Playtest report of Coyotes of Chicago by Peter Borah

10 September, 2012 at 9:48 am (roleplaying-games)

You can find the document we used over here, but it may change in the near future: https://semielgames.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/the-coyotes-of-chicago-playtest-document/

What follows is the playtest report I sent to Peter. He did not give any clear guidelines on what to include, so I gave him what impressions I had and what notes I made.

Report

Players: Four, each with experience both playing and running games.
Three have played together a fair deal, one has not played with the
rest of us. One wants to be the character player while others glance
around if anyone wants to do it, so picking roles happens painlessly.

I explained the rules and the setting. Going through them again, the
only mistake we did is that we rolled one die per token plus two dice,
so one less die than we should have. This is a pretty serious mistake
– my bad.

One things that was not clarified: Is this a modern game, or maybe
everything happens during the ’70 or ’80? This caused some confusion
to begin with, but we later settled on the modern period. One
adventure sheet also made this pretty clear, but since none of us had
read those prior to playing, we did not know.

Our Alex was sharp witted (etc.) and a thrill seeker. The player
selected plot hook #3. (The badassity and roundhouse kicks and “it’s
awesome to seek danger” caused amusement among the players.)

A note on the rules: With a shared adventure sheet, who gets tokens
when the shared key moments are introduced? We gave them to whoever
introduced the moment, and I think that is what the rules also say,
but not very explicitly.
When explaining what a motif is, you refer to “your high school
English class”. That’s pretty specific to some English-speaking
countries, I’d think. Nothing serious, but a thing you may want to be
aware of.

Among the world players we randomly distributed three adventure
sheets. Sheet #3 became shared. There was grumbling – why could we not
simply leave one sheet aside? (A rhetorical question, so feel free to
not answer.) We positioned ourselves around the table so that the
character player was on one side and the world players roughly on the
other, so that we could read the shared sheet.

The mystery sheets had a fair deal of stuff, so at least for me it was
difficult to master two of them. We (the world players) were confused
about who should start narration and how we should decide who speak
next. We hesitated a lot and, perhaps due to this, did not start with
the plot hook and character explained in sheet #3. Rather, we started
with Alex driving with a broken camera from some suburb towards the
university.

I omit most of the fictional events from this report and remark on
some particular things that caught our attention. I do have all the
danger rolls listed with their goals, dangers and bonuses.

Almost every scene was directly inspired by a key moment, even after
one or two players could earn no more tokens. A couple were logical
follow-ups to previous scenes.

Often we used the danger tokens as soon as we earned them. This did
not always happen and did not bother us particularly. Two of us did
hoard them a bit to make the final scenes more dangerous.

We, the world players, switched the narrator often and nobody tried to
hog the spotlight (unless it was me and the others did not mention
it). This made scenes with several side characters work quite well
when compared to one GM playing them all, and also gave the character
player the impression that we all knew what was happening behind the
scenes, which we of course did not. After the awkward beginning it
worked out very nicely.

I did not have a theory to begin with, and moving towards the end I
had to figure out something related to prions that change one’s
perception and that’s why coyotes and people see these floating balls
of light and follow them around.

Near the beginning we had some trouble determining the goals and
dangers. In particular, the goal was often to face some danger or to
figure out something. As the game progressed, we put more effort on
making the orthogonal (and maybe even orthonormal), but it was not
always the intuitive and easy thing to do, and required discipline.
Some guidelines or rules on setting better goals and dangers might be
valuable.
In particular, in one conflict the danger was that an air conditioner
was about to kill Alex and a the goal was to get Thomas away from
under it. Or the other way around. It did not matter, and making death
of Alex the stakes felt unsatisfactory. (Thomas did die but Alex
survived.)

I don’t think the character player ever selected a high roll for
bonus. This might have been due to our rules mistake, but even without
it I think the situation would have been similar. Maybe we made it too
dangerous and dark?

The final roll we used as a sort of epilogue. Alex was injected with
disease (so woke up only later), did manage to save the day (and get
tenure, etc.), and doctor Behrt disappeared, but an old and cunning
coyote appeared on the campus area. The mystery was never solved in
that we did not determine if people we actually changing into coyotes,
but there were plenty of hints to that direction.

As a world player I enjoyed solving the puzzle of what was happening,
and also of giving the other players ideas and prompts and seeing what
they did with them. One of the players, the one who got sheet #4, was
unsatisfied with it. It was just a bunch of random stuff. He used it
well but it could have been better. Maybe sheet #4 should have been
the shared mystery sheet? That might have worked out better.

Disclaimer

Peter compensated for the playtesting through villages.cc .

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