As they say, a plan never survives first contact with the enemy.
So I’m finally hunkering down to get playing BE. I feel like I have a fairly good grasp of the actual mechanics of play, but I’m still scratching my head over some issues that are probably more intent/design philosophy in nature. Following the board is hugely helpful but I can’t rely on my other 4-5 players to bother doing the same.
Issue 1: The PC population, with several followups
Okay, so at the end of world burning the group comes up with 3x FoN for the human side (by default) and 3x FoN for the Vaylen side. Everyone works out their beliefs and whatnot in public, yes? So the players are aware of each other’s beliefs and have free access to this information later in the game, right? It appears there really is no “secret information” at all in the game other than the GM’s maneuver action.
At some point in the book there’s an explanation of the GM’s starting artha (p.128), which is based on the total # of LPs on the player side. Elsewhere in the book there’s an implication that the players can make up more characters than simply the Figures of Note and whatever extra characters are required to give everyone something to play. Ie in a 4 player game you’ll have 3x FoN and 1x regular Joe.
Now I’m seeing several implications: the players could make even MORE characters than the bare minimum required to give everyone something to play, but the consequence of this is that you’ll probably give the GM even more artha. Is this correct?
I’m also wondering about actual in-play procedure for what happens when a FoN gets turned in a conflict scene or aced out as a result of a phase intent. Do you recalculate the GM’s artha by reducing the # of LPs the dead/converted FoN had and then add in the LPs of the new characters? Is there a formal procedure for adding a new PC that I just haven’t seen in the book yet?
I have the sense this may be an exploitable loophole as well, but I haven’t quite put my finger on why – maybe the idea that you could convert one FoN into several regular Joes and keep the threshold JUST below what’s needed to give the GM additional artha.
I’m also fuzzy on what happens when a FoN gets whacked or turned. The player makes a new character, but is that new character now a new FoN? Can the Vaylen systematically hunt and kill every FoN in the first phase and leave the players with no way to boost their dispo in later phases? Yes, I’m on p. 404-407 and I’m still feeling fuzzy on this point. I can’t remember a section on adding characters mid-game.
Issue 2: Masturbatory color/interstitial scenes and narrative authority
I’m getting a strong sense that there will be many cases where the players and the GM will have little scenes (strategically speaking, setting up color precedent) in which they will have stuff going on entirely on “their side.” The three Vaylen FoN get together over salad and goblets of blood to conspire against the humans. A bad guy NPC goes and meets with a merc. A villainous psychologist congratulates himself and his crew on their cleverness. Etc.
Conventional wisdom says the GM simply narrating stuff the players aren’t involved in is bad play. Is there less of this in practice than it seems? Does the game’s structure make this more “okay”?
Same goes for the players. I’m concerned they won’t feel comfortable with this new level of narrative authority, as well. They’ve always deferred to the GM on what’s “okay” to introduce to a game: dropping in an as-yet-undisclosed elderly mentor might be okay according to the CW but dropping in an as-yet-undisclosed hangar filled with clones who can kill yaks with mind-bullets is not okay. Are the tech/circles/relationship/alien point-buy systems really airtight enough to make just about anything narratively “okay”?
Issue 3: The first maneuver
Anyone have any opinion on what the best first maneuver is for the GM? I’m looking at Flak because it’s the only attack that doesn’t require a prior Assess. Put the players on the defensive, get them reacting to my pace rather than waiting for them to find their own pace. Good policy or bad? I want to show them how the game works but at the same time I want them to, ultimately, be proactive in their play.
I think that’s it for now. I’m sure a few more issues will pop up as we actually get involved.