[Breaking the Ice] Post GenCon indie love (Part 1)

This was cross-posted to the Forge. You might find the discussion there of interest.

Indie love

For my birthday, I was given a lot of money to take to GenCon to spend on games. This made me very happy and allowed me to purchase many games that I might have otherwise left on the rack. As a result, I am now feeling the need to justify these purchases with Actual Play! Actually, I’m not really all that concerned; I think that I’ll be able to get most of these games to the table rather easily.

In particular, I purchased several RPGs that I knew would interest my wife, Crystal. For the record, the list is Steal Away Jordan, Breaking the Ice, Shock: and Sign in Stranger. So, on Monday, she and I decided to relax a bit and play a game of Breaking the Ice.

As an aside, do I get an award for the first GenCon attendee to have post GenCon play?

Indie love, or “Are we actually capable of being light-hearted?”

Crystal and I started with a brief discussion about the genre. We decided that we didn’t want anything too heavy or painful. For Crystal, this actually included Romantic Comedy. This makes sense to me. With rare exception, Romantic Comedies center around a lie and can be exceedingly painful to watch. Meet the Parents, I’m looking at you.

In the end, I said, “You want a Meg Ryan romance.” She laughed and agreed. So that was the mood that we claimed we were going to have for the game.

Then we worked out the Switch. This is one aspect of the players’ lives which will be shared by the characters. However, each player will play the character that represents the other player’s aspect. The easiest example is a gender switch, where a male player plays the female and vice versa. We didn’t really feel like going that route, at least with this game. We both commented that our creative energies were low, and trying to portray a member of the opposite gender would have been too much work.

In the end, we settled on a job switch. Crystal’s character was a busy IT professional, while my character was a stay-at-home dad with a home business. Still fairly innocuous, right?

Then we ran through the Word Webs. One player chooses his character’s favorite color and writes it down on a sheet of paper. Then he thinks of another word that is connected to his favorite color and writes it down on the paper, connected by a line. Then the other player writes down another word, either related to the favorite color or to the word that the first player thought of. You go back and forth until you have written down twelve words. You do this for both characters and then use the resulting words to brainstorm starting Traits for the characters.

So, for example, my character’s favorite color was black. So I wrote down “Night” connected to “Black”. Then Crystal wrote down “Moonlit”, connected to night. Then I wrote down “Frost”, connected to moonlit….And so on.

I’ll pause here to state how very awesome this is. Once we were done, we had more raw material to use for brainstorming than we actually needed. This technique might even be worth stealing for other games as well.

And it was at this point that the game dove into seriousness.

One of the strands of my Word Map was this: “Black–death–depression–drugs–pharmacy.” Suddenly, my character came sharply into focus. He’s a drug dealer. That’s what his “home business” is.

Everything else fell rapidly into place.

Character: Lester

Player: Seth

Favorite Color: black

Conflict: Illegal Job

Starting Traits:

Self: poor, black, allergic to cats

Work: drug dealer

Play: amateur astronomer, weight lifter

Character: Candy Cane

Player: Crystal

Favorite Color: Pink

Conflict: very busy

Starting Traits:

Self: passionate, white, wealthy, parents were hippies, anti-drug, naïve about men

Work: Army reservist, programmer

Play: karateka, landscaper, herbalist

I love the character sheet for Breaking the Ice. Or, should I say the characters sheet? For those of you who don’t know, both characters in Breaking the Ice are written on the same sheet, with their Attraction score and Compatabilities written in between them. Elegant and thematic. Plus, as an interesting emergent property, the sheet works best if the players are sitting next to each other. Added bonus!

So we have the poor black drug dealer falling for the rich white career woman. This couldn’t end well at all. At some point in here, I laughed and said, “Are we actually capable of being light-hearted?” So much for Meg Ryan.

Or so I thought.

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