With the general rules and initial characters of Project Cassandra completed the next step in the development of the game has been playtesting, which began this week. I’d already identified a number of potential issues but rather than make immediate changes I held off to see how my players felt about the system. As expected some of those issues did pop up in game while I also identified a number of additional problems that I’d missed by just reading over the rules documents. The biggest change coming off of this first session was that a number of the skill trees needed reworking, both to make them flow more cleanly down the levels and to change some of the descriptions in order to prevent unneeded redundancy.
The biggest change that I hadn’t spotted prior to the session concerns difficulty levels, as depending on the situation a difficulty of 5 can be either impossible to achieve or too easy to achieve. The first of those, being impossible, arises when a PC lacks any relevant skills and therefore can’t roll more than 3 successes on their base dice pool. In these situations it is therefore impossible to reach a 5 (though 4 successes can be reached by taking a condition). When writing the rules I thought that wouldn’t be an issue as high difficulties would be relatively rare and restricted to extreme situations. What I hadn’t factored in, however, was two things. Firstly how well the players managed to apply their skill trees (thus making me instinctively increase the number of difficulty 4+ rolls) and secondly how powerful premonitions (which allow players to reroll failed dice) are.
With that in mind my issue is how to handle it. I’m not keen to change the way premonitions work as they fit in nicely with the scenario and setting of the game. So instead I need to have a way of allowing unskilled rolls to achieve 4+ successes from only 3 dice. My first thought is some sort of explosion mechanism, but I’m unsure of whether d6’s explode too often for the system. Guess that’s where the playtesting comes in.
- The PCs (Sarsin, Jones and Whitford) awoke in the early morning with another shared premonition: Fire engulfing all they could see, a silhouetted figure stepping forward. On their chest is a five pointed star, which changes into the stars and stripes then into the logo of the Joint Research Division.
- Realising the power is out in their living quarters (in the project unit) they discover that the electrical supply has been sabotaged. Whitford spots somebody on the other side of a locked door and gets flashbacks to the premonition. Second later said individual throws a firebomb at the door which starts going up in flames.
- Faffing ensures with Jones first rescuing some of her research notes (concerning the role of a major arms dealer in influencing politicians) then suggesting they try and put the fire out. Said fire then blows through the windows, injuring Whitford.
- The group finally escape through a skylight, Jones spots a car driving off in the distance. The group wait for the emergency services to arrive and hope others will escape from the fire. Nobody does.
- After the fire service arrive the group discover that they are near Winston, Tennessee and that everybody believed the army base they are on had been shut down a decade ago.
- After the police arrive all three are arrested on suspicion of arson, trespassing on government property and murder (they’d told the firefighters others had been in the building). The cops suspect Whitford may have escaped from a psychiatric ward as he’s dressed in his pyjamas and carrying a tool box.
- At the police station Jones tries calling Corporal Molly Wick, an attaché to the JRD. She eventually returns the call, claiming not to know Jones before warning them that they need to get out and hide.
- The group hatch their escape plan: Jones teleports the keys for the cells to her while Sarsin slows time down around the duty officer. Recovering their gear takes longer than expected and Sarsin is forced to knock out the officer.
- The group escape in a stolen police car but are forced to pull in for fuel at a truckstop / diner (from the initial questions) outside of town. End of session.