Scum & Villainy/Forged in the Dark feedback

I wrote a thing about this already, but I want to talk more about this now. Here’s some feedback on the actual mechanics of the S&V game.

  • Lots of systems, some that feel redundant or overlapping: multiple harm systems, competence metrics.
  • The core task resolution thing (i.e. dice rolling) feels very cumbersome. It took us fifteen minutes to negotiate opening a door. Before you say “our group is slow/new/whatever”, no, stop. It shouldn’t take any group fifteen minutes to open a door.
  • It’s not clear that all this complexity buys anything useful. The calculation for effect feels cumbersome - I’m inputing potency, relative tiers, and other stuff into an equation - but then what? It’s just going to inform a soft narrative reaction at the end.
  • Why do I, personally, care that a move is controlled, risky, or desperate? As far as I can tell, from a player’s perspective it just triggers extra little fiddly bits I have to remember, e.g. I mark XP for this particular difficulty tier, or whatever.
  • The game very, very clearly wants to make things go wrong for my PC. I mean fine, the perfect jobs are the ones you don’t game through, but it does it through RNG and rules, not fiction. Few things grind my gears harder in old gamer war stories than the climax being “and then I rolled a 20!” and few things annoy me more than a neat thread of fiction being derailed because I rolled a bunch of 1s.

If other people are having fun with the system, I’m happy to hear that. But this feels like Space Spreadsheets, not fast-moving fun future shenanigans and goofy scifi adventure.

There’s no action to be taken here, just me venting. :smiley:

As I said to my wife this morning, it’s never going to be my favorite game. I might get good at it or with it, but I’m never going to love it. It’s just too goddamn fiddley, and way too far toward the stuff I don’t like about Torchbearer/burning wheel, AND the bonus-grubbing you see in Fate.

On the one hand, I want to give it a fair Shake, but on the other, I’m a little bit too old to waste my gaming time on something I’m not enjoying as much as I could be.

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Have some more thoughts on this, but want to save them until I can get into a proper keyboard.

It feels like an awesome game if you’ve got a table full of old grognards who’ve read Thieves’ World and know the rules pretty well.

I still think the “bonus-grubbing” thing about Fate is people not using the game system well, but I also know that this style is widespread enough that the game itself hasn’t explained well how you ought to play it :slight_smile: And reading Fate supplements continually reminds me how much Evil Hat really loves its crunch - and they published FITD too.

So I have thoughts. More than I’m typing up here, but these are top of mind.

  1. Do we keep playing, and if so, do we continue with this system.
  • I would like to see how the story-as-it-stands goes, but at the same time I’m not sure that’s a hill I want to die on for the sake of completion.
  • If we pursue that, but don’t go with S&V, Impulse Drive trods almost exactly the same territory, and is a PBTA game that quite a few folks seem to like - people who TEND to like and play the same stuff we do (Rich Rogers, for example, loves it, and comes at it alongside year-long Masks games). Many of the playbooks and assumptions run parallel to S&V, as does the basic idea of ship-as-another-character.
  • I don’t LOVE Impulse Drive at first glance, but it useful if we want to use a different game but retain the same basic tone. And also my first-glances are NOT a good indicator - I didn’t like Masks at first glance either - I’m not great at assimilating a game on a single read-through; I didn’t get Masks until I listened to the AP with the Young Justice podcast people.
  • (By contrast to Impulse Drive, The Veil is supposed to be an amazing fresh PBTA experience, by all accounts, but is much more about exploration of transhumanism cyberpunk, so it’s not aimed at the same story stuff as the game we’ve got going, at all.)
  • (Or we go super-light with something like Lasers and Feelings (Hell, reskin it to Scum and Villainy), but that wouldn’t likely get us a lot of mileage.)

I (privately, on the backend) ran into some of these same system-selection problems when we were doing the Star Wars game - I never really hit on a sci-fi system I loved. Even the pbta hack we played for awhile stayed largely planetside because there was no ship stuff, or what was there made me twitch.

  1. Do something else?
  • I have thoughts on that, but that’s for another time.

Margie seems invested in what’s going on right now, and Dave and Mike seem to be having fun with their characters. On the strength of that, I’d say keep going. I would like James to feel more involved, but I don’t have any specific suggestions other than the ones I’ve made.

I didn’t want this post to turn into “hey let’s stop playing this”, I mostly wanted to see if I was just imagining it or being too picky about crunch. :slight_smile:

While I am having fun with Armin, I wouldn’t want to be having fun as the expense of someone else’s enjoyment.

As for the fun I am having, it’s definitely not the system helping that. The excitement during the jobs is sort of meh, but getting to see what everyone gets up to during downtime is very enjoyable. In some ways it’s the equivalent in D&D of the guy playing the wizard just magic missiling through combat to get through to the next town.

And I went into this game with the idea that it could crash and burn at any point. It was an experiment and a palate cleanser. It only needs to go on as long as everyone’s enjoying it.

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Being unhappy with the mechanics doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with the game. :slight_smile: “Hey, let’s mess with the station’s rotational gravity using my ship” was fun, and I’m enjoying the world-building contributions.


Yeah I think my problem here is one where I want the mechanics to be stepping up to the level of fun that we’re getting out of some parts of the story, right? At least that’s how I’m feeling. We do such fun stuff that I don’t want the system to be getting in the way. Still need to think about this. More to come.

I agree that the game mechanics are a little fiddly for my liking. When I get done with classes and hw, I don’t really want to go play a game where I have to go through 5 steps just to roll dice. And I am further hindered by not having the book in front of me. I do have the pdf, but it isn’t easy to flip through so I can’t really jump to take a quick look at one thing. So I dislike that the rules are complicated enough that the cheat sheet is 3-9 pages. But I am good continuing playing, since I think there are some fun aspects to the universe. And I think that this works for what it was intended to, as a palate cleanser.

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My personal problem is with the system - I can internalize a fiddly system (I ran a LOT of Sorcerer, once upon a time, and the dice exchange mechanics in that were, pardon the pun, arcane) - but I spend more time wondering if I’m getting something wrong with the system that I’m not paying appropriate attention to the game itself.

I like the characters, the setting, the factions and all that. It’s fun stuff. My ideal solution would be a PBTA game that captures the spirit of the characters we’ve come up with, which can seamlessly drop in, take over the rules bits, so we can carry happily on with rules that aren’t getting in the way.


Impulse Drive, as an example, doesn’t have playbooks that match up particularly well for literally anyone but Sun… which, given the archetypal nature of our characters, is just bananas. I can see how to do Kai… if I use the same playbook as Sun. All the fighter types are presented like 90s era Batman or Spawn. The only playbook with piloting bonuses is the scoundrel? What?

Uncharted Worlds has some really very nice character customization, doesn’t have any supernatural/weird/unexplainable stuff included in the base game AT ALL, which is odd, and the mechanics are basically there to run traveller, with no real caper support (though you can kind of squint and pull it off with a couple character moves) - there might be an expansion that has aliens and weird shit, but I honestly can’t figure out if that ever made it out of 2016 Kickstarter limbo.

Again, this is all the same problem I had when I was playing system-roulette with the Star Wars game.

I’m this [----------] close to doing a episode of the Fast Buck using the InSpace/InSpectres rules, just because I think it might WORK. I dunno.

Me after seeing the “we should change systems” train rolling out of the station after I posted:

No no… this last post was me explaining why it would hurt more than “I just need to get better at S&V.”

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Although, far more than Halcyon city, the Procyon Sector is one where I could totally see “Let’s use a couple different systems in shorter, discrete games to explore the setting.”

Like: playing the the Veil, set on Indri. Apocalypse World on that planet with all the murderous flora and fauna. Hell, World Wide Wrestling broadcast LIVE from the Iota system. Fiasco, set on Warren, first as a gang of up-and-comers, and then as members of the Governor’s household. Or just Impulse Drive, with a different crew, but that’s a little redundant.

random thoughts.

Procyon City, where psychics, mutants, and aliens go to school, have adventures, and visit different planets to fight interstellar menaces, then come back and awkwardly negotiate prom.

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In all seriousness, I think my system takeaway here isn’t “the GM getting a little better at the game will fix things”. Here’s why.

The group piled on to figure out the mechanics of opening a door, which was (mostly) on the players. Are we cooperating? Who’s spending stress? Is someone assisting? How? We could roll this, or that… This, and the other rolls we’ve done, feels like the bonus-stacking people tell me they hate about Fate. The thing that Fate does well is give you one way to get that (aspect invocation), at most two ways to pay for it (create an advantage or pay a Fate point), and some clear aspects to use. Here, there’s a big platter of options: gambits, assists, group actions, Devil’s Bargains.

The thing Fate also tells you is “here’s the difficulty you need to hit”. If getting through that door is really important enough to you, you know what it’ll cost to get it done. Here, you can throw a bunch of assets at a problem and still roll snake eyes. So I feel Fate will go faster in that you can say “here’s how far I need to go to get my goal”, and in FITD there’s the temptation to keep waffling about the odds, or digging for more bonuses, and agonizing about whether those assets you’re spending will come back to you.

It feels like the discipline to not do that - to just accept that snake eyes will sometimes come up, and trust the GM not to dick the group over just because the dice say so - feels more like a problem for the players to solve. Hopefully that makes sense.

It absolutely makes sense. And it’s kind of silly that we worry about it, because in a lot of ways the dice resolution results are the same as a pbta game, so we know what’s going to happen on mixed success or on a 1-2-3 result. And we know it’s not going to be that bad and it’s certainly going to make things more interesting.

The thing I always feel like happens in a fate game and might be happening here, is that there’s a feeling that… if the options exist to increase your odds it feels kind of… weird?.. not to engage them to their full extent every time? Fate games always felt best to me once we ran out of Fate points it seems like.

Which isn’t to say I don’t want to see people helping, or don’t want to do Devil’s Bargains, or I don’t want people to do gambits, but yeah we definitely spent a lot of time on that door because we explored every option to a level that it probably just didn’t warrant. The door is a singular anecdote, but an illustrative one.

I think it was also a lot of hesitation about how much planning to do or the fact that there wasn’t much planning to do (which can definitely break the heads of people who habitually do a lot of option analysis) or really not feeling confident with some of the systems like flashbacks.

The worst thing about switching to a different but similar system would honestly be that there are things like those mechanics in some of these other systems but they are enough different that would only make things even more confusing.

So I have, strangely, been absent from the forums for a bit. Not sure why* – I’ve been backfilling into other things. So, apologies for being absent from this thread.

I agree with all of the above. My frustration (and this isn’t a flip over the table level of frustration, more of a, “Huh, time for the game, okay” dulling of the edge of enthusiasm*) is the gap between what the game clearly wants to be and drives expectations toward – and how it ends up being. There seem to be multiple tracks for everything, multiple factors to consider, multiple ways stuff could be done, and we’re still, after 6 episodes, slogging a bit through it.

(Part of my frustration as well may be that, while I’m having intermittent over-the-top fun with Monster, I have had difficulties at times figuring out how to make the things he does and is relevant to the challenges we’ve faced.* That’s mostly my problem, but just to get it out there.)

I don’t have any particular proposals or solutions – I don’t know if the optimal route is trying to graft the characters onto another system, or bulling forward with this to see if we catch the cadence, or treating this as the palate cleanser it was billed as and pivoting to something else from the list. Just, like most of the above, wanted to get that out there.

* Or, perhaps, these are all related.

Things I’ve noted to myself:

  1. When it comes time to engage dice, it takes a long while to do stuff. That IS getting better as we get more proficient, but it’s still a thing for most of us (including me).
  2. I’d say we’re at about 2/5ths when it comes to engaging the characters (not the players) well. I say that because it feels to me like Armin and Kei are locking in pretty well, and Drifter, Monster, and Sun aren’t, as well (everyone has moments, and some more than others, but it’s not where I’d like it). The whys and wherefores of that aren’t straightforward or uniform, but to Dave’s point with Monster in particular I feel like the stuff going on in the game has thus far been a poor fit for his concept and the stuff he’s got on his sheet. Luckily, new jobs keep coming, so hopefully this can be fixed in the manner of rapid prototyping. To an extent, this solution might also work for Drifter.
  3. Dave’s not the first or only one to say “There seem to be multiple tracks for everything, multiple factors to consider, multiple ways stuff could be done, and we’re still, after 6 episodes, slogging a bit through it.” But it’s definitely a thing.

I think it’s a good game. I honestly do. I think it’s probably not our good game, but that’s whatever it is. I think it’s worth sticking with until we resolve an arc (kudos to Bill at the end of the session for continuing to point us at that nice and hard - I’ll do my bit as well - it’s why that Cult was pretending to be the Cobalt Syndicate, for example, and we’ll see how that all goes).

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I feel like Drifter is plugged in okay as a character. He’s got about as much screen time as “The Expanse”'s Alex Kamal and does a similar job, and for those moments when he is on, he does useful stuff.

If you’re looking for the perfect score for us, I’d suggest rewatching “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Then put us on a desert planet with skullduggery, allies, treachery, vehicle chases, a few fights that we’d like to sneak past but just can’t, and a big Way-driven ending.

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