Friday, May 06, 2005

Playtest of Johnny Bode

We did the playtest today of my and Jonas Johnny Bode - rollspelet. First I should actually say something about the game and the myth it's bult around. Bode himself is a very unusual character - today mostly known in some student environments for his porno songs, but during his long life he had several careers and more personal tragedy than one family usually can hold. If I was to tell the story it would be too long as well as not very coherent. Read on the net, there is a quite good article in Swedish Wikipedia. A much worse, but very typical, piece of article can be seen here. The most famous biography is En herre i frack (1992) by Bengt Nyquist och Ingmar Norlén, which is where I have learnt most of what I know about him. In 2003 Norlén published Jakten på Johnny Bode, which I think is an enlarged version of the former book, but I have yet to read it.

To understand the game, though, you don't have to know anything about him. But it's probably a good thing to know something about Stockholm in the '30s. In the game you always play strange characters from the party elite in Stockholm, around 1934. But it's not really 1934 and it's not really Stockholm. It's the mythic '30s.

Each game is strictly diveded into scenes, typically as many as the amount of players. Each scene is divided into two parts. The first part is the short dining phase (dineringsfas), where all the players are eating together and talking about old memories. One of them mentions something about a specific event: "Do you remember that night in August when we had a breakfast ontop of Karl Gerhards dog?" After this initial statement everyone mention one peculiar fact about the night, because it's usually about night. It's almost always about parties and about famous and decadent people in the '30s.

Then the adventurephase (äventyrsfasen) commence. Now the player who made the first statement acts as a game master, at the same time as he is playing a character. All characters have a few (typically 3-5) abilities ranked 1-5. These abilities can for example be Fat 3, Odd sexual needs 4, Night club singer 2 or Good toaster 5. Each player has five cards in hand and when using an ability he usually plays one card and either substracts or add the ability from it. The gamemaster makes a interpretation of the outcome. All court cards have speical uses, which give the players more control over the game flow, but I won't go into them here.

When the game master thinks the scene has come to a good end he breaks and you continue with the two phases of the next scene. Another player is now the game master.

When we played it today we were quite in a hurry and had only time to play one scene out of four, but the scene turned out to be quite long. I must say the game had a very nice flow and I think we all had a hilarious time. Anna and Linnéa caught the idea of the game without any problems, in spite of being a bit sceptic before start.

Of course there were a few things to think about.
  • I think there is a risk for scenes running too long, (this is a game which should end before two hours of play) so give a bit more strict advice about what the role of the game master is, should be a good thing.
  • I thought on beforehand that the number of abilities should be very low, but after the game everyone seems to think that we should have a bit more of them.
  • As of now we have three kinds of special cards. The players really enjoyed them and wanted more of them. We are thinking of different ways of doing this.
We will change a few details as of now, but keep everything that is seen as core. It woul be interesting to play it with Jonas K, he always have these points of views that are totally new to me. Sometimes very good. We might continue this session later, we'll see about that.


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