Playbility and Multiplayer Cooperation (January 16, 2012)

A little over a week ago, I had the opportunity to experiment with some minor rules tweaks to Elder Sign intended to promote cooperation and positive “table talk” regarding turn strategy. First, item cards could only be used on their owner’s turn. This encouraged card-manipulation during individual turns.

I don’t recall (and I don’t have the rulebook in front of me) a specific limitation in the rules that a player may only use their item cards to benefit themselves on their own turn, so we put this in place: “You can only use your items on your turn.”

Items included Clue Tokens, Common and Unique Items, Allies, and Spells, unless the card specifically stated to use it in response to something, and I don’t believe any of them do (though I could be wrong, I just don’t remember).

We allowed Spells to be cast without being immediately used, enabling players to “hold” a die result at almost any time. Once a die on the card was used however, the Spell was discarded. This created quite a bit of turnover in our Spell card deck, which I see as a positive thing on the whole. Lots of card-drawing meant lots of action.

With regard to a few of the more ambiguous effects such as the gangster’s investigator power (once per roll, turn a Terror result into a Peril result), we allowed them to be used during anyone’s turn, in a literal interpretation. “Once per roll,” translating to “once per Task,” and therefore, “multiple times per Adventure.”

While this proved quite powerful, it was still limited in application, as not every Adventure (and indeed, not every Task) required Peril to complete. Also, the power requiring the roll of Terror meant that if the active player rolled no Terror, no Peril could be produced. The power proved influential without being overpowering.

Ultimately the changes proved to be incredibly effective.

Each turn the dynamic of the group shifted as we discussed both the current turn and the next turn in detail. We all watched and discussed the dice rolls and contributed as much as we could to maximize the results of each turn. We discussed the placement and subsequent elimination of monsters and even sacrificed turns to do so.

The only thing I see left is finding a way to more effectively manage the advancement of the Doom Clock and the end of each round. I’m working on a solution with my current D&D group to allow for more dynamic turn order, though they have some cooperation problems that may hinder system development somewhat. *snerk*