Afraid Hack Playtest Report

May 17, 2007

Finally played the Afraid hack last night at StoryGames Boston, slasher movie style. It was awesome.

The premise was that we were in a Catholic high school after hours, and it was about to be struck by a massive hurricane-sized storm, which kept us stuck where we were. Later on, we decided that the movie was called Storm Windows, but that emerged from play.

The locations we ended up with were (in order of their creation):

  • Detention, an outlying concrete bunker.
  • The Cafeteria, where study hall took place.
  • The Storm (outdoors).
  • The Stage, which used to be an old chapel, where they were rehersing a musical version of Masque of the Red Death.
  • The Steeple, towering above the stage.

The location rules worked really well, I thought, though we didn’t end up using the items in various locations as much as I hoped. Overall, there were just too many dice already available for them to be necessary.

Some of the ways characters moved between locations was very cool too, since it often involved things besides walking. Two cars were driven into the cafeteria (during separate scenes). One character fell down the inside of the steeple onto the stage, injuring themselves. One character climbed out of the steeple and slid down the roof into the storm (outside). The same two cars eventually ended up being blown, by the storm, into the steeple. The steeple then collapsed onto the stage. The boiler room exploded. Lots of crazy stuff.

Though we did end up naming one of the PCs as the slasher, we had to give him an NPC accomplice in order to make previously established events make sense. I’m still not sure how to ensure that the slasher could potentially be any of the PCs, or even just ensure that the slasher could concievable be ONE of them.

The characters were pretty classic. I was Maryjane Randolph, student council president. Dev was Sasha Ramirez, girl’s rugby player. Eben was Derek Nguyen, stoner. And Richard was J.J. O’Riley, janitor. Richard’s character ended up being the slasher, but his partner was Sasha’s ex-girlfriend, who he had a creepy relationship with.

All in all, it was pretty clear that lots of things worked really well. It was a fun game to play, not just an interesting playtest, and I’d be excited to play it again, though maybe in a different genre (zombies!) or with a radically different premise (trapped on a boat!).

The parts that didn’t work as well, overall, were the things I stole directly from Dogs in the Vineyard by way of Afraid. It’s pretty clear that this game is trying to do something different, and the Dogs stuff, while very inspirational in the beginning, is now holding it back more than it’s helping it along. The group was really helpful at talking through possible ways to strip it down and make it run smoother, which is awesome.

I think stripping some of the Dogs stuff out is going to be my Secret Wars post of the day, so I’ll leave off here, but I wanted to talk about the playtest before I forgot. Yay!

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