Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Common People Revisited

EDIT/WARNING: Further playtesting discovered a critical problem with the 4th card in this post. I hope to get it fixed and updated soon, but for now I'd recommend holding off on downloading or playing these.

EDIT #2: One of my pets died this morning, and my wife has a surgery consultation tomorrow for what will likely be her fourth surgery this year. So, um, it's probably going to be quite a while before I get around to fixing the broken card below. Don't hold your breath - and don't try playing it, the card is really remarkably awful.

Yet another Myth boardgame post.

Several weeks ago, I converted the Myth Story Quest "Common People" into a series of Chapter Quests. Link. Further playtesting since then has revealed some rough areas, so I've taken another stab at it. (For the record: I still have no fuzzy clue why this Story is called Common People.)

For starters, I've revised the flavor-text of every card. There's two goals here.
  1. To make it less likely that arbitrary Tile placement will contradict the text and break immersion. You place Tiles before you draw Quests, so sometimes with the official cards you end up with very strange disconnects. I'm trying hard to avoid that.
  2. To fit the flavor text to the "tavern story" format where, as Myth's original pitches during the Kickstarter explained, the stories are being told after the fact by a bunch of adventurers bragging and reminiscing in a bar.
This means that the flavor text from the original rulebook Story entries has been entirely abandoned in favor of more earthy text. This is a parallel story, or a retelling or reboot if you will. Some folks will probably hate that (and truth be told I'll kind of miss the florid language of the original) but while that purple prose contributed mood, it was often at odds with other setting material and the physical components of the game.  I've made it all a little more consistently beer-and-pretzels, sitting around blowing off steam with your buddies... as that's really what the game is all about.

Beyond those flavorful rewrites, each card has undergone mechanical revisions, which I'll address individually as we look at each card.

Rosy-Fingered Dawn features essentially the same mechanics as my previous version of the same card. I'm a little more precise about what you do with the unlocked Quest Chain, and threw in a small AP penalty for failure.

 Originally there were three near-identical chapters at the Start of this Quest. Playtesting revealed that if you failed the first one, you might be inclined to populate the 2nd and 3rd Tiles very lightly and then auto-succeed at them without much of a challenge. This was less than exciting, and probably "broken", so I took it into consideration when I revised the card.

Smoky Horizon now adds a Captain, so that even if you chose a small Tile and put the minimum possible content on it, there'd still be some sort of guaranteed speed-bump.
100 Fires was revised entirely (for the above reason). Instead of being just like the previous two, I pushed the narrative. You've arrived at the edge of the enemy army, and need to get around with without raising the alarm. Instead of being yet a another round of do things fast, I decided it was time for do things meekly.  If your Threat gets to 8 or higher, the monsters call out for reinforcements from the rest of their nearby camp.

In the process, I cut out the ability to fail the Quest (other than by TPK). You can still fail the two steps before it, reducing Treasure Bag rewards. The official rulebook version has a pass/fail goal, but doesn't give you any directives about what happens if you fail. Having to do-over an entire Act, or completing multiple Tiles with no reward whatsoever seemed less than ideal. This strikes me as a workable compromise.

My previous take on Burning Bridges and Fallen Guard were pretty faithful to the original, except with two major oversights: The minimum number of Tiles was shorter than in the Story, and I didn't include the "No Lairs" clause. I'd hoped those two changes would balance each other out, but alas, they did not. If you chose small Tiles that naturally lacked Lairs,  it was all too fast and easy. If you chose larger Tiles that mandated Lairs, you'd end up bogged down as an infinite stream of Hunting Packs flanked you, and a TPK would result. It was tricky finding the middle ground that lead to a satisfying experience, so major revisions were in order.

It may still need further revising, which I'll see when it gets another playtest later this week. I'm confident this version is now properly balanced, Mainly I'm just worried that the wording is too clunky, and I'm wondering if the "both a Chapter and an Act Quest" clause is unnecessary.

The second Act of the rulebook Story is pretty punishing. If you can't get the entire party out in a single HC, it's unclear what happens to the last character. 1 Hero vs infinite monsters seems pretty dreadful, but the Story version doesn't really say what happens if that last Hero dies. Does the whole group fail?

Since character resurrection is fairly cheap within the system/setting, I decided it's all okay as long as someone gets inside the gates. Losing a Hero or two reduces your rewards ("each living Hero may draw") but doesn't stop the narrative in its tracks or make you replay the entire Act.
Let me just start by saying the original version in the rulebook for Act 3 of this Story is a mess.  My previous Chapter version plugged one or two of the plot holes, but there was still a lot of interpretation and potential confusion. Even if I could find official answers to all the holes in the official version, I don't think I could actually fit all the info needed on a single card (afterall, Mercs/Megacon didn't manage to fit all the needed information on 1/3 of a page). So I had to improvise a little. The result is clearly NOT what the Mercs crew had in mind exactly, but it worked rather well in playtest the other day.

It took us 2 & 1/2 play sessions to get through this entire quest chain in 2-player (though Chapters 2 & 3 were a little different at that point so doing it again it might take 3 full sessions). That suggests that it's a little bit shorter or easier than the official version. I'm not particularly alarmed by any of that, as I feel character progression happens a little too slowly in the core rules.

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