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  1.  
    So, we got a game of Hell 4 Leather in at Conpulsion with a Neo-Tokyo Nu-Future setting.

    I'm hoping Joe or Sebastian will be able to do an AP.

    I thought I would briefly note down some things I noticed in play!

    * I don't know where I got the Akira idea from, or what prompted it to pop into my head. Maybe it was the imagery in the Mage Tarot deck? I ran Cyberpunk pretty hard for years, and I was an Akira fanboy back in the day, so "bike gang" and "Akira" are a natural fit for me.
    * The rest of the group were not super-enthused about this, and I wondered if we should just stick with Hells Angels or something. Everyone said "Let's Give It A Go" and I'm glad we did.
    * The only sticking point in game was Japanese names, but this was pretty easily settled by the group throwing out names to those stuck in the moment.

    * Daniel had an idea he really liked for the Hierophant in the set-up, so much so that he asked if he could play him. Nope, you get dealt characters at random. In the end he got dealt The Empress, then the Mage, and from Scene 3 on settled with the High Priestess. I get the idea that once he got the High Priestess he couldn't think of himself playing anyone else, not even the Hierophant.

    * Sebastian can "read" the Tarot like nothing else. 6 Death draws in 6 scenes: Amazing.
    * This didn't in any way "make" or "break" the fun. I think it was pretty solid despite Shin-ichi's success at revenge.

    * So, with 6 players, we ended up incorporating Minor Characters from Scene 3 onwards. Itw as fine. Note to Joe: we talked in the car about a bit of text advice on that: examples (even a drunk guy, blah), can be killed at will or with a Minor Conflict check if it's resisted.
    * The Minor Characters coming from the image on the deck was pretty good too. The Mage Tarot is a nice one for near-future.
    * The Minor Conflict resolution got used and it really coloured the game nicely.

    * A note about some of the dials in the game? I loved Shin-ichi coming out of the TV like in The Ring. The Japan setting probably helped crank up that Supernatural dial. Gore? Hell yeah, that dial went all the way up too. Giant tentacled Akira-monster too? Check. Sebastian's Akira-style ending was obscenely glorious.

    * Your part in the Fool's death. Add a note on that. In Leathers are, by definition, complicit in the Fool's demise. When playing a character In Leathers give a reason for the Fool to have a beef with you. Similarly, denial of your guilt is a sign of guilt!

    * I thought two really cool things were said near the end about Kage (the Mage).
    Sebastian: whoever plays Kage, give me something to work with.
    Alex: I don't have a good vision of this guy (Kage) so I'm putting him back in the pile for someone to do that.
    Excellent. Can I suggest we put this in the Example of Play? It's such good player behaviour at the table. And it worked pretty well (from what I recall).

    It was a great game to play in. The neat thing that I think Sebastian and his group will find when they play it again is that In Leathers can survive, be changed or saved by Boons. That doesn't make for a better or worse game than this one. But it does create a different story and situation as the scenes develop. I think they'll find this has real replay value beyond re-skinning the setting.

    The story really does change on the turn of a card. Oh, and it is great theatre when that card turns and it's Death!
  2.  
    This is cross posted on Cobweb Games and the Forge.

    Hell 4 Leather is Joe Prince's Tarot game of satanic revenge. There were six players (including Joe Prince, Gregor Hutton, myself and Daniel Klein). It was nought-to-gaming in 60 seconds. This probably the most elegant game on the market.

    Grab your Tarot deck and deal out the Fool, Death and the Devil. This determines who is the badass biker, how he dies and the resulting bargain with Satan. Suffice is to say that I got the Fool and the theme was "Akira."

    Cue Shinichi, the enormous uber-biker with shoulders big enough to bust your door frame. He drove up the side of a skyscraper on his death-wheels, burst through the window of a secret drug cabal penthouse and shot up the occupants in a blaze of noise (all the while fucking the hoes and screaming his own name).

    Rules
    I'm not going to go into all the rules. You can pick up the contest submission here (which is only a couple of pages long).

    If you're the Fool (the badass biker), you seem to be in charge of pacing. You get to decide when your character appears and when someone dies. Therefore, I'd caution against giving the Fool character to boisterous, loud egiots like me. Sometimes with indie games, I forget I'm not the GM and I take too many liberties. For example, during an appeal by Joe Prince's character, I cut him short after he mispronounced one of the Japanese character's names. In retrospect, that was probably too bold. There's a danger here that the Fool player has too much power and, if that is given to a cock, the game might end up cocked.

    The conflict rules: Basically, once two or more players contest a piece of narrative, an independent party turns over a random Tarot card and uses the image to determine what happens. In our case, the image was a corpse strewn battlefield. The guy who draws the card interprets.

    See how elegant that is?

    Death rules: When the Death card is played on a character, you get these awesome tension-loaded moments—the Fool player must divine which card is which (flipping over a Tarot to see if it shows Death). Bam!! Every game needs moments like these.

    Motivate! One last thing, as Gregor mentions above, this game works best when the intentions and betrayals of each character are explicit. At one point in the game I didn't know why I was supposed to kill the gang members. I tried to push for some motive, but I don't think everyone was clear that this was important. When you play this game, remember that all the characters have been involved in the murder of the badass biker/Fool and try your best to express your character's involvement, betrayal and motive.

    I'd love to go into detail over every scene and pick out the gems, but I'll leave that for you guys to figure out when you play yourselves. There are significant, invisible elements of design here that help generate great story. Just like Hammer Falls, I'd play this again in a heartbeat.

    Sebastian.
    •  
      CommentAuthorJoe Prince
    • CommentTimeApr 1st 2010 edited
     
    Cheers for the posts– and for providing such an awesome play experience. Busting out Hell 4 Leather totally made the con for me. Sebastian's mighty portrayal of Shin-ichiiii was a monstrous joy to behold!

    Gregor Hutton:* So, with 6 players, we ended up incorporating Minor Characters from Scene 3 onwards. Itw as fine. Note to Joe: we talked in the car about a bit of text advice on that: examples (even a drunk guy, blah), can be killed at will or with a Minor Conflict check if it's resisted.

    * I thought two really cool things were said near the end about Kage (the Mage).
    Sebastian: whoever plays Kage, give me something to work with.
    Alex: I don't have a good vision of this guy (Kage) so I'm putting him back in the pile for someone to do that.

    These definitely should go in the text and example of play. I'll get onto the issue of gang members' guilt in a while.

    Sebastian Hickey:If you're the Fool (the badass biker), you seem to be in charge of pacing. You get to decide when your character appears and when someone dies. Therefore, I'd caution against giving the Fool character to boisterous, loud egiots like me. Sometimes with indie games, I forget I'm not the GM and I take too many liberties. For example, during an appeal by Joe Prince's character, I cut him short after he mispronounced one of the Japanese character's names. In retrospect, that was probably too bold. There's a danger here that the Fool player has too much power and, if that is given to a cock, the game might end up cocked.

    Well I have to respectfully disagree with you Sebastian. First no-one chooses who to make the Fool, the tarot cards *know* where to go – they're clever like that. I seem to remember you being all 'Oh I don't want to play the protagonist, I won't be able to come up with anything…' Then 30 seconds later Shinichi is in full flow – riding up skyscrapers, blowing away yakuza and shagging their bitches!

    Too bold? I don't think so, my character (Kage) had already been marked for death but had avoided it by changing and was begging Shinichi to spare him (not use an extra Boon). My pronunciation slip gave Shinichi something more to work with – and a great moment "Her name is Yu-Mi-Ko!". Not Yukio. Ahem. Getting skewered by a sidewinder missile served me right for not using Rich's cheat sheet.

    The fool still has far far less power than a trad GM and they are never cocks...

    Gregor Hutton:* Your part in the Fool's death. Add a note on that. In Leathers are, by definition, complicit in the Fool's demise. When playing a character In Leathers give a reason for the Fool to have a beef with you. Similarly, denial of your guilt is a sign of guilt!

    Yeah, I'm thinking of going further with this and actually mechanising it. Instead of dealing out all the Boons, perhaps one can go to each Player and the others can be claimed by revealing how your Leather was explicitly involved in screwing over The Fool. Plus a mention in the text of how you can incriminate another Leather – they can (try to) contest evidence your character produces but not what your character says. Any thoughts on this?

    Also I'm looking at making up a H4L tarot deck – just the Majors and a few inspiration cards. I've been grabbing images from Dreamstime, need to price them up and see if it's feasible.

    Cheers
    Joe
  3.  
    Can I just add that, as an observer sitting a short distance away from the game, it sounded like an great time was being had by all. If volume, laughter, and shrieks are a guide to how good a game is, then H4L is a winner by anyone's standards.

    Just thought I'd give the outsiders point of view.

    Cheers
    Malc
  4.  
    Also, Daniel posted an extensive AP on RPG.net: here.

    Sebastian.
  5.  
    Oh, I think a key thing about any game is that the rules can't fix a broken social contract. So, do you want to play this game, with these people, right now instead of something else? And that is the baseline for play.

    Hell 4 Leather does have one very cool thing in the set-up, though, for when a player really would rather not have to be The Fool, decide the Death or be the Devil. They simply grab the cards for themselves and, following the rules, they deal them out to three other people. Sweet success.

    I'm wondering if there's any reason to keep the flavour of a boon secret? Or is it overcomplicating for it to be open up front and vocalised at the start of play? Maybe the players just read their boons and use that as inspiration? When they introduce a character for the first time they declare what devilish betrayal they heaped on The Fool (inspired by the Boon card they hold).

    I do like the idea of people implicating themselves for Boons, but pre-start no one has a "character" to earn Boons for? If you see what I mean? Boons belong to players not characters. Would you just encourage The Fool to dog on a player irrespective of what character they were playing?

    For me, dealing out the Boons as one to each player, then extras to anyone who didn't get The Devil or Death, then to Death and the Devil.
    •  
      CommentAuthorJoe Prince
    • CommentTimeApr 2nd 2010
     
    Ah if only RPG.net wasn't blocked at work!

    I don't think I've been very clear in what I meant about Boons. The idea is that each player gets dealt a Boon (face down as usual) after the prologue. The rest of the Boons go in a stack (face up perhaps to distinguish from In Leathers).

    Then during a scene when playing a Leather you can incriminate your character (assuming that Leather has not already been incriminated) and claim an extra Boon from the stack.

    So by the point you can claim an extra Boon you do have a character and can therefore be Marked for Death in the current scene. Of course if you're not Marked then there's the chance that you retain the Boon, switch Leathers and do it again!
    But that's cool - The Fool has a narrative reason to go after the Leathers you incriminated and a tactical(ish) reason to go after you!

    Does that make more sense?
  6.  
    Ja! That makes sense to me. Cool.
    •  
      CommentAuthorJoe Prince
    • CommentTimeApr 5th 2010 edited
     
    How's this sound for the text?

    Guilty Pleasures
    In this tale of revenge, it's gratifying to see the malefactors' guilt revealed prior to their comeuppance.

    When a player has introduced her Leather to a scene, she can gain a bonus Boon from the stack by explicitly having that Leather reveal his part in the Rider's betrayal.

    Each Leather can only provide a single guilt Boon during a game. When the stack is exhausted no more guilt Boons can be earned.
  7.  
    That seems to fit the genre nicely. How would it work in the fiction - would the Leather laugh maniacally and deliver a damning monologue, or does the player describe it through a flashback?
    •  
      CommentAuthorJoe Prince
    • CommentTimeApr 7th 2010
     
    Either or I suppose.

    I favour the manical monologue though - after watching Shutter Island I'm sick of fucking flashbacks.
  8.  
    I don't think it's necessary to restrain the exposition of the character's involvement. Your biggest asset is your elegance. Your description above allows interpretation, = fun.

    In the Shinichi game, you exposed Kage's involvement in Shinichi's murder during a conversation with the daughter. That worked well. You could have easily attached more importance to it by collecting a guilt boon at the same time.

    In fact, as soon as anyone collects a guilt boon, whatever they add immediately becomes important by juxtaposition. They could say "I wipe my mouth with a red handkerchief," pull a guilt boon, and it becomes important. Leaving this stuff open for player interpretation is super important for H4L.
    •  
      CommentAuthorJoe Prince
    • CommentTimeApr 9th 2010
     
    Thanks Sebastian, you've explained it better than I could!
  9.  
    You know, it's occurring to me how complicated it's going to be to pry our two games apart in the eyes of the market. I think the best thing to do is offer the games in an optional bundle from the very beginning. If you still think that would be appropriate.

    We'll talk more in private (shhhhhh).
    •  
      CommentAuthorJoe Prince
    • CommentTimeApr 17th 2010
     
    Yes that would be splendid!
  10.  
    A bundle deal sounds like a good idea. You might need to find a way to quickly differentiate them in conversation or you might find folk muddling them up like the two Dreads.

    When's your H4L out Joe?
    •  
      CommentAuthorJoe Prince
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     
    I guess tarot cards vs dice tower would be the easiest way to distinguish between the two!

    H4L will be out for Expo with a bit of luck.