Revisiting Bill in Three Persons with the Royal Pains

I got a chance to revisit Bill in Three Persons, which I first rolled out at Go Play Leeds. There were a lot of rough edges on that first outing, which I want to smooth ahead of bringing the scenario to Furnace later this year.

Changes

  • Pre-populated shock meters with hardened and failed notches. This saved a huge amount of time at the table, first and foremeost. But also I was able to make sure that there was some correspndence between the level of threats the characters would face and what they could endure. It felt like I got the balance right overall. There was a lot less standing around frozen in terror, but the challenges were definitely not a pushover. The players always had pause for thought.
  • A full suite of pre-gen characters was made available. As well as the Childcare Worker and Scout Leader, I introduced an Undertaker and a Crooked Cop. I am very happy with what they brought to the scenario. I’ll write about this another time, but I’m increasingly convinced about how important pre-gen design decisions are for one-shots.
  • Extending the character identities. I got to see two new pre-generated characters, but I knew there were issues with the Disgraced Childcare Worker. I split that identity into two separate ones – Childcare Worker and Disgraced, and tied her obsession to the Disgraced identity. This created a wraught  tension within the character, which was beautifully exploited by the player.

What worked well

  • The group chose to do extended character development and world building. It took an extra hour or so to nail things, but created a plausible premise and backstory for the group that persisted throughout the game. The cabal formed a coherent identity (a college band – The Royal Pains) and a reason to be travelling back from scattered locations to their small home town (school reunion). I liked this a lot. I’m going to use it as the conceit for the convention outing.
  • As part of this, they fleshed out relationships and character personalities. It took an extra hour or so to nail things, but we knew what role each had in the band, we learnt a lot more about the egos of the characters and some of the historical group dynamics that started to surface in the scenario.
  • I threw in a new pre-gen character, who was an Undertaker and Cult Survivor. I forgot to define their Noble passion, but the player filled in perfectly with Respect for the Dead. It led to some superb characterisation and choices in the second and third acts.
  • There is no question that the nature of the scenario is confusing. The players did well to suspend disbelief, but also go with what they were thrust into. The collaborative scenario building helped with creating cabal cohesion and coherence to get them collectively through the crazier moments.

Improvements

  • The pacing is still off. Balancing time to hit the crux of each scene, and then wrapping them up is something I need to refine.
  • No major tweaks to the characters, except for the Undertaker. Originally they were part of an Agrimancer cult. This led the player down a path that caused them a few more challenges in the scenario than was desirable – they found it a little too distracting. It may just need a clearer set of Of course I can skills – the agrimancy background is one of the more viable for a magick-based cult community, which was the key thing about this character.
  • The Undertaker also had a Quest Magick supernatural identity. It relies on getting away for a couple of days to spirit yourself away. This could be great in a campaign, but just doesn’t get a look in for a scenario that takes place over one night. It needs to go.
  • Otherwise, the core characters worked very well as a group, and they have a good cabal premise that links nicely with the setup.

What Next?

I want to get at least one more outing before Furnace in October. The aim is to go from explanation to resolution in less than 4 hours. The plan is to land with the given backstories and I’m going to squeeze tighter on scene pacing and transition, hopefully without railroading or breaking roleplay opportunities.

It’s too easy for me to slip time when I’m running a home-based game, so I’m going to convene players using Roll20 and Google Hangouts. I’m scheduling it for Sat 30 Sep, from 6:30pm UK time. Four player slots are available. More details and signups to appear on this game listing.

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