zephyranthe: (Guess it turned out well.)
Fie Claussell ([personal profile] zephyranthe) wrote in [community profile] notasstrange 2017-07-02 06:49 pm (UTC)

pretend this isn't like a week late shhhh (also 1/2)

Hey mods! First of all, let me thank you guys for running this murdergame. I had a lot of fun playing with everyone and the mod team was a big part in making a comfortable atmosphere for the players. I especially appreciated how all my (many, many) stupid questions were indulged over Discord. To make this more organized and easier to read, I’ve split things up into sections, both with positive and negative points.

+++


Setting:
I was amongst the others who were canonblind to The Elder Scrolls, so particular specifics (like the scroll itself), escaped my notice as having been from an existing series. And I liked it! It was pretty fun putting together the pieces from the hints the Intercessor dropped. With that said, I do think that relying so heavily on a pre-existing setting does run the risk of having players (canon familiar or not) figure out a lot of details OOCly; maybe not a big deal in some respects, but it makes the potential for infomodding greater, even accidentally.

Regarding the actual locale, I think you guys did a pretty good job with the rooms provided, although I still think that the first area was still slightly lackluster, in that there wasn’t as much to interact with. I do think that looking over where people tend to gravitate for their top levels gives a good idea of what locations were easier to play with; for example, the conservatex was pretty popular even in subsequent weeks while the armory tended to get very little traffic aside from the first week. Hopefully this can help you guys plan out the rooms more in R2, especially while leaving out places like the boilery which didn’t seem to contribute much to the setting aside from more atmosphere. Actually, the only instances I can really recall the boilery being used were primarily during Futaba’s exploration and when Fie and Maglor tested out dust explosions there, where it was picked for the latter especially because the boilery seemed otherwise useless.

As Des has already mentioned, investigating new areas felt worthwhile, because there was quite a lot scattered about the premises. In my opinion, the investigations in the first week with the mysterious items helped make it more interesting, considering there was to be no trial that week. I feel like this was a significant strength, and it worked well for a game of this size to allow characters to contribute, particularly for ones that don’t do as much during trials.


Powers:
The powers really were an interesting concept, and I believe they were essentially the selling point - the major feature that made 15 Strangers stand out from other murdergames. In practice, I think that their incorporation in the game was a little hit-and-miss and if this feature is intended to be carried over into subsequent rounds, a slight rehaul of the system is necessary.

For one thing, since characters were never told what their powers were and how they were used, it was harder to incorporate some of those in the weekly logs and such. Don’t get me wrong - I understand how it can be fun to have characters discover their powers, and Eric’s sparkles are a good example of that. However, I don’t think it could have been that easy for all of them. Using Fie’s power as an example, I feel like I would have had to really contrive some sort of circumstance to make her accidentally activate it, particularly since it requires skin contact and acts more like a sort of charisma than anything else. Others, like Jr. and Laslow’s powers have very specific conditions to activate, which can again make it difficult to just “accidentally” discover these without specifically plotting around it. While perhaps that may have been the intent to encourage players to plan things out with each other, I personally felt like it was kind of too much trouble to begin with, particularly when Fie wasn’t the type to use that kind of power anyways. And this leads into my next point, actually.

I feel like using RNG to distribute the powers wasn’t the best idea. While you got funny things like Harley’s pyrokinesis, there were also powers that were wholly unsuited for the character. Again, let’s use Fie as an example: she’s not the manipulative type, and while I didn’t mention this specifically on her app, she also isn’t the type of person to engage often in physical contact, so it’s unlikely she would have ever used her power, even in a case planning scenario. It would have been better to try and fit the powers to a character’s personality so that at least the player can make use of it while being IC. One of the suggestions I’ve heard from others who stalked this game were to make the powers more like roles that come with a manual; that way, the character would at least know what they can do, and their abilities could remain secret if they wished. Another suggestion was to include a section in the application giving the players an option of choosing if they wanted the power to fit the character’s personality or not; this way, they’d be allowed to play with their power a certain way.

There was also another advertised feature of the powers that didn’t particularly pan out: the extra hints. It was pretty sad to me to see that feature wasn’t used after the first trial because I thought it was really neat! There wasn’t really any pressure to collect them, but at the same time it could help push things along while simultaneously providing a reason for players to get their characters to use their powers. I understand that it can be difficult to write a case considering this (outside of Ai’s and probably Futaba’s power, which probably could’ve been applicable in all of them) but it was still a little sad to see that it wasn’t used, particularly when the last 3 trials seemed mod-written anyways.

And while it wasn’t much of an issue in this round since Ai’s player was inactive, it does make it unfair for some players who end up with a power that seems heavily slanted towards being used for the extra hints, since presumably dead bodies aren’t really expected to appear much outside of murder cases or fatal punishments. I suppose a comparable example would be giving a role only meant for specific situations and having that situation essentially never come up? Anyways, just some thoughts if powers are something that’s being considered in later rounds.


NPCs and Mod Characters:
There ended up being a lot of NPCs, didn’t there? When the game started, there was only the Intercessor, but by the time the game ended, there were about 7 allied ones (although 2 were dead, of course), and obviously Elenwen who was the main adversary. Considering the size of our game and the survivor pool being composed of 7 people (one of which was played by a mod), having about half of the people in the final trial being NPCs wasn’t really a good breakdown.

I understand that Babette and Farkas were there because we didn’t hit the character cap and I believe that you guys mentioned previously that it was preferable if you didn’t have to resort to that. I don’t know if it would have been possible to change the plot slightly to accommodate for the fewer numbers (which would have been the best case scenario), but at the very least, they didn’t make it into the survivor pool, which was for the best.

Still, I personally found that the second case was unsatisfying due to an NPC culprit, and as noted by Nadia, we had very little attachment to Babette and Farkas, so their deaths didn’t feel like they had much emotional impact at all. And considering that you guys decided to have an additional case after that with Raphtalia as the victim, I feel like it could’ve been possible to have a PC kill off the two inactives for the second case and have both Babette and Farkas killed by an NPC for the third (considering that gimmicks do occur for the last “normal’ case). Alternately, it may have been better to not have tried and stretch the game out to 3 cases, if running low on PCs was something you guys were worried about.

I also agree that the addition of the 3 characters from the other game felt unnecessary, and bloated the NPC cast. From the journals that were scattered around, we had already gotten a good idea that there was another game occurring in parallel with this one, and I’m not entirely sure what the 3 characters were supposed to add. In addition, I do feel that their introduction at the end of the 3rd case seemed pretty forced; it felt to me that the PCs were godmoded into being completely helpless just so Camilla, Linkara and Santa could come to the rescue, which is a little offputting when you consider that it should be the PCs staying in the spotlight.

With that said, I did like the Intercessor as an NPC overall, and it was interesting getting some CR with them especially considering they were originally seen as someone somewhat adversarial due to their role in the game. I didn’t expect that the characters would get so attached to the Intercessor in such a short amount of time, and I don’t mean that in a bad sense. I do feel like there was some inconsistency in the way they were used, however, and towards the end they definitely seemed to become more of the plot device used to explain things to the PCs; this was particularly evident in the last trial, where it seemed the inclination was to ask the NPCs to help explain certain concepts or items. I’ll talk about that more later specifically for the Endgame section, though.

One last thing I have to mention is the participation of mod characters in investigations. While I understand the desire may have been to keep the ball rolling (particularly since the game was fairly slow for a murdergame), it honestly would have been best to not have it happen in subsequent rounds. For one thing, I do think that having a character check out a location first tends to act as a bit of a deterrent to others who may be interested in investigating that area; for the most part, I believe that people want to be courteous and not butt in on others threads, so by occupying a location it can put off people who would normally jump to investigate the area, if it were not being checked out already. For another, it’s basically giving freebies to the players, and while maybe this might be acceptable for the first case, it shouldn’t be happening in endgame; after all, how are the players supposed to feel like they earned their ending if they had some things handed out to them on a silver platter? It also feels a little… fake, for lack of a better word. It’s already a given that the mods would know the details of the investigations, so having this “search” occur as if that wasn’t the case was slightly off-putting to me.


Pacing:
First of all, I’d like to say that you guys deserve credit for putting together elements of an existing canon in a way that would be intriguing and workable in a murdergame format. I could feel the amount of effort and love that was pouring into writing up the plot. However, I feel like the main thing working against you guys was the way it was paced. A lot of the bigger plot points were all but left to the end, and many were in sprawling Google Docs that were honestly very dense to go through, particularly when your players weren’t familiar with much of the series’ jargon.

While I liked that we got some plot elements via all of the items that dropped in from the other game, it feels perhaps some of that could have been replaced with stuff that would be more relevant to things that came up in endgame. It feels like a particular issue here because while I had already figured out some stuff about the setting OOCly by around week 3 or so, there was no possible way to translate any of that into something IC; I think it would have smoothed things over for endgame if you tried to include more general lore that the characters could actually make use of and digest earlier instead of having to rely on a huge infodump in the last investigation.

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