Ran my first session of The Veil last night over Roll20.
Ran my first session of The Veil last night over Roll20. Three PCs, one of them quite familiar with PbtA, and two new to the engine.
The session generally went well. The Playbooks give enough flavor to develop a character, with plenty of open space to really discover who they are. The player characters were fun, interesting, and were each supported by the rules in engaging the scenario in interesting ways as their players saw fit.
The core game has a lot of promise, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
In our one-shot scenario, we had The Apparatus (Jam – pleasurebot), The Architect (Jam – corporate security), and The Honorbound (Jam – PI / information courier / Giri enforcer). We only played through a single scene, which started with violence, followed a rather amusing use of moves, and ended with the heroes subduing their attackers and poised to chase down whoever sent the crew after them.
The Apparatus – the restriction of The Apparatus to a single emotional state was fantastic. The player was able to springboard some really creative play off of that playbook element, and this led to some fun times.
In our one shot we didn’t get too much time to explore the Apparatus’ humanity. I think that aspect has a lot of promise to it; however, i also felt under-prepared by the beta document to delve too much into humanity. It hasn’t “clicked” for me yet.
The Architect – I found some difficulty implementing the subconscious aspects of The Architect, who rolled poorly often (which makes for interesting play!). Next time i run The Veil with an Architect in play, i’m going to include specific questions about the subconscious elements to help me develop at least a motivation and two or three moves for each element. That way, when they occur in game i have some framework to implement them consistently on-the-fly.
The presence of The Architect establishes a minimum baseline for how important The Veil and the digiscape are to these characters, and i found that useful. However, i also found myself at a loss for how to portray The Veil for the other characters; i think some experience in the system, getting my feet wet in The Veil, will help me there.
We also noticed that The Architect can use an Improvement to add a subconscious element – as i understand it, these elements largely manifest to undermine The Architect. is this correct? I definitely like the idea of players working to add colorful complications to their lives, but it seems like an expensive thing to add as an advancement, when instead it can come from the special move, or an MC move (presumably that’s within the MC’s authority when given the golden opportunity….).
The Honorbound – This playbook was a lot of fun, and its session-starting move provided a solid springboard for the first session. The playbook content helped really set the stage for the One Shot, and there was plenty of unexplored content that could be drawn on for further sessions.
I do find the playbook moves rather sparse for actions to distinguish the character, though. One of the default moves, Honor, comes into play only when you are reluctant to do your own duty. While this is a fun element to challenge the Honorbound on, if it happens routinely then that playbook is more about someone on the cusp of abandoning its honor code, than someone strictly enforcing it.
I tend to think The Art of the Pursuit would be a better default move, if it was rewritten to apply not just while actively on the hunt, but also when directly engaging them (i think this could be great to build up those encounters).
States vs. Stats – i think this mechanic is quite innovative, and was looking forward to see it in play. i did worry that it would be hard to explain, particularly to the players with no PbtA experience, but they took to it really, really well. The weakest link was my MCing around this – while i asked them about their emotions, i should have spent a little more time exploring the States when they made moves. There is clearly some fertile ground to explore the characters through this system.
We also didn’t get to any spikes in the game; even with The Apparatus. We spent a little longer than anticipated on character creation, and only played through a single scene. I’m interested to see how spikes play out, and think my players last night would have really made that a lot of fun as they spiked and had to choose how to alleviate it.
Final Thoughts – it’s a fun game, and i look forward to more experiences in The Veil. The book needs some editing, and i think the art assets could be immensely valuable in helping with inspiration (the pinterest gallery linked in Google+ was great for that, by the way!).
I also think i’ll create a list of “motivations” for NPCs, along with appropriate quirks and traits. in Dungeon World, the knacks and instincts charts have been invaluable to me, along with the Funnel World Physical and Personality traits. Similar tables to quickly give NPCs a little more life would be very handy.
That said, i think the implementation of Beliefs, and the discussions of Fictional Flags and Playbook Focus are fantastic tools to help the MC tailor responses and challenges for the players at the table.
Will definitely play again, and perhaps with this same cast of characters!