction, on a reroll, where you have to put down a new problematic trait, for Cat, we put down that inbetween dates Tom had been spreading rumors about Cat's new boyfriend to the effect that he was violent with her! Ouch!

But gratuitous clumsiness, while it worked out, just seemed kinda cheap, and the jealous stalking ex was hard to bring into scenes elegantly. Giving myself advice for future games: make sure the conflict is not just external but internal. "Clumsy" is OK, but "knows he gets clumsy and is going to overcompensate or avoid situations where it's going to come up, or is going to be really nervous about it, etc" would be better. "Stalking ex" was OK, but "knows she has an ex stalking her and is going to consciously try to make sure he doesn't find out about the date" would have been better. Make it something the characters have to react to (or "proact" to if you will), and let their reactions be part of the scene.

The three dates were: lunch and a walk in the park in Chicago (I always end up playing BtI games set in Chicago... this is my third... of four BtI games...)... a trip down to Indianapolis to view the Lord of the Rings exhibit at the museum together (allowing Joe and I to bring in our real-world knowledge of Indy from the last GenCon, including the rocking Scottish pub we went to in the real world), and a viewing of the entire Lord of the Rings movie trilogy at Cat's house, which turned into a snugglefest (we let our characters get they freak on in the third date. They deserved it).

This was the first time I had played an entire series of dates in BtI, and I got to understand the dynamics of the dice a little better.

The thing I don't think I'd grokked before is that a Turn stops when you achieve an attraction level or a Compatibility. That means that the better a chance you have of getting one of those with your Attraction dice and your Bonus dice (due to having a lot of Attraction), the less likely it is you'll have a chance, or a need, to use any Re-Rolls. This means that the screwups that fuel Re-Rolls are going to become less common as Attraction increases.

Cat and Cadmon really piled on the Attraction over the course of those dates, and by about midway through the second date, Re-Rolls were practically a thing of the past.

I think it's the case that a Turn has to stop when you hit an attraction or compatibility level. (I'm not quite sure of that from the way it's phrased in the rules.) If this is the case, if you want to be sure you get compatibility if you possibly can rather than "mere" attraction, you will want to avoid rolling your dice till you've decided, say, whether or not you want to pull a Conflict or Compatibility in. Because if you roll 'em and get three successes, it's too late, turn is over, you can't go further by pulling the Conflict or Compatibility in in the hopes of getting a fourth success.

In any case, it seems pretty clear that you can't, say, get an attraction level, and then keep going for another attraction level with Re-Rolls. At least I hope that's the case, because it drives the "comical screwups are more common earlier in the date series before real attraction is established" dynamic nicely.

I haven't gone back yet and read the rules really closely to make sure that's how it's set up.

Anyway, the whole thing worked out nicely. A lot of plot was generated through it all, and I especially enjoyed seeing how the "between dates" stuff works, because I hadn't had a chance to before. Cool things like Caedmon losing his job and having to decide whether he's willing to leave town to find a new job, and Cat having the rumors started about her by Tom, happened "between dates".

What I'd like to remember in future games is to make characters who are a little more packed with drama because of their Conflicts. Make it a little more personal, a little more to the heart. That'd be cool.

Oh, to the degree that we felt like describing the nookie explicitly in date 3, the system worked fine -- fooling around works like any other part of a date in Breaking the Ice, you get Bonus Dice by having your character do something that would generate attraction, which the other player thinks is true to life or whatever, and you roll and see if you generate more attraction and maybe a Compatibility based on what you just did. The application to physical intimacy at whatever level of description you're comfortable with should be obvious.

So, cool. Fun game, made some characters we really liked, learned how the rules work and came to appreciate more stuff about 'em. Rock.

1 comment:

John Harper said...

Some unsuspecting grognard out there in the Interweb is going to wander to this post (after searching for either "date" or "rpg") and his widdle bwain is going to explode.