I’ve already settled on the core characters that make up the party (known in UA3 as the cabal) but made a few tweaks to address some character design issues that came up previously.
Mostly they were around balancing the mechanical features of the characters identities – such as removing conflicting skills – and also swapping out redundant identities like Quest Visions, and Redundant Postal Service Worker. Those filled up limited spots in the characters arsenal that just aren’t going to get much chance to shine in this one-shot scenario (but are still cool in a campaign).
Cutting them out meant that I could give the characters some more useful identities. For instance, one of the other things that happens in UA3 is that characters who crumble in the face of stressful situations can end up freezing. That takes them out of the action for the scene, which isn’t great in this fast-paced, one-shot scenario. So now, one of the cabal members has a cool identity (Not a Victim) which lets them pep-talk a catatonic character and help them snap out of their frozen state. It’s a custom or Unique feature that is easily accommodated with the identity mechanism. That certainly made a difference to player involvement right across the group. It’s not unbalancing – there are still consequences for failing stress checks – but it did give the party options, while also helping to bind the character dependencies.
There are a smattering of other balancing tweaks since yesterday’s playtest that I will make before Furnace. But it’s also been about how to better accommodate system elements like relationships and objectives. I’m dispensing with the latter on this occasion, but I am going to do some relationship mapping at the start of session. It’s a quick way of helping the players reveal and discover stuff about each others characters. It also yields some great narrative payoff later in the session.
The character backstories (aside from relationships) are fleshed out nicely too. I’ve written them up to help the players round the table get a handle on what their characters are good at. Not just what makes them tick, though, but how to make their characters get interesting things done with the game mechanics.
That hasn’t made them prescriptive or predictable though. There’s plenty of room for player creativity. Every time I’ve run it so far, each group has ended up taking quite different approaches, and each player has latched onto different aspects of their character.
I think we can expect another completely different story to unfold next weekend. I can’t wait.