Games Design - [Okhrana] A New First Draft

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jun 24th 2010 edited

Inspired by a chat with Gregor, I've decided to re-boot my long moribund game of political radicals and secret policemen, Okhrana. The old system (sort of like Contenders and My Life With Master, only with all the good bits taken out) has been junked and replaced with something new, and better.

The players take the role of emigre radicals or political exiles in belle epoque Paris. The most significant threat to the characters is the eponymous Okhrana, the Czarist secret police who were very active in Paris at this time. It uses a somewhat streamlined version of the mechanics from Hot War to achieve its ends.

The text at the moment is rough, scrappy, and not even complete. I hope, though, that it gives an idea of where the game is headed. However, I felt the time was ripe to gain some feedback on it. The main things that I'd like to discuss right now are:

The situation creation section: It seems to lack vigour and bite. There either need to be more questions, more structure, or changes to the current questions to give greater focus.
Consequences of conflicts: There are some new things here that a quite different to Hot War. The main ones are the ability to change a failure in your manifesto (the equivalent of a hidden agenda) to a success on the back of a really good subsequent conflict and the ability to add additional ticks to the manifesto on the back of a really successful conflict. Too much? Do the consequences fit the game?

Additionally, if you have any further feedback on the text, the please feel free to give it. I'll say again that it is in a very early stage, with lots of sections missing, or in very brief note form. You'll find the complete document below.

Edit: For interest, I've dug out the playtest report from the original version of the game. And, there's also another look at the game from about two years ago.


Posted by: Matt On: Jun 28th 2010

Situation wise, I think what I need as a player is something more to work with. I have only the vaguest knowledge of this aspect of Paris in the 1890s so I need stuff to pick up and fly with for my character.

This ties in with manifestos. I think you need some seeds here to run with and maybe some factionalisation to make the situations hum more.

The rules tweaks seem good, might make for a faster resolving game, is that your aim?

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jun 28th 2010

Call me a "list-ist", but what I'd like to see would chime in with what Matt wants.

I'd like a discrete choice of roles/positions/characters. And they are unique. So if someone takes the Parisian Sympathiser (say) then it's unavailable for the rest of the group.

I think this would help create situation pretty quick and strong. I mean my Parisian Sympathiser might be entirely different from how you'd do it, but we'd be starting from strong positioning of the character in the world.

Off the top of my head the list might be:
* Newly arrived Revolutionary (from, pick one, Russia|Georgia|Ukraine|Belarus, etc.)
* Established Revolutionary in Paris
* Bomb maker
* Dissident Writer
* Sympathiser (from, pick one, Paris|London|Madrid, etc.)

I'm sure you'll have a better idea of the sorts of characters that will comprise a diverse group. Cold City does this neatly with the Nations when you think about it.

Oh, and maybe...
* Agent
* Double Agent

I think this functions sort of like the Mountain Witch Dark Fates, and gives an easy hook for the components of the "group'. Creativity is enhanced if its not cut from whole cloth but done within some confines/constraints.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jun 28th 2010

Matt & Gregor: Some really useful insight there, thanks!

Looking at what Matt says, something that I'm now feeling should be there is a quick, simple primer on political radicalism at the turn of the century. Nothing complex or laboured, just a piece that says "This is socialism...", "This is anarchism..." etc. That might help. And tie that stuff into game creation.

Leading on, perhaps this ties into Gregor's comments about a list of niches: perhaps the group might have various political viewpoints as well, creating tension between the characters: the anarchist thinks the anarcho-syndicalist is weak, etc.

I do like the idea of distinct, but flexible and expandable, character roles in list form. Ten seems like a good number to start with. The notion that they are unique is also very appealing.

Thanks again.


Posted by: Per Fischer On: Jun 30th 2010

I'm liking this a lot and will be looking forward to playtesting.

And yes, I re-joined the forum :)

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jun 30th 2010

Per Fischer:I'm liking this a lot and will be looking forward to playtesting.

And yes, I re-joined the forum :)

Thanks Per, hopefully we'll get some playtesting done in the near future.

One thing that I've been working on over the past day or two is the integrattion of situations and character creation. Having it in discrete sections was somehow unsatisfying and didn't fit the way I'd like the game to flow. Hence, both will now be carried out at the same time, in little chunks.

So, you have "What are we doing?" (situation), then you go on to three preparatory background questions about the characters. Then you go to another situation question, then on to more about the characters and so on until both are done. The two strands will created feedback between each other, hopefully creating stronger situation and stronger characters.

Once I have this written up, I'll post a revised version of the text.


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