Impressions after my first game yesterday:
- Rules: I have never played as a GM and I have only played on game of DnD 20 years ago. That being said, the setting was well-written (fun to read!) and the rules were simple enough such that I was able to play my first game with friends less than one hour after receiving the PDF. The mechanics are simple enough to learn quickly, and less tedious than DnD calculations-yet potentially even deeper in terms of all the different consequences that might result. (I wished the book had more examples of what things can happen with bonus successes or failures. I often didn't know what to offer them as a bonus sometimes, but they were all very excited when they rolled any additional 6's. I need more ideas!)
- Character Creation: I had the PDF up on my TV and everyone had lots of fun discussing their characters. Choosing an Iconic Item, Anchor, Problem and Drive was really fun-and not overly complex (no compendiums or tables to lookup).
- Character Sheets: Strongly suggest printing them out vs. using blank paper. It really helps to see what Skill choices are available actions. Playing with friends who have never played an RPG before led to many situations where they kept asking "what are my choices? what can I do?".
- Scenario: Summer Break and Killer Birds. I printed out the scenario and had only about 5 minutes to prep before the game started. Even still, it was manageable. I would read ahead while the group was figuring out decisions or sometimes learn something only when they learned it themselves. I do wish there were more action/consequences and description texts for each location/room. I would have really helped a first time GM like myself if there was more text for me to read aloud or more sample choices. Lastly, I felt the conclusion of the story was a little anti-climactic-what impact did the kids have in the end?
- Trouble: The overall difficulty level seems too low. Since you can't die, it's hard to raise the stakes-especially with all the different options for re-rolls: Luck, Push Yourself, Pride. With 4+ players, how can you raise the stakes/difficulty level? (Also, how can you roll for a "team" action? I did things like when lifting a heavy bar, they needed 3 successes as a team to get it off. The players really enjoyed rolling together like that.)
- Awarding XP: I'm confused by how to award XP fairly and how quickly characters should level up. So, after the game, I asked everyone what things they achieved they felt they should get an XP for. They went around the table complimenting each other ("remember when Sussy threw that meatball perfectly to stun the bird? lol She saved the day!") and recounting their favorite moments in the game. They LOVED this part.
- Everyday Life - This was problematic for us. Everyday Life wasn't that interesting for the players and they weren't interested in exploring it after the Mystery. Perhaps with some deep preparation, we could come up with a prologue and epilogue in everyday life that would be interesting, but it would really help if the Mystery had some sample everyday life stories to explore. Everyday life wasn't interesting to our players compared to the Mystery itself. I could see after multiple games, unless there is a very strong reason so, our players would want to continue to skip these phases.
- Transportation: Similarly, while fun the first couple of times, it became tedious for the kids to have to figure out transportation from location to location. They spent more time figuring out how to change locations than in the actual locations/showdown itself.
Overall: Considering I had less than 1 hour to skim the PDF and only 5 minutes to prepare the Mystery, we had a GREAT time! We started with 2 players and then 2 more joined mid-game. We were able to create new characters and backstories within minutes and continue onward without a hitch. Having it on the TV really helped as we were also able to Google sample imagery (ex. goshawk) or show the magnetrine ship from the PDF. It would be awesome to have a "digital reference guide" just of imagery to print out or put on a large screen. The game is really fun-even with people who have never played before. My biggest request would be that Mysteries have more description text and pre-written choice/consequences (as a newbie, I need more hand-holding)-and an actual conclusion or epilogue/return to everyday life. It just kind of...ended without a fight, just someone running away.
Lastly, without spoilers, one of the biggest highlights was when they had to figure out how to get to Mat's house. The Popular Kid got on the Troublemaker's back, who then got on her skateboard and grabbed the back of a logging truck and skated all the way there. First roll was to sneak up behind the truck. And then a 3 difficulty level of actually holding onto it, something a 12 year old would find near impossible...and she rolled 6 sixes!