13 February 2008

M'Alice Works!

Tonight we playtested M'Alice, and what I have so far works! The mechanics do what I want them to do, character creation works, the story telling was fun. I'm all abuzz with joy! We just did a few scenes to test out the mechanics and character creation, but I got to see how the dynamics between the PC's could change. The game is fun, too!

Anyway, here's quick description the characters and how character creation goes. I'm afraid I'm making it sound more complicated than it really is, but here goes.

There are 3 types of PC's: children, adults, and a doll. There is no GM. Each character gets 3 dice to roll in a conflict. The doll has extra dice, but I'll explain that in a sec. The first die never changes ("Fantasy" for children, "Mental State" for adults, and "Type" for dolls. The second die depends on who owns the truth. The third die is one of 3 powers, attributes, gifts, or in the case of adults, authority. In a conflict, you decide which one of your 3 descriptive attributes you use as your third die.

It was Meg, Vincent, and me playing. Meg played the child (Charlie, age 7), Vincent played the adult (Ed, an older man, caretaker of a cluster of cabins up in the backwoods of Maine), and I played the doll (Cosmo, a teddy bear made of real bear fur).

Die 1: Fantasy, Mental State, and Type of Doll
So Meg's character, the child Charlie, was 7. So her Fantasy was a d10. A child's fantasy lever is determined by their age. Ages 2-6 are d12, ages 7-12 are d10, ages 13-18 are d8.

Adult characters get this fun little thing to determine their mental state where another player reads a list of words for their mental state: d12 words, d10 words, and d8 words .The adult writes all words that apply to him. Your die is determined by the die size of most of your words. Here are the words Vincent chose:
d12's: dictator, step-parent.
d10's: shady past, citizen, friend, addicted to porn, clairvoyant, mood disorder, arrogant.
d8's: drug addict, poor, ugly, in denial.
I love the list. I'll post it sometime soon. It's one of my favorite things about the game so far. So Ed's mental state was d10. (All the words apply to the character, even if they aren't of the majority die.) I'm gonna have to make something similar for the child.

Dolls also have a list, but they can only choose one term. Other terms on the list may describe the doll, but the doll player chooses one. I chose "Teddy Bear". Cosmo was made of bear fur, and was hand made (which is on the list as well). Teddy bears are d12's.

Die 2: Gifts, Authority, Powers
Each character type writes 3, and each one has a die size. Children have gifts (d12, d8, d6), adults have authority (d12, d8, d6), dolls have powers or weapons (d10, d10, d8). Cosmo had other powers, like he could teleport himself, and he bled when shot, but they couldn't be used in a conflict, only in narrative. We had a tricky thing where Ed wasn't necessarily using any of his listed authority, so I have to think about how to work with that.

Charlie's gifts were "resourceful" (d12), "agile" (d8), and "charming" (d6).
Ed's authorities were "scaring" (d12), "belittling" (d8), and "teaching" (d6).
Cosmo's powers were "I whisper things in your ear" (d10), "soothing" (d10), and "made of bear fur" (d8).
I'm wondering if 3 for each character is enough. We'll see.

Die 3: The truth and loyalty
At the beginning of the game, children write out the original truth. It's a a statement that implicates one character. It doesn't have to declare whether another character is good or evil. When you win a conflict, you can alter this original truth, or completely replace it, or characters write a truth about other characters. Since children own the truth in the beginning, they get a d12. Adults start at d8. In conflicts, you can win the chance to alter or completely replace that original truth or create or modify a truth about another character. The truth at the beginning of the game was "Ed knows where the treasure is." Vincent modified that with "what's left of it". Vincent and I wrote the following truths about each other's characters:
"Ed got away with murder" and "Cosmo flinches at gunfire".

Dolls cannot modify or replace the original truth. What's more important to them is loyalty. When in a conflict against a player who plays the doll's shadow ally (I'll explain that in a sec), they roll a d12. If the conflict is against their child, the doll rolls a d10, and if the doll isn't in the scene, but wants to jump into the conflict (which all players can do) they roll d6.

Shadow allies
So NPCs can come and go, and can be played by whoever speaks up. Shadow allies are characters that only show up in flashbacks. They essentially write their PC's past, and they are always played by the player whose PC is in conflict with that character. So Ed's shadow ally was Hal, his step son. I played Hal. Charlie's shadow ally was Nancy, a girl from home, played by Vincent. Cosmo's shadow ally was Fred, the man who shot the bear and made Cosmo. Vincent played Fred.

We did one flashback scene, where it was revealed that the buried treasure was cash, drugs, and a gun, left by some drug dealers who were staying in Cabin #5, but took off mysteriously. Hal left the money and drugs for his step-father. What I didn't know in making up this thing about Ed's past was that Vincent wrote "drug addict" on his character sheet. It's so fun when things work out like that!

At the beginning of each scene, the doll rolls a d4 to determine the malice. When a conflict comes up, a doll can opt into the conflict or change the dice of the child in the conflict. So if a doll is acting out of malice and decides not to opt into the conflict, it rolls 2 d4's, and replaces those dice with 2 of the child's higher dice. If the doll is acting out of benevolence, it rolls 2 d12's and switches the child's lower dice for those. There's temporary malice and benevolence and permanent malice and benevolence. If a doll rolls a permanent malice or benevolence she still rolls the malice die, and can still act benevolently for a scene even if she's malicious. Make sense? As it turned out, I rolled temporary malice once and then ever other roll was permanent malice. Cosmo was out to get poor Charlie.

I'll save the story and mechanics for another day. I'm really happy about how well this game is turning out! It's inspired by horror flicks from the 70's and 80's, particularly ones that feature evil dolls (like Dolls), evil adults (The Shining), and bad children (The Omen). Not just the notion that there are evil beings in these movies, but also the relationship dynamics and how it can be difficult to tell just who is the bad guy. The research for this game is terribly fun, too. Horror movies from the era I'm working leave so much more to the imagination, they're creepier without being graphic.

I plan to have an ashcan of this for GenCon, which seems totally possible at the rate it's going. Yay!

Note: M'Alice is short for "My Alice", and of course, a play on the word "Malice". Alice is the doll who will be on the cover. Ingrid is very fond of Alice. Bea is afraid of her.

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