Cold City Play Test One

Cold City/Hot war creator Malcolm Craig is playtesting the upcoming new edition. Here’s his report of the first session with his new playtest group:

1: Situation and Character Creation

Cold City – an RPG of trust, hidden agendas, and monster hunting in early Cold War Berlin – is changing a little. That’s why we’re (re)playtesting a game that came out a long, long time ago. Well, there’s that and the fact that some mechanical elements have changed significantly.

The first thing you do in any Cold City game is decide on the situation. This involves nailing down the tone, who the antagonists are, what the characters are doing, scenes everyone would like to see, and so on. I’ve been very lucky to be accompanied in this playtest by three of my students: Amy, Connor, and Harvey. They all enthusiastically volunteered to playtest the game.

Not much has changed with the game’s situation creation element. The players and I (oh, yes, the GM is no longer the GM. They are now Control, a nod towards the spy fiction that is so influential) sat down to work out where we were going. Amy, Connor, and Harvey were very keen to set the tone as film noirish and influenced by spy movies (like the excellent film version of John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold). The characters are on a manhunt (who that might be will only emerge in play), and scenes that were demanded took place in dripping U-bahn tunnels, a room full of traps, and other locations stacked with promise!

The only major change to situation creation is the way in which opposition works. Rather than Control having to laboriously NPC statistics, all opposition now comes from five clearly defined groups: Berlin, The Cold, External Enemies, Internal Enemies, and Monsters. These start at a given level, and everyone at the table can add two dice to the groups of their choice.

Amy, Connor, and Harvey then came up with three fascinating characters. Amy is playing Dr Julia Whitely, a determined, charismatic Harvard educated American scientist with a dark family secret. Connor created Kyril Kantarin, a Soviet aerospace engineer whose family is being held hostage by the MGB (the forerunner to the KGB). And Harvey came up with Edward Richthofen, a German anti-Nazi scientist who has been living under something of a cloud (how could he have been anti-Nazi while still working in the wartime German scientific establishment? Hmmmm). So, we have a group of characters who are ‘boffins’ to use the terminology of the time!

So, how will the boffins cope when they are sent out onto the mean streets of 1950 Berlin on a dangerous manhunt? Only playing the game will tell.