Friday, 10 June 2011

Rate the game - Eternal Companions

I'm presenting, with my go-GM, a game at the Pheno convention this weekend.  Having just come up with some elements that make up a good roleplaying game, I’d like to test them (and encourage reviews of our game).

So, if you have played Eternal Companions, please feel free to rate it :)

Eternal Companions
To discover you are immortal, wouldn’t that be grand? To discover you haven’t aged since 1834. Nothing about you has changed.
Yet it’s a sad thing to see all you love and hold dear fade away. To see strong families wither and die, buildings destroyed simply to make way for progress. Technology develops, and builds on itself, all the while becoming more confusing and further from understanding.
Each of you hides in her own way. Helen hides in the present, pretends she isn’t immortal at all, has a husband and tries for a family. Margaret hides in history, pretending two hundred years have not passed. Agnes hides in the future, hoping for something better will come - and soon. Elizabeth hides in feigned innocence, an ageless mind trapped in a child’s body. And then there’s Hazel, who hides in money. Such companions for an eternal life.
You don’t meet so often anymore. You celebrated the end of the 19th century and then the 20th. Almost everything you know has changed. But the tradition of helping each other through the funerals hasn’t. All the people are gone, but the building remains.
134 Goldbright Circuit. The Athenaeum Club. One of the most important buildings. To all of you. Tonight is the wake. Tomorrow it is demolished.
A collaborative storytelling game for five accidental immortals.
The collaborative storytelling style invites an increased contribution to setting, character and story from the players.

If you played the game, please rate the following.

For Eternal Companions:
Did you like its collaborative style?

Was the premise well structured?

Were the characters interesting to play and interact with?

Was the GM good?

Was there sufficient stuff to fill the time with?

Any comments or critiques on the game?  I’d love to hear them, put 'em in the comment box :)


  1. No spoilers. My character sheet was a bit scary at first read with not a lot of background to the current situation. But then we got to make up the background, justifying the current situation, which gives the players full confidence in the motivations and ambitions of the characters. Then when we played out the current situation, knowing what the characters were about made the game fascinating and exciting to play out.

  2. I do have a question on this game, and that is why there was no independent mechanic for conflict resolution? We had the chips, but it wasn't explicit that other players could award them (we did have a fire alarm in the middle), but I am curious on why some other mechanic (simple or otherwise) was not employed for making decisions by players/GM?

  3. Heya, Dan,

    First up, I should say that the player control of the poker chips should have been explicit; if it wasn't, that was very much my fault. (In the playtest that I ran, J. called me on not pushing this enough, so it's actually doubly my fault!)

    As far as a conflict resolution system went, we were trying very hard to work towards consensus rather than conflict. If the characters came to blows (engaged in a staredown; tried to outsmart each other), then the outcome of the conflict would be far less important than the reasons and emotions behind the conflict. Those would be what we would be trying to draw out.

    If the players came into conflict, we'd look to narrative means to overcome it - whether that was trying to integrate both viewpoints somehow, or asking the rest of the group, or even offering up a coin toss or dice roll. The emphasis was on story, and on collaborative construction of the story - it's possibly a false worry, but I feared that setting up a win/lose situation might disengage the "loser" from the particular story element.

    J. may have a different perception, but from my point of view, the answer to your question is "we didn't think we'd need one."

  4. Hi Dan,
    What Stu said. In reality I only had one instance of play which required conflict resolution. One chr wrestled another for possession of a token. I paused the game and asked the winning player to give the losing player a poker chip. After clarifying what I meant, the two players negotiated what would make a better story and one handed over a poker chip. We went back into play and continued with the consequences.

  5. What Christopher said...

    I'd like to say my session for this game was definitely one of the best of my [first] Pheno experience. Well done!

  6. "As far as a conflict resolution system went, we were trying very hard to work towards consensus rather than conflict. If the characters came to blows ... then the outcome of the conflict would be far less important than the reasons and emotions behind the conflict."
    Honest question: If the outcome is unsatisfactory (consensus or otherwise), do you think the emotions behind the conflict would be more or less satisfying? Or about the same?

  7. I enjoyed the game, the scenario was interesting and I liked the way that focus was shifted to character interaction and the way themes were channeled in the game.

    Characters were chosen at the start of session and Jacinta (who ran my session) gave a brief pitch and whiteboard presentation of the characters.

    Characters: The character sheets were presented in 2 parts, an outside in single page view of the character and a more internal monologue traditional character sheet (this seemed to me to be mostly written by Stu). The external viewpoint gave me a meta level appreciation of the way Stu and Jacinta wanted to tell their story. This was important because I was playing with a scratch team, none of whom I knew or had played with before. Stu's prose was up to his usual level and gave a great feel for the character I was playing as well.

    Gameplay: My session seemed to start a little slow, though that was the player dynamic I think or lack thereof. Jacinta compensated well, asking questions and getting us players to buy into the scenario by creating facts and collaborating with each other. I've seen Jacinta do this before and it's always impressive and she seems to be getting better at it. We didn't really run into any real conflicts however the negotiating mechanic seemed to move us away from deep character immersion. I'm curious if this happened in other sessions.

    Overall, one of the most enjoyable games for me for the con and I have no hesitation recommending it should it ever be run again.

  8. Dan - what we wanted was for the satisfaction to be found in exploring the emotional context. The conflict is more important than the outcome, sort of thing.

    If the outcome is unsatisfactory for the character - well, what's important that we understand where and what that dissatisfaction is. Largely, exploring the characters various dissatisfactions is where the game actually is.

    If the outcome is unsatisfactory for the player, we (as GMs) need to step out and work out why. The other players (as co-creators) need to be drawn into addressing the issue. We would be working towards a win-win narrative solution.

    There's no reason you couldn't do either in the presence of a conflict resolution system, except that I feel you'd be looking at "How do you feel about the outcome of the conflict?" rather than "How do you feel about the conflict itself?"

  9. @Rob,

    You're right and it was something I noticed over a lot of the sessions. People playing as both a character and as a co-creator of the game meant that deep character immersion dives were cut (as a player thought of something to add in) or simply didn't appear anywhere near as often as they do in other games.

    I'm unsure whether this is because the style was new to a lot of players (and whether it would enter the game more smoothly with experienced players) or it is simply something that gets sacrificed in this style of game.

    I'd want to run a few games in this style before committing one way or another.

  10. May be the first all-female char game I’ve played; if not will be the first all-female char game I’ll remember playing. As with Poppa, very much enjoyed the collaborative relationship/conflict/story/world-building.

    The difference between Eternal Companions and Poppa, however, was that AFAICR more was defined about the character in EC. Don’t think I was particularly successful in capturing the character as laid out on the sheet, particularly the interpersonal views and attitudes on the second part (and hence the consequent interpersonal interaction) - I work a lot better with having a LOT of time to reflect on the character between multiple rereads. Jacinta/Stu: as the creators, to what degree did you want/expect/hope/fear that players would conform to or diverge from what was on the sheet?

    One thing that might have been useful for both mechanics and character interplay would have been a round of endowments of another character set (for example) between the two accidents -- “What’s something that ____ did that affected her relationship with you?”, “What’s a way in which ____ changed that affected her relationship with you?”, etc., to get players acclimatised to making offers, to experience the benefits of passing rather than hoarding chips, and to draw some background/attitudes off character sheets and into the game.

  11. Heya, Taro,

    I guess as in any game, we wanted to provide enough structure for people to engage with - but part of our experiment here was to see how little was needed to get a solid, satisfying story. We saw the player handouts as a skeleton to build on; we had absolutely no investment in what was the "right" way to play any of the characters. I saw an upbeat, on-top-of-it-all Hazel and a malevolent mastermind Lizzie, and both were within the scope of the game.

    That said, I think we'd have been disappointed if, I don't know, a group decided that the girls had become spandex-clad superheroes in the 60s, as that would be off-theme. We structured the game in a way that allowed us to keep reinforcing the themes of the game - with the support and active participation of the players.


  12. @ Taro.

    What Stu said.

    I like your ideas about a round of offerings, I'm thinking hard on the poker chip game atm.

  13. (Although my next con-game may be Angsty Edwardian Immortals Fight Crime in Swingin' Sixties London!)


Popular Posts