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Esoterrorists anyone?


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#1 lost_zeppo

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 07:49 AM

If anyone has a copy of the Esoterrorists and is planning on running it, I'd be grateful if they could make a recording. I'd really like to hear what the game is like in actual play. Cheers. ^_^
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#2 BigJackBrass

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 10:19 AM

I know that The Rolemonkeys recorded a session, but they've had some changes and I'm not sure if the recording is back on the site. Might be worth looking at their forum and badgering them about it.

Unfortunately, you won't be hearing Whartson Hall playing it, as Weasel has rather, um, strong views on the game... strong and very, very negative :)
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#3 Bazorkin

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 10:43 AM

At Convention last weekend I walked back to the Atlas Games booth at least six times.
Why? Because they had Trail of Cthulhu in stock as well as the BRP and Cthulhutech.
I picked up ToC, caressed it gently, looked at the price tag, sighed, and put it back.
I want to hear someone give the game an honest review and maybe a recorded play-through before I go plunkin' down such a fat chunk of change.
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#4 Hal

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 11:05 AM

I want to hear what Weasel has to say! Where is he? Where?

Bring out the Weasel!

Hal :hal:
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#5 Sinister-Ornament

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 11:28 AM

I'd love to hear his views too.

This game seems to be part of a trend in games where reality is threatened/changed (Don't Rest Your Head [very complex rules which would probably be easier in play than they are on the page], Lacuna: The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City [A masterpiece IMHO but perhaps a lot of improv for the GM], and Exquisite Replicas[which I haven't seen])

One of the Esoterrorists scenario is set here in Blighty - Albion's Ransom: Little Girl Lost I was wondering if it's any good.


Shame we can't lure him to post with half a pound of treacle...
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#6 BigJackBrass

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 11:35 AM

I want to hear what Weasel has to say! Where is he? Where?

Bring out the Weasel!

Hal :hal:


I'll see if he can be persuaded to put in an appearance. Oddly enough, the most I've seen him lurking was when he was on holiday in Italy, supposedly enjoying the sunshine and fine culture but actually on the Internet! :D

My very brief take on the system: It's perfectly okay, just rather bland. The main problem is that it was touted as solving a huge problem with mystery games, i.e. a failed roll meaning that the PCs miss a vital clue... except it's a non-problem. I don't know anyone who would set a game up in that way. It's poor GMing or bad adventure design, nothing to do with the system used. Apparently some of the additions to Gumshoe in the Trail of Cthulhu RPG are rather nice, but EsoTerrorists is a bit pricey for a slim book with little background info.

Weasel will be far more vitriolic, I'm sure :lol:

EDIT: Oh, and Mr Ornament has the right of it: Lacuna is pure, dark genius in book form.
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#7 5monkeys

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 03:44 PM

I played in a play-test of Esoterrorists years ago. I wasn't terribly impressed with the game. This may have been a symptom of the play test scenario though (it was overly linear).

EDIT: From what I remember, investigation became a resource management game. This seemed to act against the atmosphere of investigation. The system was an interesting idea, but I'm not sure it was a good solution to the "problem".

That was my experience anyway. I'd welcome anyone else's experiences, written or audio.
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#8 weasel

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 05:04 PM

Weasel will be far more vitriolic, I'm sure


Oh, all right then, though its unlikely to be sufficiently vitriolic to fit the facts ;) . Let's see. Imagine you have a nice crisp new tenner. Should you burn it, or go buy a copy of esoterrorists? Here's some reasons why you should light that flame:

1. It tries to solve a problem that no-one has ever had in the history of roleplaying. According to the preface:

"(traditionally) you have to search for the clue that takes you on to the next scene. If you roll well, you get the clue. If not, you don't - and the story grinds to a halt."

Really? Let's imagine the situation. You buy a pre-made scenario, and then half-way through your game the players roll badly and miss a vital clue. Do you:

a) Believe that the scenario is perfect and can't be changed, bringing the story to a halt.
or
b) Role-play to bring it back on track.

If you picked a) - congratulations, the esoterrorists is the game for you.

2. It has completely the wrong protagonists. From the premise on page 7:

"Magic doesn't come into the world easily... but when people begin to doubt the sanity of their everyday world, these breaks in the fabric of reality become easier to create. The esoterrorists stage hauntings, create Fortean phenomena, and insert false evidence of nonexistent conspiracies into the historical record."

Sounds fun, but wait, there's more:

"The esoterrorists are a worldwide network of misfits and rejects from various occult traditions who've banded together to enhance their power at the expense of others. When these plots succeed, the personal power of the involved Esoterrorists increases. Many use the power they glean for their personal satisfaction, whether their tastes run toward money, drugs or sex."

Incredibly, these are the enemies. Yes, you don't get to play someone putting on fake hauntings to bring magic back into the world, or enjoying drugs, power and sex - you play someone working for the establishment, trying to keep the world mundane.

And it gets worse...

3. The rules. How bad could they be, you ask. Well...

You assign points to each ability, so you might have 6 points in shooting.
In order to do anything, the GM assigns a difficulty from 2 to 8, which you have to roll over on a d6. To up your chances, you add points, which are then lost. BUT the GM assigns the difficulty in secret, so you have no idea how your points relate to it.

So imagine the scenario. The (secret) difficulty is 6. I'm shooting a gun and really want to hit, so I put 3 points in.

I roll 2 + 3 points = 5.
I've failed. I now have only 3 points left.

I try again, roll a 1 + 3 points = 4, again fail.

Now here's the crap bit. I HAVE NO MORE POINTS LEFT. They only regenerate each session, so I have:

a) missed twice, and
b) now the same skill as everyone else for the rest of the session.

Yes, that's right. I could start out an olympic shooting champion, miss twice and then be crap for the rest of the session.

But finally, for the worst roleplaying experience ever, we have:

4. Sanity rules.

Well, it wouldn't be a game of modern horror without insanity would it? So how does Esoterrorists treat insanity? Let's look at the rules:

"If driven to mental illness by a supernatural occurance, you face a range of possible mental disorders... The PLAYER is then sent out of the room, while the GM and other PLAYERS collaborate on a way to heighten his sense of dislocation an disorientation."

For example, you might have:

"Megalomania. When the character fails at a dramatic moment, the GM describes the outcome of his ability attempt as successful, then asks the PLAYER to leave the room. Then the GM describes the real results to the other players, and invites the megalomaniac player back into the room."

or, perhaps

"Paranoia. The other PLAYERS are instructed to act as if they're trying to keep straight faces when the affected PLAYER returns. Occasionally they exchange notes, make hand signals to the GM, or use meaningless code words, as if communicating something important the PLAYER is unaware of."

Yep, none of this role-play malarky or fourth wall in Esoterrorists. If your character is mad, the other players are expected to treat you the PLAYER in the same way. 8O

I've also got Trail of Cthulhu and have to say the Ken Hite bits are great, but as far as the Gumshoe part goes it's the same garbage. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad reviews, but look at it this way - at least a burning tenner keeps you warm. :D
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#9 BigJackBrass

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 11:30 PM

So, uh, maybe see if that Rolemonkeys session is still on-line, eh? :D
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#10 Martimus

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 12:40 AM

Weasel doesn't post often but boy, when he does..! :wink:
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#11 5monkeys

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 12:50 AM

He sounds pretty bitter. :)

The skill system is pretty silly though.

When we played it, the best part was the character selection we were given. In order to spice up the play-test scenario the GM gave us modular characters. We got to mix and match characters and cover stories. However, this turned out to be something added by the GM to add spice to the game. So the best part of the game was a) something not part of the system, and b) something which could be added easily to any pre-gen characters in a one-scenario.
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#12 Isis

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 01:59 AM

Thanks for the post, Mr Weasel.
You're right, I'd want to play an esoterrorist, they sound more fun. :)

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#13 centauri

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 07:29 AM

It sounds like it was written by an angry, angry person.

Come to think of it, the game he's describing sounds that way too.
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#14 Jacobeanangel

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 08:08 AM

It sounds like it was written by an angry, angry person.

Come to think of it, the game he's describing sounds that way too.

The Weasel doesn't really do anger.* The Weasel does do high levels of irritated contempt where such is deserved. I think Esoterrorists made itself an easy target frankly. Any game that tries to achieve something by trying to unbalance a players mind is going to be fair game for having the piss ripped out of it.

*Which is not to say he *never* does anger, just that he tends to break doors when he does do it, which is thankfully not that often. :) His post does not display, to me, the slightest hint of anger, just enthusiastically articulated contempt.
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#15 weasel

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 08:24 AM

It sounds like it was written by an angry, angry person.


You did get that it was crap, right? :D

Put it like this. It's the sort of game people emigrate to avoid. If a person, it would be a homonecropetapyrobestiphiliac (*). If an animal, a diseased badger, or perhaps a limbless wombat struggling to avoid its own filth. If verucas had verucas they would be like this game. It's even as bad as the last episode of Doctor Who. 8O

Angry - ha - that's as nothing compared to the idea that someone might actually try to play the thing. Oh, what dashed hopes await!

(*) One who who prefers sleeping with under-aged, dead animals of the same gender while they are on fire

(Thanks to Rowan Atkinson and John Scalzi for useful insults.)
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#16 centauri

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:02 AM

You did get that it was crap, right? :D

Yes, I did. I was trying to make a funny but I couldn't get the lid off my bottle of emoticons (stupid childproofing!) so it fell a bit flat.

The game as you describe it does sound as though it was written by someone lashing out at games they don't like. I see this from time to time. Palladium had a few terse words about alignment scales with Good and Evil on them. Call of Cthulhu rails (more or less politely) against games that focus on combat. The folks with this game clearly dislike games that involve random perception checks. Those, and pseudoscience.

But about games involving clues that can be missed: this does seem to be a fairly common and frustrating occurrence. Maybe it should be easy to deal with, I'm afraid most games I've played in or listened to in which something like this happened did grind to a halt. That, or the DM, fearing same, simply gave the players more attempts until one of them passed. Spirit of the Century suggests, among other advice, setting the difficulty low enough to ensure that players spot clues, but I can see where some people might not like that approach. Me, I tend to avoid mysteries because of the aforementioned issue, or, when I can't, I just give the players the relevant clues and have them tell me why their characters do or do not manage to obtain the same information.

I'd also like to talk about how one gets players to actually follow up on clues, which seems to be a major problem in Call of Cthulhu, but I'll put that in another thread.
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#17 Sinister-Ornament

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 11:40 AM

Well, Weasel's review was well worth the wait.

3. The rules. How bad could they be, you ask. Well...

You assign points to each ability, so you might have 6 points in shooting.
In order to do anything, the GM assigns a difficulty from 2 to 8, which you have to roll over on a d6. To up your chances, you add points, which are then lost. BUT the GM assigns the difficulty in secret, so you have no idea how your points relate to it.

So imagine the scenario. The (secret) difficulty is 6. I'm shooting a gun and really want to hit, so I put 3 points in.

I roll 2 + 3 points = 5.
I've failed. I now have only 3 points left.

I try again, roll a 1 + 3 points = 4, again fail.

Now here's the crap bit. I HAVE NO MORE POINTS LEFT. They only regenerate each session, so I have:

a) missed twice, and
b) now the same skill as everyone else for the rest of the session.

Yes, that's right. I could start out an olympic shooting champion, miss twice and then be crap for the rest of the session.


That sounds really odd. It makes me wonder why it was designed like that - if it was designed so that Points would regenerate each day for the PC then I could see the point, as they’d be like an exhaustion mechanic.

It's even as bad as the last episode of Doctor Who.


Oh, come on I don’t think it’s that bad!


I hope I can look forward to more of Weasel’s dissections in the future…
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#18 Daniel

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 09:49 PM

I'd also like to talk about how one gets players to actually follow up on clues, which seems to be a major problem in Call of Cthulhu, but I'll put that in another thread.


I'd be interested in such a thread if you are willing to start it.

Danny
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#19 lost_zeppo

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 06:23 AM

Whoa, wasn't expecting such a huge response. O_o
Anyhow, I do actually have the game, I just like to see if I can play or see a game being run before I run it myself.
Can't seem to find the Rolemonkeys recording.

I have to admit though, from the brief glance I had at the rules I did think they were a little odd. I'll probably still give it a shot sometime though.
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#20 BigJackBrass

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 10:13 AM

Can't seem to find the Rolemonkeys recording.

It was one of their earlier recordings and the group has gone through quite a few changes, along with a new feed and website. I don't think that it's quite the priority it used to be for the remaining players.

Have you tried asking about it on their forum or e-mailing them? A little nudge might be all it needs for them to post it again, as I believe they're intending to get everything on the new site eventually. Unfortunately I deleted all of their games as I listened to them, or else I'd pass it along. The link I originally used to download it is dead.
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