Friday, July 24, 2015

Psi*Run: Actual Play

We played Psi*Run last night (I was GMing).

You play ‘Runners’: amnesiacs with super-powers. The game begins with you escaping … and you’re being chased by a shadowy organisation (the ‘Chasers’). The game has a tension between whether the Chasers will capture you or whether you’ll answer enough questions about your past to be able to escape them.

The players all commented on Psi*Run’s brutal, brilliant resolution system. One player said it gave him the opportunity to fail in five different ways on the same roll. Another player said it was so good, it should be in many many more games: he saw it as a worker-placement mechanic.

I’m a huge fan of modern, urban chases, so in terms of Colour this game was pretty easy to GM. I applied a lot of setting details from my recent trip to Auckland: a crash on the beach near the Mission Bay clubbing district, nosy beach-living neighbours, a guard dog from the awesome B&B we stayed at (who was turned into a cuddly zombie by the misapplication of empathic projection powers).

Runners were separated from each other. One of them turned a few drinking teenagers into a kill-squad through switching his danger sense from passive to active mode.

What I learned as the GM

This is a game I feel like I should be able to GM well, but I need to apply a few techniques to in order to make it easy and fun for me.

Throughout it, though I felt like I needed to create more sources of GM antagonism in the story. Without constant tension, there are few reasons for the players to make dice rolls (which create jeopardy and advance the game). Some of the rolls I called for felt a bit arbitrary to me.

Anyone, some potential sources of antagonism include:
  • the chasers (which, of course, are central to the game)
  • traditional law enforcement
  • civilians
  • on-going blowback from psi-powers.

I also felt that ‘Advance the Chasers’ needed to be a GM move: if there's a pause in the game and the players turn to the GM expecting them to say something, advance the chasers by one location. (And the same for if the characters don't move at all: there’s a paragraph about this in the game, but it’s not specific.)

Another thing I’d do differently next time: each Runner has questions they need to answer about themselves. I should've drawn on those questions when they were read out for the first time, writing them down as potential situations to throw the Runners into.

A few rules questions
  • Can the characters narrate advancing through multiple locations quickly, putting lots of distance between them and the Chasers? I think so, but that’s where I need to introduce more antagonism (as above)
  • If a Runner establishes a barricade (as in one of the game’s examples) does it have any effect when the Chasers reach it? The Chasers’ success in bypassing the barricade depends on what d6 the Runner puts into 'Chase' rather than the Runner’s initial success with the goal of ‘Create a barricade’, right?
  • How can one character help another?
  • Has anyone give any thought as to how you’d play a sequel game where the Runners turn the tables on the Chasers? Would it just be the same rules? Would the ‘Chase’ part of resolution system still apply?

(Psi*Run is available here. It’s Game 28 in my Play 51 Games in 2015 challenge.)

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