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William Shakespeare's Dracula, Session Four

Several weeks ago, our game of Annalise came to a sudden but satisfying end. In fact, I think the end was the most satisfying part about the game. We had brothers reconciled but divided, a ruler restored to his throne and family, a father and daughter reunited, and a marriage dissolved. All the sorts of things you'd hope for from Shakespeare.

I say the game ended suddenly because I didn't realize it was going to be the last session, even until forty-five minutes from the end. The other players brought to my attention, however, that we were dragging things out, and that perhaps the best thing to do was to push to the Confrontation and have it out with the vampire. That we came up with a marvelously cool idea of who the vampire was (which went against our earlier instincts) certainly helped.

Looking back on it, I think the parts of the game that I expected to work for us did. The problem was I didn't expect  other parts not to work for us. It did bring to light certain things about our play style that I wasn't aware of before, which is always good. And it's possible that it gave me the basis for a new game design. How that's for a twist ending?

Almost Here

The final arrangements are being made now, and the pre-order for A Penny For My Thoughts should open on Monday. We're targeting the first week of July for the release. This has me all kinds of excited.

Die-making For Penny

Fred informed me last Thursday that the he's ordered the proof for A Penny For My Thoughts. Once we review it and make any necessary changes (here's hoping there aren't any), we'll announce the ordering details. There aren't any hard dates yet, but I've already mentioned to Fred that my birthday is June 23, and that would be an awesome present. (I'm hoping for a PaulCon release.)

So spread the word: Penny is coming! I'll let you know more as I know it.

No, No, The Other Dracula

Because of the Jesusita Fire, we didn't play Annalise last night. (We're all fine, I just wasn't in the right mental state to play.) On Sunday, however, I did get in a game of Fury of Dracula. Our friend Mike was visiting from out of town, so we let him vamp it up, and he pretty much destroyed us. He made a very clever move near the beginning to hide a vampire on Cagliari, and while we realized it just in time to have a chance to stop it from a maturing, it came down to a 50-50 die roll. The roll went Mike's way, which netted him two victory points. A few turns later and he was up to three. We managed to track him down in Germany, but in order to stop him from slipping away to sea again, Mina had to attack him on the first turn of night. A few good card plays by Mike and bad luck on our side meant that she ended up in the hospital, Mike was up to five victory points, and two turns later he won.

I hadn't played for a while (according to the Geek, in almost three years), but Fury of Dracula remains a solid game. It was three hours of good fun. I wish, though, that the combat system was more manageable. The cheat sheets that give you the full combat matrix are useful, but it's still too cumbersome. I feel like they tried to span too much with one thing. Yes, it's nice to have the same mechanics to fight the minions and to fight Dracula. But should you? I suspect that if you trimmed the matrix down, you could make the fights seem much less like a crapshoot.

William Shakespeare's Dracula, Session Three

Our game of Annalise resumed last week. We wanted to get through at least two rounds of scenes, so we resolved to play faster. It worked, and I think the quality of the scenes stayed high. The ritual perambulation around Cyprus when Lucius and Cato recognized each other, the sudden (and perhaps ghostly) appearance of Caius, and the interplay between Flavia and Alexander at Aphrodite's shrine were all great work. Plus, we even hinted that there's a vampire!

The most notable features of the session, however, had nothing to do with the fiction. First, we started by borrowing a few warmup exercises from my improv troupe. We often have focus and energy problems at the very beginning of our games, and these seemed to help. We'd done this at least once before, and I suspect it will become a regular part of our routine.

More importantly, we had several situations during play when Ted was frustrated with the game system and we weren't really sure how to help out. We talked about it for a while afterward -- Ted and I ended up talking about it even more the next day before and after our business class -- and I think we got pointed in the right direction for a solution. The major issue seemed to be a lack of formal process for providing certain kinds of input. For example, what do you do if you have a cool idea for a scene you want to be in? In this case, it might work better for us if we treat Annalise like Primetime Adventures with a rotating Producer (meaning you pick the Storyguide and tell them your ideas for Focus, Agenda, and Location). In general, I think we need to let what Mouse Guard calls "table chatter" play a bigger role, as there are definitely spots where the game lacks a formal means of communicating these ideas.

Ted also had some fascinating observations about the social implications of a largely Karma-based resolution system. I think his analogy to Diplomacy is apt, and I'm curious to hear was he has to say about it this week.