How does DramaSystem play at a convention?

I was wondering how a DramaSystem one-shot would play at a convention. Would you be able to make it work with pre-gens? What kind of handouts would you use to introduce people completely new to the game? Has anyone come up with a cheat sheet/introduction for new players?


  • edited September 2013
    Although I had never played Dramasystem before I ran Hillfolk twice at the London Indie RPG Meetup last Saturday in both the afternoon and evening sessions. Both sessions went well, but being one-shots I would say there are definite changes I will make to the set up when I pitch them next month.

    For one thing you need to strip out most of the world building. Limit it the name of the tribe and their main rivals. Develop other details only if they come up in play.

    Also be careful of the theme. If the tribe's main rivals are weaker than or on par with the tribe and you run the Hunger theme it seems likely they will immediately choose to fight, leading to an inevitable procedural scene early on, which is not really what you want in a one-shot. I started one session by immediately telling the players there would be a wedding and to choose roles and characters around that premise. We decided the details of the wedding in play.

    People seemed swamped by choices when creating characters. For everyone's first time I found trying to remember about dramatic poles a bit too much to handle as well. In future, I intend to create simple Apocalypse World-style playbooks based on the tribal roles, maybe with portraits cropped from the Hillfolk PDF, that allow the players to select names, desires and relationships, but leaving out the dramatic poles for their first game (a shame, I know).

    For the second session I also got rid of the procedural tokens since their management only really comes into play over several sessions. It wasn't ideal but I'll work out a tighter fix for next time.

    I had a lot of fun. I intend to keep running it as one-shots until I can get enough interest to run a full series/season outside of the group. I'll let you know what I come up with.
  • I've just runned it on monday as a convention event (after some playtests at home), using a somewhat different approach. We had 14 players divided to three group by playset preferences (I asked each GM to choose and prepare two playsets, to demonstrate the flexibility and out-of-the-boxness of the thing). One group played a Maroons, one at The Whatleys, and my group played Alma Mater Magica.

    I've printed the following staff:

    A. List of the token economy

    B. List of the suggestions for setting a scene from BotS

    C. An example half-baked relations web for each prepared playset, with about ten suggested characters in each. I found that some players are wary to set the very close relationships that drive DramaSystem and found that such premade Without any dramatic poles or other information. As opposed to the previous poster I created a suggested external framework and gave them to define their internal drives.

    D. Nutshell brief to the playest and a set starting situation for each. To give an immediate focus and direction. I found that in one shot games it works better than theme.

    Playset: Intelligence
    Starting situation: All the cast members are members of the same rich household, with enough androids to maintain a secret sentience club. The family is facing bankrupcy and on verge of selling most of the androids.
    Example characters:
    The Patriarch - Anti-Android politician in financial troubles
    The Daughter - Recently aware of the homeborn sentience
    The Nanny - Old nanny model, belowed by the kids. Recently awaked
    The Refugee - An android purchased by radicals to be publicly destroyed, escaped and hidden in the basement
    The Prodigal - Kitchen robot and artist extraordinaire

    Then we played
    1. A first round to choose a character (or invent a new one, or combine two characters into one)
    2. A second round about Dramatic Poles and Emotional desire. About a three minutes of Q&A for each player.
    3. First play round. Each player choose something he wants from someone, get a reason why cannot his want be fulfilled and then sets a scene petitioning him for something included in the said need. In the first turn each player must petion a PC not yet petitioned.
    4. In the end of the first complete playround, each player recieves one more token to faciliate using them
    5. Play as usuall
    6. After the final game round, another micro round or two of players quickly narrating flash-scenes of "In the next episode of ******", of scenes they could set in a campaign.

    Also: We never ranked abilities nor used the procedural mechanics. I never found myself wanting for them.
    Also Also: All the games went really well. Got pictures to prove it. May expand this for a full blown AAR atricle.
  • I took Tom's Pleasant's suggestion and made 9 Hillfolk playbooks. I plan to begin testing them out in a week or two; I would really appreciate any feedback that folks have. I am most interested in: How are my example Dramatic Poles? I think that good dramatic poles are the most important part of a character and so wanted to provide some meaty ones to get people going.

    Download playbooks here.
  • I really like those playbooks. Your Dramatic Poles are solid. I think you'll have to talk through them anyhow since it's such an important part of the economy, but having example Poles would have improved both one-shots I've been a part of.

    I don't know if I'd advertise the Creative Commons version as being free. It's a bad learning document (as it says up front). But I'm not Pelgrane, so.
  • @Magogue

    I noticed that if they do not use it right away, players may just forget, ignore or change their mind about the "What I want / Why I cannot have it" part during play. So it looks like a waste of time sometime.

    So I particularly like your step 3 : « 3. First play round. Each player choose something he wants from someone, get a reason why cannot his want be fulfilled and then sets a scene petitioning him for something included in the said need. In the first turn each player must petion a PC not yet petitioned. »
  • I had a chance to test my playbooks at Minnesota's Con of the North. They worked well!
  • If Pelgrane published a companion playbook with premade characters for every settings from "Hillfolks" to "Blood on the snow", I'll certainly buy it. It is nice to do one-shots without having to build the characters.
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