I’ve been making a lot of progress on rem, but there’s still so much more to go.  I’m really looking forward to GenCon.

rem pitch
rem is a psychological horror roleplaying game that utilizes a character wheel to give immediate tangible feedback and create the impression of visible character deterioration.  rem gives players the choice to work together or betray their allies as they face their fears and uncover their fates.  rem characters descend into complete and utter madness all while discovering an island lake resort turned wintery hell.

(HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT?!  All nice an’ neat in a cute little package.  AW SNAP!)

playtest overview (02)
The most important thing that I learned from this playtest is that not all players are created the same.  This playtest was last Saturday.

In this playtest, I had (two) players: Jeff and Lacey.

Player RPing history: Jeff has roleplayed Dungeons and Dragons before (completely different part of the roleplaying spectrum from rem, though) and Lacey had only roleplayed once, a week earlier.  I used a Mouseguard/Rats of NIMH/The Rescuers overlay so Lacey would feel comfortable with playing.  (There’s something about playing mice that just reels the chicks in.)  I also came to the conclusion that one of the core strengths of this system is that not only does it work for horror, but it also works for various other genres.

A little background information on our girl, Lacey.  Lacey, in real life, is a complete pacifist.  Doesn’t like physical violence or verbal conflict.  This includes simulated violence from video games, television, and movies.  These traits make her not only an endearing friend but a valuable roleplayer.  Right off the bat I knew that my conflicts had to be first and foremost, low key.  What I didn’t realize until we actually roleplayed, was that Lacey would actively attempt not to use violence to solve conflicts.  She would either try to talk characters down, help mice folk get away from the situation, or find help elsewhere.  Jeff, an inventor in-game, followed Lacey’s lead.  This was such an excellent opportunity to test out how different skills in the game could affect Threat.

The first conflict was the (two) characters racing to the mouse kingdom from their providential town.  It was dark, raining, and they were traveling in a contraption that Jeff’s character built.  The conflict scenario was that if they didn’t get to the kingdom quickly enough too much time would pass and the town would be destroyed.  So both characters did lots of fun stuff including busting out an umbrella so that the rain would not mess with their visibility.  Lacey’s character even made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so they would not get hungry.  (Awesome!) Not all conflicts have to be man v man.  Sometimes it can be man v nature.  Or man v belly.

The second conflict was the (two) characters walking in on a helpless mouse getting beat up by (two) rats.  This was the true test and Jeff n’ Lacey soared.  Lacey used Prowess to save the helpless mouse and run out of the room while Jeff used Social to intimidate the attackers with the new crossbow he built.  Lacey also used Social during the conflict to talk the attackers down and find help.  During the entirety of the confrontation, neither characters used violence.


The last conflict was the character arriving at the town as a cat had started to destroy it.  Lacey’s character ran around helping the other mice in the town to get to safety.  She also Assisted Jeff (making his rolls twice as effective).  At this point Jeff started to use Attack and soon defeated the cat.

problem (01)
At the end of the playtest I asked for criticism of the game and both Jeff and Lacey offered (two) things.

(one) Characters were too good.  (two) Make stronger enemies

The NPC’s were too easily dispatched creating the impression that PC’s were uber powerful.  This was the exact opposite of the problem I had in my previous playtest.

I identified (three) things contributing to this.

The first reason was the lowered amount of Threat of each encounter.  This decision was a direct response from the last playtest.  In my mind, if I lowered the Threat, it wouldn’t make the encounters so difficult.

Second, was lowering the Threat Level of NPC’s after each success.  For instance, if a guard-mouse had started out with (six) Threat, and one of the characters made a success against him, it would be reduced to (five) and so on and so forth.  The NPC would now have to roll at this reduced Threat.  This originally appealed to me because it made the encounter dynamic.  You could see the threats become weaker with more you chipped at it.  I’m still partial to this idea, however, I need to find a solution that makes the NPC’s a challenge while making the confrontation dynamic.

Third, and most important, was resource management of the Energy.  Unfortunately, this is not as cut and dry as the others.  There are several layers to this resource management problem and it was becoming a huge issue that I needed to solve.

Because I nixed the Specialization rule from the previous playtest, I decided to allot as much starting Energy as they had a specific faculty.  (i.e. They have (x) Body they receive (x) Energy) Like I said before, Energy is an auto-success, so one of the characters started off with (four) Energy right off the bat.

Energy can be earned in a couple ways.  First was rolling a certain number on the D10.  This meant with every roll they had a (ten) percent chance of getting an energy.  Second was fulfilling their Talents.  Talents are special traits that motivates a character to do something.  For Lacey it was helping people and for Jeff it was inventing.  When either of them successfully fulfilled their Talent, they were rewarded with an Energy.  Lastly, was during intermissions they would receive (one) energy and (one) Trust.  So once again, I had players with copious amounts of Energy.

They lost energy by fear checks or failing rolls.  When a character failed a roll, they could use an Energy to not only succeed at the roll, but to also flip a disabled facet.

With the combination of lowered Threat of encounters, the dynamic Threat reduction, and incredible amount of Energy they accumulated, it’s not hard to see why it was so easy.  But it’s always easier to identify a problem in retrospect.

resolution (01)
The biggest change will be the amount of Energy a character can start off with in the beginning.  I’ve decided with the next playtest they will start off with (one) Energy.

Also, in the next playtest I’m going to introduce different Threat level monsters and see how easily they are dispatched.  This should give me a good measure of what creatures to throw out at the beginning to the climax and eventual fall of the story.

I also changed failing checks.  When characters fails, it is two fold.  Failing the roll is the first.  Disabling their tile is second.  They must use (one) Energy for each action.

I’m still going to keep the Talents and rolling on a certain number though.  This reinforces rolling the dice as well as makes characters unique.

I should be doing another playtest this week.  So I’ll make sure to update then too.

playtest quotes
We’re waving to the people we pass, so we make more friends!” -Lacey

Am I the first person to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a roleplaying game?” -Lacey

Did that just go down my shorts?” -Jeff

The Excel-o-Cart!” -Jeff


~ by amymgarcia on June 23, 2011.

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